A sense of possibility permeates the air as I enter the intimate venue in Manhattan’s Public Theater that houses Australian artist Fleur Elise Noble’s production of 2 Dimensional Life of Her (currently on show as part of Under The Radar festival). In a sense, this performance-slash-installation has already begun, the lights are dimmed, a subtle soundscape seems to envelop the space, and a sense of disease that accompanies an act of creation gone awry slowly creeps in. The stage space resembles a painter’s atelier where the proverbial bomb dropped – the entire décor is made of paper, including the walls, some furniture, an easel, the outline of a woman’s body, shredded fragments chaotically strewn across the entire floor. As the title of the work suggests – all of it exists in a decidedly two-dimensional realm, illuminated only by the light cast by the video projectors, which at this point, and indeed throughout the piece, fill in the blank slate set up by Noble.

© Radar Festival 2013
© Radar Festival 2013

I hate to give the spoiler alert right away, but as it turns out, the work unfortunately doesn’t really advance a whole lot from that point, and in doing so, fails to fulfill the theatrical promise set up by its highly atmospheric point of departure. Yes, there is (seemingly) a clearly defined protagonist – embodied by the projected shape of a woman whose image initially fills the cardboard cut-out placed atop a chair on the stage set – who, upon exiting the cutout, proceeds to perform various pedestrian tasks. (She spends much of her time “cleaning” the walls which produces the often-recurring image of erasing the video projection to reveal a different image.) Considering that she spends about 95% of her stage time as a black-and-white projected image, that not much information on who she might be, what she is about (and why we should care) is provided through the dramaturgy or otherwise, and, lastly, the tasks she is endowed are utterly not compelling, much like the other elements in the piece, the entire affair remains astonishingly flat.

With only minimal human interventions by a couple of unseen stage hands, and the aforementioned protagonist who appears in flesh for the final few minutes of the piece, the makers of this work don’t seem to be particularly concerned with a narrative, but appear rather keen on exploring the act of peeling the onion-like layers of parallel realities, coupled with an apparent fascination with and/or reference to the stop-action puppetry films of Brothers Quay, which – unlike this work – never fail to deliver some exquisitely creepy thrills. However, the glitchy, lo-fi flipbook quality of the piece, coupled with repetitive images of erasure / obliteration, and the too-often recurring motif of revealing “a dream within a dream within a dream” ultimately left me with an impression of non-sequiturs not considered with a sufficient amount of rigor to warrant the spectator’s investment and attention, not even for the short duration of the piece (it runs approximately 45 minutes). On the other hand, as I was walking out of the space feeling completely unsatisfied, I did wonder whether the fact that the piece didn’t cohere into a meaningful whole in a theatrical context, in which it was presented here, could have potentially been overcome were it presented as a looped, gallery-type installation, where the viewers were free to come and go as they pleased. But as it was, this 2 Dimensional Life of Her remained disappointingly one-dimensional.