Findlay//Sandmarks >>returner<< at EMPAC
>>returner<<, as shown and developed at EMPAC, has its charms -- a dancer equipped with sensors that projects a distorted avatar on an ever-moving cube, a pile of amplified branches that echo with every snap and crunch of its fiber and an opening animated video short of “a man who shits and spits fire” and “a woman on fire” who is the rebellion that illuminates truth.
But while >>returner<<'s individual parts might be interesting, the piece by Findlay//Sandsmark doesn’t add up to a cohesive creation that resonates. The mysterious work has its hints of inspiration. For example, it was clever to lead the audience into a darkened room and then drop a curtain to reveal that we are the ones onstage. But aside from the surprise factor, the trick of perception and discomfort didn’t enhance the experience of >>returner<<.
The artists should have just put us in theater seats as that’s where we ended up anyway.
The piece from this Norwegian duo, director Iver Findlay and choreographer Marit Sandmark, was perhaps warning us about the world as an aberration. Technology is contorting humanity, leadership and the environment while the natural world is on fire -- climate change on steroids.
The lighting design by Jean-Vincent Kerebel shimmered and twisted like tornados launching through the ceiling. Lights also swept along the floor, spinning thoughts of an insect parade, marching forward to devour the greenery.
Sandmark, as the solo mover, flopped and flung her head and limbs. When the sensors were attached, her grotesque avatar looked to be swallowed by the wall – painfully sucked in as it tried to writhe free.
Then when she finally took off the sensors her graphic figure crumbled into a heap, a mass of monstrous dysfunction.
Throughout, and distractedly so, Nils Erga walked back and forth along a narrow corridor. At first I thought there was some kind of mistake, that Erga didn’t realize that we could see him, as the passage was off in the wings. Then I realized it was all part of this bizarre world. As it crumbles, humanity paces backs and forth, on the phone, without ever seeing the stark realities.
Erga also was the work’s violinist, fiddling away to the ominous music that hummed loudly and then waned and rushed forth again.
The video work by Victor Morales was well-done. But many of the passage were too long. Conversely, Sandmark’s interaction with the nature – rolling inside and atop the pile of sticks, was too short.
>>returner<<, like most of what is presented at the Rensselaer venue, leaves the audience baffled. Would I recommend it? No. But I’m not thoroughly dissatisfied with the experience either.