Want to take a contemplative walk in the woods? The Contemporary Arts Center is offering a chance to see nature in a new light — or darkness — on Friday and Saturday. CAC Performance Curator Drew Klein is presenting two evenings of Night Tripper, an award-winning work of performance art from Norway that’s been staged in forested locales across Europe. Its creators are choreographer and performance artist Ingri Fiksdal, composer Ingvild Langgård and Signe Becker, who calls herself a “scenographer,” a designer of sets for performances, installations, photos and videos.
Night Tripper takes shape as a trail in the woods, a concert performance and a ritual event. It begins at sunset and takes participants through twilight into the night. It explores nature and animism, the idea that animals, plants and inanimate objects possess a spiritual essence. Night Tripper is driven by concepts of healing and destructive powers, of immanence and transcendence. The event features six performers, including two dancers, masked by their own long hair. It’s performed with percussive and droning music and a choir from the School for Creative and Performing Arts (engaged for the Cincinnati performance). Along the trail, nature is “dressed,” including articles of clothing on trees as reminders of their spirits. At the end of the performance, the wooded site momentarily becomes a vodka bar to fuel conversation.
Klein is presenting the event in a forested area near Batavia. (Buses are available from the CAC downtown; participants can drive there, but advance reservations are necessary.)
The performers have come to Cincinnati from Norway for the show’s North American premiere. Fiksdal is the central creator, but couldn’t travel because she recently became a mother. By email she described how Night Tripper was created in 2012 for a Norwegian arts festival, Up to Nature, for which works were performed in nature without electricity.
“We have been dealing with the animistic idea that everything has a soul, even trees or rocks,” she says. “We are concerned with how to relate to each forest we perform in. The forest is included in the piece visually and audibly, through smell and temperature. It’s structured around sunset, which provides the dramaturgy through natural light design. There are huge differences in how this happens in each location — depending on latitude, clouds and the thickness of the forest.”
Asked about the dancers’ covered faces, Fiksdal says her research included vodun rituals, West African ceremonies related to voodoo, “where performers wear different types of masks and become possessed by spirits.” She covers the faces of her dancers to isolate the choreography. “If the performer is without identity or face,” she says, “it becomes possible to see the movement without seeing the person.”
Klein hasn’t seen Night Tripper performed. On a trip to Norway last year he saw a different work by Fiksdal and was impressed. A New York presenter told him about seeing Night Tripper in Latvia and said it was unlike anything he had ever experienced.
“It sounded like the kind of performance we want to do for the CAC, the sort of performance that would resonate with the kind of crowd that expects something new,” he says. “It’s toured extensively in Europe and been a favorite at lots of festivals. Fiksdal, Langgård and Becker are on the verge of becoming prominent names in the performance field. The timing seemed to be perfect.”
Klein’s preparation for Friday and Saturday’s performances had him scouting locations all over the region. He finally located the woods he needed through a family friend who owned property in Batavia.
“It’s definitely a wild show,” Klein says. “Something that will be unforgettable.” There is no audience participation, he adds. “People will have enough to do trying to comprehend the moment and deal with their own feelings and thoughts,” he says.
According to reviews on Fiksdal’s website, an observer in Vienna summed up the experience of Night Tripper this way: “A fade into the depth of the night. A call for the ghosts of the woods. A trip to the edge of perception. A journey into the dark sides of your soul. No drugs required.”
Another participant called Night Tripper “singular in its ambition and joyously hypnotic. There’s something mischievously cosmic and deeply moving about it. It’s also, in simple terms, very beautiful.”
For tickets and more information on NIGHT TRIPPER, visit contemporaryartscenter.org.