In classical mythology, man’s destiny is controlled by the Three Fates. When people are born the Fates determine how their lives will unfold, what will happen to them and when they will die. All human beings, and even the gods, were subject to their whims, except perhaps for Jupiter, although opinion differed on this matter in antiquity.
The Fates are generally depicted as ugly, old women, each with her own task. Clotho (the spinner) spun the ‘thread of life.’ Lachesis (the allotter) measured the thread with her measuring rod and thus ordained how long someone would live. Atropos (the unturnable) cut the thread of life when the time had come. In the visual arts the Fates also sometimes stand for death, or accompany Death on his rounds. – Rijksmuseum website.
Go online and do a quick search for ‘The Fates’ and ‘art’ and it won’t be long before your squirming down internet rabbit holes filled with images of three women, often draped in white Grecian robes, idly fingering expanses of thread. The Rijksmuseum’s description reproduced above is as a good a summary as any of their role in classical mythology and, therefore, in the art derived from it.
The Spinners, a new piece of dance-theatre, directed by Al Seed and devised with Lina Limosani, sends a bolt of electricity through the frozen images of three women controlling the destiny of all humankind. Removed from their usual indeterminate deity dwellings, the modern Fates find a home in a clanking, dank sweatshop environment. Together they repetitively weave little tassels or bundles of thread that vaguely resemble tiny corn dollies. Each grey-scale bundle is then hung-up on a wall covered in the minute creations.
The Fates’ next job, along with creating new life, is to extinguish existing ones. There’s a system to this – the Fates are not independently allowed to choose which ones are removed from the walls and when. So when one of the three goes rogue and tries to start saving those destined for disposal by switching them for others, she has limited success with the attempted over-throw of the system.
Performed by Tara Jade Samaya, Kialea-Nadine Williams and Limosani (who are very much not ‘ugly, old women’), the hypnotism of the work is created through the dancers’ formidable physicality. At times the symbolism is a little laboured, and the piece as a whole wouldn’t suffer for being 10-15 minutes shorter. But it’s the mechanised interweaving of the performers’ bodies so that they morph between being individuals and one multi-headed goddess that’s so impressive. It’s like watching the most bizarrely compelling co-dependent relationship go through its daily motions, each player inhibiting and policing the others’ behaviour as much as supporting and loving them. It’s creepily compelling in being simultaneously beautiful and disturbing. Pray the gods grant you the opportunity to see it.
The Spinners is on until 19 August 2018 at Dance Base. Click here for more details.