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Published on 11 July 2021


In DE|COMPOSITION, artist, political ecologist, geographer, and environmental scientist Linzi Lewis puts forward the notion that “Life is a fragile and uncertain celebration.” Death is certain and integral to life, rebirth is intangible yet constant. Somewhere in between the two is where she locates her performance.

Life and death in process

A collaboration between musicians, environmentalists, and artists, DE|COMPOSITION is one of the many short-form virtual offerings on the Fringe at this year’s NAF. Coming in at just over nine minutes, and with two distinct parts, it’s a dance piece you can watch over a cup of coffee, or while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. Still, there’s a fair amount going on in these nine minutes.

Music, ambient field recordings, and choice imagery open the performance. The music, courtesy of drummer and multi-instrumentalist duo Mr Freddy, is steady electronic and instrumental work, while the imagery – a frayed circle, wilting grass, the winding veins and capillaries of a leaf – occupies the frame. Lewis enters and turns, falls, and folds through a mirrored choreographic sequence that’s superimposed over all the rest. In the first half she appears almost spectral, with the medium of film allowing for a good amount of shadow play and digital theatrics. In the second half, which features a new instrumental track and imagery in the form of damp, scattered leaves, her likeness is more concrete – though a hoodie pulled over her head still obscures her face.

Death, revival, transience – they’re topics that have always prompted inspiration and inquiry within the performing arts. With the advent of a global pandemic, when death and uncertainty feel all the more present, they’ve taken on a renewed sense of urgency. As such, DE|COMPOSITION feels very much like a pandemic-born production.

It’s a short, sharp work with distinct inputs from a small team of collaborators who’ve likely chipped in via a series of whatsapps, emails, and Zoom calls. It’s unresolved and affect-laden, yes, but perhaps that’s the point. Rather than making any firm statements or claims to the times we find ourselves struggling to make sense of, it’s a piece that grapples with the peripheral and the immaterial, and subsequently presents itself as a work in process – a testing and teasing out of ideas and emotions.

In this way, DE|COMPOSITION can serve as an example of the kind of work that’s well-suited to the current world of online festivals and virtual performances, making use of platforms like the vNAF to gauge interest and trial-run concepts against a global, online audience through distinct, but evolving performances or bodies of work.

For now, it’s an engaging performance that’ll take you a few minutes to watch, and the rest of the day to think about.

This article was first published by The Critter.


Choreography: Linzi Lewis
Dance: Linzi Lewis
Artwork: Linzi Lewis
Photography: Linzi Lewis and Dane Armstrong
Directed by: Linzi Lewis and Dane Armstrong
Videography: Dane Armstrong
Music edits and field recordings: Ralph Smit
Music: Mr Freddy
Supported by: Response-Ability. JHB; Goethe Institut; Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development