Last year, I was in Prague for the first major retrospective of my current favorite artist. Each of my three visits to the exhibit brought about simultaneous feelings of exhilaration and an almost unbearable sadness, knowing that the full experience would likely never be available to me again. I took notes and gathered all the supporting materials available, but really the best I could do was try to take in the exhibit as best I could and let some strong impressions wash over me.
The circumstance that brought this memory back so vividly was the very recent surfacing on YouTube of Yvonne Mohr’s video about the installation-performance of DARK MATTER in Berlin 2003, involving Richard Barrett, Per Inge Bjørlo, and the ELISION and Cikada ensembles. Watching those 35 minutes of footage of the installation, performance, and interviews made me ache to have been there, and in some way to feel as if I had been there. Daryl Buckley, ELISION’s artistic director, makes the point in the video that the piece is elusive, and that “there is no one correct perspective” from which to hear it. The texts, as Barrett says, “bear upon … the evolution of humanity’s relationship to the reality that exists around us, the cosmos and so forth, and also the relationship that human beings have … with their own unconscious self.” These topics can only be addressed in a fragmentary, suggestive way. It’s not out of keeping with the nature of the project to try to piece together the fragments of a fresh experience of DARK MATTER.
The basic information about the piece is here. Other resources available include the score, available for perusal from UMP, substantial sections of the piece available on the transmission recording, an interview between Buckley and Barrett that was included in the MaerzMusik program notes, Keith Gallasch’s account of the Brisbane Powerhouse performance, Richard Toop’s article, and other related interviews here and here. (What have I missed?)
And the newly available video is right here: