PuSh 2016: Decoder 2017
It was strange and absorbing, this unexpected clash of analogue tape deck sound loops and glitches by G. Lucas Crane and monologue by actor Jim Findlay. It's hard to know what to make of Decoder 2017, which throws everything but the kitchen sink at the audience, but it was inspired and innovative and lacked pretense.
For an hour we were bombarded with a story of sorts, broken up and reassembled. The sound played, rewound, stuttered, and while Crane was doing a LOT of work, there was also something about it which seemed effortless, flowing naturally from the man, through machines. The spoken word also contained its fair share of word and phrase repetition, starts and stops, almost as if Findlay was a machine himself. It was structured but it was also on the fly. I discovered later that Findlay is fed somewhat radomized text from William Burroughs' Nova Trilogy (itself crafted using cut-up and assemblage) through an ear-piece. I wondered how he could possibly remember the barrage of lines he delivers. Most memorably, at one point he described an attempt to change bodies or consciousness with a Mayan boy in Mexico through bizarre pseudo-scientific methods.
The title of the work apparently makes reference to a film inspired by Burroughs’ instructions on how to use tape recorders to spark social uprising. This added another crafty layer to the piece - suggesting that strange collage experiments can lead to revolution.
Even the video component, often the last-minute footnote to sound and theatre pieces, was wacky and absorbing. Some shots were long studies of the performers themselves, close-ups which accentuated the oddities of their work (why did Crane have headphones in his mouth?), while other were assemblages of advertising clips, mirrored images, abstractions, insect exoskeletons. There was also a long scene of Crane burying some tapes in the ice. We never knew what we'd get next but it still felt coherent. The piece was conceived and orchestrated by Mallory Catlett, currently of New York.
Unlike many performances, this one was weirder than I expected and the live show was much more illuminating and all-encompassing than a preview video clip can suggest. Congratulations to Club PuSh for still exploring the edge and programming pieces that don't fit into obvious boxes.