Back to Partying in the Blackbox

Sunday, 10 April 2022

I am in the black box “after several Covid-postponements”. I can finally experience watching a performance collectively as part of an audience. “It feels like there’s still much to discover about the work, and I’m excited to share it with a home crowd and open up some dialogues about the experience of it.” Ira writes in her mail-shot before the Amsterdam premiere at Frascati of like the party has been cancelled

Ira has a unique and exquisite style in how she invites her audiences to explore intimacy through her performances. In Ways To Submit, she invites the audience to fight her, for 2 minutes rounds. This time she writes, “like the party has been cancelled is a reflection on control, on losing yourself, and on desire. An intuitive, meditative, image trip, that attempts to burst its banks and flood the room. With you in it” We are in it in several ways; inside the theatre space we are together tough the invitation goes deeper than that. The dramaturgy gradually grants access to the spaces which are inside of Ira such as thoughts, philosophies of life, dilemmas and taboos. The tempo is different from the fast city life and the Neo-liberal pulse of entrepreneurship.  

Like The Party Has Been Cancelled by Ira Brand Cement 2022 - photo by Cloakture .

We are elevated on a podium of seats, facing the stage. In front of us, acknowledging us is Ira Brand. She sits at a white table with many cutouts covering the whole surface. A live feed camera frames a small section of the table where Ira is constructing collages live. The camera screen is scaled up and projected on a backdrop. The backdrop, made out of vinyl descends down behind Ira and becomes the floor of the area where Ira is. Behind this backdrop, a ladder is lying on the floor.

In silence, with precision and elegance, Ira arranges cut up bodies, grafted animals, half landscapes. There are the images of meat cuts, stiletto shoes, a death symbol, water and a helicopter too. These are the ones I remember. Especially the helicopter, because Ira tells a German joke about it. Which I did not understand because of the language.  

The selection of collected body parts particularly, the stretched out limbs or muscular parts. The colours were hues of blue, the textures either spiky or soft. All this contributes to a series of graphic compositions portraying, control, vulnerability and intimacy. As the performance progresses Ira starts to speak to us. Inviting us to deeper layers, behind the striking images and the symbology which these transmit. 

Words, images, lights and sound keep on appearing and disappearing. Fading in and Fading Out. Spiralling out or in this play between construction and de-construction. At times, a composition emerges, Ira looks at it for a moment Looks at us and resets the space on the table which is framed by the camera, to an empty white canvas. Starts composing a new image. At one point she stops collaging. She brings a grapefruit, splits in half and eats it. The camera portrays the live stream but is now in stillness. The peel of the grapefruit. This is the last composition as the backdrop. She leaves the table and goes around the space, rearranging the objects (chairs, table, ladders, clothes) which up till now were inanimate. She does not leave one object unturned. While increasing the haze in space (with a smoke machine that she dragged out), she places the ladder on top of the table and drags out odd-shaped white cutouts. Which turns out to be 3 large scale cutouts from images we have seen. The fox is what I remember. Ira plays around with this composition,  including her own clothes and finally embeds herself in this sculptural ending scene

Like The Party Has Been Cancelled by Ira Brand Cement 2022 - photo by Cloakture .

“…this show is about wanting to bring order to mess, and wanting to disrupt order. About wanting to build new things with old shit.” Ira writes to describe the performance. This work comes out from the lockdown period in Amsterdam. The rehearsal processes were elongated and postponed and bringing new theatre works was nearly impossible. Ira conceiving this work at such a time is an integral part of what this work is also about as the title of the piece strongly suggests. 

Giving space for the passing of time makes me think about how some of the people I know had difficulty with so much time on their hands. They did not know what to do with it. Of course, we have been re-wired for the 24/7 capitalist machine to run, to be useful or to be using time in a useful manner. The passing of time and various hobby practises that we were encouraged to grow up with, have been pushed aside in my teenage hood when the word career was being promoted at secondary school and people started to increasingly use “I do not have time” to cut down on their daily activities which were not ‘productive’. At least I had a portion of my life which was not totally yet divulged by the liberals’ dogma of entrepreneurship. In times when we left such practices behind to focus on capital growth, we have forgotten the slow time, the anti-productive time, the time to be together telling stories. People have forgotten how that can enrich our spiritual and philosophical selves.