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Light Research @ MMU

Tino Seghal’s ‘This Variation’

IMayfield Depot, Manchester‘ve just been to a magical event, part of Manchester International Festival, that relies upon the power of the dark and the ability of the eye’s cone cells to gradually become accustomed to seeing in the dark.. The location is a disused and derelict part of Piccadilly Train Station, vacant for many years, that has been opened up as a venue for the festival. Visitors enter the cavernous premises and are guided to a room along a short passageway. Inside, all is completely dark, save for a faint light in the ceiling. The room’s dimensions are impossible to guess, and imagined it had areas that sloped, with perhaps sudden drips bounded by railings. In the absence of light, the mind imagines all sorts of things. In the pitch black, we suddenly became aware of chirrupping noises all around us, and then sonorous voices accompanied these sounds, along with an array of other vocal effects. These seemed to be recorded and animated the darkness with a liveliness that had been initially absent. Yet suddenly, one’s eyes start to become accustomed to the gloom. At first, only vague shadowy forms can be ascertained, but gradually the flat, square shape of the room becomes apparent, and then the figures take on more substantial form. Magically, eyes become attuned to the darkness, and it is evident that many of the figures  in the room are performers, and they are responsible for the sounds and, we notice, movements as well. The ever-changing soundscape shifts from acapella singing to better known songs, occasionally changing into spoken words, and then a romantic slow song is the trigger for the dancers to gently draw close to the visitors, embracing them in a slow dance. It becomes comical to watch new arrivals, edging into the room, arms outstretched, but we are now part of the event, joining in the dance, responding to the performers. Tino Sehgal, designer of the event, is guided by an anti-materialistic ethos, and aims to present work that moves away from the display of (valuable) art objects and towards human interaction, creating ‘constructed situations’ that cannot be recorded and exist solely in the mind and memory of the participants.

July 17th, 2013 - 15:31pm

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