Lisen Pousette & Olivia Rivière
January 17-21, 2024
Lisen Pousette & Olivia Rivière. Photo: Moa Hjärström
Visceral choreography in response to elevataed physical scenarios, whether of the more fanciful and bedeviled Żuławski-kind (direction; Possesion '81), or of a more mundane and real-wordly genre, along the lines of intoxicated vomit fests, stands at the fore of Lisen Pousette & Olivia Rivière's Spiritus. Caught in the very nick of time, following a return from the US, the motivation to make the stretch, and suspend any more or less transient jet lag alerts to the cerebreral system, connects to our in recent years making a conscious effort to bridge and extend the limited but credible mainstream media reception of contemporary dance and performance in Stockholm, boxed in by a half handful of the big daily newspapers, and what at times appears the monopoly board of critic Thomas Olsson. You might be hearing it from the horse's mouth, but I'm only mouthpiecing sentiments of a dance community that we perceptibly guest on occasion. That also means picking up with our "skinny" fists as antennas, that some of the fare of the dance scene merits a standard as prefix; not so much so as derivative but as canonical. Pousette and Rivière's offering for a contemporary art's connaisseur, who is less prone to contemporary dance, might ring and echo or two to Anne Imhof's FAUST or SEX, but executing their visceral choreography in tandem with sonic and vocal performativty bears a fair share of novelty, for which the two should duly be commended, and noted. As for tandem; let's preface everything, before getting into some nitpicking, with here having two performers who are evidently finely tuned and accustomed to each other's "frequencies", without for that matter liasing so siamesely as to not retain individuality in their own each smooth (and timely) delivery.
It begins almost mirroring an old Jenny Källman image; two female bodies sitting on their knees, à l'aise, facing each other. Rivière casting a cunning look on Pousette as to mark a clandestine bond, with faint homoerotic subtext. Anyone who remembers the 90's adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos' Les Liasions Dangereues, namely Cruel Intentions might even recall the memory of a Central Park scene between leads Sarah Michelle Gellar and Selma Blair. A 90's pop cultural pop reference isn't entirely misguided, once noting the chosen performance attire that in parts evoke a late 90's starlet look (if that tells you nothing; well, Siri Google, Alexa). While that may or may not be deliberate, it certainly adds tension by both disalarming and fueling suspense about the course of action to unfold.
Once a humming sound begins gradually to manifest more invasivly, the bodies begin their inevitable separation. Subtle, subtle, subtle shifts, until Rivière's face, the one of the two perfomers left behind, evidences a total transformation from cunning and mischievous to scorned and desperate. Her reponse oscilliates between animal-esque, mechanical animantronic and exorcist (you will probably think of Linda Blair). The Neo-Goth realm is definitely present; when Pousette's kneeled body is hurled back across the floor, towards the back wall, as though sucked in by it, there's a claustrophobic sensation of Deneuve in Repulsion. As for the already mentioned vomiting, there is a sequence where the intrinsic physical response corresponds to over-intoxication, and this is one of the moments where the duo gets to shine with astute delivery, that is neither too much nor too little of anything; but just the right amount of everything to "aestheticize" the atrocity of the gesture, with a whiff of humour that doesn't interject the view with friction as looking banal. Interestingly, thought of an artist who perhaps is a generational peer comes to mind; Josefin Arnell and her video Gag Reflex/ I wanna puke in heaven.
Lisen Pousette & Olivia Rivière WELD, Stockholm. Photo: Tove Dreiman
On the flip side, the 50 minutes running time feels far longer and there are moments when Spiritus does not substantiate itself beyond the feel of an enigmatic workshop, in its minimalist production staging. But nothing is static. Their consummate command over the room and the audience happens when Pousette leaves the "stage confines" and disrupts what has been established as the proxemities in which the bodies will interact. This is the point where they have you at the edge of your seat. Overreaching definitely happens when Spiritus takes on more virtuous form, addding more lighting production and bombastic external sound and altogether turning more conventionally audiovisual in feel. It becomes a bit too grand, a bit too soon, reeking more of form over substance in those specific moments, which is also when what is being watched momentarily feels a little less distinct specfically to them as makers. Peak moment which is absolutely beautiful and the most shrewd interaction (truly) seen with an iphone (possibly ever) is when the phone is swirled around in the air by one of their arms, audibly but restraintly releasing harmonius music for the first time, in contrast to the more gashing and screeching sounds belted out in the room up until then. The two join in with harmonies and in brief moments align in unison, sending swift jolts of electricic stimuli down and far into your system.
Watch for these two. Really. Genuinely eager to catch them in whatever they are about to vocalize with their forte next.