Siobhan Davies Dance: material / rearranged / to / be at The Bluecoat
When I was little, sometimes half-asleep i’d have this dream experience where I was stuck between big yellow shapes like rolling-pins made of deserts, billowing peripheries flattening me out into cartoons. I would momentarily wake up feeling sick, and not a specific type of sickness - somewhere between vomiting toast and watching Pinocchio. it was awkward but brief, and i’d quickly lean back into sleep and forget about it by the morning and just go to school, whatever.
Years later I saw Dali’s Disney animation and omg, the sleep purgatory had become so perfectly art that i wondered if i’d seen it as a tiny child and the entire sequence was actually what i’d been dreaming about all along. The whole thing hasn’t happened to me for time but I’m bringing it up now because it describes my year quite well, having been subject to some intangible stresses. ya I was a tru sceptic thinking anxiety was just a buzzword but it has manifested in me so physically, and so fucking disruptive. I’m not gonna get into the whys because I’m still figuring those out - but here in the middle of the rolling-pins, it’s been hard to sit right in exhibitions. The White Pube is where we write about our somatic encounters with exhibitions, but thats a scary pretence when galleries can b poisonous, or just bad. they are so often flustered n proud of themselves as cool and serious places 2 be, rarely feeling special or careful, skilled or magic. and as that’s what i want, I would always rather be walking a dog.
` but on a recommendation i went along to ‘Siobhan Davies Dance: material / rearranged / to / be’ at the Bluecoat and ahh, i’m glad i did. The show contains site-specific performances (and i always think of site-specific like being in someone else’s bed and settling their pillows so you can sleep okay. i know the dance group came to the Bluecoat the week before to learn the shape of the rooms and figure out how they would live here sincerely. makes sense the show is only here for a week).
i stayed for a whole hour because it felt gentle to be a witness for a while. There was a dancer moving herself between screens when I walked into the main hall. She was speaking clinical words but still taking time to stop and smile, making eye contact but in a way that wasn’t confrontational; handling drawings of bones and vortexes on an overhead projector. v briefly got a hint of Einstein on the Beach and liked it, maybe because there was a metronome ticking. In the transition from that dancer to the next, the set changed: carpets were rolled up and rails angled, as though movers had come in to reset a flexible doctor’s office by IKEA. it was very satisfying. There were flat shiny craters buffered into the floor, and a red/blue laser grid rulered in another part. i watched people step over it and disturb the chalk a little. no one seemed to mind.
and it was so pleasant to be there for that particular moment of the exhibition. n for my body it was like a clearing, like grass laying down on the floor to rest. When the second person I saw perform was reacting to directions, i.e. ‘Actions of Disorientation’ had him spinning, i had to leave because it got too on the nose when i just wanted to be on a shoulder. But it was nice to be present for the different levels of the exhibition, like someone had walked over to the wall and turned the dimmer switch forward an hour. Even tho i wasn’t in the mood for this new guy, or the other man dancing in the corridor with the visor glasses (who looked like he was massaging the atmosphere), ‘material / rearranged / to / be’ was an exhibition that allowed life to come before art while still managing itself as an aesthetic experience. i really appreciated that. I think i needed the exhibition to have a face to it, u kno? I’d walked past a Debenhams on the way to get there and the current ad campaign is ‘A match made in Debenhams,’ with very coordinated looks in the windows. i thought about it when I got to the Bluecoat because the show was a good match for my 2017 state. the gallery was very busy but i felt like this exhibition was mine for a minute, how sweet.
Siobhan Davies Dance: material / rearranged / to / be is on July 1-9 at the Bluecoat, Liverpool, details here