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Guest review 2: Comedian James Moran on double bill ‘Bias’/‘Time Over Distance Over Time’

Fri 20 May 2016

Guest review 2: Comedian James Moran on double bill ‘Bias’/‘Time Over Distance Over Time’

On the 19th of May 2016, I saw a double bill in the Dublin Dance Festival: Time Over Distance Over Time by the Liz Roche Company, and Bias by Katherine O’Malley.

First of all, it’s important that I outline my biases. I do this so you know from what sort of mind this review is coming, and that way you can ascertain just how (un)beneficial this review might be to you. I am a comedian from Dublin. I do some work in the other performing arts (theatre and performance art). I’m doing a Masters in Cyberpsychology. I am also a millennial (I will be 26 in July).

As a comedian I can sneer at the audience, hide my feelings behind a translucent layer of irony, avoid taking on board any serious criticism of my performance or ideas. This luxury isn’t necessarily available to other art forms and it’s not used here. Both Time Over Distance Over Time and Bias are utterly sincere shows. Bias, the first in the double bill, opens with a number of videos projected onto the walls of the performance space showing Katherine O’Malley performing in different natural scenes, while she also performs in the space itself. 

As a millennial, half my life is virtual. My friends are half virtual, my performances are half virtual, my entertainment is half virtual. The virtual, however, is often dependant on the real to give it some authenticity or importance. In London Museum, for example, they have a great virtual representation of Tutankhamun, but the only reason anyone cares is because they have Tutankhamun there too. So when I saw O’Malley performing in the room I felt like I had more reason to buy into the videos. While the video works were complete in their own right, they became more interesting by virtue of the presence of O’Malley, responding to them and mirroring motifs. Sometimes when I watch dance I feel like I am watching someone hard at work; it can seem like a real trial. This wasn’t the case with Bias. O’Malley’s performance was playful and felt spontaneous, though it was obviously well choreographed. The whole feeling was of someone exploring a space without any obvious intent. 

Although they are two separate shows, it is only natural that I compare Bias to Time Over Distance Over Time, seeing as they are both in the same double bill. Whereas Bias explored a symbiosis between the virtual and the real, Time Over Distance Over Time was more a discussion of the failures of the virtual and the hyperreal and communication. The choreography of the six performers seemed to me to be both playful and aggressive. Dancers embraced, locked horns, supported each other and restricted one another through tightly rehearsed routines. The performance used sculptural elements and video work to show how images and messages get corrupted and misrepresented in different mediums: the human form become fractured and pixelated, loving words become hideous static. Comedians have often discussed the limitations of communication technology, but Time Over Distance Over Time really makes them seem inhuman.

Find out more about James' work at jamesmoran.eu.