Heading to the performance by Julyen Hamilton of his piece The Immaterial World, knowing nothing of Julyen Hamilton or his piece, I find many associations rushing to mind.
Does he mean immaterial in the sense of not tangible, of being spiritual? Or flimsy? Or does he suggest meaninglessness? Something being not relevant or unimportant?
Or is he suggesting a mystical abstraction? Is he setting up a dichotomy with what we know, or think we know?
Being of a certain age, I consider George Harrison’s song Living in The Material World with the lyrics:
“I’m living in the material world …
I hope to get out of this place
By the lord sri krsna’s grace
My salvation from the material world
Or perhaps the performance will be small-p political, and that brings The Police to mind:
“There is no political solution
To our troubled evolution
Have no faith in constitution
There is no bloody revolution
We are spirits in the material world.”
Or could it be Madonna:
“You know that we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl.”
Would it be all these?
I read the brief performance notes. “The Immaterial World, he says, is his take on the beyond, as it resides right here and now.” More ambivalence. I like ambivalence!
Upon entering the performance space at the LSPU, I see a man seated onstage on a stool under dim lighting, Julyen Hamilton. The lights come up. The man grumbles in either an incoherent language or an improvised tongue. So begins the night’s soundtrack. He gestures and moves from the stool. Grumbles and returns to the stool. He develops an intricate visual and vocal language. It seems his breath and words fuel his movement; then his body pushes out his speech. He faces the audience and says, “Welcome to the immaterial world.”
Is this world an irrelevant or meaningless world? A diaphanous one?
Hamilton’s spare props – the stool, two metal pipes, a knife, some water, a bowl and two towels – occasionally expand his world and other times limit it. The lighting plot jumps from side to side, back to front. He reacts to whatever is lit, or avoids it altogether. The performance turns shamanic. “Happy for a moment” is one of the shards of language Hamilton intones. Then he cries copiously into his bowl. The Immaterial World now moves into Waiting for Godot territory. Like the molecules of boiling water trying to jump out of a kettle, Hamilton creates an inevitable energetic denouement as the lights outline, and eventually focus us on, an upstage papier maché door. The knife is raised. The door is torn. The artist leaves the stage. Does he leave the immaterial world for a material one? Or is everything still immaterial on the other side? What has changed? Are we invited through with him, or left to find our own way?
Yes, I think. Yes to everything.