Hatch Twelve: Natasha Davis

Text: Wayne Burrows
Photography: Julian Hughes

Natasha Davis: Suspended

Entering the room where Natasha Davis is performing Suspended the first time, I find myself walking into the midst of a ritual in which Davis walks outward from a centre and pours a spiral of white powder (salt or sugar, perhaps?) onto the floor. She moves in a slow, concentrated way, her eyes fixed to the line of the expanding curve that appears at her feet as she walks around the circumference, while a voice, perhaps her own, tells the story of her migration from her birthplace in Croatia, by way of Serbia and Greece, to Syria, Japan and England. With the last curve of the white spiral complete, an assistant takes the jar of white dust from her hands and passes her another jar, filled with cut grass, with which she begins a new progression, overwriting one path with another…

This is merely dipping into the three part, 90 minute, self-contained performance, so I make a decision to return later and see the whole piece when it’s performed again (there are two performances during Twelve) and when I do, I find the room seemingly still being set up, with Davis standing on a small table, working with two assistants – one male, one female – to tie lengths of string to strands of her hair then fixing these to the walls, literally suspending her, as though she’s floating underwater, at the centre of a spider’s web of connections and entanglements. I realise I have a one-to-one performance booked, so dip out yet again. Even a twelve hour Hatch isn’t time enough to schedule seeing everything without the odd overlap, it seems…

Returning for the third time, I find Davis free of string entanglements, once again walking her spiral and covering it with grass as a projection screens on one wall and her voice, detached from her body, relates those stories of migration between Serbia and Greece I’d heard earlier. When the second spiral is completed, Davis places her jar on the ground and walks away, stripping herself of the elaborate black dress she’s been wearing for this section; then she removes her black shift, too, and walks naked towards a length of blue fabric laid on the ground at the far end of the space. She wraps this fabric around herself, like a toga, then lies down and begins to swim towards us on her back, moving by pushing her shoulders and legs into the ground in a kind of rippling motion.

Gradually, as she comes towards us, the dress grows in length, crossing the whole room a few inches at a time as though Davis herself is growing preternaturally tall, or leaving a swathe of satin ocean between the beginning and end-points of her journey.  Music is played by her male assistant on an upright piano: first single notes, struck then left to resonate and fade away, but gradually becoming more frequent, overlapping, revealing patterns and a quickening tempo. At the climax, as Davis crosses and blurs that spiral of dust and grass, she stops abruptly, stands up, draws the whole length of blue fabric around her body and walks away. Images and a powerful atmosphere are created but we’re left to interpret them for ourselves.


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