Setting: Two white women and two Korean women, a mental hospital. It was truly weird. I think the two white women were patients; they were wearing pyjamas, doing lots of floor work and making odd noises. The Korean women were doctors or scientists, in white coats, doing experiments on the patients by holding up lighters on opposite sides of the stage, watching the patients run towards one flame, putting it out, and watching as they ran towards the other flame.
It all seemed slightly like a childhood game turned nasty. At one point the Koreans got a patient lying on a table on her stomach and poured hot wax from a lit candle over her back. The audience flinched as the wax dripped across her back, and the other patient spoke angrily in Korean.
Interestingly, the Koreans had spoken in English to give orders, but the white woman spoke Korean. I thought at this point that maybe the piece was meant to be some kind of critique on Imperialism; maybe British (or possibly Japanese) control over Korea – the loss of identity and suffering of the Koreans during the annexation of Korea to Japan: the comfort women? I felt that they were prisoners, trapped in something foreign and unfamiliar to them.
This piece had lost it’s newness and sense of exploration or surprise. It all seemed routine. The dancers focus wasn’t in the moment as it should have been. The only moment in the piece that I liked was the end, not because it was over, but because although the performers left the space and the house lights came up, the music continued so there was no definitive ending to the piece. At a moment like this, the audience becomes an actor (if they weren’t already) and must make the decision of when to end the piece. Somebody always starts clapping sooner or later, and then everyone joins in then leaves, but the performance could in theory go on much longer than necessarily planned for. Very intriguing.
Originally written on Tuesday 4th October 2011, (Seoul, South Korea) and published on Tumblr.