Joannie Baumgärtner: There’s lots of time like now

20 minute presentation for AEROPONIC ACTS  - growing roots in air, DAI's 3 day marathon of lecture-perfomance acts, May 2019.

There's lots of time like now ponders unresolved tension as departure point for action. The meditative piece combines sound, video and performance, in atmospheric density. Rising suspense with audiovisual means, tensions of the body are emphasised with stretching and dance moves. Repetition creates innovation, preparation precedes improvisation, language loses its narrative arc and becomes flat, the highpoint loses its form to a plateau that proliferates in all directions. Viewers are invited to roam around, to rest, to observe, to move and dance, to prepare and practice.

Ana Teixeira Pinto, Ghalya Saadawi, Laura Harris and Hypatia Vourloumis responded to the question:

What about the unresolved?

Report by Ayesha Hameed:

A black and white video flickers on a screen at the back of a red-lit darkened room in which marbles fall from above. Seated in rows of chairs that face opposite directions, the audience listens to a hero’s journey between life and death narrated from the upper level, and songs about prophecies that have come to pass by chance. Someone stamps our wrists, and the narrator moves on to consider chronic conditions, which compel us to stretch. The audience is invited to get up and move around the room. Baumgärtner, in the centre of the room, stretches and lies down with a beamer in their mouth. They are carried to a mixer on the floor and play euphoric dance music and beam images of spinning: ‘round and round we go,’ ‘you spin me right round.’ The volume increases and transitions to Enya’s ‘Orinoco Flow’ – music about transportation and movement, Drexciya’s ‘Black Sea.’ Everyone starts dancing and the mood shifts from meditative to kinetic. The black and white abstract video plays throughout, as the atmosphere plateaus into something more meditative.

Ana Texeira Pinto related the performance to Kant’s notion of the sublime – the attempt to represent something ungraspable – as it evokes the trouble of teleological linear time in the modern era, or the problematic nature of aesthetics in questioning structures that are ultimately reinforced. The Enya undid the self-seriousness and pathos in the performance, she said, observing that this made the position ambiguous. ‘You are trying to place yourself outside of time,’ concluded Texeira Pinto. ‘It acts as a conduit for fate, which acts as a place for Western metaphysics.’

Ghalya Saadawi appreciated the opening quote on travel sickness, which recalled a blind prophet or oracle and built on the unease that Texeira Pinto addressed. ‘When is this prophet from?,’ she asked. ‘Did you feel like you were immersed in a statistical temporality?’ Saadawi reasoned that maybe it was the opposite, that the prophet held something back in this mise en scène edged with doom.

Laura Harris noted that the performance looked at something taking the place of nation-state – against teleology, futurity, heteronormative reproduction. The break into music created the possibility for hope to emerge in the space. Her questions were: ‘How does this space open up and bump into the world? How do we defend pleasures, and sustain them?’

Hypatia Vourloumis found the use of text projected on the floor let writing be both seeing and being. ‘Who holds us up’ is a question she saw was threaded through the artist’s being carried across the room and in the music they played, which holds us up. ‘The performance brought the night into the morning, the club into the night,’ said Vourloumis, who cautioned: ‘the desire to break out of teleology might reify its own gesture.’