Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow
In their latest event, Glasgow-based arts production house Cryptic Nights lived up to their name with THEREFORE 2, a dark, mysterious, blustery performance-installation by artist Anna Lucia Nissen and colleagues. Without the contextualising programme note, which refers to the 1921 smuggling of an Afghan Hound from Afghanistan to Scotland, this half-hour long piece might have seemed bizarre, but in actual fact the historical background did very little to enrich its meaning. Furthermore, it was a slight disappointment to discover that the advertised ‘pack of Afghan hounds’ were not live dogs but instead three model heads poking out of what appeared to be pressure cookers, their long hair gently blown by a fan and a hairdryer.
Sadly, live hounds were featured only in the saturated video montage that was projected at the beginning of the performance onto a curtain at the back of the space. Nissen turned on another hairdryer, this time amplified, to create the noise of an intense wind, and a voice was heard intoning a mildly poetic reflection on the theme of dog walking across continents. Soon this subsided into Richard Youngs’ fragmentary texture of synthesised tones and hi-hats – not dazzlingly original in sound, but an engaging and effective contrast with the preceding wind-scape. This section began to drag when Nissen commenced walking around the installation’s raised platform, moving gradually and monotonously singing, ‘Don’t ask how to walk the dog. I’ll show you how to, until you are as sick as I am of it all.’ It was a case where the micro-interest of a simple musical texture is lost by adding another layer to it. After Nissen stopped singing, the electronic blips were altered via the simplest of delay effects into a rather affecting final movement, and the piece concluded full-circle with a restatement of the poem.
Altogether, THEREFORE 2 is a slight but thought-provoking show. In claiming that it ‘circles loosely around the topic of a dog walk from nature to culture’, the word ‘loosely’ cannot be emphasised enough. But Nissen’s surreal topography of elements – some delightfully idiosyncratic and others a little less so – is nonetheless a pleasure.