Friday, 17 November 2017

Under Cinema. Wu Tsang @ FACT, Liverpool

I’ve not been to FACT for a while. The last thing I remember enjoying seeing was Lucy Beech’s film which formed part of 2016 Liverpool Biennial. Having course to be in Liverpool for an afternoon, I check the FACT website to see what’s on. What I read there doesn’t really fill me with a great desire to see it.

There’s a little paragraph about how the current exhibition Under Cinema by Wu Tsang is based around a essay from a set of essays. It’s hardly inspiring stuff, it makes going to see the exhibition might be very hard work.

Anyway, despite any reservations, I’m in FACT watching, mesmerised even by Wu Tsang's film “We Hold Where Study”. Sat in front of the cinema sized screen, actual cinema sized like the screens they use for Marvel blockbusters.

Watching two overlapping locations (one exterior, one interior) two overlapping sets of dancers, fall and roll. Occupying there space, occupying the screen, occupying my space. We as audience are granted access to this space through the camera. The camera is performer, through its performance it allows us as viewer an unique level of intimacy and connection with our performers.

Often when I see performance presented as film, I feel that I’d rather experience that performance live. This is the exception, here the sense of the performers physicality is powerful. The camera also gives you access to this physicality where in the real world you’d be ejected from the performance.

If this where live and you approached the performers as the camera does. You be violating the rules of performer and viewer. It’s not the presence of the camera that allows this presence into the performers space. It is a result of a melding of action, locations, lighting (both real and artificial) and music. Which collide perfectly to create a heightened experience.

At the heart of this experience is the notion of motion as identity. That these two elements share the same fluid properties. That both are malleable, shifting and adjusting. Conforming and reaction to the environment and the individuals that occupy it.

Its how you hold yourself at a bus stop, how that apparently simple act can uncover you. Exposing a version of yourself to the world. Until you become aware of the perception of others.

Wherein you adjust yourself to the architecture of others. This space is sometimes comfortable and familiar, often it is not.

All these ideas seem to spring directly from watching the film. Who’s 19 minute run time flies past. Which is not always the case when watching film installations. I even consider staying to watch the whole thing again. But I have constraints on my time. Once I leave the gallery I’m slightly resentful of he outside world’s encroachment into this experience.

But as my identity merges with the dances of others, I know I have had this experience.

I’ll just add that this in one of two films by Wu Tsang presented at FACT. The second is “Under Cinema”. A kind of documentary following the pop star Kelela. Throughout she speaks thoughtfully and elegantly about her music, her identity as a singer and the use of black identity in the music industry. It’s an involving portrait of Kelela and the difficulties of expressing your identity as an artist while negotiating the needs of the music industry.

What stops this being just a promo film is that was as you watch the film. A film of Kelela watches you. Again asking questions about who identity is formed by the gaze of another.