Zoi Dimitriou, The Chapter House

Posted: December 30th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Zoi Dimitriou, The Chapter House

Zoi Dimitriou, The Chapter House, Laban Theatre, November 26


Publicity image for Zoi Dimitriou’s The Chapter House

Watching Zoi Dimitriou’s The Chapter House at Laban Theatre recently is like taking part in a formal ritual. It is a calm work, lit to stillness by Michael Mannion and dressed in planes of white and lines of wire; an abstract world punctuated by the stormy lyricism of the musical score formed of pieces by Pluramon, Conlon Nancarrow and Caccini.

In such an austere and well-lit environment every detail of the performers’ gestures is magnified, which lends itself well to the nature of this solemn enquiry into the nature of creation. As Dimitriou asks rhetorically in the program note, ‘…what does it take to make (or remake) an art work in and for the digital age?’

The Chapter House is a kind of retrospective with a twist. It began as an idea to revisit five of Dimitriou’s past creations to assess the path she had taken and where she found herself at the end of it. It was an artistic and intellectual act whose prime concern was evaluation rather than creation but in inviting media/performance pioneer Mark Coniglio to help her with the documentation of her project she discovered in the process of recording her five ‘chapters’ that the transformative effect of the camera realigned her original goal into its performative continuation and development.

The ‘chapter house’ of the title is the structure of the work, a framework like the memory theatres of old; in the first half of the performance, a textual score Dimitriou reads backwards at a music lectern with an almost ecclesiastical lilt precedes each selective re-enactment. She shares the stage with video artist David McCormick who is recreating Mark Coniglio’s original role.

A nod from McCormick is the signal for Dimitriou to start; she approaches the lectern where she reads her first score. In silence the two performers approach each other across the stage to perform a ritual cleansing of hands, she with a glass bowl, he with a glass bottle of water and a white towel that he lays carefully on the floor. After the ceremony Dimitriou places the bottle on the floor with the exactness of protocol and returns to the lectern to read the next score. This time she performs the score alone — lying on the floor and rotating her position every ten beats of a metronome until her hand finds the water bottle; she drinks from it for ten beats — while David circles to record her with a tablet-sized camera on the end of a pole.

At this point we do not know what he will do with the recordings; for subsequent scores McCormick moves with the camera as a participant in the choreography but we do not see the images until later when we understand that, like Dimitriou’s textual scores, the captured images serve to transfer past memories into the plane of the present. But they are more than that: in the latter half of the performance the recordings, filtered through a complex algorithmic software (originally designed by Coniglio) that divides them into the five chapters, are simultaneously projected on to five screens — five sheets that Dimitriou and McCormick meticulously unfold and peg to the overhead wires. You can marvel at this magic while you see Dimitriou perform a beautifully slow, languid solo that is qualitatively different from what had come before as if the entire process of recording and playback has changed the intrinsic nature of her dancing. While watching this process of digital creation and re-creation unfold we can also perceive the embodiment of an idea that in the sparse surroundings of serene but minimal gestural movement makes a compelling statement of life’s richness and a reminder that at the source of ideas is the unity of mind and body.


Zoi Dimitriou will perform The Chapter House again at Laban Theatre on April 12, 2016