19 November 2009
Not how people move but what stops them
Author: Tim Etchells
In early rehearsals for a new Forced Entertainment performance project (opening next May, and as yet without a title) I’m watching Cathy, Terry, Claire and Amit pass a microphone back and forth at the front of the stage. They’re jabbering endlessly, voices pitched high by the electronic boxes at the sound-desk, laughing, breathless, idiotic, punning, free-associating – impossible to keep up with or keep track of it’s giddy, delirious ride. After some time I notice that something has changed though, even if it takes me a minute or two to identify what it is. In the middle of the line Terry is pausing momentarily when taking the mic, then, a short while later, she starts taking the mic and not speaking at all. The effect is like a channel-jump on TV. We’re in one flow, one movie, one energy, one flowing voice and then. Ugh. Nothing. And then someone else snatches the mic back and the train lurches off again, rollercoastering. The mic goes back and forth, and now the talking talking is always breaking breaking for these silent moments from Terry. Talk, laugh, anecdote, laughter, talk, break, phrase, sentence, laughter and energy break.
Rewriting Pina Bausch (I'm not interested in how people move; I'm interested in what makes them move…) I might say at this point that it’s not how people move that interests me so much as what stops them. Indeed for an artist whose work has dealt with, and turned so much around language, it might seem strange that silence is the primary starting point for this project. But for me the gaps in speech and in texts, like blanked faces or empty stages or stilled dancers, are always something of a magnet… spaces for projection that pull me in. Like all emptied frames for communication, gaps in speech both demand imaginative intervention and, in their distruption of conversational or declamatory flow, point to problems in the communication economy of the social context or in the psychological economy of the subject.
Silence I guess is (so often) a question. A place to weigh and wonder. A turning point. At some point in this process I hope I’ll get to something like a full typology of silences, but for the moment, as I’m working on this research – preparing for the video interviews and encounters which will define it – I’m tumbling through silences and accounts of silences. Silences in performances, in theatres, on stages. Silences in cafes, in bedrooms. Silences in interviews, in interrogations. Silences in laboratories, in churches, in coal mines, in recording studios.