Alexandra Waierstall, And here we meet, Lilian Baylis Studio

Posted: June 19th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Alexandra Waierstall, And here we meet, Lilian Baylis Studio

Alexandra Waierstall, And here we meet, Lilan Baylis Studio, June 14


Evangelia Randou in Alexandra Waierstall’s And here we meet (photo: Katja Illner)

After recently seeing so many works commemorating events in the First World War it was a relief to be able to contemplate Alexandra Waierstall’s UK première of And here we meet at the Lilian Baylis Studio. A quiet, poetic and thoughtful meditation on our evolution, the form of the work is inspired, it would seem, by the enigmatic stories that Laurie Anderson delivers so beautifully, one of which (The beginning of memory) prefaces the performance. For And here we meet, Waierstall and dancer Dani Brown have revised a text found online about the mess we have made of the 200,000 years of our Anthropocene period, a startling list of factual observations on our current ecology and environment that will be familiar to many. It is as much the wryly impeccable logic of Anderson’s stories as the way in which they are related that make them so arresting: the dry tone of voice, the lilting accents, the artful timing and the flattening out of the ends of sentences that leave the words hanging in the air. Brown, who is also American, does this admirably while employing her body as an additional referent; the poetic nature of the words and sentences floats on the shapes she makes while Waierstall and Ansgar Kluge have together shaped the space with light — a small number of Christmas lights suspended close to the ground — that further modulate the body’s motion and its emotional effect.

Entering the stage in loose workout clothes, Brown is so in the moment and matter-of-fact that the poise of her voice comes as a surprise. She begins her story by indicating she will start with the end but then almost inconsequentially discards her clothes. We soon discover the end of the story is set in the future, 100 million years from now, when a group of post-Anthropocene explorers discovers our planet and finds its geology worth investigating. And here we meet is thus a vision of dystopia in which the naked human body serves as our archaeological guide to the present. In a metaphorical sense Waierstall has laid bare the current state of our environment but as the story proceeds, the simplicity of the body’s contours in the simplicity of the theatrical space raise it from the didactic to the poetic, from an apoplectic rant to an apocalyptic ode on the fate of mankind. In a constant alignment between words and movement, Brown’s voice seems to affect the articulation of her body and her gestures in turn add layers of meaning to the text. Every now and then her accent drops into a Southern drawl as a form of mordant exaggeration that continues into her body, as when from a crouched position with her tensed hands and fingers splayed over her head like a blind exotic oracle she describes the future discovery of our cities ‘empty from lack of food or drought’.

Waierstall’s visual depluming of the story to set it free of current contextual detail continues in the soundscape of her collaborator Volker Bertelmann, aka HAUSCHKA, in a composition that provides a perfect counterpart to her exploration through an other-worldly rhythmic evocation of a timeless past that defies a solid musical footprint. Waierstall had met Bertelmann after hearing about one of his projects inspired by abandoned cities and it is not hard to sense the similarity of their emotional approach to disappearance in And here we meet.

Whereas Laurie Anderson’s story is very much in the past, Brown’s is very much in the future. She ends her story with the kind of questions archaeologists might ask about the possible causes of their findings before slowly counting down from 10 to 4, where she breaks off. This is the point at which that vast span of horizontal time between past and future meet somewhere in the present with the appearance of Evangelia Randou. She is equally vulnerable in her lack of clothing, perhaps more so because she doesn’t speak; it’s as if she and Brown recognize each other but can’t remember where they met. Randou’s articulated avian gestures return to the birds of Anderson’s prologue, and for a moment she carries within her a hope that the future cannot comprehend. Brown retreats into the dark but it is not long before Randou, in a subdued gesture of disbelief, follows her. We have lost them both, but the poetry remains.