For the opening night of the Never Before Never Again Fest at Triskelion Arts on January 11, the regular duo of dancer Azumi Oe and bassist Sean Ali teamed up with percussionist Carlo Costa for a deep synthesis of sound and movement. Oe is an evocative movement artist who improvises her movements with incredible grace and instinct matched against improvised music. Ali has been working the New York scene for nearly a decade and has a daring artistic vision with a reputation for breaking and reformulating the rules. Costa is a singular percussionist who it seems can create ex nihilo, in the moment, and in a variety of contexts. On this night, the alchemy conjured by these three artists was particularly potent.
Silence and darkness pervaded the entire performance. The long improvised piece that the three performed centered around a theme of the (in)escapability of time, of fate. Costa and Ali, one of the great drum-bass duos of the 2010s, used the intensity of the quiet to highlight even the smallest sounds. Working from low rumbles and scrapes, Ali pulled the audience along a precipice of sound at the very edge of silence. Costa brought out deep rhythms and circular abrasions on a large drum that has become central to much of his recent work. Costa’s circular, rotational movements with various objects to create sounds originate in the idea that the circular motion on the drum is the only one that can be done continuously without stopping or breaking it up, allowing for drone-like emissions. After an introductory instrumental improvisation from the Ali and Costa, Oe entered against a perfectly-lit backdrop at the far end of the space. Her distance, illuminated across a vast stretch of dark made her entry all the more powerful and the aesthetic of the moment paired superbly with the minimalism of Ali and Costa. Through the course of the piece, Oe gradually moved towards the audience through nimble, yet powerful movements and gestures. Oe’s work was a stunning compilation of internal struggles, life and death, human and anti-human, accident, the involuntary.
Azumi Oe, Sean Ali, and Carlo Costa’s performance at Triskelion Arts was a stunning achievement by three cutting-edge artists, displaying the sensuous, riveting world of their imaginations while constructing cogent commentary about contemporary life.
Notes: Costa relayed his technique of circular rotations to me after the performance in an interview that will soon be published. No photos were possible in the space without disrupting the performance.