“Object” of CONTROL: Framing the Fragments

Part of the Performance Interventions book series (PIPI)


Filling the stage of the London Coliseum is the giant form of a naked woman, crouching on hands and knees, one arm reaching forward, mouth agape, frozen in alarm or pain. Two human heads appear as pupils in her eye sockets; they later move through her head and emerge from her mouth. These and the other human bodies expelled from this giant woman-set’s orifices are the cast of La Fura dels Baus’s production of György Ligeti’s opera, Le Grand Macabre staged for the English National Opera in 2009. In this production, an Ubu-like story of excess and decay, the oversized naked woman is the characters’ playground, a corporeal metaphor for the opera’s chaotic cityscape into which death descends to wreak havoc with its inhabitants. The body on stage has replaced an opening video depicting the inside of a flat littered with overflowing ashtrays, and empty food cartons — tubs of ice cream, a take-out pizza box — and a book on Breughel. This is the Breughelland of Ligeti’s opera, a body abused — the camera cuts to a woman, “Claudia,” mouth open in a panicked scream, perhaps having a heart attack, in pain. A close up of her distressed face remains visible as the lights shift and the projection appears on the face of the model on stage. The model-woman is fixed throughout the production, capable of rotating to expose other orifices, and transformed by spectacularly lush projections that reduce her/it to a series of systems and processes: the body suddenly appears as a 3-D skeletal system, or as the digestive system with particles moving through the bowels; a projection of fire representing the pain she might be feeling seems to consume the body structure; a film of a naked fleshy body rocking back-and-forth is projected upon it, making it seem to move.


Chaos Theory Physical Body Commodifiable Product Electric Light Object Body 
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© Jennifer Parker-Starbuck 2011

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