25 Feb

At the Heart of Everything a Row of Holes

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Torsten Lauschmann's At the Heart of Everything a Row of Holes was a site-specific performance piece commissioned by Creative Scotland (or "craetive scoltand" as Lauschman credited them at the end) from the winner of the 2010 Margaret Tait Award, created "to recognise artists who are experimental, innovative and who work within film and moving image". It was, by all accounts, a resounding success, being a challenging and highly entertaining experience that also put the recent trend for 3D films in stark perspective.

As had been suggested by Torsten Lauschmann, the show seemed to have already begun as the audience began entered GFT1, in high cheer. Cheesy sax-led muzak played on a loop until the auditorium filled up and the buzz was palpable. The muzak continued as the lights finally dimmed and a spotlight led the audience's gaze to the wall on the left hand side of the stage where the silhouette of a man by a microphone was illuminated and an introductory, seemingly pre-recorded speech began. From then, the audience was rapt, following the spotlight as it swung, dimmed, to the spot wherever the next projection would begin. Craning to the far left, we saw footage of mechanical toys - monkeys clapping cymbals, apes swinging on the spot, strolling wooden mice on sticks with trundling legs. Switching onto the main screen, painting of cherubs playing instruments were overlaid with a clanging industrial soundtrack. 

So far it had been intriguing and engaging, but I'm sure I wasn't the only one who wasn't sure where the piece would go, although it was already a pleasure to appreciate the great, domed art deco construction of the theatre in a new context. All of a sudden, however, the piece hit its stride with an ingenious projection of a flying carpet which circled the area where the walls met the roof, as the immersive sound design panned and swooped around the audience. Lauschmann already had the entire audience in rapt attention, in the palm of his hand in fact, when the player piano at the extreme left of the screen itself began to play a sequence of two notes, with footage of two workmen seemingly hammering the notes projected onto it. This evolved into what seemed like a line of dancers leaping in the air only to crash onto the keys of the piano. Footage projected onto the main screen followed, with a child on an "Easi Rider" toy bike drove round and round in circles.

The highlight for me, though, was the climactic projection of the rolling perforated paper that allows the piano to "self-play", synchronised with the playing of the piano itself. The visual effect would have been reminiscent of Guitar Hero for some people, or the rolling displays of modern music software and Lauschmann returned to his fascination with the "clash of homo faber, the making man, with homo ludens, the playing man" by writing words with the holes punched into the paper, creating corresponding dissonant crashes of noise with messages for the audience like "LOOK MUM NO HANDS" AND "FEAR OF FAILURE".

Lauschmann's work was an inspiring use of the space, setting the bar high for future winners of the award, and the one-off nature of the event lent it an extra level of excitement. When it was over, the audience didn't want to leave.

The nominations for the 2011 Margaret Tait Award are now open. Details can be found here.

Sean Welsh

Film Festival Blogger

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