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Knowing what something is not is not the same as knowing what something is. It is possible to display certainty in the elimination and refutation of one classificatory order, yet remain uncertain about the validity of claiming other categorical certainties in its place. The work of Marie Cool and Fabio Balducci operates in the space of such indeterminacy, where a prosaic inventory of commonplace materials – previously including paper, thread, salt, effervescent aspirin, scotch tape, a nylon bag – are framed within exquisitely and economically executed live actions and recorded moments. However the work is not about the ephemeral, transitory or everyday, but an interrogation of matter, elemental states and spaces of material transition. Distinct entities coalesce and blur; the inert begins to stir; directional trajectories change mid flow; flatness becomes form and then returns; light appears solid; matter is dematerialised; objects deliquesce into shadow. In Cool’s hands objects seems to escape classification, oscillate between visibility and invisibility, or collapse into formlessness.

In some senses, the work operates at the interstice between the physics of being and the philosophy of becoming; between ontology and phenomenology; between what something is and how it is then perceived. However, in spite of its apparent control and precision Cool and Balducci’s work is a site of tensions, instabilities and of critical inconsistencies. Whilst some of these form an integral and intentional part of the work, other moments of uncertainty appear more like glitches that rupture or unravel the logic of the artists’ rhetoric; a form of involuntary ‘noise’ that conjures seemingly uninvited associations and creates space for the potentiality of other meanings.

In the work, artist Marie Cool is presented only as a form of catalyst or enabler, creating moments of energy or momentum that allow various silent transformations to take place. Her role is perfunctory; she is there to make something happen. Her body operates as the final or missing element in an existing circuit that makes the other objects ‘live’. However the functioning of a human body within a restrictive system or rule is rarely neutral. On occasion the work itself rather emphasises the presence of Cool’s body or draws attention to the relentless duration of her inexhaustible and purposeless labour. The live occurrences mirror the same sequential format of the looped video, but are unable to echo its capacity for endless and unchanging replay. The performative strategy of loop and repeat is not the same as that made possible through filmic technologies. Though the sequential nature of the live action does not change, neither does it stay the same. No amount of repetition can guarantee a perfect copy. Cool and Balducci refer to the video works and live occurrences as sequences, drawing on the term’s filmic meaning relating to a piece of film showing a single incident or set of related actions. Whilst this might be seen as an attempt to contextualise the work in relation to a tradition of film and video, the term ‘sequence’ is also used as part of the vocabulary for serial or systematic processes or methods.

The work seems to follow the logic of a particular conceptual trajectory of practice. Their actions are rigidly ‘pre-set’, where unwritten ‘instructions’ or plans for the work are followed with absolute precision, which prevents the gestures from collapsing into the territory of the habitual or improvisational. Whilst rule-based actions and serial repetition have perhaps become synonymous with a particular conceptual vernacular, this anti-subjective logic can still be complicated or disrupted by the presence of alternative (and at times contradictory) psychological or existential associations. The endless repetition of a gesture can be compulsive as much as critical, or invoke the model of Sisyphean recurrence and a sense of the absurd. These various inconsistencies and double readings are not necessarily incompatible however or indicative of the failure of the conceptual work to communicate effectively. In fact the incongruent meanings produced by these different perspectives can at times be understood as points of desirable friction; an integral and welcome part of the work rather than unnecessary interference at its periphery. Ironically it is often the ‘glitches’ and ‘blips’ in the logic of a seemingly objective or even ‘closed’ system that become most compelling.

An extended version of this review has been commissioned by the Dance Theatre Journal