PuzzleCreature: Neon DanceLEAP @ Invisible Wind Factory 7/10/19
“We have decided not to die,” announces the voice of artist Madeline Gins. The opening statement projecting from the eight speakers hung around the inflatable venue we find ourselves in. As the show begins, three dancers have recently entered via the zip-up door, quickly, so as not to deflate the translucent structure. Those dancers stare down audience members and inspect the mesh plaster casts of different parts of the body which are suspended from the ceiling. We’re collectively trying to solve PUZZLECREATURE.
Gins’ words are part of her and partner Arakawa’s philosophy of Reversible Destiny. The artist-philosopher-architects worked with theories of architectural bodies – the human body’s interaction and blending with its surroundings and, more famously, worked on designs which looked to achieve immortality in their inhabitants. It’s ambitious stuff.
The eight speakers now deliver Sebastian Reynolds’ specially commissioned soundtrack for the piece. It’s warm inside the plastic walls, yet the bassy drones, which ebb and flow in intensity, put the audience on edge. The three dancers contort into impossible shapes. They reflect and react to the white floating casts, copying the poses and inserting their own forms inside.
Through projects like The Reversible Destiny Lofts and Bioscleave House, Arakawa and Gins sought to solve the issue of mortality by designing liveable environments which constantly questioned and challenged the way we live. In a statement after Arakawa passed away in 2010 Gins said “this mortality thing is bad news”. It is difficult to know how serious or sincere the artists were in their mission but they were consistent throughout a number of projects over several decades.
The dancers lean on the soft walls of our temporary venue, climb over audience members and gyrate into the middle of the room. Audience members suppress smiles as they are pulled into the performance. The music gathers momentum and the dancers merge together before splitting off and exiting the inflatable arena. No one’s sure whether this signals the end of the performance and the questioning is palpable.
We are then invited to leave the tent as quickly as possible and await the second half. In the exposed environs of the Invisible Wind Factory’s main room we experience a chill as we see the tent we called home now partially deflated.
Across the undulating landscape the dancers tentatively begin again to engage with their expressive movements and each other. Atop the structure they are never still, slowly walking towards the audience, bending in and out of one-another. It’s difficult to look away. The scene is reminiscent of a sci-fi movie as one dancer is cocooned in the tent while the others move around them.
Arakawa and Gin’s Reversible Destiny Lofts were all about defying conventional living by design. In prompting the inhabitants of the loft to constantly question and analyse their own processes of domestic routine the artist believe they could stave off the inevitable.
By the end of the performance the inflatable stage is all but flat with some internal air still animating it. The dancers are all smiles after an hour of provocative or inscrutable expression.
It’s the end of the performance and, while the inspirations of this piece Gins and Arakawa have since left this mortal stage, their ideas and challenges are a puzzle that won’t be solved and therefore live on.