Kowloon, by LRM Locus: filming the underground | PAZ OLIVARES

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I was lucky to be guest on one of LRM Performance (aka Locus) open studio sessions in which they present their latest piece, “Kowloon” to press, historians or curators. It’s a quite presonal experience, since their main creative aim is on having no concept nor narrative into the work, thus allowing the observer to create them, if they will. So in this guise the compell you to liberate that primeval part of us all ruled by emotion, by intuition, by our skin. 

This is the process by which I try to come to my own outcome. 

 

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It is known how David Lynch, as a student of Fine Arts, found the key to what he wanted in painting when one of his paintings moved by the effect of a slight gust of wind. That oscillation caused a previously lacking disturbing effect in the strokes. Abstraction came to life.  Lynch himself explains it this way: “I wanted to get a tone, as if Mona Lisa opened up her mouth and turned and then listened to the sound of the wind, and then turned back to the starting position and smiled again” The major finding of Lynch are such abstractions, such scenes without context, those frames in motion that changed our way of making and understanding cinema.

Well, although in Kowloon the oriental influence is obvious from the very name of production, there is much of the Western postmodern legacy from which David Lynch’s moving abstract painting is only a small reference. Interdisciplinarity, the heterogeneous assemblage of influences, currents and cultures that a priori seem to have little in common makes Kowloon an original and brave piece in today’s performance art.

Thus, the capital importance of sound in Kowloon bring us back to European surrealist films (I am thinking of René Clair’s  Entr’Acte (1924), for instance) or those young David Lynch’s short films (Six Figures Getting sick Six times (1966) was the first one), but It also reminds us of the sacred concept of the primal creative sound in eastern religions. And if in Judeo-Christian culture in the beginning was the Word, in the Buddhist-Hindu it was the sound. Thus in Kowloon sound does not simply accompany; it supports, wraps, configures, it is a vibration describing the space, it is part of it and makes it visible. The sound is a vital part of the whole. A part that does not describe nor explain anything. It merely provokes a state of consciousness in the viewer based on extreme attention, on alert. These are sounds we do not clearly identify, although they actually are recordings of Madrid’s Metro, the bustle and confusion of the streets of Hong Kong, the hubbub of eastern voices of taxi drivers, of birds or crickets, metallic rumblings and organic sounds, almost tactile, which suddenly seem to break up the space like the core of an iceberg. And all that noise aims at preventing references, the discursive thread… your thought is suspended, your reason stunned. Only sentience remains. Restlessness, strangeness, fear, surprise or distress appear, occurring and overlapping as the montage goes on, as the sound is expanding.

Kowloon overturns everything. Time and space are at stake. Walter Benjamin said “the destructive character knows only one watchword: make room; only one activity: clearing (…) it shadows what exists, and not by the very debris, but by the road passing through it”. It’s the same idea underpinning the Anarchitecture of Gordon Matta-Clark (1942-1978) and which Kowloon appropriates when it comes to light up and reconfigure space: to look for the unknown element, directing our gaze to the occult or parcelling out space to recompose it again and thus showing its extreme fragility. LRM Performance uses materials just as Matta-Clark used picks and shovels. And by fragmenting space, time also does for both dimensions are linked. Sound is constantly reminding us of that.

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In one of the most evocative and lyrical scenes of Kowloon, a woman (performed by Zhihan Chen) trudges by, like the monk in Tsai Ming-Liang’s Walker (2012), who is  consciously making such gesture as a whole philosophy of life. The woman is surrounded by greenery and birdsong is heard. The scene is presented through shadow puppets and framed within two white canvases at the top and bottom of the picture. The viewer seems to be suddenly sitting in front of a film screen in which what you see is not, in fact,  the image projected on the screen but the very space itself in which the body of the dancer is advancing. Again, the shadow play referring to Eastern culture merges with a concept of cinema akin to the beginnings of European cinematography. It is inevitable to imagine Georges Melies discovering such shadows in Le Chat Noir, thinking up spirits and fairies through the celluloid. The magic in this delicate scene of Kowloon appears through a space that is modified as the canvases slant. It is as if the two-dimensional image before our eyes becomes full of infinite horizons. What is plain unfolds, expands, multiplies, acquiring depth. The shadow becomes a body and the canvases previously simulating a screen transform into wings or sails, trembling rhythmically by the arms of the dancer.

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Those transition scenes supposedly designed to undo what was pictured become in my opinion, the most valuable ones of Kowloon. Continuity resides in such destruction itself, which is nothing but the origin of the next scene. Assembling is shown, not hidden away. That is the greatest achievement of Kowloon: to display the process itself of the script, its structure and production scaffolding. In fact, tests were videotaped so what we see is a live staging of cuts from audiovisual sequences, –i.e. editing becomes relevant. The timing, pacing of shootings is displayed in the same space where they happen, which would lead to deep reflection on the very perception of Time when Space magnitudes are altered. This is not the place to discuss it. Just a sidenote, recalling the words of Didi-Huberman: “The fundamental chord that is heard echoing endlessly through the mass of time […] takes here the form of a wave that must be understood as shock wave and as a fracturing process”. Yes, once again, sound.

And all this formal destruction, all the anguish and claustrophobia, all darkness, all the underground atmosphere sometimes restless and dazzling like Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s cave in Uncle Boonmee who can remember his past lives (2010), others drowning like the oppressive city of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) and other times terrifying as before the plastic covered entrance of the Onkalo nuclear cemetery in Michael Madsen’s  into Eternity (2010) (a threshold at which one can only abandon all hope, by the way) … where does this leads to?

There are no answers in Kowloon. Each viewer will get a unique experience and hundreds of interpretations, explanations or possible translations, all of them subjective. I am sharing one of mine: it might lead us to put our body as a central reference; to forget the magnitudes and bounds, conventions, influences, theories and ideas that separate us from our intuitive self, the one connecting with our skin and our emotion. And perhaps it may lead us to remember that what thousands of years ago prompted us to make our fingers sooty and stain a humid wall in some Sulawesian or Cantabrian cave.

 

More information: http://LRM-info.com/