Monumental is not new. It was created by Dana Gingras & Noam Gagnon with Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s music in mind. Ideally the musicians would be performing live but when it premiered in 2005 the dancers were moving to a recording of the monumental music of alternative Canadian band Godspeed.
This is the first time Monumental is performed in London and we are treated to the bonus of having the Canadian band live on stage. They are in the shadows, well at the back of the Barbican’s huge stage. All spotlights are on the dancers. The lighting design by Marc Parent, is dramatic, the action on stage is alienating and aggressive, the dancers mainly constrained to their own footprint, each on a tiny cube, isolated. When they do get in contact with each other, they can only do so by attacking each other, bully each other. Each on their own cube, their existence appears to be marred by obsessions and repetitiveness, they appear restrained by themselves to their own isolated vision of the world.
The video playing at the back by director William Morrison is industrial and alienating. At times surprising statements created by conceptual artist Jenny Holzer are sparsely played in the background. But I find the sensorial attack far too confusing, too much input, the video becomes just wallpaper, the messages are lost. At the back Godspeed erase their presence, make themselves almost invisible, if it weren’t for the unmistakable huge mane of hair of their leader Efrim Menuck. The dancers are powerful and committed. Their choral movements are enthralling. It is a troubling experience, this is not entertainment, this is inspirational, challenging work, exploring the absurdity of our existence.
Monumental, Barbican Centre, London, 13th of July 2018