Review: Dagmar Gertot – Os Lacrimale

CYCLIC LAW.

Built upon beckoning glossolalia, the songs of Russian performance artist Dagmar Gertot feel as though they’re on the very brink of accruing meaning. She proclaims vowels with the grandeur of someone about to recite poetry, yet she never moves into the formation of words. The instruments (accordion, string-bowed ikili, lyre, gusli, batalo, piano, horns, percussion) cradle her performance like sketches abandoned at the edges – peripheral charcoal marks that leave the centre gaping. Improvisations keep these pieces travelling upon a ribbon of endless beginnings, using each gesture simply as a conduit to the next.

Gertot speaks of an interest in the history of ritual, and there’s no doubt that Os Lacrimale is clasping for presences that reside beyond the corporeal domain. The voice splits into separate overdubbed strands, or melts into cathedral reverbs, or shifts between mimicry of groaning winds or the flight of birds. Pianos abandon shapely melody to seek the dissonances of a different, transcendent language; bows sweep against strings as if emulating how the earthly “here” is brought into fleeting contact with an unknown “there”. Just as the cover depicts her in overlapping photographic exposures, these songs loosen the solidity of a single body, carrying Gertot through an array of worldly vocal styles and identities, paradoxically channelling the energies of ritualistic history and finding weightlessness in the relentless present tense.