What is the ‘female private primate’ of our species? In Lounge Living, an unseen male narrator responds to this question like a natural historian taking notes: she paints her lips, her hair is often chemically enhanced, she has an addictive tendency towards brown substances, like coffee and chocolate.
What are the four women to make of this? Cubby-holed in their separate living rooms, colour-coded and catalogued, they get up and make-up to bright and cheesey wakey-wakey music, like 50s icons of domesticated femininity breakfasting to Radio 2. As they eat, drink and obsess about their household goods (a lamp, an LP, a telephone, a plant), the narrative seems to suggest that the primal urges of these private primates now find their outlet in food, makeup, clothes and domestic appliances – objects of communication and identification that hold out the promise of personal fulfilment. Consumerism as evolution? Lounge Living is skilfully designed and occasionally really quite funny, but it is also uncomfortable viewing that raises far more questions than it answers – at least for this unseen male viewer.
Gender is not much at issue in And Breathe…, a female duet by Katsura Isobe and Hagit Bar. They’re distant, alien creatures dressed in loose white tunics that are part judo outfit, part clinician’s overall. Air is their element. They’re moved by their own breath to mark out the space around them and span the air between them. Isobe’s short gasps shudder through her body; Bar’s slow exhalation unfurls her arms as she sinks into one weighted hip. The choreography develops into interlocking partnerwork with slicing arms and keeling falls. Though deft and inventive, the work’s subtle nuances don’t project far, and this coolly abstract piece is best seen up close.
Barbie dolls with blank, unseeing stares are homunculus voodoo counterparts to the five women.
Inter-Fiction’s Uninvited is a spookily evocative piece, its opening credits projected in spiky red type on the back wall, like the title sequence of a horror film. Behind the five dancers, a black-and-white film (by Anouska Anderson) plays throughout, accompanied by creepily atmospheric music (by Mark Clements and Juleka Nwankwo). The video, which dominates the piece, starts with a séance in a darkened room, cutting and replaying strangely unsettling scenes of the women in a park or in a building, glimpsed on stone stairs or disappearing through corridors. Most ominous are the Barbie dolls found lying in the grass with blank, unseeing stares, homunculus voodoo counterparts to the five women. The women on stage tilt and reach, semaphore arms scything in ritualistic communications. Actually, the live action seems like an added extra, somewhat redundant and certainly less suggestive than the music, and particularly the film. The montage of hand-held camerawork ends with the dolls piled up into a box as the lid, from doll’s-eye perspective, closes like a coffin. Marvellously morbid.