Sunday, 25 May 2008

"the lastmaker" (goat island)

saturday 24th may 2008

"the lastmaker"
goat island

part of burst at bac

karen christopher
matthew goulish
lin hixson (director)
mark jeffery
bryan saner
lito' walkey

"After 20 years of creating challenging and highly acclaimed performance, The Lastmaker is Goat Island’s ninth and final piece, a fitting conclusion to the company’s journey.The performance is structured around the form and iconography of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, a site that has been a Byzantine church, a Mosque and a museum over its history. Incorporating the company’s highly energetic and physically demanding choreography, Goat Island explore the layering of these three identities and the complex interweaving of stories and cultures enclosed within the building."

"construct a last performance in the form of a human foot that weighs two tons and remains in good condition."

u vezi sa (croation) ~ in relation with; in connection with, in relation to, in construction to, related to, connected to
vezica (croation) ~ shoelace

"it begins with the building of a mold or prototype, a source to be vanished or set aside for future reproductions, an alphabetic mass, throat sealed, in the absence of the foot or because there never was one, the last maker is not a writer or a cobbler, and his crutch is not separate from his armpit. the task is still not to be new in ending, but to render a massless history of walking with the heaviest material available. "
(judd morrissey, goat island associate member)

"i saw a crow running about with a stork
i marvelled long and investigated their case
in order that i might find the clue
as to what is was that they had in common

when amazed and bewildered i approached them
then indeed i saw that both of them were lame."

(rumi, mathnawi, book II: "the cause of a bird's flying and feeding with a bird that is not of its own kind")

"we'll start the session now.
i'll give you your instructions.

we'll build this song like a house.
bass, you're the plumbing.
drums, you're the electrical.
horns, i want you to think of yourselves as the windows.
guitar, you're the drywall.

everybody ready?
roll the tape."

certainly an interesting experience this one. we liked pretty much all of the ingredients but alas not what it added up to - or at least were unable to get much from it beyond a real interest in the methods and the ingredients worked into the mix.

starting with the programme which is immediately arousing and captivating - i wasn't sure what we'd come to, the programme didn't give me much more of an idea, but it did hugely increase my desire to find out. (aside to m: when we make something we must make a programme as beautiful and surprising as this...)

the performance space is taped out in rectangles - reminiscent of a tennis court - and yet again we sit in traverse (funny the patterns of things - our third traverse show with cheek by jowl's both at barbican). a wooden chair. a microphone on a stand. off - a bench and a mini stepladder.

enter a man. sits on chair. can't remember now what he said but it evoked ideas of realising how best to live only when there is little time left for living - the foolish not-knowing of youth.

enter another man. places a beat box which will play sounds of a horse neighing intermittently throughout the whole show. places a tiny mechanical bird, which will intermittently twitter.

enter saint francis of assisi as larry grayson. larry grayson chat that is quite funny. he says he's been asked to do a turn and after a "well you know, i said i can't do that..." patter, he tells us he's decided to remake the the hagia sophia in istanbul, which he tells us was first a church, then a mosque and now is a museum, from just the materials available in this room.

what follows is a lengthy dance piece involving the full company of 5 performing a series of highly ritualised, precise and repeated movements in and out of sync with each other and punctuated with 'u vezi sa'. the movements are clearly demanding and impressively executed and perhaps it is this effect of obvious display that means we are interested and impressed but only superficially engaged (often thinking: hmm could we do this? how would we make this work more? oh that's smart how they're moving it round to work for the audience on both sides)

other ingredients that follow include ...
+ what seems a pretty spot on enactment of lenny bruce which is accurately weird rather than funny - "i'm not a comedian, i'm lenny bruce."
+ an old poet bent in half to talk straight into the lowered mic in conversation with a woman who may or may not be emily dickenson (this is when we get the crane and the stork reading)
+ a hillbilly singing to a saw played by striking it into vibration with a hammer
+ a woman singing "the perfect end to a perfect day..." the original of which we later get in playback
+ more hi-force precision movements
+ an explanation of what a last is and the different parts that make up a shoe
+ a balsa wood model of the hagia sophia brought in ceremonially and constructed piece by piece, finishing with the two pairs of minarets.

then saint francis returns to intone in perfect if sardonic high mass falling inflexions a series of litanous "we give thanks and say farewell to ..." as he chants off the various aspects of the staging (the microphones, the shoes, the floor tape, the beat boxes, goodbye hagia sophia ...) - i guess this is the link back to making the hagia sophia with the available materials. during this a slow movement of the women standing on planks of wood and and being moved around the stage. while another man performs an utterly bewildering and quite possibly nonsensical kind of poem / rallying call to action - reminiscent of some rhetorical style that i haven't yet been able to place.

and then it's over (running time 2+ hours without interval)

what was it all about?
fuck knows

but very interesting to watch and jammed full of performance ideas that might be fun to play with sometime ...

from the goat island website:

Members contribute to the conception, research, writing, choreography, documentation, and educational demands of the work. Characteristically we attempt to establish a spatial relationship with audiences, other than the usual proscenium theater situation, which may suggest a concept, such as sporting arena or parade ground, or may create a setting for which there is no everyday comparison. We perform a personal vocabulary of movement, both dance-like and pedestrian, that often makes extreme physical demands on the performers, and attention demands on the audience. We incorporate historical and contemporary issues through text and movement. We create visual/spatial images to encapsulate thematic concerns. We place our performances in non-theatrical sites when possible. We research and write collaborative lectures for public events, and often subsequently publish these, either in our own artists' books, or in professional journals.

"the last performance"
judd morrissey
goat island

"the last performance" is a collaborative writing, archiving and text-visualisation project conceived in response to the work of the chicago-based performance collective, goat island, and their decision, after 20 years of practice, to create a last performance.

writers, artists, critics and audience members of "the lastmaker" are invited to contribute.

"the last performance" is devised and built by judd morrissey with goat island.

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