A Physical, Visceral Act of Peeling Away

Die Künstlerin und Kuratorin Deborah Joyce Holman hat sich Orpheus von Moved by the Motion angesehen und ihre Erfahrungen in einem Text festgehalten, der, im Geiste des stream of consciousness,  mäandernd verschiedenen Spuren folgt. 

von Deborah Joyce Holman
erschienen am 08. Oktober 2021

For a few weeks now I have been trying to put into words the experience of seeing, watching, gazing at - experiencing - Orpheus, the latest production by Moved by the Motion, a band consisting of artist and filmmaker Wu Tsang, interdisciplinary artist Tosh Basco, dancer Josh Johnson, cellist Patrick Belaga, musician Asma Maroof and others - all of whom have hyphenated and multiple slash job descriptions. Much of their work dwells in what is impossible to put a finger on. Fittingly the shared approach of choice is improvisation.

Orpheus is no different: A visceral experience - as the first theatre performance I have seen since the band’s inaugural (and pre-pandemic) piece Sudden Rise at Schauspielhaus - and due to the elusive nature of the piece itself. I don’t remember the beginning.

Start, silence, light?, music?, then suddenly, there are a handful of characters each walking on stage with a determination in their zigzaggy path. But this must be already a good few minutes into the play. Two characters dressed in white are giggling as they stroll arm in arm amidst traipsing others. Chatting, asking: ‘Have you ever kissed anyone at the club without asking?’ Eurydice has entered the scene - two Eurydices.

Doubled, doubly impersonated, mirrored and paired variations.

A mirror as large as the stage itself is suspended at a forty-five-degree angle above it, doubling again, what is seen.

Orpheus, now also on stage (or was he already before?), now also in twos, now also seeing Eurydice, now gazing at her, now killing her, now killing both, unwillingly.

The underworld, unearthed by theatre technicians, is revealed underneath the stage. Stage flooring is peeled away, quietly, faintly hidden from the audience by a thin, white curtain onto which a series of images of historic depictions of Orpheus as well as contemporary kins are projected.

Orpheus, not the Greek one alone, but also Kid Death from Samuel R. Delaney’s The Einstein Intersection, and those who aren’t known as Orpheus, whose names are different, whose kinship flows through the likeness of attitude - seeking, indulging, hopeless, passionate.

Once the curtain is pulled back again, the underworld is revealed. A large hole in the stage, a black canvas in the gigantic mirror as seen from above. In it, in its doubled image, movement and composition of red dress, white dress, white dress, white light, and the roots of two real ass trees at the top mark this space as the underworld, painterly so.

In fact, I can put my finger on exactly what I saw: but as does the band it seems, I, too, prefer to dwell in the knowledge that doesn’t want to be transmitted as fact, but as experience, as open, as under, as within. Weary of the harm of translation. And so, woven through multiple languages - English, German, Twi, guitar solos, gestures, giggles, dance, gazes… - parts of Orpheus remain unintelligible (to me and to others, others), others are missed because, in that particular moment, I looked somewhere else.

Undoing is a physical, visceral act of peeling away, scratching off layer after layer, shattering rigid readings. Your history, my history. Your history-my history does not exist. Orpheus as heritage of anyone who has loved.

It is dwelling, it is speaking in tongues, in own languages, in none, in mumbling, in microphones that are visible but turned off. Not what’s behind, but what is under. The underworld as generative space. What if we go where we are told not to - and then again - one Euridyce loves, the other longs.

Orpheus pulls apart at a fabric whose threads intertwine antecedent re-productions of the Greek myth and the band’s own interpretations. As the weave unravels, threads tangle anew and still, nearly one month since experiencing it. I don’t know how to put pen to paper to reflect Orpheus any other way than tracing scribbles.