Saturday, 10 February 2007

Mary Paterson - Claire 'Flagrante Delicto' 9th Feb

Claire is slamming doors. She will be slamming doors for four hours. Head shaved, wearing all black, she goes round and round her specially built contraption: four doors at right angles to each other, raised on a short platform. A small group of people watch her, leaning on walls and flinching every time another door is slammed. Claire, unlike us, is wearing ear plugs.

There is something repellant about Claire’s performance, and it’s not just the noise. We’re looking at her, but she won’t look at us. She looks at her feet, watching each step as she goes round and round. She keeps her own time, even paced footsteps to go with the relentless, repetetive thud. There’s a bottle of water at each door, which she occassionaly drinks with a strange elegance. Claire picks up the bottle – thud – Claire unscrews the top – thud – Claire takes a sip – thud – and returns the bottle to its place. It becomes clear that this durational performance is also a testing workout, and not much more pointless than running on a treadmill or heaving a rowing machine.

But it is pointless. There’s nothing intrinsically interesting about the doors themselves: they’re cheaply made but fit well. There’s nothing intrinsically interesting about the lighting, even as its altered with each opening and closing door. It’s not strong enough to make a difference to the room, and Claire casts no shadow. As hypnotic as the rythym is, the sound it makes is offensive. And the implication of the action – slamming doors to release anger – is all the more inane for the fact that its impersonal. Who or what is Claire angry with? It’s not us, the audience, because we’re being ignored. Perhaps she is battling some inner demons, or perhaps it is a generalised protest at the outside world. We’ll never know, because Claire – or, to be correct ‘CLAIRE’ – employs a ‘deliberate strategy of anonymity’, so the programme says.

Her action must be a physical and spatial experiment, which would explain the specialist equipment (gloves and earplugs) and her concentrated frown. But an architectural experiment doesn’t need to be repeated for four hours to an audience. The object itself – the four door contraption – could be an interesting piece of sculpture, but Claire’s action is too theatrical to display it well. Her persona distances her work from the audience, so the only reaction is to walk away and let Claire slam doors on her own.

Mary Paterson

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