Early on in Liquid Loft’s surreal production, a live camera zooms in on a party platter of fruit and vegetables. Magnified stalks of broccoli begin to resemble a miraculous forest. Mushroom ridges come into focus like bizarre rock formations. Basic groceries become uncanny.
This collaboration between Austrian choreographer Chris Haring and French visual artist Michel Blazy is part of their Perfect Garden series, based on Hieronymous Bosch’s infamous painting The Garden of Earthly Delights. Deep Dish takes its structure from an even stranger source: Raymond Roussel’s 1914 novel Locus Solus, which follows a group of scientists on their visit to a strange country estate.
There is something notably curious about how Haring’s production oscillates between Blazy’s revelatory food sculptures and the chitchat of four dancers at a dinner table. Meticulously timed snaps of celery, bites of apples and swishes of wine create an unsettling rhythm with which they annihilate their food. This is dining of the most visceral kind.
Haring’s choreography gleams with images of ancient excess. High wrists and chins are used for feeding grapes and sipping wineglasses. In Luke Baio’s stunning manipulation of the camera, we see limbs interweave and tangle, suggesting more sensuous pleasures. The production descends expertly into Bacchanalia.
But as portrayals of decadence go, this isn’t without its sympathy. The camera intimately finds the teardrops of Katharina Meves, marvellously revealed as a kind of horticultural goddess. We are teased by a withheld secret from a manic party guest (the sly Stephanie Cumming), a truth she insists would alter our worldview. It’s no coincidence, perhaps, that the camera pans in the same moment onto the rot of decomposing vegetables.
This is an insistent portrayal of the world through its wondrous botany, where an orange looms large like a celestial object, and even dancing microorganisms get a cameo. Imagery of degenerating matter surely signal death, but Haring’s decadent gestures don’t quite find a tragic note.
Instead we’re left with Blazy’s grotesque displays (and a disturbingly well-controlled gag reflex from Anna Maria Nowalk). In the final moments, we are lost in a cyclorama of floating waste, where strawberry shards and broccoli branches hover like debris. The fact that it’s left to the food and video design, and not the dancers, to articulate the decay and ruin of opulent living might be a little disappointing. Then again, people are what they eat.
Deep Dish is on as part of the Dublin Dance Festival. Click here for more details.