Lucy Railton

Hannah Perry @ Serpentine Galleries reviewed

22 September 2014

“There was no attachment on that email,” a woman says straight-faced, wearing an open sports jacket with leggings and a bra underneath at the Serpentine Pavilion. She’s reading from a script as though everything is normal while others writhe in a clump of limbs at her feet, through her legs. There’s bodily chaos rolling and contorting around her, no one is dressed for the occasion (is there one?), the music is getting deafeningly loud, but she sticks to the script: regurgitating pre-set, coded lines about emails between heartfelt overshares. How do you make a connection? I’m wondering as I watch her. A few minutes earlier, in a heated duologue with a lover, she was screaming at him to “fuckin’ hit [her].” Then, she was begging for contact. Now, she stands in an island of arms and legs representing a culture of networks, that touch her but don’t talk back; in either case, where’s the attachment? What does it take?

Hannah Perry, Horoscopes (Déjà Vu) (2014) @ Serpentine Pavilion. Photo by Lewis Ronald.
Hannah Perry, Horoscopes (Déjà Vu) (2014) @ Serpentine Pavilion. Photo by Lewis Ronald.

Hannah Perry’s Horoscopes (Déjà Vu), tells its story  in the same collage-driven, jump-cut style as her films – of the frustrating overflow of feelings that make relationships, online and off, so difficult to navigate. The fluidity of the costumes and mood speaks to multiple social situations colliding at once in an awkward montage; its language is movement, music, monologues, dialogues, screams and sighs delivered from various points around the Pavilion’s circular, egg-like space. The characters – a shifting cast of scorned and never-quite-fulfilled lovers – chew over motif-laden lines (written by Perry and edited by poet Sam Riviere) that fracture easily into Facebook and Twitter updates . They’re occasionally even read from phones. Obsessed with how they appear and anxious about the gap between image and emotion, the cast yell at various points, “What does that make you look like?” and mumble unconvincingly, “just keeping it together, you know.” None of these people know exactly what they look like, and no one has it together. Even the girl who tangos solo for the stare of a man admits, “I’m sorry my feed hasn’t been that interesting lately”, backed by a teasing drumbeat. She’s just trying desperately to hold his gaze.

Sparse sonic moments like Giles King-Ashong’s drum solo ebb and flow amid moments of explosion and catharsis. There are scenes ominously soundtracked by Lucy Railton’s lone cello, scenes that feel classical in their presentation; a linear movement through a couple’s tiff, then things begin to unravel. Where the actors wouldn’t say certain things, couldn’t commit their real feelings to either their physical or online movements, the music’s electronic contortions – helmed by Mica Levi – exposes the erratic flow of frustration and lust. “Ooh, ooh,” deadpans an awkward, over-loud sample, as a couple is trapped in an endless loop of sex up against a wall. Later, Tracy Chapman’s warped a capella of ‘Behind the Wall’ sings of the screaming heard from another house, blasting nightmarishly through dialogue as a speaker recalls lying in bed and listening to the song with an ex. Memories make themselves felt where they aren’t wanted, like a song from a past life being tweeted into your timeline and fucking up your day.

 Hannah Perry, Horoscopes (Déjà Vu) (2014) @ Serpentine Pavilion. Photo by Lewis Ronald.
Hannah Perry, Horoscopes (Déjà Vu) (2014) @ Serpentine Pavilion. Photo by Lewis Ronald.

The choreography, overseen by Holly Blakey, also mirrors this rupturing of boundaries and the aggressive splintering of unarticulated feeling: bodies move through the audience and against each other, leaping into open arms and closing around one another like fists. In sequences where all the performers dance in synchronicity, the impact is overwhelming. They twist themselves into the same awkward angles and throw themselves at the same floorboards. They feel the same, look the same, move the same, all while standing apart. At the climax, the quiet frustration becomes too much to hold inside the dancers’ tight routines, and that too-muchness spills out into the surroundings uncontrollably; one climbs a support beam to the ceiling, another cackles while spraying the audience with water. There is no longer the observed and the observer, only a surge of madness that fills the room. And just as quickly as it starts, it’s over: end task, force quit, move on. **

Hannah Perry’s Horoscopes (Déjà Vu) performance was on at London’s Serpentine Galleries on September 14, 2014.

Header image: Hannah Perry, Horoscopes (Déjà Vu) (2014) @ Serpentine Pavilion. Photo by Lewis Ronald.

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