Syndrome 2.0: State Free State of a.P.A.t.T island // 25th JULY

REVIEW BY JON DAVIES

All my life I’ve lived under soft control. A net of anxiety, of not knowing what could happen if I did or didn’t. Not because no-ones knows, but no-one will tell. Transparent rule, or at least seeing the horror unfold before one’s eyes is preferable to the slow crushing state of feeling something close just before you enter. a.P.a.t.T. Island offers an escape from the crumbling project that is Modern Britain. From the beginning of the empire in which colonialism, control of resources, slavery, and technological and industrial advancement all came from a mass will of making Britain the most powerful nation, to the modernization of suffrage, state welfare and social security that gave its citizens as much liberty as possible, all this is or has been undone. Britain is an old man on its last legs, and we’ve managed to sleepwalk into an irreversible shutdown.

Entering a.P.a.t.T. Island is in many ways a blind leap of faith into a new utopia. Very little is divulged before the borders open save for a viral advertisement found on real world social media, other than a CGI dragon obliterating a honeycomb soundtracked by chintzy Weimar-meets-Soviet totalitarian marching music. The queue is long and entering the complex it seems like some things never change. Uncommunicative bureaucrats lounging about and toying with Apple products, although I was impressed by their apps. I was asked an awkwardly worded question about Internet security, of which I responded with an appropriately vague answer. It was slightly embarrassing of me since I think about surveillance pretty regularly. All the while having my voice recorded and picture taken, and as if it were learnt behaviour to just keep walking into uncomfortable situations I followed the crowd into another level of awkwardness, past Checkpoint Charmaine and the frisker, into a queasy thoroughfare of schmooze an insubstance.

Is this the stuff dreams are made of? A production line of silver servants with accompanying canapés, a sleazy moustachioed strongman ordering you about from a distance in the name of pleasure, flashing lights and the whiff of the Warholian. It’s enough to make you long for the job centre, the dulled anonymity of bi-weekly degradation. It seems like the theatre of the self is acting like a buffer whilst a.P.a.t.T. Island attempts to prepare tonight’s ceremony. Again it seems no different to the construction delays of Brazil 2014, London 2012, The Millennium Dome 2000; with an apparent official of the island hurriedly cleanup up the party with little attention of what, or who he sweeps. Two men are presented on plinths whilst this is going on, either as some sort of aural distraction or that they’re also part of the sweep up, attempting to make sense of the din emanating through the speakers.

Was this event even supposed to be welcoming or enjoyable? Even the entertainment itself seems broken. A floating torso drifts aimlessly across a myriad of flailing dislocated limbs, and with only the help of a dancer does the body start to piece itself together. But something’s not right, as the dancing doesn’t quite evoke celebration, but a form of corporeal disintegration, as if her bones were drying up under the projected microscope. Perhaps I’m seeing a change, that maybe the wash of noise from before has begun a process of reinvention at a.P.a.t.T. Island? The dancer’s mechanical movements begin to shake away the mind/body latency and stretch out further, with the music’s MIDI exhalations add to the relief that all may improve. In the real world television provides a focal point for entertainment. We’re bathed in technicoloured vomit, and injected with sparkling hopefuls that shimmer and burn up within a half hour sitting. For a.P.a.t.T Island’s version of X Factor monochromatic disciples await like a sullen choir lead by a past-it ex-punk-turned teacher. He looks like he once tried, gave up and then moved to the Island. In house performers The Nodes navigate themselves in front of an everchanging skeletal relief of unoccupiable spaces while their leader begins to address me with a dislocated announcement. The younger members invoke darkened memories of what the Island wants us to leave behind, perhaps a gentle reminder of the atrocities laid we’re about to put to bed. The lifeless throbs of post-punk are pushed into the background as hauntological sounds of Janet Jackson hail in a new era of self-made futures, their jagged dance routines reflecting the brittle confidence of groomed performers. Behind the dancers the leader had become more possessed, his rant becoming more fraught and urgent, desperate to grab some sort of attention away from his dancers he became possessed by the rhythm. The performance was melting down before the citizens’ eyes, maybe that was the point. I’ve always felt routines were a huge element of forced fun, reminiscent of Thailand prison virals, and the State is getting desperate to win over new citizens.

A brief respite was introduced in order for The Nodes to exit, and perhaps have a ‘disappearance’ enacted on them. The caretaker returned with another violinist, while in the background a silent film evocative of a Dickensian drama was screened, as the propaganda machine wound itself up for the final time of the evening. We were suddenly remind of the glamour we signed up for earlier that wasn’t delivered to us, the new citizens had been duped.

Temporarily distracted by the video dumps of our 15 seconds of fame a hatch is flung open from the ceiling of the compound, as overzealous officials gather round. As the new state’s national anthem blares out amidst a smoke and mirrors concoction of smoke and mirrors, the Dear Commander of a.P.a.t.T. Island dusts himself off from his rope ladder descent and draws his mini iPad in order to address his new citizens. I have no idea what he’s saying, but the plants are suitably wowed by his impassioned welcome. I think he may have said something along the lines of ‘Long Live the New Flesh’, I don’t remember. I’d like to think he did. The disparity of enthusiasm between the confused proles and the officials is further exacerbated by the low-key exit of their/our Dear Commander; maybe word has reached to the top that a.P.a.t.T. Island stake in counterstate sanctuary offers little hope to those born of the outside Modern Britain took centuries to fall in on its own weight, but perhaps the conditions weren’t right for a.P.a.t.T. Island to exist right now. Social engineering has a nasty habit of turning for the worst, and with a.P.a.t.T.’s fanatical inhabitants and unsettling environments this is clearly not the haven we are looking at as an alternative from late capital society.
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NODES: DOUBLE V- CUT
a radically dystopian vision of speech of movement exploring the dark materiality of control and dominance, powerlessness and neglect. Writing is uncreatively arranged in patches that eventually align as a series of assemblages incoherently responding to notions of supervision and renouncement. An unlikely sonic conversation accompanies a lost Cabaret score where dancers re-enact strict choreographies to an emerging text that spirals into a sequence of dark epiphanies. Double V-CUT is the X Factor on meth.
Text: Mark Greenwood/Nathan Jones
Music: a.P.A.t.T
Movement: Sarah Hume
Visuals: Roland vd Velden

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QWOP DANCE
In a work first shown as part of Light Night at FACT, glitch artist Antonio Roberts expands his practice of error, working in tandem with butoh inflected dance performed by Rachel Sweeney. Computer interface, digital image, human body and choreography are drawn into beautiful maelstrom of system error.

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