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The Infernal Triangle

Over the years performance art has become increasingly structured and rehearsed.  Yet the subjective projections stimulated in the audience by a performance are well served by inspiration.  Such improvisations are sometimes called 'free sessions'.  In the same way as a free-form musician may practise scales and improve instrument tonality before improvising, the performance artist may 'rehearse' by working on structured exercises and improving physical and vocal potential, while avoiding prior planning before the free session itself.  But when the performers are highly attuned to each other, the results can 'look' rehearsed to a high degree.  But this 'look of rehearsal' is not in conflict with the unfinished nature of the improvisation.  In 1998, I was privileged to take part in an improvised performance project which was shown at the ICA, in London.  It was called the Infernal Triangle, and each session involved three performers.  Here is a passage from the programme note:

"The tension of stillness.  Nothing more to be said.  You could cut the atmosphere like a knife.  A sudden word like a slap in the face - or a slap like a sudden word.  Then there are the inexorable repetitions.  Repetitions of accusations, repetitions of situations.  Repetitions only destroyed by some maddening inconsistency.  Catastrophe.  The moment when everything snaps.  This is the stuff of the infernal triangle.  Three persons trapped in their own eternity.  It returns us to the hellish situation of Jean-Paul Sartre's Huis Clos.  Three people who realise they are damned - damned to continue to exist together.  No escape.  No, no escape.  The eternal triangle as a vicious circle.

It is indeed a triangle - of stillness, repetition, inconsistency.  He is licking her like a dog again.  And again she is using his banknotes as her toilet-paper.  The other tries to help her or hinder her perhaps.  Break out of this.  But how do we break out?  Each evening there are three performers.  Not the same performers.  Performers we have seen in other triangles.  Now they are embroiled in some new triangle.  But each time the triangle is infernal.  It results in its own predicament.  It resolves itself only into its own impasse..."

(Infernal Triangle, ICA catalogue, 1998)

Performers:  Martin Burton, Robin Deacon, Rebecca French, Laurence Harvey, Helen Horridge, Anthony Howell, Kira O'Reilly and Briony Watson.

In these triangles the performers were pitched into the problem of resolving the work, but the problem was left open, their wrestling with it became the subject.

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