performed by Flora Détraz
The Dada artists made “sound poetry” and “word salads”: language chopped and mixed so that instead of understanding text, we hear texture. Nonsensical as meaning, sensory as experience. In Muyte Maker, Flora Détraz and her three identikit companions form a kind of contraption that produces a more multimedia version of Dada, with sound, image and action as its ingredients.
Dressed in dark aprons and white stockings, and sporting elaborate headdresses of fruit and flowers, the women sit at a table. Their braided hair is hooked via pulleys to large, counterweighted utensils: corkscrew, cleaver, hammer, chisel. In this bizarre mashup of antique country kitchen and medieval torture chamber, they sing chopped up versions of polyphonic troubadour songs, faces grimacing in time to the tempi. They sound like angels and look like imps, all action and emotion denatured by the sense that they’re driven by clockwork. It’s certainly cloud cuckoo land, and bafflement is probably its purpose.
Four women sit on a long table, their braided hair pulled up by chains that are counter-balanced on the other end with a corkscrew, a butcher’s knife, a hammer and chisel. With this arsenal of weaponry hanging above their heads like swords of Damocles, they sing like angels, chorales and folksy melodies made up of nonsensical lyrics and absurd sounds. Bathed in golden light, their heads are decorated with fruit and flowers resembling still life paintings by the old Dutch masters. In black chefs’ uniforms, they cook up a concoction of the fantastical, surreal and grotesque that is something to behold. Flora Détraz makes use of humour, satire, skill and spectacular precision. There are traces of cabaret, opera, mime, old Mickey Mouse cartoons, Rembrandt, Le Crazy Horse, The Tiger Lillies and the work of theatre/performance artists 1927. Mad, bold and bizarre; I don’t know what I saw but it was insanely watchable.
Muyte Maker by Flora Détraz is a dizzying delight – a grotesque and witty reconceptualising of a medieval painting. Four women sit at a long table in black butcher smocks, stark white stockings, and elaborate fruit headdresses. Their ponytails are yanked above them, suspended by a chain pulley that tethers them to sinister hand tools, which loom menacingly above them and bob around when they move.
Much of the performance is seated, as they sing crude chansons from the 15th and 16th centuries in glorious polyphony while performing intricate footwork, hand gestures and facial animations. When they rise from the table, they weave and intertwine their chains, lunge snarling across the table, or strike poses from iconic tableaux. Throughout, they switch between sweet, angelic demeanours and moments of surreal horror.
It’s a delicious reframing of medieval imagery in a modern context, performed with technical skill and spiky, mischievous glee.