An engrossing exploration: Robert Reid on Alison Currie’s Concrete Impermanence
Structure, its fluidity and collapse. Alison Currie’s Concrete Impermanence is a curiously geometric work, an engrossing exploration of an aesthetic. Three performers are in a spatial negotiation with concertinaed blocks of paper and card. Together, the bodies and the cardboard map shifts and changes in the audio score.
It’s amazing how strong and how flexible paper can be if it’s folded and unfolded carefully. It’s not what we’d recognise as origami; instead there’s a quality the industrial in the heaviness of the material, the size of it, some towering over the performers. The structures the dancers fold into keep reminding me of the work of Richard Serra. There are giant iron walls, curved at awkward and threatening angles, parabolas of anxiety. They open and close. They stretch and shrink and fold away neatly. It’s as much a nightmare of cardboard Karton office furniture as it is a revealing of structures that form in the wake of movement and that carry sound through space.
There are three dancers, Alison Currie, Harrison Ritchie Jones and Stephan Sheehan. One primarily moves the cardboard about and the other two dance through, around and on top of it. Their movements synch and fall out of alignment, they become more and less mechanical as they go. Sometimes fluid, falling and raising, stretching to their extremities then folding in the middle and collapsing to the ground. There’s a kind of Pina Bausch-like non-indexicality to their relationships, sometimes reflecting and reacting to each other, sometimes off in their own spaces, doing their own thing.
The blocks of folded paper become books, become walls, become prisons. I see air-conditioning ducts, giant ruffs, monstrous slugs or snakes winding around the dancer’s bodies.
At the back there is a screen which plays what looks like a sound activated screen saver, mapping out the wave forms of the glitch pop sound track that fills the room. Alisdair Macindoe’s sound track is sometimes so loud and low that its rumble shakes the seating bank, reverberating in our bodies and wobbling the lighting rack. Industrial noises, traffic, a baby crying, news reports (I catch one fragment of news which seems to be about a shooting at a graduation), the creeks and screams and grinding and wailing of electrical errors – static, hot patching and live mics and dirty guitar pick-ups. Scratches on vinyl records and the seep hum of poorly earthed wiring.
The dancers fold along with the paper. They fold with the changes in the noise. They fold into and out of each other. The walls of paper fold around them, becoming walls and towers and comfy fashionable seats. Nothing stays: it’s all taken out and then packed away again. Sometimes it folds up the dancers.
But still: what is this? I struggle to make connections. Do things not connect? They don’t remain. There’s no permanence to the structures; auditory, cardboard or human. The two men seem to briefly converse at one point, leaning on a wall of cardboard as if at a water cooler, using casual dance movements as a language of sorts; but this conversation drifts away from them, or they from each other.
I struggle to make more of this work. It slides from jerky anti-aesthetic movements into more fluid and recognisably contemporary choreography. I think I recognise traces of Chunky Move and Legs on the Wall, lineages of movement that creep into local work like lime into a river. My apprehension of the work is almost entirely phenomenological. The noise makes the structures in the space move. In a way like watching a screen saver set to the visualiser mode: not entirely shallow, but fundamentally aesthetic.
Further reading: Alison Croggon on the SubStation season of Concrete Impermanence
Concrete Impermanence, choreographed by Alison Currie (in collaboration with the cast and Lewis Rankin, Jessie Oshodi, Carlie Angel, Amrita Hepi). Sound design by Alisdair Macindoe, lighting design by Matthew Adey and Beizj Studio, visual design by Jason Lam, costume design by Anny Duff, objects design by Stephanie Forsythe and Todd MacAllen. Performed by Alison Currie, Harrison Ritchie Jones and Stephan Sheehan. Presented by Dancehouse as part of Dance Massive. Closed.