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A woman’s face looms, very large and unnervingly close. She seems within touching distance, but it is an illusion, a 3D film that is the opening of artist Charles Atlas’s latest work, Tesseract, created with choreographers Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener.
Atlas, the longtime collaborator of Merce Cunningham and Michael Clark, has been exploring ways of filming dance since the 1970s. While this piece opens with bodies that are hyperreal in their apparent three-dimensionality, Atlas has his sights set one better, the fourth dimension – a tesseract is the four-dimensional version of a cube. Inspired by a 1940s sci-fi novella, he has created a work of shifting dimensions and worlds, with the connection between dancers and audience, dancers and camera, and projections and performers constantly changing.
Tesseract has two acts, the film being the first. What starts as fairly straightforward dance crescendos into weirdness, with dancers grappling with geometry in the desert and a brilliant scene where the dancing is played in reverse. For all the future tech, the kaleidoscopic transitions and experimental effects hark back to retro sci-fi and the early days of video, some of it quite silly but taken very seriously.
The second half is less absorbing. The dancers are physically in front of us, but in a way they are more distant than their vividly present digital 3D counterparts. Curtained off by a sheer scrim, a Steadicam operator moves among the six dancers, his live feed projected on to the stage. We see new perspectives on the usual proscenium view, while manipulating the film makes those real bodies ever more abstract.
In the midst of this, the dance comes rooted in Cunningham-style smooth planes and sharp angles, with moments of inspiration, such as when Riener performs angular poses speeded up so they become like karate chops, suddenly reinvented.
But the digital age is all about distraction and our focus is constantly moving, from detail to bigger picture, from bodies to their representation.
Tesseract is an impressive experiment with some cool effects but it is pleasantly jolting when a woman appears in front of the screen, slowly lunging towards the audience, an unexpected human connection.
Source: The Guardian
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