Ritual as a principle is inherently paradoxical, being a series of movements is repeated, again and again, relentlessly, consistently, in the hope of bringing forth extraordinary effects. Such is the paradox operating in the program featuring works by Liza Lim and James Dillon.
In Pharmakeia (2020), James Dillon explores the heart of Temenos, the Ancient Greek term for a domain set aside as a sanctuary. Here the composer has recreated the mystifying fascination of witchcraft and magic, as with the art of Circe, the famous sorceress who fell victim to the charms of Ulysses. The program forms a vast cycle of tableaux, with transmutation, illusion and conjuring, producing a fairy tale both disturbing and captivating.
A fragrance of magic can also be detected in Veil (1999) by Liza Lim who has focused on a different paradox: veiling, while concealing an object, can make the senses more acute, offering greater perception. A veil creates a “ritual space around an object, adding to the mystery of a presence forbidden.”
Wild Winged-One (2007) offers a very different tone, the winged-one being in fact a character from Liza Lim’s opera The Navigator. This is the “Angel of History” to quote Walter Benjamin referring to a work by the artist Paul Klee. The winged angel here has been carried off by the tempest of time, turning away from the future, and attesting to the atrocities of the past.