fig-2 | 50 projects in 50 weeks

By: Fatoş Üstek

fig-2 | 50 projects in 50 weeks, 2016

Lynne Marsh, excerpt 45/50

Lynne Marsh

1969, Vancouver, Canada. Lives in London.

At fig-2, Lynne Marsh previewed Tragedy (2015), a film installation that discloses the processes at work behind the performance of an opera. Mimicking the framing device of a play within a play, the work focuses on the activities happening behind the scenes during two performances of La Traviata at The Grand Theatre and Opera House, in Leeds, UK. The film exposes the way in which the backstage area is organised, through close-ups and hand-held camera views that capture the movement, work and conversations of the stage managers, backstage crew and offstage performers. The individuals seen on screen develop as characters in an alternative performative event during the three acts of the live performance. Thus the stage manager, who reads the sheet music and controls every aspect of the performance by calling the cues for all technical actions, transitions and actor moves, becomes the guiding figure and ultimate character of this piece – a counterpart to Violetta Valéry, the protagonist of La Traviata. Marsh draws direct parallels between the urgency and tension of the live performance onstage and the choreography played out offstage, where discrete conversations between characters behind the scenes marry up with the dialogue taking place in the libretto. With a focus on the routine labour which takes place around the stage, the film becomes an enquiry into the nature of performance and brings operatic tradition into context with present-day realities.

Highlighting the fundamental relationship between form and content within the viewing experience, Marsh, in her artistic practice, creates very distinct architectural environments in which to receive her work. Hence at fig-2, the viewer was confronted with a curtained-off space resembling a backstage set with blue neon work lights and white arrows taped on the floor to indicate the entrance to the space. Inside, the film was projected onto a free-standing screen mounted on a wall in a cinema-like setting complete with chairs on a skewed distribution. By aligning the eye of the viewer with the camera lens in a disturbed cinematic space, Marsh located the viewer within the latency of the spectacle.