Tesseract at the Barbican: An intriguing and thought-provoking performance piece
Choreographed by former Merce Cunningham dancers Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener and inspired by science fiction, time travel and geometry, Tesseract – part of the Barbican’s 2019 season Life Rewired – is an innovative conceptual performance piece combining recorded visuals and dance. In two acts, the first is a 3D film by renowned video artist Charles Atlas – also a Merce Cunningham veteran. Exploring perception, the camera is used to present alternate viewpoints of motion within temporal and spatial frameworks.
Atlas’s initial work includes 3D glasses, a suggestion of the 1950s fad, introducing the work’s sci-fi element, and the notion of movement in altered perspective. Recalling cubism, the projection and the dance in the second act repeat the geometric motif, used as points of reference.
Reflecting the information deluge of our technological age, Tesseract references the dominance of multiple points of view that constantly assail us, and our need to create ordered significance out of chaos. How does human perception receive and process a barrage of information within concurring uncertainties of time and space? Mirroring this question, the choreography is multi-layered in meaning: celebrating at once individuality and collaboration, pragmatism and imagination, intellect and hedonistic sensuality, while exploring alternate realms of reality.
Consisting of modern ballet segments, the footage in Part I features a moody, evocative dreamlike rendering in Fog and another in which Mitchell and Riener are confined by ropes, perhaps indicating our connectedness but also our struggle for freedom from that which binds us – whether our human condition, the complexities of our culture, or the entrapments of our technological/surveillance age. With pas de deux and ensemble work, dance and animation fuse, yielding wild, surreal effects.
As if an echo of this century’s voyeurism as well as the compulsion to self-record, the camera is omnipresent, as the dance in Part II is filmed live and projected in varying perspectives, creating both multi-dimensionality and intimacy with the viewer. The performers (ten in total) are remarkable, with artful, emotive and beautifully effectuated movement.
Evoking a sense of travelling through space, Tesseract is an intriguing, exhilarating experience and a thought-provoking, exquisite performance piece.
Tesseract is at the Barbican from 28th February until 2nd March 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Tesseract here: