(Photo Credit: Farah Nosh)
PHOTOG Needs More Time In the Darkroom
the company wanted to create a character with..."total absence of sentimentality or idealism"
by David King
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a wartime photograph should be worth ten thousand.
Exploring the rare perspective of conflict photojournalism in their newest multi-media piece PHOTOG: AN IMAGINARY LOOK AT THE UNCOMPROMISING LIFE OF THOMAS SMITH, Vancouver-based Boca del Lupo's Sherry J Yoon and Jay Dodge take on Place des Arts' Cinquième Salle and the FTA with a one-man show that's co-created and performed by Dodge. Dedicated to Tim Hetherington, who was killed this past April while covering the Libya conflict, PHOTOG is a documentary-theatre hybrid, basing much of its material on the testimonials of Hetherington and other embedded photographers who were interviewed by Yoon and Dodge in the early stages of their creation process.
Boca del Lupo's choice to create monotony in tone, rhythm and text equally lulled the audience to sleep...
Part slideshow, part storytelling, part video and part live cam work, PHOTOG is as much
an experiment with theatre tech gadgetry as most of Boca Del Lupo's shows have been in the past. Having now toured around the world (including Magnetic North and the FTA in 2008), this Western Canadian company has battled all the odds to secure its collectively-run rehearsal studios and equipment it's needed over the last decade for appealing to a contemporary crowd. For the most part, they've given us enough powerful installations, street theatre, interactive dance productions and main stage theatre to keep us coming back or more.
|(Photo credit: Farah Nosh)|
Unfortunately, with such a text-driven work that revolves around the inner workings of the photographer him / herself, Boca del Lupo's choice to create monotony in tone, rhythm and text equally lulled the audience to sleep at Saturday night's show, giving it a mixed reception come curtain call. While the company never fails to apply their imaginative engineering skills on new technologies (the integration of the live performer into his video backdrops was particularly fascinating), everything came across as less integrated than the past two productions I've seen by this otherwise creative, physical company.
While I love the idea of what Boca Del Lupo continues to give us, I hope they'll stick to tinkering with technology over text, character and traditional theatricality.
The four-post supports for PHOTOG's rigged lighting and cable aerial stunts doesn't improve things, obstructing the view of the larger-than-life projections from both the left and right side of the house. Dodge manages to hold onto his text well during these moments, and there are some powerful outbursts of physicality and wartime blasts that bring you back into the inspiration behind this work. From the famous photographs of half-burned children in Vietnam to the more recent images out of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and the African West Coast, photojournalists themselves have been far too overlooked in the public eye over embedded writers and reporters, often going well beyond the front lines to capture an image that can often speak volumes more than any news headline or televised interview.
While I love the idea of what Boca Del Lupo continues to give us, I hope they'll stick to tinkering with technology over text, character and traditional theatricality. WIthout the crucial elements of drama within this text and character, there's simply no point in being on a stage before us. Lacking contrast, the images we see in PHOTOG are not as graphic as one would imagine them to bring us back to the trauma of Thomas Smith's mind, and it's seldom we see the brutally scarring images that traumatize conflict photographers, including a live character who's invited us into his mind. In this production, that post-traumatic stress is instead captured in the text, with words we may have missed from nodding off.
PHOTOG runs until May 30th at Cinquième Salle. For more about Boca Del Lupo, visit their site.
The FTA site.
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