There are three dancers in In The Mood For Frankie, currently being shown at Trajal Harrell’s performance installation, Hooch Koochie, showing at the Barbican. Trajal is one of them. We watch him and the others as we perch on piano benches, squat on the ground, or stand either side of the faux-marble platforms (really just overhead digital projections beamed down on plain white wood), small fish pond and kitschy straw mats that make up the runway. By turns languid and extravagant, taut and frantic, the dancers stalk the space and claim it as their own with nonchalance.
The variations are a long-time in coming, and I oscillate between fascination and boredom.
One of the dancers is holding an old oil lamp and prancing back in forth in what I would describe as a ‘Medieval courtly style’, his gaze leaping between the ground and the sky, leading his body with it. He does a little solo from one end of the platform the other and back again, joining Trajal and the other dancer as a trio.
They remind me of friends dancing in a club.
And like when you’re at the optician and they’re trying different strength lenses on to get the prescription right, a new ‘lens’ drops over my gaze on the scene all of a sudden, wiping out any attempt to fix meaning on it: they’re just three bodies dancing together. The set, the costume – doesn’t really mean anything. This guy holding the lamp? I find it intensely funny. Not disparagingly so. I love it. It makes me want to take an empty kettle to the next Knickerbocker and act fabulous whilst doing it.
In one of the adjacent rooms, there’s a slightly doctored version of Baudrillard’s The Conspiracy Of Art projected on the wall, where he argues ‘art has lost all desire for illusion: feeding back endlessly into itself, it has turned its own vanishment into an art unto itself.’ Trajal has changed ‘art’ to ‘performance’. As a gesture, its probably the least interesting one he makes in the exhibition, but one line from the original leaps out at me strongly:
“The poetic operation is to make nothing appear out of the power of signs.”