Creator: FK Alexander
This review could easily be summed up in a paragraph: Do you like the idea of listening to the same four-minute song being sung at you over and over again for an hour, at a volume that requires near on the whole audience to wear earplugs? If yes then this is the show for you. Also, who hurt you?
Playing as part of Something to Aim For’s first season, Art in Action, artist FK Alexander stands shoeless in front of a white ‘X’ marked out on the floor, accompanied by noise music (Okishima Island Tourist Association) consisting of what sounds like a plane nose-diving, white noise, and a five-pulse heartbeat. Audience members self-nominate to stand on the ‘X’ one at a time and have FK Alexander sing Judy Garland’s Somewhere Over The Rainbow (over the top of this ear splitting wall of sound) holding their hand and staring deep in to their eyes.
The whole thing is very ritualised. At the beginning of each session, FK Alexander takes the participant’s token, tucks it in to her bra, walks to the side of the stage where she dons a harness, jacket and shoes and reapplies her lipstick. Then she walks to the centre stage, picking up the microphone on the way and winds up the wire. During the intro, she fist-pumps, mic in hand, drops the wire, and then begins. Towards the end of the song, she beats her chest with her fist four times, then sings the last line. She then gives the participant a big lipstick kiss on the cheek, thanks them, and returns to her belongings to remove her harness, jacket and shoes. Then she does the whole thing over again with each and every audience member who comes to stand on the white ‘X’.
Pitched as aggressive healing, or radical wellness, it’s possible to see how someone singing to you in such an intimate way could be therapeutic, but for one thing, the painfully loud and unpleasant soundtrack negates any potential healing properties, and for another, this absolutely does not require an audience to sit and watch throughout. And why the same song over and over again?? After the third or fourth rendition of Somewhere Over The Rainbow it feels like a joke is being played on those audience members who stay for the full hour (a choice many decline).
Okishima Island Tourist Association, the duo responsible for the soundtrack, have set themselves up at a sound desk a few feet behind FK Alexander, wearing sunglasses and remaining po-faced throughout. Combined with their choice of samples, the decibel level, and the bizarre display of ritualism, it feels more dystopian than anything. The only thing to suggest otherwise is FK Alexander’s sweet smile and seemingly genuine thanks at the end of each performance, which leads this reviewer to believe that no, this is not some peculiar form of torture, but an honest attempt to get at something meaningful. Who would have thought the two could be so easily confused.
Runs until 26 February 2020