Writer_ Priya Shemar
- In their latest social art experiment, RuN Collective once again succeeds in questioning social boundaries. Priya Shemar on In Sti Tut ion, an evening of eccentricity, unease, and surprise.
RuN Collective recently showcased another instalment of innovative art, basing their performances on a theme that we are all familiar with – institution. Known for questioning social boundaries, RuN presented a distinctive take on the meaning of the word ‘institution’, and what it means to be subject to one. It was a fascinating night spent within the studio in Harts Lane, with the huddled groups of people and flickering projections on the wall acting as a good indicator of the tone of the performances to come.
To pinpoint a single, striking performance is difficult. Throughout the evening each one was as captivating and as thought provoking as the next. Closing Dusk, a puppet performance by Andre Verissimo was as hilarious as it was challenging. In the darkened studio a flashlight used by the artist lit up a range of unusual sequences –dolls began to lose control and towards the end of the performance we were graced with a flying pig. Of course Verissimo (whose face was entirely covered by dark tape) was controlling the props, but the hypnotic effect of the performance was effective in provoking memories and concepts of childhood, control and the prescribed definition of reality
A lady with stunning facial art took to the floor, pinning up signs that boldly stated the words ‘We Can’t Snap Out Of It’. Immediately sensing which direction the performer would take us in, Zuli Scrumtious did not disappoint. Her spoken word performance was an expressive and insightful exploration of depression and issues surrounding mental health. The words came with a steady lyricism and hit hard in a number of instances. The phrase ‘There’s no asylum within the asylum’ gave a voice to anyone who had ever felt trapped by the idea of mental health, the issues of which can often feel like an institution within the mind. This performance of Pole to Pole had a particular resonance, and reminded the audience how our lives can become institutionalised in a number of ways that aren’t immediately obvious.
The final performance of the evening truly summed up the premise of In Sti Tut ion, and as with all of the performances of the evening, Cosmos Failure crystallised RuN’s experimental take in dealing with social anxieties. Amusing yet daunting, it consisted primarily of a man walking through the audience with a dead fish in his hand to the tune of a violinist. Meanwhile, another performer sat and stared intensely at a collection of plastic toys, and another hopped around the centre of the floor, screaming barely audible phrases into a echoing microphone. Images of what appeared to be labourers and suburban America repeatedly appeared on one of the walls.
Overall, what made In Sti Tut ion a success is the manipulation of repetition and convention used to capture the debasing effect on the individual in an institution. Paranoia, fear, the bizarre; these were just some of the big concepts addressed in RuN’s expressive take on a complex theme.
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