Walking on thin ice, or how Mette Edvardsen and Ivo Dimchev donít need much to draw you in

by Hans-Maarten Post

Review of Black, Performatik, Kaaitheaterstudioís, 24 February 2011, Brussels.

Itís a line that Iíve always found an extremely intriguing one. A person does something that could easily be perceived as utterly silly or nonsensical. But by the effort, the zeal and the concentration he (she) puts into it, he (she) lifts it to another level. It becomes something else. A performance; worth watching. (And when they fail, it becomes totally embarrassing). I witnessed two prime examples of artists remarkably crossing that line during the opening night of Performatik, KaaitheaterĎs performance festival: Mette Edvardsen (Black) and Ivo Dimchev (I-on). Performatik runs through March 5 and is linked to the exhibition The other tradition at Wiels (through May 1), also in Brussels.

An empty stage. A woman walks towards the audience. She reaches out for something that isnít there. Table table table table table table table table, she says. And then: chair chair chair chair chair chair chair chair. And the objects appear, even though they still arenít visible. Some people start to laugh. Mette Edvardsen, in her funny cadence, repeating every word eight times, continues conjuring up new objects and situations. Itís as simple as that, but it works.

Black originated from Ďa desire to make things appear, to do nothing, or no thingí. The piece derives its title from that common practice in theatre to paint objects black in order to make them unseen, to make them disappear. Itís a sheer delight to see Edvardsen (deadpan face) walk and talk, bump into that table, pat the dog and pick up the phone, and itís funny to see her turn an almost childish game into a successful, short performance. Hers is a concept that, you sense, could be explored even further.

Is she a performer that you almost immediately sympathize with, Ivo Dimchev on the other hand is a performer with a frightening intensity. You never feel at ease with him; not knowing what to expect next. Heís that sweet friend that could easily be a serial-killer as well. His solo I-on is a work-in-progress that will be part of X-ion, which will involve a number of performers.

Starting point for I-on are a couple of sculptures by Austrian artist Franz West. He developed his first portable sculptures, or Adaptives, in the early seventies. They are designed to be picked up and walked around with. West, who once described these Ďfitting pieces that do not fití as neuroses made material, asked Dimchev to make a couple of videos for two of them. The videos were on display last year at the Hayward Gallery in London, for Move, an exhibition (unsuccessfully, in my opinion) exploring the interaction between art and dance. Dimchev then asked Westís permission to make a live performance with a couple of these sculptures.

Neuroses made material. It comes pretty close to a description of Dimchevís performance: a series of nonsensical, often feverishly intense scenes, involving a blond wig that suddenly becomes a beard, red tulips, a mobile phone and a golden mask. Itís impressive to see how Dimchev crosses that line I was talking about. He fills the stage with his presence, and the intensity he puts into those scenes becomes almost tangible. The way he uses his (singing) voice, records it and then combines several layers of it, only intensifies that eerie atmosphere.

Article published in utopia parkway blog, 26 February 2011: http://utopiaparkway.wordpress.com