Saturday was the first day of COMMA40 at The Place, a light-flooded gallery at the heart of the Bloomberg Space. Until November 27th, the leading contemporary dancers and choreographers are staging live installations, in the culmination of 2 years of COMMA events.
FAD headed to The Place for the first day, which saw Vera Tussing’s ‘sound-bed’ invite members of the audience to be transported around the Place, becoming part of the piece, raising questions about the subjective experience of viewing.
Vera describes what happens in the piece: A lone audience member lies down on a platform. They close their eyes. Speakers are gently placed at their head and feet. A soundscape, suggesting cinematic narratives begins playing.
As the piece plays, performers move the platform, and the speakers through the space. The audience member is completely passive as they are moved, passing through different ‘sound rooms’, becoming part of the dance that is unfolding.
The movement of the dancers and speakers act as a mode of live sound mixing, physicalising the machinery of special effects. Sound Bed explores in a live performance, a version of the narrative, temporal and spatial leaps available to cinematic editing.
Participating in Sound Bed is a twin experience; the audience observing the piece are guided through a deconstruction of cinematic techniques, while for the audience member at the centre of the installation the visual construct is hidden so that the acoustic presences invite a more emotive,less analytical, response.
Watching the piece, the audience member who is being moved around the room seems to be distant from the audience, their experience, and the sound which is being directed towards them a kind of cocoon, or dream sound track, which distinguishes them as ‘other’. The use of the bed, and that it is called such in the title of the performance, immediately suggesting something of the experience of dreaming, the snippets of disconnected music, speech and sounds which make up the sound track, and the drifting, circling path which the performers took, reminiscent of that lulling space between wakefulness and sleep, with a radio permeating dozing.
There are therefore 3 distinct “experiences” of the piece created, the experience of the performers and the two “audience” experiences, the viewer around the edge of the room, and the participant lying prostrate on the bed, eyes closed, as they are turned around the room, disorientated but engaging with the experience of the piece more than the viewer can do. The fourth viewing experience was of those walking past, outside on the street who paused to look through the tall windows of The Place, seeing the movement but the sound track inaudible, speakers and participant wheeled around completely silently. All of the COMMA40 pieces look are a response to the space.
FAD will be back at The Place to check out more of the performances throughout the week. All performances are free, and the Place is open 11-6 daily. Details of the programme, that is set to transform the look and feel of the space every day, can be found here. For contemporary dance connoisseurs, or complete newbies, this is a fascinating and awe-inspiring taste of the work of The Place’s dancers and choreographers.