Saturday, 19 November 2016

Substation Spaces: As if we've been living here forever

Signs of a Nest by Susan Sentler is meditative and sophisticated in its simplicity. When I arrive, the room seems empty with only one dancer and an iPad humming and whooshing with a minimalist pensive track. The other two spectators in the room have also chosen to sit along the walls, respectfully vacating themselves from the space as much as possible. There are little tiles of black and white photographs littering the floor. The photos are tender microscopes of HDB living. Fragments of gates, corridors, laundry, a shirtless tattooed man reclining in a void deck. I don't know why I'm surprised by Susan's sensitivity to the details of heartland life, as if she's been living here forever.

The dancer Valerie (last name?) has been carrying the iPad and gazing at it intently. She now places the iPad on the floor next to me. Her internal universe suddenly offered visibly amongst strewn photo fragments, another fallen piece of the world. She folds her body to the floor, wrapped around a door frame, and becomes part of the architecture.

In the colour images scrolling through the iPad, I recognise the Rochor flats slated for demolition. On the wall in negative, there are poster prints that I'm told are from Dakota crescent (pending demolition also) and Marine drive.

I'm suddenly aware of the empty shelves lining the wall. I know this space well but never have those shelves occurred to me to be HDB corridors like the one where I live. Not until the dancer props the iPad up on one of the shelves, injecting a contained life among the rubble of photo tiles next to it. The door opening the room to the alley is ajar, and the street and construction down the street aptly filter in.

This work gives us the space, almost without time. Its breath and its dimensions, in the patient time of the body. Earlier this week, I heard Susan talk animatedly about the Deleuzian fold. Look at the space. Look at it shatter, forms and architecture splintering. Look from the outside in, and be sensorially absorbed into this dear little space that I fear will also soon be remodeled.

Valerie is making attentive decisions and changes of pace and space. Her quiet presence leaves the room, and scatters photo fragments in the hallway outside before she returns to peer through the window. Is she really just a second year undergraduate at Lasalle? Susan is there, happily clicking her tongue and her camera, and for me it's an integral part of the piece. The urgency of the photographic moment leads me to relish my consumption of this space and time.

The dancer draws a pair of flip flops from a small shelf that I suddenly identify as a shoe rack. She slips out the open door into the street and the night.

Signs of a Nest with Susan Sentler at the Substation/A Home for the Arts, 17 November 2016.

Post-script: It's a perfect closing for my hour of visual meditation, but on the way out I discover the game room across the hallway. I spend the next ten minutes whooping and batting coloured ping pong balls with a badminton racket at Ang Song Ming's family of drum set and electric guitars. What a wondrous evening.

Piece for 350 Onomatopoeic Molecules

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