Wonderful Oddity Apr 16, 2011

by Josh

The newest show at OTB's is titled L’Effet de Serge by Philippe Quesne, judging by the anecdote in the program, Seattle is very lucky to have had the opportunity to see the show dispute some tricky customs situations. The show is slow, strange and ultimately uneventful; in other words it's wonderful. My opinion of the show is entirely a paradox, elements I usually severely dislike about performance art become enjoyable through Philippe Quesne's direction. 

Take for instance, pacing. Considering myself a reasonably patient person, I do have some limits. Often performance artists enjoy playing with our conception of time, slowing things down to provide the audience with a different experience in aid of the artists ultimate purpose. But slow can often become boring to an audience, a maddening situation because art is inherently a piece of entertainment. Punish viewers too much and you lose a connection with your audience, and the transmission of an artist's landscape and philosophies can never be transmitted; Ultimately, destroying the purpose of the artists endeavor altogether. 

L’Effet de Serge is only an hour, but it feels like 2. Everything from our main character's (Hero?) speech to the receptive nature of the events on stage creates the feeling of dripping molasses. Notice the moment where the man sits in his chair looking at the audience, emotionlessly staring at the audience, listening to music. It is the longest moment in the performance, but just when things start to become tiring, then begins the most pathetically solitary game of ping pong I have ever witnessed. But it works; the play remains entertaining and often funny, eliciting many whimsical laughs from the audience. 

Philippe Quesne making a statement of time in the piece as we are constantly reminded, "Time goes by, time goes by. Time goes by, days pass. It is Sunday again." But more than just an exercise in pacing, what really struck me about the piece was the unrelenting loneliness of our main character. The only time he interacts with people are on Sundays at 6PM. Even then his interactions are emotionless and sparse, but his guests still come back, time and time again they return for the Sunday performance at our man's house. 

Despite our character's solitude, I became well aware of the reason his guests seem to have such a bond with the man. He is fascinating, not only due to his awkward nature or laughably cute artistic performances. Our character pose’s a mystery to him, because we nothing about him besides his weekly performances the man takes the form of an almost blank slate. By having no personality or background, the audience is able to utilize our own imaginations to fill in the missing pieces. The fact that these missing pieces are never revealed makes the piece even more of a mystery. 

Although previously covered, nothing ultimately gets accomplished in the narrative of the play. In that sense it hates the conventions of it's own definition, one the artist’s gives himself calling the piece specifically a "play". My enjoyment of the show began with the acceptance of this fact. By destroying my expectations of elements such as plot progression, I was then able to accept L’Effet de Serge for the wonderful oddity that it is.