Mark Cauvin gives an impassioned and surprisingly physical performance as the sole player in this confluence of performance art – citing Isadora Duncan and Giovanni Aldini as inspiration, he alternates between several roles: the wild, joyous dancer, the scientist, wraithlike, absorbed in experimentation, and himself, the musician.
As a seemingly self-exploratory work, Die Dunkelkammer (the dark room) is plain in its focus. The already sparse SIP Café in Teneriffe has been stripped down further and the space is left dark and bare, awaiting the entry of Mark’s persona before springing to life. A scattering of antique and industrial props along with constant, flashing light in the peripheral vision accentuates his eccentric performance, giving the general impression of being trapped in a bomb shelter with a madman – a view to the unfiltered mind of the artist.
With the photography theme of the title, it’s only natural for colour to make a exaggerated appearance. Blacklight illuminates both props and Mark himself, robed in white – simultaneously and in contrast, the work’s opening and conclusion are signaled via heartbeat, matched to a pulsating red. Iridescence and bright fog escapes from instruments of science, purifying the double bass as he plays – the visual effects are all minimal and terribly eye-catching. Likewise, the few props in use each hold greater weight, serving as an anchor for each scene, though their use is often clumsy and disorganised – notably to the concern of cast and crew as cables snag and instruments are knocked over.
The aural component of the work is a mixed bag – sounds generally fall into the category of either caustic noise or a numbing drone, broken up by the use of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 (as per biopic Isadora). Mark’s skill with double bass is evident during moments of clarity, but these moments (dare I say moment, singular) are brief in comparison to the remaining mire of experimental, Lynchian surrealism. Despite Mark’s passion and skill for performance, almost every scene outstays its welcome, with reverent action and the output of both electronica and bass quickly becoming grating and masturbatory.
It’s definitely not for everyone – such is the fate of the avant-garde. But don’t let me decide for you – previews of the work are freely available – so feel free to discover the piece in safety before you venture into the dark.
Reviewed by Jason Lomas
This review is based on the reviewer’s experience of the performance on May 23.