Alex Baczynski-Jenkins Chisenhale Gallery / London

March 12, 2017

In Alex Baczynski-Jenkins’s newly choreographed work The tremble, the symptom, the swell and the hole together (2017), eight performers circulate the gallery space. The set up is minimal, its focal point an octagonal four-tiered stage whose platforms are reconfigured over the course of the exhibition. Red electric heaters punctuate the walls, while folded blankets act as both props and seating. Stark artificial lighting and an intense soundtrack of looping rhythmic samples and continuous low drones charges the atmosphere with palpable tension.

Time is crucial to the work’s exhibition format, articulated according to a rigorous structure of four self-contained fortnightly “episodes.” Longer “fugues” take place on weekends, at which three performers at a time incorporate elements from the previous episode in an adapted and extended sequence. Designed to evolve over time, one only ever garners a partial perspective.

Framing itself within the legacy of postmodern dance and queer performance, Baczynski-Jenkins’s choreography is one of intimate, habitual gestures — fingers delicately stroking a face or absentmindedly tapping a surface — which break from moments of personal withdrawal into an internalized dance of rave intensity. Spoken word recurs in the form of poems and short exchanges, the repetition of lines and gestures building a sense of continual rehearsal of interconnected subjectivities.

The body becomes at once a material measure of its surroundings and of wider social parameters. As they move on and off the stage, the performers determine how viewers negotiate the gallery space. Moments of direct address ensue when performers balance at the perimeter or hold the viewer’s gaze in tacit exchange. Using basic theatrical devices, Baczynski-Jenkins creates a social choreography in which an experience of estrangement materializes through mechanisms of self-reflexivity and non-normative modes of subjectivity as owned and developed in common with others.

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