National Experimental Theater, Taipei
March 2, 2018
Infinity Minus One (從無止境回首) is the second part of Su Wen-chi’s (蘇文琪) Rainbow Trilogy, inspired by her month-long residency at CERN (European Centre for Nuclear Research) in Switzerland. In it, she seeks to explore how artists can present the two extremes of scale: a particle and the universe, in human terms and in terms of physical energy. Can infinity itself be sensed or is it simply a feeling of uncertainty, she asks.
The music, at least, certainly evokes the vastness of the universe. Indonesian experimental duo Senyawa get things off to an unusual start with Rully Shabara creating an impressive soundscape using nothing more than breath and a microphone. Slowly, other other-worldly sounds creep in that appear to be bouncing off some unseen metal wall, before voice in the form of a repeated phrase creeps in. Later, Wukir Suryadi coaxes some great sounds from his unusual instrument that can be plucked like a guitar, played with a bow, or used to produce percussion. At one point, the music takes on a sort of Indonesian-transcendental fusion that is quite remarkable. I could have done with the volume turned down occasionally (the loudness doesn’t achieve anything and several people around me sat with their fingers in their ears for most of the evening), but so impressive and interesting were Senyawa that I found myself watching them more than the dancers.
Su’s choreography is less engaging. She starts by having dancers Luluk Ari Prasetyo and former Cloud Gate 2 artist Danang Pamungkas, both also from Indonesia, sit and listen to the music. It’s been done many times and in itself is a perfectly reasonable idea, but it is dragged out. Indeed, movement-wise, nothing much happens for nigh on ten minutes, and when it does, it’s no more than the dancers moving, posing, then moving again and posing again, all with little obvious relationship to each other or the music. It’s as dull as it sounds.
But things do pick up. Pamungkas’ movement in particular takes on a particularly fractured, almost stop-motion quality about a lot of it, movements isolated by momentary pauses. Traditional gestures and dance poses are also seamlessly incorporated. It is remarkably clear and precise. It is all very one-paced and all very similar in nature, though. So much so that Su makes the interesting uninteresting. It doesn’t help that while the pair may share the same space, the pair still seemed to have little relationship with each other. Things do eventually pick up, though, and at last there is a connection as the two dancers actually come together, even if the largely pedestrian nature of things is maintained. Presumably they are the particles in Su’s equation, but it’s not at all clear.
The action is framed by a few coloured lasers. They rise and lower, move around and bounce off mirrors. Sometimes the beam is broken by the dancers causing a spark of white light. If they are supposed to suggest infinity, they don’t, not least because we can always see the beginning and end. Having them reach out into distant and surrounding blackness would have been far more effective. The final image, when they do seem to reach off into the distance as Senyawa’s sounds fade away is impressive, but largely the display is average and feels nothing more than decoration disconnected from everything else; that it’s there merely because it can be there. Three video and installation designers are credited: Chiu Chao-tsai (邱昭財), and Chang Huei-ming (張暉明) and Liao Chi-yu (廖祈羽). It’s hard to see what they all did.
Zeigarniq’s costumes are described as “shaded fashion.” If fashion looks like rags these days, fair enough, but they do little for the dancers or the work. The same can be said for most of Ryoya Fudetani’s lighting. Presumably having the house lights up at the beginning, and then bringing them up for a few minutes during the piece is an attempt to break the usual rules of theatre, William-Forsythe-style. Here, it just feels out of tune with the work.
There is still one more piece of Su’s Rainbow trilogy to come. Despite its many issues, Infinity Minus One is vastly superior to the deathly Unconditional Love and Fact (全然的愛與真實) that was part one. I do continue to be concerned about her ability to sustain choreographic interest, though, and I wish I could see something a little more new about her use of so-called new media too.