Arts House, Melbourne.
16 March 2022.
Simply being there was a thing. As in, live, with unpixellated people. How appropriate it was that the vivid, hyper-coloured world of Lucy Guerin’s Flux Job should be so fractured – a world looking like a world but one split into segments and reconstructed to resemble itself. Is this a banality, the universe (or society) as an aggregate phenomenon, a gathering of parts, or as a reduction, something denuded of the very thing that makes it feel real?
Created across lockdowns, Flux Job channels the two-dimensional, mediated space of pandemic partition. The notion of disconnect resonates throughout. Yet, beneath the obvious memes of atomisation, it flirts with deeper ideas about the insubstantial and ephemeral nature of the performed self. Our four ‘characters’ incarnate in flickers, like first impressions. Here quick. Gone soon. A person for the length of a sentence. A dancer for the extension of an arm. Even their personal stories are somehow rendered transparent. Ghosts in a machine perhaps?
Guerin’s movement palette – mechanistic and primitive, intimate and architectural – situates us in this very netherworld. Who are these people on the other side of the screen? Are they like us? Everything is slightly unreal. Organic physicality collapses to repeatable phrases. To impression.
Stylish geometric lighting further illuminates the point. At once pop, and yet high art. This could be a colourful disco fantasy or a scene from sci-fi noir, where the well-designed and digitised discourse fractures the human soul.
Flux Job leverages this with a few snapshot moments. At times, dance looks more like old photos, ones you half remember. Or the stage shifts, and now it looks like Greenaway. Baroque and minimal at once. Guerin seems to be mapping a certain terrain of shared recollection. Moreover, a form of graphic nostalgia. The past as a sequence of memorable poses. Maybe it’s always been like this.
Yet for all this, it would be fair to say that Guerin doesn’t reinvent the form here. Flux Job sits squarely – like a pixel – in that ironically hazy realm we call contemporary dance. Tone, choreography, visual style, soundscape – it is what it is, and does not pretend to be otherwise. For a work that teases apart the performative quality of self in a (dis)connected world, the choice to speak in well-oiled phrases is surely not an accident.
As for contemporary, it seems plain that Flux Job is a reaction piece. It happens now, in the weird (post?) COVID alterna-verse. It distils the zeitgeist with conceptual and physical rigour, and makes it strain and sweat for us. We are bodies after all, not avatars.
Perhaps one day the urgency of the piece will wane, when the pandemic has flattened to slivers of memory; but for now Flux Job is infectious with relevance and, as such, has many hooks. For a piece about disconnection, there are plenty of touch points. Touché!
By Paul Ransom of Dance Informa.