Tree of Codes

3 July
Opera House

In the beginning, there is complete darkness. The darkness envelops and displaces the audience, suspending them in time and space in preparation for the overthrow of senses that is about to take place.

Then the sound of clapping begins. The clapping sets the tempo that pulsates through the entire performance, a temporal beat composed by Jamie XX that carries each scene from one to the next. The disjointed rhythms move progressively but disjointedly, taking the audience with them through creativity, ballet, music and art. Although the performance itself is only 75 minutes long, we are taken on a journey spanning billions of years, asking questions ranging from creationism to existence all in a short timeframe.

This performance tests all the senses. Visually, the stage continually moves and shifts. Mirrors reflect the audience members, so we are left gazing at our own collective mass as we watch the piece unfold. The boundaries between the dancers and audience blurs, as we too are reminded of our place in this story of humankind.

Jamie XX’s musical score is elusive, minimal and stark. It draws attention to the acquirement of sound, as different branches of sound stretch out tentatively to different beats and chords, creating a kaleidoscopic range of sounds. The beat is fractured at one point by silence, a point where all that is audible is the heavy breathing of the dancers and the sound of their feet slapping across the floor. This piece is as much about what is left to the viewers’ imagination as it is about the performance that is unfolding before them.

Tree of Codes was first a sculptural book created by Jonathan Safran Foer, who used the book, The Street of Crocodiles, as a canvas by cutting into it to create a new story. This tells the story of one individual’s last day that could be anyone’s story. This blurring of the individual and the collective permeates the entire performance in the Opera House. The dancers seem so individual in their movement, yet the mirrors reflecting multiple bodies behind them suggest a mass identity. The musical score is unique and new, yet hauntingly familiar.

The dancers gradually acquire clothes and the history of humankind is brought into the present. In the same way, ballet, a highly formalised type of dance, is brought into the modern day, appreciated by a noticeably mixed audience of different ages and backgrounds.

From nakedness, they become clothed. From disparate movements, unity is forged. Yet the question of whether order is ever created from the chaos is left unanswered.

Sophia Siddiqui

Background image: Melon High Water by Vincent James.

FKA Twigs

18 July
Granada Studios

“I love another, and thus I hate myself.” Wyatt / Preface: LP1

Echoing the erratic swaying of multicoloured ribbons emerging from her body in her latest music video, ‘Glass & Patron’, FKA Twigs graces the gym-like floor of a space within the old Granada Studios. Sultry, graceful and flawless, she moves to reflect the subdued lighting, the muted bass and beats of remixed tracks, both unreleased, unknown and from LP1.

The audience remain silent, but I feel their gaze and bated breath as her hips move to the music. It’s beyond impressive how she has choreographed the intricate yet powerful motions of her dancers to intertwine with her solo routine. It feels like a travesty to even call such visual art a ‘dance routine’, because what I witnessed from the bench, only inches from these artists, was a haunting expression of heartbreak, irrevocable love and the experiences during her two-year ride at breakneck speed from her youth spent in the underground realm to mainstream stardom. I would rather not comment on the presence of her partner and his smouldering gaze in the audience, as it is irrelevant to the show and to the piece she has composed for the audience to witness.

Ultimately, what Twigs has created showcases her talent as a performance artist. The focus on music is minimal – much to the dismay of a number of fans, not knowing what to expect from the evening. The mystery surrounding the entire production process, and the performance of the bittersweet fruits of her labour, capture the painstakingly difficult methods she has used to create such a mystifying piece. My final comment is on her usage of lines from Sir Thomas Wyatt's poem, ‘I Find No Peace’, a poem so obscure that only a seasoned literary and poetry lover would dig up from centuries ago, “I find no peace, and all my war is done”.

I expect more avant-garde displays of art from her once her upcoming EP3 is released.

Cameron Broadhurst