Friday, January 29, 2010

PuSh 2010: The Passion Project

The Passion Project is definitely not a traditional piece of theatre (and I say that having also been to both Jerk and Poetics: A Ballet Brut). As described by Reid Farrington, the creator/director, it is a performance installation. This more aptly describes the experience. Even though we were in a theatre it seemed to me this might be the type of art installation you might encounter at somewhere like the Tate Modern or the MoMA. Now, to be clear, this isn’t a bad thing. It’s just apples and oranges. The Tate Modern and the MoMA are two of my favourite places to hang out in if I’m in London or NYC but visiting an art gallery is an altogether different experience then a night at the theatre.

Reid Farrington has taken the silent film “The Passion of Joan of Arc” and combined it with recorded interviews, sound clips and music to create a 30-minute archival film experiment. And, just like going to see an exhibit or installation piece at an art gallery, you can walk around the art work and view the piece from all angles.

This performance installation starts off with a 10X10 square foot of light that is bordered by 9(ish) frames of white material and numerous ropes tied in various loops & knots plus a stool and a bench. Then the performer (Laura K. Nicoll) enters the room and at first no one really notices. Most people went on chatting or reading their program. Last night she walked around the room sort-of interacting with, but not really talking to, the audience for what may have been almost 5 minutes (give-or-take) before the audience realized the performance had begun. After which the lights went down, the film projections started and the performer began to move the frames around the installation to capture various moments of the film on the frames.

The original film, “The Passion of Joan of Arc”, was thought to be destroyed in a fire in 1928 only to be discovered in the closet of a Norwegian mental institution 50 years later. Reid Farrington uses this version, and 2 other “bastardized” versions that were created from the out-takes of the original after it supposedly burnt in fire, to create this archival film experiment.

Essentially the performer is piecing together the story of Joan of Arc (both the historical account and the film version) in the same way the original movie had to be pieced together. At least that is my interpretation. But, just like how my favourite Kandinsky painting that hangs in the Tate Modern will mean something different to me than it does to another visitor, so too will The Passion Project. I imagine every person who goes to see this performance installation will have a different interpretation. That is the beauty of art.

You can check out The Passion Project at Pacific Theatre until February 6th. There are usually two performances a night at 7pm and 9pm with 2pm matinees on Saturday’s.

(Photo: Paula Cort. Courtesy of the PuSh Festival)

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

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