oe Scofield - photo by Juniper Shuey
Who wouldn't occasionally want the power to make time stop, to run it backwards, or get another chance to right things that have gone wrong? The Greeks built their tragedies on the recognition that time runs in a single direction. Centuries later, Seattle-based choreographer, Zoe Scofield, is still wrapping her mind around time's conundrums, battling the frustrations of cause-and-effect and mourning the inevitable constraints of before-and-after.
A Crack in Everything is the second evening-length work by the multimedia performanceensemble led by Scofield in collaboration with her visual artist husband, Juniper Shuey. The first, the devil you know is better than the devil you don't, was presented here at the Bates Dance Festival in 2008 and marked zoe | juniper as a company on the rise. Granted an unusual level of institutional and foundation support, they didn't rush their sophomore outing. The company developed A Crack in Everything over a three year period, working out, discarding and crystallizing ideas during a series of residencies at the Trafó House of Contemporary Art in Budapest, Hungary, at The Body Festival in Christchurch, New Zealand, and during creative development residencies at Jacob's Pillow and the McDowell Colony.
The kernel of inspiration zoe | juniper took as their starting point was Aeschylus' trilogy, The Oresteia, which follows the curse of King Agamemnon's royal family in cycles of revenge, retaliation, and the eventual determination of justice. Scofield found herself fascinated by the way Greek myths and the plays that emerge from them deal with foreshadowing and hindsight and how they address the topics of compulsion and repetition.
As she recently explained it, time and memory color and shape theatrical experience too:
I was thinking about how many different performances happen. There's the show we do on stage, in [real] time that audiences are seeing. There is the show that audiences unconsciously create through their perception with all of their own histories and desires: they are editing and reprocessing and editing it as it is happening. There is the show that happens in their memory, with distance and time seasoning it, so that they sort of reformulate the piece to be what they need it to be.
But how to convey that series of overlapping perceptions? For A Crack in Everything Juniper Shuey has taken time-shifting as the subject of his cinematic effects. He has made changes to the stage environment so that a wall is at turns opaque and transparent and the edges of spaces blur as the work unfolds. Other visual effects, such as the dancers tracing the outline of evanescent shadows with a dark marker, document attempts to capture time in a way impervious to change and disruption.
The central, striking image of A Crack in Everything is the red thread that the dancers hold in their mouths. Red threads, as symbols of luck, protection and connection are ubiquitous in world culture with examples everywhere from imperial China to Jewish mysticism. In American modern dance history, the thread echoes the route from the labyrinth famously danced by Martha Graham in her 1947 retelling of a different Greek legend, Ariadne's flight from the Minotaur, in Errand into the Maze.
Zoe Scofield's red thread is an ambiguous, multipurpose metaphor implying capture and journey. That long, red line also expresses a certain kind of somatic sense: Scofield says that at the McDowell Colony, she found herself having back problems and felt "like I wanted to pull my spine out of my mouth."
Early in the development of A Crack in Everything, Scofield visited a dark European cave, a disorienting "labyrinth of courage." She later blogged:
So, naturally being goaded on by any sort of challenge to my pride and ego, I immediately barged in. And then remembered I am really pretty scared of pits of bottomless darkness that go places I can't see and heavy iron doors that close behind me with a big sound of finality. It was completely disorientating and really the only way to get out was to go through it (oh so heavy with metaphor), so I clutched my little rope along the wall and keep going.
The impact of the experience was soon compromised by the boisterous picture-taking German and Spanish tourists, who followed her and her companion. But the image remained.
zoe | juniper's A Crack in Everything will not be limited to live performances. Scofield and Shuey think of the project as a multimedia umbrella for a series of related activities. Eventually A Crack in Everything will include online streaming video and a gallery
installation featuring some of Shuey's surreal photographs of the white-powdered and sugar-dusted Scofield lashed by red threads, now on view as two slideshows on the company's website. As they reach towards multimedia synthesis, zoe | juniper are also
working to break what they perceive as the boundaries between art forms and disciplines. Time may only flow in one direction, but there is always more than one way to tell the same story.
© 2011 Debra Cash