Chase Scenes is about the performance of being chased. To explain what I mean by that, it might be instructive to list some things that Chase Scenes is not about. There is rarely any context given as to why the subject is being chased. Nor about the end result of each chase: whether they escape or are caught. The pursuer – when one is implied – is never shown nor interrogated dramatically. And only ever tangentially or via stock types do we learn anything about the character being chased. Usually, in fact, the only context for each scene is a title: ‘The Park’, ‘Stolen Goods’, ‘Nightmare #3’ and so on.
I’d even to go as far as to claim that Chase Scenes is not even about the meaning of being chased. Not really. A comparison might be helpful here. When I saw Chase Scenes, I thought of Christian Marclay, whose most famous work The Clock montages minute-long clips of clocks from movies, arranged so that the time on screen changes in real time. Marclay’s Made to Be Destroyed – which at the time of writing is on show again in the White Cube’s ‘Memory Palace’ exhibition – similarly presents movie clips of artwork being damaged.
One of the things Marclay’s work does is to find meaning in the clips’ convergence. Made to Be Destroyed, for example, seeks to find out what it means for art to be destroyed in films. Patterns and taxonomies emerge. Marclay’s work does other things, sure, but a key facet of these kind of montages is that on some level they are interrogative: they seek to find out something more about their theme, a meaning that resides in the clips together that is either not there or less discernible in each individually. Chase Scenes does not do this.
Instead, Chase Scenes is interested – obsessively – in the physicality of being chased. The mechanics of being chased. Each chase scene is both performed and broadcast live via camera units held by the cast (Alexandra Elliott, Hilary Crist and Ming Hon) – usually whichever member or members are not themselves performing the act of being chased.
Mostly, the ‘final’ version of each scene comes together on one of the screens behind the performance, but the audience can see it from additional perspectives, see the artifice and the construction. (Not always though – it’s pretty flexible. Sometimes the screens add extra layers, and the ‘final’ ‘scene’ being constructed might co-exist between screen and live performance). And it is these mechanisms of construction that Chase Scenes seems most concerned with: the paper snow thrown in front of the fan during ‘Blizzard’, the jerking of a neck to sight a pursuer, the angle of a leg during ‘Parkour’.
These details are intensely well observed, especially at the level of facial expression. In the recurring motif of being chased during a dream (see ‘Dream #1’, ‘Dream #2’ etc), pre-recorded footage of one of the three performers shows the expression on their sleeping face during the dream. And each time the audience witnesses on-screen exactly the expression of dreaming exactly what is happening onstage. In ‘Dine & Dash’, two friends finish a meal and run out without paying. And they perform the exact disinterested, semi-distracted, mutedly impish expressions of two people with a prearranged plan to finish a meal and run out without paying.
Don’t get me wrong. I do not feel that the audience sees two actual people running out of a meal without paying. Not in a realisable scenario, with internal reality and characters who have agency. No. I mean the archetype of two people running out of a meal without paying. The ideal of it. A physicalisation of the idea of it. Perhaps it’s the trope-heavy construction of the scenes. Or maybe the generic titles. Or the omission of all else but being chased. But the scenes never feel contingent on anything else but themselves. And yet, this exploration of archetype does not create vagueness. Indeed, each chase scene relishes in being weirdly specific – the exactness with which the archetype can be achieved.
And because the scenes do not readily appear contingent on any scenario outside of themselves, being chased becomes something that is itself done and performed, not something that is done to somebody. Chase Scenes liberates those being chased, whom we can only readily refer to grammatically as object, and refers to them – through these strange, exact and perfectly controlled performances – as subjects.
Chase Scenes is on until 26 August 2018 at Summerhall. Click here for more details.