Jefta van Dinther: Dark Field Analysis at Lilian Baylis Studio

Posted: September 21st, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Jefta van Dinther: Dark Field Analysis at Lilian Baylis Studio

Jefta van Dinther, Dark Field Analysis, Lilian Baylis Studio, September 14

Jefta van Dinther

Jefta van Dinther’s Dark Field Analysis (photo ©Max Stürmer)

Dark field analysis is an alternative medical procedure using high-resolution dark field microscopy to observe live blood.

Two naked men sit casually on a green baize carpet as if caught in a moment of silence in the course of their conversation. Roger Sala Reyner is deep in thought with eyes closed but Juan Pablo Cámara’s eyes have a piercing fixity that borders on the non-human. Through the effect of cyborg lenses choreographer Jefta van Dinther already hints at the synthetic within the nonchalantly organic and familiar. The baize carpet sits on a larger dark grey rectangle of material that fills the space marked by the four sides of the seated audience; above the performance area hangs a low ceiling whose perimeter is defined by a slim strip of white LED light. Cristina Nyffeler’s scenography and Minna Tiikkainen’s lighting close down the space to a muffled intensity that gives the impression we are observers in a theatre within a theatre. Both men have wireless microphones through which sound designer David Kiers not only amplifies their voices but at times enhances them, effectively releasing them from the speaking bodies to fulfil an integral but autonomous part of the choreographic process.

As soon as the audience is seated around them, the two men do not so much start as continue their conversation. Cámara asks, “What is your earliest memory?” Reyner remembers his love of spinning, the sensation of speed and dizziness that resulted in a fall. “Did you cry?”, asks Cámara coldly, his intense stare seeing the accident behind his eyes. “No.” “Did you bleed?” The pulsating rhythm of the soundtrack begins to merge with the words that Cámara expels from his body with a muscular tension that results in a gestural exploration of the air around him. Lying back and looking around at the audience with a similar air of detachment Reyner recalls the red stain on his white clothing. “Have you ever penetrated someone else?” asks Cámara. “I mean literally getting under the skin of another being?” It is at this point that the performance itself takes us below the surface and carries us down with Reyner and Cámara through their nakedness into and under our own skin. If the subject of Dark Field Analysis is blood, as choreographer Jefta van Dinther states in the program, it ‘serves as an analogy for looking inwards and outwards: into and beyond ourselves’. Blood stands for ancestral lineage but also for evolutionary connections with animals; it is the shared exchange between predator and prey, but also the pulsating fluid of life and by extension the energy fueling robotics.

Dark Field Analysis is a sculptural piece whose volumes are defined by the masterful interaction of light and sound. Tiikainen effectively transforms the stage from the light of the opening conversation into a dark chamber in which we delve into the gestural vocabulary of human, animal and artificial agents through her own assimilation of technological or animal night vision; the certainty of focus and clarity is replaced by the unsettling disquiet of the unfamiliar. Kiers extrapolates this sensation through his ability to manipulate the human voice into the snarl of a predator or the mechanical rasp of a destructive robot unraveling the baize floor in the low red light. On another two occasions it is Reyner’s powerful voice that sings above the action as a reminder of the very human, emotional nature of the work. In the confluence of sound, light and action we effectively become part of an engrossing sensory exploration of the inner and outer worlds we inhabit.

In fully integrating the intellectual content of the work into the choreographic language of the body, van Dinther creates a visceral, immersive experience that is eminently contemporary. Whilst he is not alone in engaging with topics such as the relationship of humans to the ecosystem and the Anthropocene, as in Alexandra Waierstall’s And here we meet, or the definition of the self in relation to a biological makeup, as in Wayne McGregor’s Autobiography, van Dinther’s quest into a re-definition of subjectivity that encompasses organic and artificial agents is not only current but expressed through the very concept that defines such reassessment: affect. As a result, the concept does not encumber the performance but is a perceived feature whose intellectual resonance emerges as one of its volumes and remains long after the performance has ended. Appropriately it is Reyner and Cámara who pull the plug on their own conversation by climbing up, one on the shoulders of the other, to reach an imaginary switch that plunges us into darkness.