21 Movements - Alexa Wilson
10 March 2017, Basement Theatre, Auckland
Reviewed by Jesse Quaid
It sometimes feels like this new century is in a constant state of upheaval. 9/11, the Southeast Asia tsunami, the rise of the smartphone, Haiti, Obama’s ethically ambiguous presidency. How do we process this dense flow of global events? In 21 Movements Alexa Wilson takes 21 defining events of the 21st century and grounds them physically; in the space, in her body, in our bodies, in our voices.
Structurally the work is simple. Each event is presented chronologically with an accompanying image from collaborator Nicholas Watt. Against a background of mood inducing music Alexa then either responds, or invites the audience to join with her in responding. Her unpretentious style and the visibility of her process dissolves the gap between performer and audience, although the physical line between stage and seats feels a little less porous.
Some of the responses are obviously and powerfully evocative, like the blank white pages of empty arguments discarded onto the floor, or Alexa embracing a line of audience members as imaginary barbed wire is unravelled behind her. Others pass by and leave me untouched. Some strike more glancing blows and it is these I find most interesting. Snowden’s elephant in the room, inexorably stripped back to bare flesh, illuminates the power that lies latent in our bodies. Without the accoutrements of civilisation and technology we are strong. Alexa’s chosen responses are clear, potent, and presented in the expectation that you will also find your own responses
At times the structure feels jarring, almost callous, the way the energy of each response is dropped before the next event is calmly introduced. It echoes, I suppose, the way we experience these things outside this safe black box; the headlines, the emotionally charged response and then everything swept away as the next major event steps onto stage to grab our attention. Perhaps we are all a little callous now.
Still, the intensity of the piece grows, as the energy of each response is layered over and over. We follow Alexa’s voice as she talks us through each moment, her body articulating what words cannot. Sometimes she mumbles, movements unfinished like she is thinking aloud. Sometimes she moves like her body cannot contain her emotions. Sometimes she moves with defined lines and power. She is, however, always moving with purpose. Even when they do not resonate with me it is clear that every action is carefully chosen to embody the feel of these events and let them echo back into this shared space. She is creating rituals that are both pragmatic and entrancing.
Our voices rise and fall in the dark in a collective and primal groan. Alexa spins, black wrapped, naked front, an argument against the human tendency to separate and judge. This is a collective space we have navigated, a shared summoning of memory.
And then we leave, heading out to face the ongoing “humiliation of the Anglo-Saxon world” and the anticipation of whatever event is waiting to next take the world stage.