“I found Collapse, utterly, utterly compelling.” Astrida Neimanis
Material: bodies, asphalt, concrete, grass, air, wood, wind, weather
The first Collapse happened in the financial district of Shimbashil, Tokyo in 2015. I went there dressed as a ‘salaryman’, wanting to see if it was possible to slow things down, by collapsing against the impressive vertical architectures that spur the busy-ness of finance. Since then I continue to collapse, in public and private spaces, alone and with others.
COLLAPSE / INOPERATIVE (2020)
An instant before, everything was going along the way it’s expected to. Now as I stand there every thing is becoming strange. Before even ‘just standing there’, that feeling of being slightly ahead of your skin lingers, and for the first few moments, once I have stopped in place, the buzz of ‘going on, going forward’ hisses around me with urgency. Just the act of coming to a standstill exerts a subtle shudder all over the mass that clings to me so tightly. It’s noisy: the whirring and booming of breath and heartbeat amplified, as if I had been running somewhere. The processes – endocrine, respiratory, nervous – and the matter – flesh, tissues, bones, muscles – are all shoved into a sudden alignment, and like opposing tribes, they eye each other suspiciously.
It all dies down eventually to a hum, like an air vent just outside the field of vision, heard, unseen, doing it’s job. The bristling alertness now slackens to the silent ticks and clicks of invisible implosions, like a car cooling down after a long road-trip. A fine mesh descends, hovering about the skin-fluff of minuscule vellus hairs, an aura of inertia. In the fog, the head surfaces like a barrel, out of nowhere, clunky, heavy, pulling at its surroundings with the density of a neutron star. The jaw bone normally so decisive and strong has become weak and brittle, and gives in by surrendering, opening into a yawning gape. Escape of air, sound, sighing, slight nausea.
The world around has become a pointillist painting, out of focus, just colour and rhythms and swells, that I can hear bobbing about me. But these dots are thick and viscous, rolling towards me, an ocean of buoys that buoys me along. The calving phase of the collapse is here, a disturbance in the order of things, as the elusive centre of gravity teeters on the edge of its ledge. And then it plunges, and it has begun, and with it the pleasure of drifting: être à la dérive.
The slightest shift, in the scapula, the knee joint, the sternum, the pelvis, is enough to dance this drift. The body’s logic of surrender is wavy, spiraling, hesitant, sauntering along the slippery surfaces. If you think that falling is a simple move from vertical to horizontal, you are not falling, you are thinking. That’s why ‘collapsing’, already by containing an extra syllable, makes it harder to take for granted. Collapsing implies an unknown, an effect that began at some unrecorded point in the past, and manifests unexpectedly when the transition has become visible, noticeable. When a building or a bridge collapses, the engineers know that the weakening was there, but hidden from view, only making itself known too late.
Spacetime collapses: the space of the room or the street, the square, the studio, the mind; time gulps and you swallow.
The centre of gravity pulled the head down, the head dragged one shoulder and a whole long arm with it. At the extremities, some fingers twitched with automatic dissent, uneventfully; the trunk twisted in on itself, exposing the soft undersides of limbs and flanks that normally recede into the flatness of two dimensionality, the cardboard-cutout cartoon-figure dashing across the screen. Kneeling on the ground, exposing the body’s weakness, which is also it’s malleability, melting into the floor, supine, in a distended curve. ‘I’ have withdrawn. Eye watch that loose glob of spit hanging at the side of the open mouth, leaning back into the thick molecules of water, curious to see what happens next.
Collapse was part of a collaboration with Astrida Neimanis for the Kelp Congress, Lofoten Arts Festival 2019 (produced by Siouxzi Connor); Collapse, Sunset commissioned by Chisenhale Dance Space for Encounter Bow (curator: Alisa Oleva); Collapse 2-channel moving image work, Let the Music Make Them Dance ; Collapse, Brexit a participatory ritual outside Kings Cross sation, London; Collapse Artvivors, commissioned by Spreeknie Festival 2016; Collapse Delphi 2016 | Made of Walking Art Residency (curated by Geert Vermeire); Collapse Manchester, commissioned by Håb and Wordofwarning for Hazard 2016; Collapse, Funkhaus 2016; Collapse, Teufelsberg 2015; Collapse, Shimbashi 2015.