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Now That We Know – Sadler’s Wells – Review

The Things We Know
The Things We Know – Image courtesy of Wellcome Library

It’s a performance lecture, this new and innovative piece of text and movement created and performed by solo artist, Matthias Sperling. Reflecting, as it does, on the effects on art and humanity in general and, dance and choreography in particular, of the certainties being found about us in science’s laboratories. The art visible here rests firmly on the foundation of work Mr Sperling has done with neuroscientists and psychologists.

It has to be one of the more potent questions of our time. Will the increasing certainty of cause and effect, of our abilities and limitations, destroy the significance of intuition and perception? Or will their connection make a bridge?

What happens when you can no longer believe in a superhuman connection with that crush you intuit is somewhere in the theatre before your eyes see them? Because a neuroscientist can explain your eye can only receive twenty-four images a second and all the other images received, from your peripheral vision, will be discarded, though not before your cerebral cortex has noted the relevant information, to inform you.

Does the knowledge that’s a process, not magic, make a difference to our perceptions, our belief in love, the making and receiving of art?

The show is presented in a black box of a stage. Mr Sperling managing to channel in appearance both the hippy sixties of the past and current hipsterdom.

He wants us to imagine a time in the future when we are no longer a mystery while simultaneously taking us back, to when discoveries in quantum physics were fast moving established scientific goalposts, bringing the knowledge, amongst much else, that observation changes the behaviour of objects.

And so, we watch Mr Sperling. Or rather, we don’t at first, because he leaves us in the dark. Then a lightening dark. To feel and to become present with him in the space of the Lilian Bayliss studio, while experiencing a measure of sensory deprivation. As we listen to him and the very effective sound effects of Joel Cahen and Mike Harwood, driving us towards an impression of being hypnotised, receiving resonance. Making us aware of our own perceptions as he explores the limits of being before us.

The notes and rhythms struck in the piece are not varied enough in tone to sustain the initial intense engagement although it does remain engaging enough throughout its 45 minutes running time. Particularly vital are the links drawn between science and the beliefs of the past, as our bodies and minds are described as being in a perpetual state of anticipation of the future. By this process becoming its own oracle, shaman, fortune teller and profit.

The programme notes prepared by Mr Sperling are well worth reading before you settle down to the show. Enlightening, informing and provoking all in themselves.

Three and a half gold stars

Review by Marian Kennedy

London based and Canadian-born choreographer and performer Matthias Sperling with his Sadler’s Wells choreographic debut with the UK Premiere of Now That We Know, a performance lecture, in the Lilian Baylis Studio.

Now That We Know continues Sperling’s investigation into the relationship between mind and body and explores a hypothetical future in which science has discovered precisely how our bodies give rise to our minds, and considers how dance and choreography could be expanded by this new understanding. This work of science fiction builds on recent findings, taking a choreographic perspective to freely imagine plausible, absurd, thrilling or worrying scenarios.

Listings information
Matthias Sperling
Now That We Know
Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells, EC1R 4TN
Thursday 29 September 2016


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