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Pandemic Encounters ::: being [together] in the Deep Third Space - Paul Sermon - May 23rd 2020 - Leonardo Laser Hosts (online) - in collaboration with Randall Packer and Gregory Kuhn

I remember, as a child, holding a hand mirror below my eyes so I could look at the ceiling and imagine being in that space. Deep Third Space is a bit like that.

Paul Sermon appears composited against various backgrounds of still and moving images and attempts to interact with these images.

The works subject is coronavirus and Sermon uses Deep Third Space to explore spatial relationships in the time of the pandemic. So closely is this crisis woven into the exploration of Deep Third Space that it feels like the pandemic has brought us closer globally and the work includes performance contributions by multicultural others throughout.

The participants appear in the background of the Deep Third Space as live compositing from different sources. If we go back to the analogy of looking at the ceiling with a mirror it is as if there was another space projected there, as well as you being projected there in real time. It is very clever!

It opens with a landscape, water and sky, "What does it mean, the plague? It's life that's all." We wait to be transfered to the Deep Third Space. "We are the pandemic, we are the vectors of this disease."

We go to a projection and Sermon enters the projection space at the bottom of the screen, and then proceeds to interact with the composited images in real time. A body lies under a red sheet on a red bed and we hear the sounds of heavy breathing. Sermon interacts by attempting to touch the person as they move under the sheet, and then get up covered by the sheet. The breathing is a powerful way of evoking coronavirus.

Then the background changes and we are outside a building, possibly a hospital and a man lies on the ground. Sermon shrinks in size to 'enter' the image. Is the man dead? Maybe.

The screen gives way to the image of a woman tearing up a piece of card, while the background image changes to a picture of printed fabric with coffins.

The background image then changes to the Whitehouse press briefing room. Sermon enters the space and proceeds to clean the press briefing podium which he stands behind. Then the image changes to a woman who speaks quite loudly with a foreign accent "...and the plague gathered strength, transmitted from the sick to the healthy..."

Then we go to pictures of hospital beds and patients being nursed by nurses in personal protective equipment. A plane leaves a vapour trail in the blue sky. This is followed by pictures of empty city streets.

Sermon has his back to the screen and gathers up his T-shirt to reveal his back. He uses a mirror which interacts with compositing effects. A computer graphic body floats in space as hands, moving expressively, reach up the screen.

We see bodies wrapped in a temporary morgue. Then the image changes to a tunnel on a railway track and a man appears composited into the space. Sermon enters the space. " body is a musical instrument..." a mans voice intones.

We then cut to a space where a man describes a space with raised arms. Sermon, shrunk down to a small figure, stands inside this space with projected images of the virus. It is as though he is a metaphor for the virus.

Then a man reads a poem off to the right of the screen. Vapour trails issue fom aeroplanes in the background. Sermon enters the space and tries to interact with the man by stroking his arm. Again he is comparatively small. Sermon finds a mop and a bucket and proceeds to wash workers in protective clothing as they disinfect a grave.

A woman appears reading a Russian folktale in Russian, Sermon puts on a facemask which composits with the womans mouth as he stands in front of her face. Sermon gets a picture frame and is composited floating in the frame, so that his lower body is blocked out, with his plague doctors mask on.

Sermon measures the distance between two Singaporeans. " screen's frozen again..." (technical difficulties were always part of this ambitious project)Then the two women draw masks on their faces using marker pens, and then they hug.Finally an image of what could be the virus as a computer graphic image.

Sermon is both tender and humourous throughout the performance. Comedy is perfect as a way to interact with the grief, fear and sadness surrounding Covid 19. It lightens what is a very dark subject whist not detracting from the seriousness of it all.

Thank you Paul Sermon and all those involved, it was a very moving experience.

watch it on:

Action Performers:

Annie Abrahams (France), Clarissa Ribeiro (Brazil), Roberta Buiani(Canada), Andrew Denton (New Zealand), Bhavani Esapathi (UK), Tania Fraga (Brazil), Satinder Gill (US), Birgitta Hosea (UK), Charles Lane (US), Ng Wen Lei (Singapore), Marilene Oliver (Canada), Serena Pang (Singapore), Daniel Pinheiro (Portuga), Olga Remneva (Russia), Toni Sant (UK), Rejane Spitz (Brazil), Atau Tanaka (UK)