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Reviews DanceReviews Published 6 May 2017

Review: SPOTTED at Dance International Glasgow

May 3 - May 4

And we wait: Andrew Edwards is both excruciatingly bored and enormously impressed by Margrét Sara Guðjónsdóttir’s inertia-ridden show.

Andrew Edwards
SPOTTED, Dance International Glasgow. Photo: David Kiers.

SPOTTED, Dance International Glasgow. Photo: David Kiers.

Overflowing, oversaturated, she takes the bottle of water and raises it to her mouth.
Overflowing, oversaturated, stuck; she holds the bottle to her lips.
Overflowing, oversaturated, full; she lowers the bottle to her waist.
We wait.
And we wait.
And we feel pained.

She raises the bottle again. She holds the bottle to her lips. She lowers the bottle to her waist.

And we wait.

And we feel pained.

She raises the bottle again.

And we wait.

And we feel pained.
The water doesn’t move.

And we wait.

And we feel pained, stomach churning, sitting silently, unable to move. Watching on in a state of anxiety and discomfort, a perpetual sense of discontinuity, where nothing is starting and nothing is ending and nothing is starting and nothing is ending and nothing is.

SPOTTED, conceived, designed and choreographed by Margrét Sara Guðjónsdóttir, is not the first work to articulate this condition of contemporary life. There are many artists, works and commentators remarking on this inability move and sense of overwhelm – a feeling that is often perceived as being connected to the vast amount of content afforded to humans in the internet-age or the accelerated quality of living in urban spaces. Even within the context of dance, and in the narrower context of dance at Tramway, Jack Webb’s The End explored a similar subject matter last year. This is something a lot of people are talking about, ground we’ve been over before.

Yet what ensures SPOTTED is an engaging piece of work, and confirms that it contributes something new to this discourse, is the exceptional affective force it possesses. Not only does it articulate this quality of inertia, but it forces its audience into that state, or perhaps opens up a space in which that state, otherwise felt as an undercurrent or a dust, overwhelms you.

SPOTTED is probably not for everyone (and I’m not sure what I mean by that) but after watching Marie Ursin and Louise Dahl perform with such a deliberate slowness, underscored by Peter Rehberg unsettling music or by far more horrifying periods of anticipatory silence, I emerged into the café/bar in a flood of feeling, hands shaking in my pockets. For a piece of work without any narrative, where it’s exceptionally difficult to say what, if anything, happened, these quivering digits and sweaty palms are the only indication that something did happen, the only trace of an encounter between my body and the work.

The design of the work is brutally effective: a very beautiful kind of ugliness presented to us with notable precision. There is a large red curtain that’s a deep, glorious, bloody sort of red. Staged within Tramway Four, hemmed in by brick walls and harsh lights, your attention is forced onto the two bodies in front of you. Ursin, after spilling her bottle of water on to the floor, crawls over to the curtain chord and falls into it, using her body weight to drag the curtain back. Behind it stands Dahl, nude. She walks towards us performing a repeated movement of raising her arms to her side, hands at shoulder height, as if being repeatedly crucified by our gaze, wounded between the blinking of her audience. It never feels like I’m in control of what I’m watching, choosing what to spot, but that I am always under someone else’s direction, forced into the act of seeing.

Underscoring the work is Rehberg’s music, a procession of hollow noises, wails and tones. This wall of drone devours all the oxygen in the room, creating a space that feels incredibly heavy and close. At times it feels utterly unbearable – and then come the silences. In the absence of music the actuality of what is happening in the room pummels your ear drums; the scrape of a knee, a shallow intake of breath, the sound of my own stomach churning. During these silences you learn to miss the droning, learn to miss being unable to breathe, learn to miss just one layer of distraction from what’s happening in front your eyes.

While watching SPOTTED I spent periods being very bored and periods thinking about my day-to-day concerns. In other moments I simply longed for the work to end or do something different, tumbling these thoughts into imaginations of other works I might make. Throughout, I was never entertained, never distracted, but only ever trying to distract myself from the work. These are some of the work’s most impressive qualities, so well executed that my distractions failed time and again. I was always drawn back into the room, always forced into seeing something. Something that I’d spotted and that has spotted me, pinned me down without touching me.

But now, all I have are these shaking hands.

SPOTTED was at Tramway, Glasgow, until May 4th. For more details, click here.

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Andrew Edwards is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine

Review: SPOTTED at Dance International Glasgow Show Info


Directed by Margrét Sara Guðjónsdóttir

Cast includes Marie Ursin, Louise Dahl

Original Music Peter Rehberg

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