There’s a Viking Line ship which is so large that as it navigates its way through Helsinki harbour, its movement is actually imperceptible. Only by watching it over time can you convince yourself that it is in fact moving. For movement artist Anna Krzystek and filmmaker Lucy Cash, this mobile stillness was one of the inspirations behind STILL, a collaboration between Krzystek, Cash, and sound artist Tom Murray. The resulting piece is a finely tuned juxtaposition of live performance, carefully arranged space, and film and audio in a compositional whole which is a both mesmerising and exhausting exploration of stillness and tension.

Set in an austere white room with ordinary fluorescent lights, STILL asks to be read with the careful attention required of installation work, each element in the room considered both as itself and as part of a composition. TV screens are arranged throughout the space, neither programmatically nor randomly arranged but each just perceptibly in relation to each other. A chair is placed so that it all but touches the room’s other exit, statically signalling the dynamic potential of the closed door. As each TV screen cycles through its own slow pan of another sparse room, Krzystek’s presence in the room becomes less that of a performer before an audience and more a part of a landscape. And Murray carefully adjusts a sequence of electronic tones and pulses, manually attenuating his soundscape to complement this landscape.

Over the 45 minute duration of the performance, the various elements of this composition are combined to explore and activate unseen lines of connection in the room. Our focus is naturally drawn to the performer, but Krzystek uses both her body and her gaze to give this focus away, her head moving mechanically like a panning camera to create diagonals through the space. She moves with choreographed rigour, at one point on a seemingly endless loop through flexed dance positions, at another making a single leg movement for what seems like forever. Meanwhile, Murray’s soundscore finds resonances throughout the small space, at times even causing the walls to vibrate. The filmed images, revealing glimpses of other Krzysteks moving through another room at another time, connect the relations within this room to a more general idea of room. And, as props begin to appear in the films – a phone, a radio, photographs, a cluster of chairs – there’s a sense of infinite but untold narrative attached to each object. Who might phone? Whose gaze is reflected in the photographs? What drama is foretold by this roomful of chairs? Even the image of an ordinary electric wall socket seems charged with potential energy.

STILL is divided into five movements, and the shifts between them are discernible. But when Krzystek reveals in post-show discussion that these movements are each exactly nine minutes, it’s a surprise. It doesn’t feel like it, as the experience of time changes radically throughout the movements. Though nothing ever actually ‘happens’, there are nonetheless quite dramatic shifts in pace and tone, as when the screens start blinking between images in the third movement, or in the excruciatingly slow fourth movement in which the most active element in the room is the fidgeting audience. In this way, the piece explores not only the latent dynamism of a mostly unchanging space, but also the ways in which we can experience identical durational periods in vastly different ways.

In her programme notes, Krzystek describes STILL as existing ‘on a fine line between performance and installation’. As installation, it meticulously overlays live performance, arranged objects, and recorded media with a compositional sensitivity that is far too rare. As a performance, though, it raises more questions than it answers. Unlike an ordinary installation, STILL has an audience which has been summoned at a particular time into a room in which the doors are closed, and this audience is a strange entity with which to share the carefully composed space. In fact, it feels as if the audience is in a slightly separate space: we can mentally enter the space created for us and become engrossed in its logic, but we can also retire from it, as indicated by the fidgeting in the fourth movement. In conversation afterward, Krzystek states her interest in this phenomenon, describing the way in which she is aware of herself as spectator when viewing work in a gallery, but loses awareness of her own body when in the theatre. STILL begins to explore these tensions, particularly in the final movement in which Krzystek makes direct eye contact with audience members. But I think the challenge of how to incorporate the presence and dynamic of an audience into this work’s manipulation of time and space remains an intriguing question which the work only begins to explore. Krzystek describes STILL as part of an ongoing study (the first of which was her piece TEST), and I very much look forward to more.