Live at Project

 

THE Live at Project mini festival has so far been extremely successful in offering demonstrations of the many ways in which people choose to walk out on a performance piece. For some, a hurried departure seemed to indicate either that they have been greatly moved, or very frightened, by what they have seen. Others seemed to turn their premature exit into a type of inarticulate protest at some imagined affront. The audience for Gerard Leslie's New Work, however, opted for yet another alternative: the slow, bored drift back to the street.

Although the darkened Project auditorium was pleasantly crowded for the opening minutes of Leslie's performance, as the repetitive structure of the piece became apparent the theatre gently and quietly emptied. The work involved Leslie extending his arms to support two swinging weighing pans. In the pans were two inverted cone shapes. These objects, it emerged, were hollow and contained video cameras.

This became apparent when the swaying images on two nearby video monitors proved to be of another prop, a wounded chair held in place, under a spotlight, by some twine. On the seat were placed various items. From a distance, this appeared to be a cluster of stones, but on closer inspection turned out to be a package, something which looked like hoover refuse, something which seemed to be bread, and a white crystalline substance.

Leslie stood in semi darkness while an occasional image flashed on the screen behind him and a reverberating soundtrack ebbed and flowed in cycles. After this had been going on for about half an hour the first waves of people began to leave. From this point on the performance was punctuated by a steady drift of bodies bobbing away through the twilight towards the exit.

It soon became apparent that the length of the performance was to be determined by the artist's endurance in bearing the weight of the pans. As his strength began to fade, his weakening was translated into a pitching and rolling of the video pictures. This might have provided an arresting image of an irrational sense of duty or compulsion. What Leslie produced on stage, however, was not a metaphor for an idiosyncratic compulsion, but the thing itself. Nevertheless, the artist's greatest mistake remained his obvious miscalculation of his audience's commitment and stamina, and the consequent squandering of an opportunity for communication.