Minor Matter is part two of a triptych by Ligia Lewis about blackness. Dense with the interplay of light, sound, and text, this is a layered work that claims the power of self-representation. With heart, Lewis boldly draws attention to and away from what it is to be black, bringing into parity a shared history.
The lights rise to reveal the space, a heavy cloud of smoke hangs in the air as three figures emerge in a slow presentation of heroic postures. Suspended, the mist acts as a portal and we journey from battle drumming through to classical music and to the baroque courts, as history is brought into the present.
Three performers wrestle, charge, flock, pile and beat out the music. Their bodies fall from and their words caress the edges of the space, as they reach and climb towards discreetly placed microphones. They share stories and the guttural sounds of these stories, with the desire to exist both at the margins and the centre. It is clear that Lewis isn’t interested in merely presenting movements and words. Instead she, Tiran Willemse and Corey-Scott Gilbert incarnate them through their bodies and the material of life; bone, muscle, story, skin and sweat, bathed in hues of pink and red.
Lewis encounters blackness in the theatre space confidently. The intermittent rising and lowering of light illuminates the public, questioning the anonymous gaze; it shines on these performers that reject the aesthetics of neutrality. Yet, as the work progresses, more is revealed of the devices of creating: the impressive lighting, the rules behind the games, the virtuosity of the bodies. Everything is shown and in return something is lost in the texture and potency of the experience.
If Minor Matter is something between ‘love and rage’, then the result is explicitly neither but peppered with the timbres of battle. And I am reminded of bell hooks’s words that ‘love is the heroic journey’.