Witches, Childbirth and Virus… Syndrome Sessions 0.1 Reviewed

Syndrome Sessions 0.1, image credits: Bob Wass

C James Fagan encounters an exciting and unsettling experiment taking root in the depths of the Baltic Triangle…

What is Syndrome? Syndrome is a collection of multi-disciplinary arts events focused on the collision of art and technologies. Syndrome is a experiment, a collaboration, instigated by Nathan Jones of Mercy and Sam Wiehl of Hive Collective. Syndrome is an offering the chance to experience work which overlaps, crosses the lines between music, theatre and performance.

This is the promise of Syndrome. I wait in the bare bones space of 24 Kitchen Street for this promise to be fulfilled. The crowd gathers and the interior light turns to twilight. Through this inside dusk the final set ups are put in place and an introduction happens.

First up is Hannah Silva (performing Schlock!) perched in front of a mic. In the dim light she appears as a spectral figure, and the words she speaks are almost lost as they reverberate around the space. The words that pronounce themselves through the sonic murk speak of an abject horror. Of a child yet to be born, causing pain. As if to emphasize a sense of bodily claustrophobia, Silvia treats us to an ‘endoscopic’ examination of a hole in the floor.

We are getting a nightmare version of child rearing. This could be the one of the fevered dreams of Rosemary Woodhouse . Silvia exits the hole and returns to the microphone, where an image is projected onto her. This is creates a strange effect, as the sharp shadow thrown out by Silva appears to take the form of a competitive Buddha. Even though around this void of shadow there is a film of a baby’s head crowning.

“This face, ethereal and animalistic, bears down on us with a sense of desperation, afraid of a destruction wrought by the creation of a child”

After some time in this position, Silva returns to the pit she examined earlier. Her face falls large on the three screens which inhabit the space. This face — which thanks to its glowing eyes appears to be simultaneously ethereal and animalistic — bears down on us with a sense of desperation, afraid of a destruction wrought by the creation of a child.

The face leaves the screen, it fades to back, and it’s over.

In the interval gloom, five monitors display Boys from the Black Stuff, the brutal Liverpool set ’80s TV series. Figures clad in clinging, colourful sweaters move through the space, positioning themselves. These are the Nodes of Thamsanqua Jantjie, and they are readying themselves. One of the Nodes appears in a spotlight and recounts something; words fall and collide out of his mouth, and the words are projected as part of a crude cyberspace landscape. More Nodes appear at a different points in the space and the audience reconfigures itself.

Four Nodes gibber gibberish; if, as William Burroughs states, that Language is a Virus, then these Nodes are displaying symptoms of infection. The Nodes continue with their cut-up dialogue, appearing in different configurations. Another language known only to the Nodes, through language (spoken and bodily) they create a world just different enough to our own to make it appear alien and strange.

The last word is uttered and the Nodes disappear into the audience.

We are left waiting for the finale.

Someone violently strikes a drum — it’s either a call or a warning. This is the opening to Hive’s Unsettle Redux, a piece inspired by the Pendle Witch Trials. It starts with a misty landscape layered with music that makes me think about the Pagan power contained in the ancient lands. The piece brews a heady claustrophobia; through the layering of electronic drones it creates a sense of petty hatred building to the near orgasmic release of religious righteousness. Although, I might just be employing my knowledge of the Pendle witches and my love of the film Witchfinder General. Still, there is an undertow of small resentments to minorities, for some the result being obliteration.

This is the end, the end of the first session. There is the sense that this is an opening which could be seen as the foundations for the explorations of art and technology. It will be interesting to watch Syndrome expand throughout the coming months.

C James Fagan

Catch the next Syndrome event, SESSION 1.1, featuring Antonio Roberts and dancer Rachel Sweeney — Ropewalks Square, Liverpool, for Light Night, Friday 16th May 2014

Posted on 30/04/2014 by thedoublenegative