In a somewhat questionable marketing endeavour, the Eastern Cape Region has been sign posted, ‘Frontier Country’ and indeed this is what it is. Historically it is the site of the 9 Frontier Wars and much brutal conflict and living here presently can still seem the edge of nowhere by comparison to many major South African metropols. With Grahamstown at the heart of it, it is also a cosmopolitan space not without vestiges of past pain but - like many colonial outposts in a post-colonial time - it is no longer a satellite to an absent motherland, a mere microcosm of elsewhere, but also a world unto itself.

A potential space of intellectual, debate rather than military conflict – geographically isolated from metropolitan trends – a melting pot of many places, a crucible. In more recent history, this frontier space has been a site of culture, of experiment. Home to an annual arts festival, how is it that Grahamstown with a population of just under 140 000 can command so much creative imagination in novels, plays, poetry and art? Frontier, Border, at the end of the world but not about to fall off – merely at a vantage point to observe a view to come.
- Rat Western

DISCHARGE 2012             COLOUR COLLOQUIUM 2010             SYNTHETIC DIRT 2011

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Gavin Krastin: A Retrospective, Altered Daily - Synthesising Meaning from ‘Dusty’ Dances

Alan Parker and Gavin Krastin Retrospective5 - Chandelier Photograph: John Hogg
Premiering at Dance Umbrella 2011, Retrospective – Altered Daily, choreographed and performed by Alan Parker and designed and performed by Gavin Krastin, is a kinaesthetic and visually framed durational performance art event that surfaces discourse encircling ideas of originality, meaning making and intertextuality:

What if...
 What if the movement really does mean nothing?
What if you add a little something to nothing?
Does the nothing become something?
Is the something something new or is it something else?

Repeated each day for eleven days, the ‘dance’ (dubbed Trio F) is an extension of ideas presented by Yvonne Rainer in her seminal work, Trio A. Much like the original, Trio F, is a relishing of all things ‘un-dancey’ – no phrasing, no virtuosity, little rhythm, no variation or repetition and, essentially, no intended meaning. Every day the extraneous theatricalities of another production are then ‘pasted’ on top of it. (Alan Parker in the programme of Retrospective – Altered Daily, 2011) 

Not only does Parker paste the theatricalities of various old (‘dusty’) dances onto his anti-metaphoric and anti-metonymic body, with the aid of Krastin, but alternatively Parker inserts himself into pre-existing works, imploring the questioning of the originality of the work. Furthermore, by placing meaningful signifiers (through music, costuming and design, which each have their own historical context, story and intertextual resonance from the original productions, from which they were taken) in a meaningless dance phrase and space, Parker engages with alternative methods of meaning making.

This paper serves as a critical appreciation of the poignant aim of Retrospective – Altered Daily; to flatly question, or undermine the hallowed principles of originality, intention and expression. It will excavate the system of meaning making involved in the work, and ultimately how the work synthesised meaning from a meaningless body due to the proximity and involvement of indexed objects, sounds or visuals in the performance space, or near to the anti-metonymic body.

The paper is the result of a qualitative process of collecting and engaging with critical texts (primarily in the form of academic texts, journal articles and reviews sourced from Library services and internet facilities), related to the topic, as well as interviews with the artist Alan Parker. In addition, there is an interpretative and embodied method of research involved, as I am the designer and performer of the work.

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