The Crossing, 1 Milk Street, Digbeth, Birmingham B5 5SU

Eartheater & Semiconductor: Fracture Patterns

The Crossing

22 June 2019

Review by Laura O’Leary

Three hexagon-shaped screens were lined on the floor and the sound of droplets filled the dark room, building tension. The only source of light came from the screens and the three spotlights on the floor, which lit up Eartheater’s white, sequin-covered suit and made it sparkle as she slowly entered the stage.

Eartheater is a New York based musician, performance and visual artist. Her experimental style incorporates both music and her body - it is sensual, animalistic electro fusion. For this work she has collaborated with Semiconductor: the Bristol-based artist duo Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhard known for exploring the materiality of the world through the lens of science and technology. Together, they have created a multi-faceted audio-visual installation, ‘Fracture Patterns’ (2019), commissioned by the OUTLANDS Network, curated and produced by the De La Warr Pavilion.

From the offset it felt futuristic and alien, amped up by Eartheater’s glitchy movements and ethereal vocals. To begin, she let out a slow, gentle scream and moved receptively to the music - instinctively contorting her body. She rolled her eyes, exposing the whites, whilst the spotlights strobed, flashing against her, implying a kind of out-of-body experience.

Eerie electro-pop music from her back catalogue spread around the venue. She sang in an operatic style, with a broad vocal range. The lyrics were indistinguishable, it sounded more like emotive drones explaining a feeling, rather than a narrative of what makes us feel. Alongside Eartheater’s performance were visual graphics by Semiconductor, which showed scenes from space manifesting into new forms. The monochromatic images of the Milky Way made me feel like I was being dipped into their galaxy; it was sumptuous.

‘Fracture Patterns’ was primarily experiential: something you had to entirely give yourself to, without perhaps completely understanding, or risk falling into a deep hole of confusion. At one point, audience members shone torches against the artist as she walked past them. Eatheater gave a creepy smile, which appeared both alarming and funny. Then she screamed loudly, in a piercing high pitch, like something was dying, or exploding within. Some audience members who participated in a workshop earlier that day with the artists had been invited to partake and screamed alongside in a chorus of faux-fear.

The lack of narrative felt like drifting through a performance - trance-like, only with your imagination to keep you afloat. I kept imagining little space bugs wiggling around the venue in Digbeth, Birmingham as the performance felt so otherworldly. That being said, there did seem to be two distinct acts to this performance, the first focused on Space and the second focused on Earth. Act Two felt gentler - like a eulogy to the planet.

The moving image works by Semiconductor showed documentation of nature and smoke billowed around this galactic mise-en-scene. The high-pitched scream was a recurring marker within the performance that acted as a signpost to violence in its many forms. Overlaid against Semiconductor’s visceral graphics of the earth and space reforming, the scream also became a siren, drawing my attention to the urgent matter of climate change and a particular manifestation of violence inflicted on the earth.

Once the performance ended there was a mixture of reactions from audience members, some of whom look bemused, others dazzled. I heard fractions of conversations about post-human feminism and one guest shared that they cried. The title ‘Fracture Patterns’ alludes to tearing into behavioural moulds, as if the works could disrupt models of thought about our relationship to the earth. Or am I tumbling into that fracking shaped black hole?

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