DDF News — 27 May 2023
Festival Blog - Guest Review of KING | SHRINE by Rachel Donnelly
Dark Days Need Ceremony is the title choreographer Emma Martin has given to an emerging body of work, of which KING | SHRINE is the first part. What these ‘dark days’ are probably needs little explanation - we are living in the shadow of a monumental existential threat, the potential collapse of a liveable environment for humans on this planet.
With KING | SHRINE, Martin offers a ritual to mark this declining
phase of the human story. Dancer Mufutau Yusuf shape-shifts through the
darkened space of The Complex, his movements jagged then liquid, embodying
animality, regality and varying states in between. His supremely controlled and
enjoyable performance of KING (the choreography) oscillates around Katie
Davenport’s installation SHRINE, a totem of tea lights and trash. Melted wax
melds crisp packets and crushed cans into a softly flickering votive tower.
Mick Donohue’s driving soundtrack mixes beats with fragments of media reports
and the squeak of runners on a basketball court. The work concludes with a
surreal text, read by Hilary Woods, which paints the image of an exchange of
power between two symbolic figures - a mammoth and a small girl. It’s a
suggestion for a way to think otherwise about our place here and what’s coming
There is a sense that each element of the work - the choreography,
the installation and the soundtrack - lets *everything* in, accretions of the
material and media excess we now inhabit. This saturation invokes internet
consciousness, the feeling that the digital facsimile of everything you could
possibly imagine and that has ever happened is always-available, and you carry
that world with you in your pocket.
The blurb for the work describes it as “leaning on the arc of ascension, reign and death as a frame to consider humanity’s era of domination … a humble bow to our powerlessness in the face of nature’s will.” It feels insufficient to talk about ‘nature’s will’ and our ‘powerlessness' in the context of widespread human-caused environmental destruction. There are still actions we can take to ease this evolution of the human story, both to protect the remaining biodiversity on the planet and to try to achieve a just transition for those that will be most affected by the changes. But it is true that we are about to enter a new, unknown era for humanity, and rites of passage are needed.
In her 1966 book Purity and Danger, Mary Douglas, discussing ritual and magic, states “…it is impossible to have social relations without symbolic acts.” We need rituals, ceremony and symbolism more than ever to integrate our collective consciousness, at a time when our humanity towards one another will be strained by environmental stresses and scarcity. By creating a space to think through symbols, KING | SHRINE offers a means to process something that words cannot fully reach.
Written by Rachel Donnelly - https://twitter.com/racklette