“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Nice Review of Time Time Time

[excerpted from Peter Margasak's review of the Borealis festival]

One of the most anticipated performances of the fest was TIME TIME TIME by composer/performer Jennifer Walshe and philosopher Timothy Morton. The richly humorous work weaved together pop culture references – one particularly hilarious section riffed on grief management in the hyperactive style of an infomercial, while another video projection overlaid the text “National Physical Laboratory, Supplier of Time for the UK,” over an image of computers – with constantly shifting notions of time. Morton’s ecological writing constantly returned to the pressing issue of global warming, playing with the idea that humans won’t trifle with the urgency of addressing the situation because of the earth’s timescale. Archival video footage toggled between films of people performing antiquated mechanical tasks over a staccato rhythm shaped by Walshe’s remarkable ensemble, cartoonish animations of dinosaurs, and a mandala-like images of the earth’s crust evolving over millennia.

The comic delivery of Walshe, adorned in a garish, green sequined gown, was expertly complemented by the straight-man deadpan of M.C. Schmidt of Matmos, wearing his trademark suit-and-tie, who at one point played a pair of paper cups as if they were maracas with utter earnestness. One of Walshe’s masterstrokes was allowing the disparate ensemble members to do what they do best, while masterfully blending those elements into a cogent whole: the microscopic lowercase sounds of Lee Patterson, summoning a tactile, earthbound vocabulary, the locked-in improvisations of Streifenjunko (trumpeter Eivind Lønning and saxophonist Espen Reinertsen, who moved from easily from breathy abstraction to fanfare-like clarity), the crisp string articulations of double bassist Inga Margrete Aas and violinist Vilde Sandve Alnæs, and the alternating glistening and lyric, and brittle and jagged harp passages of Irish polymath Áine O’Dwyer, who also sang a series of harrowingly beautiful melodies, especially near the end of the performance.

Morton sat in silence, yogi-style, on a pillowed dais for the entirety of the performance, contributing a mix of new age absurdity. The first half of the 90-minute performance was infectiously fast-paced, mirroring the information overload of the text, while the second half slowed-down—including an extended section of glacial movement, with only occasional plucks from O’Dwyer’s harp. The piece was unwieldy, but its vastness made sense considering the massive scope of what Walshe and Morton are grappling with.

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