Wireframe’s Elevation

Feature in Issue 14-4 | Winter 2002

Wireframe's new installation and performance piece Elevation was created for Visions 2002 and sited in Fabrica, a church-turned-gallery that still retains its original features. During the day, Elevation functioned as an installation. Entry was free, so visitors could drop in as often as they liked. The installation had both sound and vision elements. The soundscape was a gentle symphony created from concrete 'real life' samples and pure electronic sounds, layered together in many different combinations: sometimes overtly referencing birdsong or stormy skies, but at other times drifting into a more abstract dream-like hum.

The visual element was minimal but quietly beautiful. Around the altar, softly lit hanging globes had tiny peepholes that rewarded the curious visitor with an insight into another world hidden within. Small spheres moved on pulleys up and down the space, drawing the eye up towards a number of glowing chrysalis-like forms suspended from the beams above. The amorphous shapes could be all sorts of things – cocooned butterflies, angels, ghosts...

The evening performances used a number of different sorts of puppets to tell a tale of evolutionary striving and ascension into freedom. The audience are free to move around their space ('Why sit in rows – why not acknowledge you're in a room with other people?' say Wireframe) which we take to be below sea-level, with the balcony level as land (home of the sphere-bellied puppets) and the enormous roof space the heavens above.

Unlike At Home (presented at Visions 2000), Elevation has a linear narrative, although there is a reasonable amount of flexibility, with sections placed in a fixed order but variable in length. There is a surreal, dreamlike and haunting quality to the piece. In a nod to Magritte, the visible puppeteers are dressed in neat suits, and retain neutral expressions throughout, cool and collected servants of their charges. The lighting design uses a great deal of muted greens and blues to create a feeling of an elemental netherworld.

The four members of Wireframe share a history of training in applied art rather than fine art or performance, being theatre designers who tired of the usual hierarchy where the visual design tends to come after the ideas are workshopped. Wireframe's work treats the visual, aural and physical aspects of the piece as being of equal weight. Working with four-way authorship could be problematic, but they acknowledge that ‘the places where our ideas overlap are the most interesting' so everyone contributes to all elements of the work – and each is willing to let go of a pet idea if it's not liked by the others.

Similarly, they have a refreshingly even-handed attitude to the tools of their trade, using whichever is the most appropriate medium for the idea that they wish to express – be it crumpled paper, a video monitor or a computer software programme that can randomly select sounds for live mixing. Their work often features puppets, but this is 'a choice not a manifesto commitment'.

To date, each Wireframe installation or show has been a unique experience. They have a refreshing approach to performance work that values the currency of dreams and fantasies, nightly perceiving these to be as real as any other life experience, but have a balancing intrigue with the minutiae of existence – the sheer physics involved in the daily toil of life. It's a good combination – each soar to the heavens having its corresponding bump to the ground.

Wireframe are hoping to recreate Elevation in 2003. See www.wireframe.org.uk

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Issue 14-4
p. 8