Angel­i­ca Mesiti
The Colour of Saying

18th April – 13th June 2015
Anna Schwartz Gallery Carriageworks

The Colour of Say­ing’ con­tin­ues Angel­i­ca Mesi­ti’s inter­est in the pos­si­bil­i­ties of non-ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion, adapt­ed meth­ods of expres­sion and in look­ing at a wider spec­trum of human interactions.

In this work, Mesi­ti has col­lab­o­rat­ed with a choir, two dancers, and two per­cus­sion­ists to explore the use of man­u­al com­mu­ni­ca­tion and body lan­guage to con­vey mean­ing. Ges­tur­al lan­guages’ become the cen­tral focus of this work over three screens that sug­gests new ways to think about move­ment, music and silence.

The artist built a set of a mon­u­men­tal stair­case-like sculp­ture which acts as both stage and seat­ing for the per­form­ers. The sim­ple but intri­cate tales told by the per­form­ers’ ges­tures emerge into clear focus via this archi­tec­tur­al geom­e­try. The per­for­mances take place across the screens, the rela­tion­ships between them unfold­ing. We see dance in the illus­trat­ed phras­es of sign lan­guage, and sto­ry­telling in the bal­let­ic ges­tures of choreography.

From the quiet­ness, there is an incre­men­tal intro­duc­tion of sound and music as the work evolves. From an almost silent per­for­mance by the choir (we hear only the sound of the fab­ric of clothes and skin brush­ing skin), we move to the per­cus­sion­ists where the sim­plest form of music mak­ing is intro­duced; from here to the bal­let dancers whom we see at first danc­ing silent­ly to music on head­phones, before we are allowed into their com­plete immer­sion in a com­plex musi­cal opus.

As the films are pre­sent­ed on dou­ble-sided pro­jec­tion screens in the gallery, mul­ti­ple per­spec­tives are vis­i­ble and the pres­ence of the view­er becomes integral.

The silent choir

In com­plete silence, a sign lan­guage choir per­forms the choral piece Ser­e­nade to Music, com­posed in 1938 by Vaugh­an Williams for 16 voic­es and orches­tra. The lyrics are from Act V, Scene I of Shakespeare’s The Mer­chant of Venice. Loren­zo and Ner­is­sa sit lis­ten­ing to music in the moon­light con­tem­plat­ing the music made by the move­ment of the plan­ets, which mor­tal humans can­not hear.

In The Colour of Say­ing’, the sign­ing choir per­forms Ser­e­nade to Music in silence, singing’ in sign lan­guage instead of with their voic­es. The choral work is per­formed using only hand ges­tures and body move­ments to express the lyrics and tone of the music.

The lyrics are a poet­ic med­i­ta­tion on the impos­si­bil­i­ty of hear­ing’ the meta­phys­i­cal music of the spheres’ while we are con­fined to our imper­fect phys­i­cal body. This strug­gle between what can and can­not be heard’, described in the lyrics of Ser­e­nade to Music made it the per­fect piece to be trans­lat­ed into sign lan­guage, the com­mu­ni­ca­tion method devel­oped for the hear­ing-impaired. It is both a cel­e­bra­tion of music and a propo­si­tion for lis­ten­ing with oth­er senses.

The choir con­sists of young peo­ple from Önnes­tad folk high school — who are study­ing to become sign lan­guage inter­preters. They are con­duct­ed by their teacher, Ingegerd Nyborg who trans­lat­ed the lyrics from Swedish to Sign.

Clap­ping Music

Emerg­ing into the white envi­ron­ment, two young per­cus­sion­ists rup­ture the silence, by the sim­plest method: two hands clap­ping in syn­co­pa­tion. They per­form a musi­cal score of rhyth­mic beats with­out the use of instru­men­ta­tion. A min­i­mal­ist and basic form of music (inspired by Steve Reich’s Clap­ping Music, 1972), is cre­at­ed with the most mod­est of means; the body itself offers up the instrument.

For the hear­ing-impaired, per­cus­sion is the musi­cal sound that can be most eas­i­ly per­ceived. Vibra­tions from beats reach the body as sound waves, and vis­cer­al sen­sa­tion is inter­nal­ly trans­lat­ed as musi­cal rhythm.

Swan Song

Rolf Hepp and Jette Nej­man are vet­er­ans of the bal­let pro­fes­sion. Seat­ed on stairs, the bal­let dancers dance’ a pas de deux from the bal­let Swan Lake using only their hands to express the steps of the chore­og­ra­phy. They dance in silence, lis­ten­ing to Tchaikovsky’s score through headphones.

The method they use to per­form the bal­let is well known to clas­si­cal­ly trained dancers as hand mark­ing’. It is used in clas­si­cal bal­let rehearsals as a way to mark’ the steps while mem­o­riz­ing the chore­og­ra­phy and con­serv­ing ener­gy by not phys­i­cal­ly per­form­ing the whole step. For exam­ple a pirou­ette would be expressed by a fist mak­ing a turn­ing motion in the air. Employ­ing this method to express the chore­og­ra­phy of the pas de deux” allows the dancers to per­form the essen­tial chore­og­ra­phy of Swan Lake in a man­ner per­mit­ted by their mature bod­ies. The dance, per­formed in rel­a­tive silence, becomes an act of remem­brance of the body’s phys­i­cal his­to­ry and also a re-imag­in­ing of the orig­i­nal choreography.

Swan Lake, chore­o­graphed by Mar­ius Peti­pa and Lev Ivanov, with the score (Opus 20) com­posed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1876, is the quin­tes­sen­tial clas­si­cal bal­let. Its icon­ic sta­tus occu­pies an impor­tant place in the pop­u­lar imag­i­na­tion and defines what we con­sid­er clas­si­cal bal­let to be: roman­tic, trag­ic, dis­ci­plined, grace­ful. This re-imag­in­ing, devel­oped in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the dancers, almost strips away the orig­i­nal bal­let and leaves us with the human body, no longer in its prime, but imprint­ed with the expe­ri­ences of a lifetime.

I was think­ing about Mer­ce Cun­ning­ham as an old man, Yvonne Rainer’s pedes­tri­an move­ments’ and of course Pina Bausch.”

Dancers: Rolf Hepp, Jette Nej­man
Per­cus­sion­ists: Vik­tor Feuk, Tomas Erlands­son
The Sign lan­guage choir from Önnes­tad folk high school, con­duct­ed by Ingegerd Nyborg
Cin­e­matog­ra­ph­er: Edvard Fri­is-Moeller
Cam­era assistant/​stills pho­tog­ra­phy: Lars Bey­er
Sound recordist: Jakob Riis

Edi­tor: Angel­i­ca Mesi­ti
Sound Design­er & Mix: Liam Egan
Colourist: Bil­ly Wychgel
Music: Swan Lake (Opus 20) com­posed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, 1876.
Per­formed by Kirov The­atre Orches­tra
Con­duct­ed by Vik­to Fedo­tov
Record­ed at the Mari­in­sky The­atre in 1990
Pre­sent­ed by NVC Arts 2006

The per­for­mance orig­i­nat­ed in col­lab­o­ra­tion with, and was pro­duced by Lilith Per­for­mance Stu­dio, Malmö, Swe­den where it was first per­formed as a live work in March 2015.

This pro­duc­tion was kind­ly sup­port­ed by Felix Media.

Images

Angel­i­ca Mesiti

The Colour of Saying, 2015
three-chan­nel HD video, colour, sound
25 minutes
instal­la­tion view, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Carriageworks

Angel­i­ca Mesiti

The Colour of Saying, 2015
three-chan­nel HD video, colour, sound
25 minutes
instal­la­tion view, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Carriageworks

Angel­i­ca Mesiti

The Colour of Saying, 2015
three-chan­nel HD video, colour, sound
25 minutes
instal­la­tion view, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Carriageworks

Angel­i­ca Mesiti

The Colour of Saying, 2015
(still) three-chan­nel HD video, colour, sound
25 minutes

Angel­i­ca Mesiti

The Colour of Saying, 2015
(still) three-chan­nel HD video, colour, sound
25 minutes