Love, jealousy and wanting to be in two places at once.
Review by Cameron Platter for Art South Africa.
It's eleven thirty on a Sunday morning and Gregg Smith, organiser of the Very Real Time project Is presenting his contribution, entitled Love, jealousy and wanting to be in two places at once in the foyer of the Labia Cinema in Cape Town's beautiful and gentle Gardens area, and at the same time at the slightly seedy Barney Barnato Bar, on the corner of Buitenkant and Roeland Street.
At the Labia, a man walks into the foyer of the cinema, orders a glass of red wine, and sits down reading a film programme. He glances around shyly, perhaps looking for someone. Ten minutes later, a woman enters the cinema, and also sits down. She also appears to be looking for someone. The couple steal looks, but don't engage. A tango song begins to play. The man seems to be becoming nervous. Another song follows the first. The woman gets up to leave, her coat half on. The man, now obviously nervous, but with some bravado, approaches her. They begin to dance the tango.
Smith had for this project, constructed a fictional narrative. A couple, whose marriage is quietly growing lifeless, decide to rekindle their passion through the tango. But not any old tango, rather a more risque partner swopping form of the dance, each with a different partner in separated venues. As Smiths says, "The tango is a very special dance. No two couples dance it the same way. It is the ultimate expression of love if it is danced the right way".
Two performances, then, at the same time, of two couples performing a blind date tango dance, in different parts of the city. Smith talks of this project (the tango) as vechile for "self and social renewal, a way to recapture lost time, operating in two realities, two venues."
It was the simpleness and quietness (gentleness) of the performance that captured me. It reminded one of old films, and seemed in the Sunday mid-morning light to have a an almost sepia tint to it. However, the fact that it was staged in very real time, just before the matinŽe shows, bought the event firmly into the present with viewers and cinema goers providing the backdrop. The gliding, scuffing, and shuffle of the dancers' shoes, the smoke from the man's post-dance cigarette (smoked sans partner) idling into the air, the furtive glances, barely suppressed nostalgia and eroticism- all had a cinematic quality to them.
The performance ended as seamlessly as it had begun: the woman left silently, the man ordered another glass of wine, and after finishing it, left quietly too.
Cameron Platter is a Cape Town based artist
Harold, Ludi, Christine and Claire at the Labia Cinema, Alf and Samantha at the Kimberly Hotel, Emil for conning Alf into letting us use the Kimberly Hotel for the performance, Cameron for the camerawork, Jo and Bridget for occupying tables in anticipation of the performance, Ray Portois for the sound, the dancers, Sheradin, Wade, Nicky and Ine, also thanks to Mark Hoeben, Paulina Olowska.
It was my wife's idea, not mine. My wife is the supreme pragmatist. If there is a problem between us she confronts it head-on. Even pull the car over on the side of a busy highway and switch off the engine if there is something she wants to discuss.
Myself I am much more easygoing.
She said we had been together too long. That she had become just another piece of furniture to me. This I contested, but in a half-hearted manner which she seized upon as the incriminating evidence. But the evidence was not her target. She cares about me more than to reduce our relationship to pointless bickerings.
In these situations I am ready to sit down and wait till she has reached her end point. Invariably it's beautifully thought through and she presents me with a solution or a range of solutions. Her solutions are always ingenius and terrifying. This one was no exception.
She said we needed to rediscover one another, but in order to appreciate each other again we had to risk losing each other.
With this finality in mind, it may be interesting to sketch how we first met: on the dance floor. Our speciality is the tango. There was a time when we both danced competitively. At one point we were both looking for new partners and someone introduced us. We married three years later. Slowly we danced less and less. Professional life, starting a family, tv dinners, these things took their toll.
Her solution was to rekindle our passion through the tango. But not by dancing with each other. By finding other couples who also danced tango and arranging to swap partners with them. We would meet with our new partners in different parts of the city at a given time. We would dance with our new partners imagining the other moving simultaneously in time with another body in another part of town.
The tango is a very special dance. No two couples dance it in the same way. It is the ultimate expression of love if it is danced in the right way.
It feels like my wife has always had the upper hand in our relationship, knowing that I fell in love with her long before she began to love me. For me it was almost immediate, something in the warmth of her eyes and slightly animal severity with which she moved through life. As if always knowing what she wanted, turning her attention this way and that in a flash and bringing the world before her to life in manner which seemed both naive and unsentimental. Sometimes I could watch her at a party moving around the room.
My devoted attention seemed disposable but eventually I realised that she needed it. To be able to rely on my consistency, after all her goings about and getting into all kinds of exciting things, fast and frivolous.
I read somewhere once, I don't remember who said it, it must have been an American, that there is no door to reality and the camera is always running. For me it's always seemed that I was looking for a door and instead ended up being the camera for my wife. Even when I couldn't see her, I would imagine what she was doing. And the power of my imagination or intuition is at times very strong.
Once she was away on business. She had been gone for about 2 weeks and was due back quite soon. I was having supper alone in the living room and was suddenly overcome with a feeling that something was wrong. I thought of my wife and realised that I couldn't visualise her, I went to look at her picture and even then, looking at her face, she seemed unrecognisable. Completely separate from my reality. It made me angry and I put the photo face down somewhere so that I couldn't see it. And with growing apprehension waited for her return. When she came back we went out to dinner and sure enough she confessed that she had been unfaithful. I was devastated, I left the table without saying another word and took the metro to a friend's house. We had some strong drinks together and I told him everything. He didn't know what to say. He kept shaking his head and saying it was terrible and that human beings are so weak.
The next morning I returned home and found her in the kitchen feeding the cat. She turned to me still kneeling on the floor with the tin of cat food in one hand and a fork in the other, the cat calling impatiently and patting at the fork. Tears started to come into her eyes. Slowly we worked it out. It took a while though, in fact I don't think we were ever complete again after that.
I developed a strategy of tempering my affection for her, pretending to be nonchalant and preoccupied. Now and then I'd be rewarded with a desperate backward glance from her and that would be the signal that it was time to take her warmly in my arms again, or kiss her extravagantly. But these games also have their price.
Its funny the reactions we get from people when we call them up out of the blue and propose our little scenario. Some of them we know, some of them we have never met before, maybe one of us saw them dancing somewhere and found out their phone number. Some find the idea perverse and others find it fun.
Today is a blind date. My partner will be recognisable by a pale blue ribbon in her hair. There's always a bit of planning involved. I left our son with his aunt and arrived here about 45 minutes early. There is a strange beauty in sitting here and surveying the room, watching our private drama unfolding. The room an abstract chaos of strangers moving about, and out of this our little scene gradually crystallises.
I always need a few drinks to calm down. If I am not mistaken my partner for today has already arrived, about 10 minutes ago. She sits across the room, glancing about impatiently, now she checks the time. Lights a cigarette. Now she's making a call on her phone. But its unsuccessful, no answer. It looks like she's getting up to leave, I guess it's now or never.
Two performances simulteneously at two separate venues. The Barney Barnato Bar at the Kimberly Hotel and the foyer of the Labia Cinema.