When I discovered this event online, I thought at first that this name was default filler for when there was no event name entered. Instead, it turned out to be intentional. A two-man act, comprising of sound designer Michael Flora and Butoh practitioner Gadu, “nothing” was both an entry point and love letter to surrealism.
The concept for this performance was born from Michael’s desire to add a visual element to the sounds and music he was working on. After seeing Gadu perform in the Twin Cities, Michael found his visual element and contacted him this past winter. They began collaborating back and forth; Michael submitting music and sounds, and Gadu sending back video of him dancing to the music. Their final product premiered for one night at St. Cloud State University’s own Performing Arts Center on Friday.
The show was touted as an exploration of soundscapes and movement. Lending to the atmosphere for future soundscapes was the pre-show. Upon entering the auditorium, the center stage was eerily quiet. White noise from the speakers was making even the conversation of the small crowd seem eerily silent. I am slightly familiar with soundscapes; the other element was a mystery to me. I am unfamiliar with most stage arts and Butoh was a literally foreign stage art, having been born in Japan. I was excited to see what Butoh would be like, for in my mind I saw the flourishing dances of other arts.
The show began with the lights dimming, and then the titular “nothing.” Nothing was coming onto the stage until a growing faint ghost-like figure in the doorway to the left of the stage began. Gadu crept slowly towards the center, the only sounds being the sliding and stepping of his feet on the stage. The word slowly needs to be accented here, for it took a rough estimate of 8 minutes for him to reach the center of the stage in complete silence.
When Gadu finally arrived in his completely white expressionless state, Michael started off with his soundscapes. In the beginning, it sounded like entering a video arcade for the first time, with every game’s Attract Mode going off at once. It didn’t feel like it fit along with Gadu’s performance. I eventually figured I was expecting something maybe more conventional, and dissociated that from the performance. Regardless, watching the first 15 or so minutes of this performance was an exercise in patience.
“nothing” started to hit its stride when the soundscape began to delve into what can only be described as the sounds of dreams, like entering a dream sequence in TV shows. Gadu’s movements became less subtle and emulated a contortionist. His body bent in ways that were often grotesque but intriguing all the same. At the same time, Michael’s sounds began to drift in further into this dreamlike state. I think this is where I started to lose my sense of time.
The show was seemingly divided into individual soundscapes, with the ‘dreamscape’ being one of them. As they began, I gave them a mental name to help separate them, based on the sounds playing and the performance I was seeing. There were really only a couple of soundscapes worth noting. One scape was nothing but solid bass being broadcasted and Gadu moving around like he was dancing in a flower patch for 5 minutes. The only other earned the name of “Schizophrenic Centipede,” for the sounds of a constant revolving pitch, someone running, crashes, and keys jingling. Gadu was sliding and flopping on the floor, like a centipede. Albeit, with a folded body.
After a bizarrely quick hour had passed, Gadu bowed and the show was over. This was a puzzler of a performance. I left it confused, having only been able to process it after sleeping for half a day which only added to the bizarre weekend I was having. It was a performance I admit will stick with me for a while. However, it’s also a performance that I think I could only see once.
In any case, “nothing” was performed on the 23rd only. However, if you are intrigued by Gadu and/or Butoh, the Performing Arts Center will be welcoming him again in January. He is slated to assist with the production of Oscar Wilde’s “Salome.”