DOG/GOD, Bergen International Festival, 2015 (detail) View full image

DOG/GOD

Alwynne Pritchard

Alwynne Pritchard’s practice encompasses a wide range of disciplines and media including musical composition, choreography, vocal and physical performance, text, video and photography. Much of her most important recent work is conceived in the form of self-contained capsule-performances in which she employs a multidisciplinary language to create a conceptual framework for esoteric and often immersive rituals. These are drawn almost exclusively from the movement and functions of the human body – her own – and can be simultaneously grotesque, fragile, terrifying and absurd.

Central to Pritchard’s performative work is the idea that the human body is an access to thought. An unpredictable force, without morality or language, it can create rifts in perception from which the unforeseen can emerge. From the physicality of this corporeal self – the pulsings, twitchings and contortions of the body – the performer’s voice also comes into being, strong, ugly, delirious and fragile.

As a child growing up in the UK, one of Alwynne's favourite TV programmes was a Japanese series called Monkey. It was based on the Chinese novel, Journey to the West, by Wu Cheng’en and told the story of Monkey, a bold, impudent creature born of a stone egg, who had managed to acquire supernatural powers, but then suffered the indignity of expulsion from heaven for his unruly behaviour. Accompanying the monk Tripitaka and his motley gang on an anarchic quest for enlightenment, Monkey was joined by Pigsy, a voracious beast, half animal, half human, one of the most endearing characters in the show and the comic butt of the story. He embodied both innocence and guilt and there was much that was dog-like about both him and Monkey. Twenty-five years or so later, Alwynne read the novel Timbuktu, by American writer Paul Auster. It tells the story of Mr. Bones, a dog travelling with his dying, down-and-out master, Willy. Told through the dog’s eyes, it is nonetheless the story of human frailty, compassion, fear and loss. Although Mr. Bones has an abundance of doggy appetites and urges, he is also the epitome of canine loyalty, and expresses his pain at Willy’s death with a physical and vocal eloquence and intensity that exceeds the expressive vocabulary of many human beings. 

For this project, Alwynne started by commissioning a series of short music-theatre pieces from some of the many the composers she has collaborated during her time as Artistic Director of the Borealis festival in Bergen. She then went on to commission further pieces from other composers and the project continues to expand. To date, DOG/GOD includes works by Vinko Globokar, Helmut Oehring, Gerhard Stäbler, François Sarhan, Øyvind Torvund, Trond Reinholdtsen, Gwyn Pritchard, Felix Kubin, Adam de la Cour, Hollie Harding and Justin Connolly. Learning these pieces has been not unlike a religious experience in itself for Alwynne, an act of ingestion, immersion, repetition and transformation. Each work is an elliptical rite, with the performance as an extended ceremony. Her roles as madman, shaman, alchemist, vocalist, diva and dog are ritualistic enactments in subjugation to the many deities and demons that man has created in his own image.

DOG/GOD, Bergen International Festival, 2015