Performance art piece challenges you to rethink the dark
The theatre was in near darkness and filled with strange noises and moving shadows. As the performance began, the soundscape grew in anxious intensity while dim lights became visible and DARKlight_I: Utterings had begun. This performance artwork will be on at Metro Arts this week and challenges you to rethink your relationship with both dark and light.
So the work, which is a cooperation between artist Julie Vulcan and musician Ashley Scott, is a reaction to the fact that the world we live in has constant illumination. We often only rarely experience natural darkness, rather insisting on flood the world with electric light.
The performance starts outside the theatre, where they form you into small groups and give you instructions in whispers. You are taken to your seats in the dark. Each seat contains a small glow in the dark object that is yours. While waiting for the show to begin, your eyes start to adjust to the lack of light and you can just make our shapes on the stage. It works best when people talk only in whispers (thanks to those two girls who sat next to us talking loudly about their banal life.)
Once the show starts, the musical soundscape intensifies. There are creaks, groans and a whistling wind. All this is designed to make you feel on edge. While this is in many ways an artistic cliche, it does in some way fit with the artwork, though perhaps in a somewhat heavy-handed way.
Overall, the performance involves beautiful lights, forests of shadows, figures moving through the dark, secret messages in light and demonic apparitions becoming gentle and beautiful glows that warm the soul. This performance captures the audience totally. The moment the show starts, everyone was immediately quiet and focused on the experience to the point that when the performance ended, it took us all a little while to break the spell and to make some noise to clap, get up and leave, stumbling out in silence to the illuminated world.
For myself, the performance was interesting enough but failed to really capture my personal experience of darkness, which involves lying on beaches watching shooting stars, listening to the soothing sounds of nature when camping, walking in the moonlight and standing on tops of mountains, looking down as luminescent clouds float below. Actually, that last one was represented at one point by the artist, but for me darkness is comforting and part of a special experience while the performance focused more on fears and concern, before slowing drifting towards beauty and light.
But remember, art is not an answer, but a question, it is not a speech, but one side of a debate or dialogue. Sure my own view and answer is different the artist, but being part of that artistic discussion means that the artist's goal has been met: which was to make me rethink my relationship with the dark and the night.
A great an enthralling performance art piece that is really worth experiencing. If you are at all interested in performance art, then DARKlight is worthwhile.
The author attending the performance courtesy of Metro Arts