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Siobhan Davies Dance, Film ← The Running Tongue

Vision by Simon Ellis

The Running Tongue

The Running Tongue is a film installation made by Siobhan Davies and film director David Hinton in collaboration with 22 dance artists.

The work takes as its starting point the image of a running woman. She travels through a familiar London cityscape of tube stations, housing estates, cafes and parks, but, as she runs, she undergoes many metamorphoses and witnesses a succession of curious scenes: coal rains down from the sky; shrouded figures wait at a railway station; a woman suddenly turns to dust; a sweet potato becomes an object of worship.  

The running woman is surrounded by talk, but the voices she hears speak only in proverbs, scraps of received wisdom which are lyrical and poetic, strange and comical, spiky and provocative. There is much that is dark and dangerous in her world, but whatever she sees and hears the woman runs on undaunted, through the changing seasons and the multi-faceted city.

Defying the usual conventions of cinematic form, the film is edited live in real time by a custom-programmed computer which makes its own decisions about how to order the narrative. This means that the work can run forever and never quite play the same way twice. The changing order of events and different juxtapositions of sound and picture continuously offer up new ways to read the images and stories. 

Each of the scenes - or visions – from which the film is constructed is a complex and choreographed collage within which gestures are dissected and poses become eloquent. Stillness prevails and movement becomes a luxury, so that very small actions acquire great weight and significance. 

Davies and Hinton wanted to create a work for the screen in which dance artists were given control over the images they created, and at times, appear in. Each contributing artist was invited to design their own visions, and then encouraged to make the kind of "dream dances" which would not be possible in the world of live theatre. Here, in the domain of images, a dancer can fly, become the size of an insect or be in three different places at once. 

‘...it’s not a film installation, it’s a way of life’ The International Journal of Screendance

‘a vibrant, visionary and playful film by Siobhan Davies and David Hinton’ Debra Craine, The Times

‘…from the endurance of the runner to the detailed eloquence of gesture; [The Running Tongue] beautifully underlines the point of this entire show – which is that dance as a concept extends far beyond the presence of live bodies’ Judith Mackrell, The Guardian