'Bag Beatings' from the IN THE RING programme as part of Season 1.
Some words from Laurice Tait
"...In Ntsoana ContemporaryTheatr ’s Bag Beatings - choreographed and performed by Sello Pesa, Brian Mtembu and Humphrey Maleka - a boxer dances around a punching bag, sparring the motionless bag into being an opponent. Two men in street clothing join the boxer in the ring, hanging back, eyeing the bag. The action erupts as they move in to beat the bag long before the boxer has thrown a punch. The boxer’s graceful ducking and weaving gives way to vicious pummeling. There is no agility or skill to the movements. The men beat the bag into life and beat the life out of it. They bring into the ring other objects with which to beat the bag until the littered space resembles the aftermath on a sports field after unhappy fans have left.
It’s an unsettling performance. On the night, it provoked the extremes of raucous laughter and frozen silence. I sat among audience members who expressed horror at what they saw as violence on stage. To the right of me (nothing should be read into that directional sign) the giggles became cackles, joyously egging the performers on.
At face value, it was the response of an audience drawn into the ring to cheer on the victor, or witness defeat with dismay. The stuff of sport. But the beating appeared to evoke a visceral response. The bag became sentient, the violence wrought upon it a thing evoking outrage. Thinking through this humanizing of the punching bag I recalled something that photographer Roger Ballen said in an interview, where I had asked him about the darkness perceived in his work. He responded: “Dark means so many things... ultimately the darkness people see is the thing they fear”.
Having watched the performance over since, I see in it a provocation to examine the vexed relationship between art and its audience; a representation of how we apprehend meaning by wrestling what we see into a shape that fits our worldview; a play in which the audience is a player, complicit in meaning making. Like the bird, meaning is not fixed but set in motion.
Certainty is undone, discomfort is created, art is made"
For the full piece go to | https://vimeo.com/211480785