Saturday, November 15, 2014

'Electra' at LimeWharf, 14th November 2014

I wasn't going to write about last night's trip to LimeWharf.  For one I'd already got my article about last night sorted, for another I'd arrived too late to see one of my friends perform and finally there are only so many hours in the day. But then you see something so eye-catching, so in tune with my tastes and so fundamentally magnificent that something must be said.

It was the end of a long night of performance art and the crowd had begun to dissipate. Having enjoyed Charlotte Wendy Law's great performance involving pomegranates, neat vodka and spiky bits of wood I was a bit hungry and considered heading off home.  But then I was told to head into the back room by the organiser.

What I found there was something out of my science fiction electric dreams.  Standing seven foot tall, bristling with white LEDs and singing a beautiful song was Electra.  I felt like I'd slipped through the veil into an art deco Narnia governed by a high voltage White Witch. This is Geneviève Favre Petroff, who for seventeen minutes transmuted herself into a digital direct current of searing electricity.

The Electra transformation involves donning a pyramidal dress decorated with a hundred LED lights, accessorised with light covered rings, a bracelet, a necklace and a crown. Looking like a porcelain statue, Petroff sings ritualistic, mantric songs that revolve around transforming oneself into a piece of coolly logical technology.  As she sings the lights on her body react to what she's saying, flickering and shifting as if her mind is wired into her surroundings.

The effect reminded me of watching oceanographic documentaries.  Down at the bottom of the ocean lies a kingdom of perpetual night, populated by incredibly beautiful bioluminescent creatures that flicker and pulsate neon patterns through the gloom.  These creatures are beautiful and alien, the significance of their intricate patterns known to them alone.  Electra echoes this, her lyrics given new dimensions of meaning by the flickering of information from the darkness.

The performance also ties into my passions for artists that undergo a transformative process in order to perform.  My favourite musicians are those who've sloughed off their 'real' selves like a snake leaving it's skin behind.  I particularly love the aesthetics of musicians who transform themselves into a robotic form, like Daft Punk, Janelle Monae or Robyn.  There's something beautifully synchronous about cool synthesiser sounds coupled with armour plating, flickering lights and glass visors.  

Electra slots into this glove; less a human being and more a cybernetic AC/DC priestess, a tarot card come to life.  The overall effect is an intoxicating mixture of power, a sinister Frankensteinian other-ness combined with a weirdly religious intensity.  I seriously loved it - one of the most beautiful seventeen minutes I've experienced in quite some time.

Thanks to Laurie Bender for the photos.

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