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Mistranslation Laboratory - The Eleventeen Collective
16-19 March 2017, Wellington Waterfront, Wellington
The Performance Arcade

Reviewed by Anna Bate



There are people wearing official looking white coats, with unofficial looking underclothes. What is official? I am officially booked in for me plus two to experience the Mistranslation Laboratory between 1pm and 2pm today. On offer are workshops, atmospheric field-trips and emotional experiences. Assistant ‘Holdaway’ invites me and my two to choose three items.

We choose: Rainbow Taming, Fungi Drift & Salt Harbour Tuning.

We are gestured to enter the lab. Meticulously organised. From the heart and the hands. I see multiples of materials. Chalk. Clipboards. Bottles. Seats. Pencils. Colour-coded artifacts. Time keeping devises. Baskets. Paper. Magnets. People.

The people say: “I’m Smith”, “And I’m Longley”.

Our chosen three items are preluded by a lecture that highlights the terms, “scientific inquiry”, “materiality”, “emotional science” and “movement”. Between items we are given refreshers (fluffy tasks to clear the air), content warnings, and instructions for the next round. Smith and Longley address us with faux formality.

Fun serious. Serious Fun.

Familiar somatic terms filter through me. This is a wordy dance. These people know words. Academic words. Funny words. Everyday words. They know how to use the words. And they know how to put them together to create the possibility for, (in their words), an “encounter between bodies and worlds.”

I have a body. What might it encounter?

Hands covered in salt sensing the outside air; an experience of proximity and distance between people; a survey about rainbows; an invigorating game with paper, baskets, arches, bridges and eye contact; watching a body be mapped with hands and words, as my pathway was mapped by bodies and beeps; tracing, naming and sharing; and an interchanging network of poems in motion. Our role as guests is forever considered, I feel cared for and comfortable.

An open tight script.

The conditions in the lab are ever-changing. The choreographic scientists shift sensitively in relation to these conditions, (such as, the public, the weather, their moods or the vibration of an artifact titled ‘Last Year’s Dread’). When there is clarity (or flow), in these fuzzy complex relations, this work is alarmingly open and accessible. When I visit on the last day of the arcade, automation subtly creeps in. At times it feels like a projection of ideas and I miss the inclusive charm that radiated on my initial visit. What happened? Heat? Repetition? Fatigue?

This is a durational work. You have 60 seconds.

Smith strikes Longley’s blackboard shirt with chalk. Their marks dramatise their words. The words I’ve forgotten, but the chalk dust and crumble I remember as discarded unloved things. We’re invited to collect a thing from outside of the lab, and to open, perceive, engage, notice, include, and name the thing within a universe of things. It is this activity that is a constant in the lab while the scientists are at rest. A simple intimate act, (soon to be publicly displayed), between self and thing. An act that acutely emphasises the fluidity of all things. 

Sweet biscuit exit thing

Mistranslation Laboratory provides a (literal) container for a brilliant interplay between the poetics of the body and frameworks of scientific inquiry. It creates an inclusive space for the public to meet with both familiar and foreign worlds and puts a microscope on the often forgotten subtleties of being in and with bodies. They do this with a wicked sense of fun and a ‘foppel whisket’ full of smarts.

Mistranslation Laboratory Review

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