I really like the idea of having an installation as part of a dance festival. Creating a room that has an effect on body and mind shows, from my point of view, the variety of creative inputs in the dance world. Many dance artists work to sensitize the audience’s body, arousing empathy between performer and viewer. Creating an atmosphere goes in a similar direction, linking the object to the observing subject. In a way, it is the place where dance meets architecture. Part of Dance Umbrella, Laura Dannequin’s installation The Secret Slowness of Movement promises a refuge “to slow down, slow dance, or slow be” in the hectic city life. An interesting concept, but I did not find the experience as appealing as her invitation sounded on paper.

© Paul Blakemore
© Paul Blakemore

Set up at the David Roberts Arts Foundation in a white L-shaped room with all possible sources of external light covered, The Secret Slowness of Movement consists in a floor covered with real grass, some green lights scattered along the walls and at the other end of the room, a table with some red lights underneath it and a DJ, sound designer Timothy X Atack. As I entered the long room, my first impression was of mild claustrophobia (and I am fine with small spaces – I have survived many rush hour underground journeys without problems). Rather than welcoming, I have found the atmosphere of the installation quite oppressive. I felt as if I had entered a weirdly cold Turkish bath without the steam. In general the room was not so pleasant to stay in: the air was stuffy and humid from the real grass on the floor. I tried several options to get comfortable and enjoy the space. Resisting the urge to go outside, I instead tried staying longer, as, overtime, the perception might change. But this did not do the trick for me. I tried laying down on the grass and feeling the vibration of the music go through my body, as I thought the whole might be a kind of gong bath. But soon afterwards, the soundscape changed to a popular song and I realized that it was simply background music. So I decided to get up as the green lights set at ankle-height were blinding me adding to the discomfort. The last option was to take your shoes off and walk bare feet. This was indeed nice, none the least because being indoor one does not run the risk of stepping in unexpected surprises. Children loved it, crawling and running around peacefully. But I still could not relax in what looked like the set of a horror film or a Punchdrunk production. Every moment, I expected to see dancers jumping out of nowhere and perform some crime sequences or Halloween inspired nightmares. On a final (dark) note, coming out of the room and into the street the slightly humid clothes gave me a chill through the spine.

The concept behind The Secret Slowness of Movement is interesting but the realisation this time did not quite work for me. Possibly, it was the size of the room. It might have worked better in a bigger space where the humidity of the grass would have been distributed. I really liked the effort of bringing nature indoor, juxtaposing man-made, the wall, with the grass. And unexpectedly funny was seeing grass on a kitchen floor (the shorter part of the L-shaped room). The installation indeed produced an effect on me, it created an atmosphere but it was not what was hopped by the artist. It did not connect object and subject, and instead of welcome, I felt alien trying (unsuccessfully) to settle in.