It begins and ends with a drum: at first, a monolithic beat, slow and brilliant and violent, inviting the audience into this unique location – a hollowed out and disused underground bar, once the home of a notorious lap dancing club, now left to decay. And then, as the audience are guided through the damaged rooms, invited to look at the various performances that seem to be almost incidental (yet are crucial and evocative), the beat becomes faster and heavier. Like a site-specific version of Reich’s Music for Eighteen Musicians, Animal Nature reveals the elegiac power of percussion.
Despite the intensity of space and music, there is a mocking humour behind the intention. Kennedy has stand up comic miming their acts, dancers talking through their movements, photographers posing themselves in front of their models’ cameras. The inversion of the expected, itself expressed in the increasing use of rhythm as melody, forms the foundation of Animal Nature. At once hilarious and shocking, it asks hard questions about both the nature of art and the essential nature that supposedly creates it.
Kennedy’s earlier pieces have had a restless energy that is replaced here by a knowing, cynical wit: the audience is led around, but invited to consider their own free will in a place where nothing is as it seems. The final words – why did you do as I asked? – delivered by an unseen male bring home the fundamental questions of the work, that tension between the pounding beat of instinct and the civilised restraint that evolves into both obedience and creativity.