A lesson on learning

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“Everse,” part of the performance art programme Blind Spot, takes its audience back to school. A schoolmarm dressed in Victorian costume divides the “boys” from the “girls,” marching the small audience from a classroom to the pool to the tennis courts at Victoria Primary School.

In the classroom, the audience sits in the children’s tiny chairs while sounding out the letters “KOGNITIV DISANENS” on the board. A short video projection of quotes written with more misspelt words ensues. From there the “students” march to the pool. White jellyfish-like objects float in the water. A woman swims to each “jellyfish,” lighting them up with flashlights. The tennis court contains six girls running back and forth. An effigy of a schoolmarm stands on the opposite side of the court, dressed like some sort of colonial Alice in Wonderland queen.

Everse at Glennie Hall, in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa, July 07, 2014. Photo: Jane Berg
“Everse” — featuring Simone Heymans, Ivy Kulundu-Gotz, Joseph Coetzee and Chira Nott — included a scene in an ice-cold pool at Victoria Primary School. Photo: Jane Berg

The audience’s willingness not only to participate but also not to question the performance’s inanity is an eloquent statement on blindly following instructions. When one woman refused to stand in the “boys” line, she was met with indifference and even annoyance from the rest of the audience. Furthermore, no-one raised a hand and asked why the poor woman was swimming about the pool in freezing weather.

Then again, there’s a difference between civil disobedience and acquiescing to instructions in a performance art piece out of respect to the artist.

Much of the performance was difficult to see. The video was hard to read, and it was near impossible to perceive what exactly the girl was doing in the pool. Even the schoolmarm effigy was difficult to make out. This could have all been purposeful, a statement on the ambiguous nature of seeing things.

All in all, the school of “Everse” left more questions than answers. But perhaps it is those questions that teach and inform beyond any rote answers or clear analysis.

– Emmaly Wiederholt, Cue

See also Visions of education in ‘Everse’

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