Review: Rosemary Butcher -After Kaprow – The Silent Room/Book of Journeys

Performance: 15 - 17 November 2012
Reviewed by Josephine Leask - Monday 26 November 2012

Rosemary Butcher 'After Kaprow' Photo: Claire Pullinger

Video installation designed for a range of gallery and theatre spaces is a dominant theme in Rosemary Butcher’s highly visual and meditative work After Kaprow. Another is the contemplation of how women occupy particular spaces and the imprints they leave behind them.

After Kaprow is comprised of two separate but connected pieces: The Silent Room which features live performance by dancers Ana Mira and Rosalie Wahlfrid alongside a film of the hypnotically still Mira, appearing on dual screens. This is followed by a second film, Book of Journeys, again of Mira, but capturing her movements in two contrasting locations, played simultaneously on the screens. Butcher explores through both video and choreographic activities, movement content that is inspired by women’s everyday actions that are associated with domestic settings such as household chores or washing and sleeping rituals. The dancers investigate the familiarity, tedium and self-absorbing nature of such tasks through pedestrian movement, detailed gestures, repetition and stillness. They have a quiet and reflective quality as they go about their actions, rolling, sitting, crouching or lying, while the lingering screen figure of Mira materialises and vanishes above them.

Sam Williams’ subtle and poetic video gives Mira a religious aura and its impact while at times distracting, usefully amplifies the intricate actions performed by the women, otherwise unseen on the darkened stage. The film is both haunting and reassuring, like a memory that keeps returning and the pre-recorded footage produces a vital tension with the live movement. I also like the fact that the film multiplies the presence of the women and creates an illusion that they are many of them in the rooms.

Whereas The Silent Room, with its dim lighting and muted movements, suggests nocturnal settings, Book of Journeys is full of day-light and colour. Mira inhabits two new spaces, a large empty room in a monastery and a corridor in a castle, responding to the silent, historical environment of each. Both films running in parallel, create the effect of suspended time and the sensation that we are witnessing memories of the dancer, as she investigates past, present and future states of being. While Mira performs faster and more expansive actions in the monastery, room which has the austere grandeur and colouring of a Johannes Vermeer painting, her manner is still meditative and introverted. In the castle space the video selects surfaces which are arrestingly contrasted; Mira’s pale fragile skin is juxtaposed with the rough brick walls or her bruised, rough dancer’s feet juxtapose with the lavish, smooth floor- tiles as she makes contact with them. Such exquisite attention to detail is something that Butcher does so well.

Finally, Mira’s vulnerability and humbleness as a performer together with her gentle and enquiring persistence, make her entirely suitable for Butcher’s work. Leaving us with a room charged with memory and presence, she exposes on a physical and visual level the body and its relationship with context.
Josephine Leask is a lecturer in Cultural Studies on the BA (Hons) degree course at the London Studio Centre and London correspondent for The Dance Insider.

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