Jo Fong Witness

A moving triptych 

There are multiple conversations that happen on this stage. In each sequence, the screens play a different role for each of the women. In the first, the triptych hints at different elements of the dancer’s personality, and in the second, the screens take on anthropomorphic qualities. Ironically these screens put the choreographer, Jo Fong, on show: they open the project up to contemplation, commentary and scrutiny.

Emotional exposure

The first movements we see are emotionally charged. The dancer explains that when a camera appears, she looks for and re-evaluates the aspect of honesty in her performance. When the camera captures the movements, a heightened sense of display is brought to the dance. It is through the prism of recording that emotions of anxiety are exposed – in the movements themselves and in their creator. Perhaps this raw state of honesty in movement leaves the dancer more open to vulnerability: firstly to the camera, and then consequently to us, as the audience.

In this case, the element of vulnerability brings into question the prominence of this state. The dance becomes a psychoanalytic exploration of the ‘self’, each bodily contortion revealing a state of being. This seems to be narcissistic. Though, when any camera is involved in recording any moment, self-awareness is a basic human involuntary reaction.

Showcased on three wide screens, the presentation of the piece privileges the viewer. There are multiple sequences which offer situations for questioning the meaning of the dance. And the dancer’s commentary personalises the movements, bringing the viewer closer to the performance.

Moving through stories

Witness Presenters

By offering three simultaneous stories, this form of presentation also brings into question the idea of trust – can we trust the whole installation we see without considering each individual element? Fong therefore presents the audience with a dilemma. It’s this question of trust that renders the work more engaging, asking the viewer to actively participate in its constructional development. By nature performance is in a constant state of flux – to borrow Bergson’s philosophical notion – which leaves it open to exploration in its various stages.

The journey, both private (of the dancer) and public (of the performance) through which the dancer leads the audience, encourages the viewer to think about the role of emotional movement in the piece. This brings into play the combination of movement and commentary.  Through an interview-like format, the installation offers the audience the possibility to see or “hear thoughts within the surface of the dancer’s skin” as described by Fong. Organic in its process, this installation invites the viewer, as a witness, to truly experience the performance, as well as the performer.

Watch a promotional video for Jo Fong’s Witness here.

For more information about Jo Fong’s work as a choreographer, click here.


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