Review: The Apology Project (lbs/sq”)

The Apology Project is a nomadic, multimedia installation that evolves and shape-shifts based on performance context and current events. The 2017 Toronto production was mounted by interdisciplinary creative arts company lbs/sq” (pounds per square inch).

This production was definitely interdisciplinary. Upon entering the theatre, patrons were invited to touch art installation pieces designed by Kaersten Colvin-Woodruff. The pieces varied, and most were suspended from the ceiling. There was a hard, red silicone chair with antlers that grew out the top. There was a plaster mold of a torso, floating at eye level that was reminiscent of a strait jacket. The visual and tactile experience of each piece was quite different, but all of the pieces were united by the presence of a large tapered pendulum that metaphorically counterbalanced each installation. The performers were also part of the installation. Bound to one of the pieces, they remained impossibly static while the participants experienced the items visually and tactilely.

Each patron sat in their own time, forming a circle around the performance. There was a long, pregnant pause of deafening silence before any movement began. lbs/sq” Artistic director and choreographer Gerry Trentham was also one of the performers of this piece. The piece explores themes such as the shame of the oppressed and the guilt of the oppressor, seeking the ability to apologize. Both themes are represented by the metaphor of the falling body. Inspiration for movement that represented the idea of falling was drawn from the Japanese Butoh dance tradition under the guidance of Denise Fujiwara.

Trentham and co-performer Kevin Ormsby clearly had exceptional control over their bodies; as well as remarkable expressiveness. The movements were painstaking and deliberate, with sinewy limbs almost imperceptibly quivering beneath the skin.

Despite being highly enaged by the installation art, and impressed by the talent of Trentham and Ormsby, I must confess, I was bored during this performance. Given that the central themes of the show are very close and vital to me, I wanted to be on the edge of my seat during 90 minutes that felt like 15. Instead, I struggled to focus and felt every second of the run time on my buttocks.

This reaction was certainly the result of my personal taste, rather than the quality of this multimedial experiment. My companion, who has much greater patience for slow-moving, cerebral, non-linear and highly symbolic work was more engaged than I was. At the same time, my companion felt some of the symbolism didn’t land and that ideas that were introduced at the start were not followed through. For example, Ormsby drops a large number of pebbles close to the beginning of the installation. The pebbles remained on stage for the duration of the piece, and any metaphor that the pebbles represented was never revisited.

Although I was not drawn in by this performance, I am very intrigued by the concept, and inspired by the possibilities of interdisciplinary work. I will definitely be keeping an eye on lbs/sq” and the opportunity they provide to engage with art using all of the senses as part of a unified body.

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Photo of Garry Trentham and Kevin Ormsby by Jesse Deganis-Librera

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