Frank B: Because of Love.
Fierce Festival October 2013
Review by Laura Burns
A departure from his body-based work, Franko B’s Because of Love delves from the political down to the personal, exploring memory and interrogating its narrative processes. As such, its own methods of recall become the subject of the performance itself.
Video catapults the performance into archival memory with iconic images of war, political unrest, injustice and commodity culture, drawing the intersection of collective trauma, history’s meta-narratives and the individual. Franko’s body superimposes itself on the projected images as he runs along the stage-length screen. His actions are anonymous and depersonalized, unnervingly repetitious against the background of mass trauma. This is a piece about scale and distance. A small figure against a huge backdrop and the collective experience of hierarchies, power, dominance and aggression. The duality of this dynamic of oppressor and oppressed will be systematically broken down by the layering of Franko’s gestures, movements, symbols, signs and eventually spoken narrative. Like lines criss-crossing between two points in time, a present and a past, these actions break the linearity and continuity of any promise of a coherent self.
Moving to a blackboard, Franko draws signs and words, gesturing to himself, the audience, the sign, but these gestures and symbols are disruptive rather than coherent. Franko’s piercing yet silent engagement with the audience is both darkly humorous and tragically poignant. The combination of the writing and the silent communicating is elusive; we are being asked to order something, to piece it together, and yet it is intangible, just out of reach, another question of distance from the subject. Layers of gesture and action reflect the layering of meaning, as we are both piecing together an individual’s narrative as well as observing a piece about the nature of communication itself. Just as the actions of the past are incomprehensible to a childlike figure trying to distinguish between wrong and right, justice and injustice, so the signs and actions throughout the piece fail to add up; this discrepancy is so prolonged and still it is almost dreamlike. But these black holes in communication are what the piece systematically works through, by ritual repetition that eventually unravels a thread of movement and a freedom of sorts.
Franko constructs a world in which the individual’s voice is silenced. The words ‘See Say Something’ seemingly directed to the audience highlight this silence, as we are unaware of what it is exactly we have seen, thus rendered voiceless like the performer himself. The implications are isolating, and Franko’s performing self is acutely isolated within the framework of the stage, the distance (although penetrable) between audience and performer. Franko is both charismatically present, and also inaccessible, like the memories that are ever so slowly teased out of obscurity. The piece teeters on the edge of irony and humour, creating an uncanniness - particularly in the childish voice-overs - that avoids the realms of self-indulgence or sentimentality, thereby giving the performance a precision that is dynamic in its stillness. With the unravelling of dialogue comes the movement we have been longing, and the repetition is worked through until the regimented world of the performance is punctuated. The piece de resistance - a waltz with a polar bear - is the reward for this journey down into memory. The childlike interaction is both liberating and compellingly vulnerable; the combination of music and visuals paints a illusory world of the imagination, and we know that ultimately the freedom exists there and there only. A piece of clarity and subtlety that continues unravelling in the mind long after its physical enactment.