A co-commission from Fact and Art Night, filmed in Doherty’s home city, Belfast.
For the final instalment of a series of co-commissions from Fact and Art Night, artist and choreographer Oona Doherty translates her movement work Hope Hunt & The Ascension Into Lazarus and an audiovisual installation centering around a car crash into a single, dreamlike film. “COVID lasted longer than we thought,” explains Doherty, “so we found a solution and we made a film about exactly all the same stuff.” A collaboration with filmmaker Luca Truffarelli and dancers Ryan O’Neill and Sati Veyrunes, Hunter Filmed is poetic exploration of working-class masculinity, urban decay and organised religion, all told from the fenetic point of view of a dancer, imbued with what Doherty calls “joyriding struggle”. Taking inspiration from Gaspar Noë’s Irrèversible, Truffarelli guides us from the trunk of a battered car over bleak concrete and through a skeletal scrapyard, a journey bookended by two hallucinatory solo performances.
“For the first time I think we’ve achieved the film looking like how it feels for the dancer dancing,” says Doherty, “which I think is very tasty.” Flitting between ecstasy, trauma and catharsis, the choreographer moves through a chilly portrait of her native Belfast, represented both physically and as a chorus of disembodied voices, a chorus that provides the rhythm for O’Neill and Veyrunes’ visceral movement. “I am flesh I am flesh,” exclaims Doherty in the poem that opens the film, immediately situating the piece as part of the rippling texture of everyday Belfast: “Amadeus Audio jaguar seat / A moist beautiful beat / Thumps hard / Testosterone and cortisol fuel the grinning mouth / Where girls do fall night air does shout.” Hope Hunt is transported from the stage to suburbia, as the dancers defiantly jubilant interpretation of Derry-based “werewolf pop” group Strength N.I.A’s 2016 earworm ‘Northern Ireland Yes’ is transformed from theatrical performance to a site-specific exploration of working-class identity in Northern Ireland.
Spilling over into a whirling, cinematic adaptation of The Ascension Into Lazarus, the sacral tones of Allegri’s ‘Miserere, Mei Deus’ are ruptured by evocative sound design and the ragged testimonials of troubled souls. “You’re not here for a long time, you’re here for a good time, so party on,” says one voice with grim resolution. “I used to have a girlfriend and a wee baby, you know. But it just didn’t work out and I had to leave and doesn’t want me in the house,” reveals another, “She won’t even let me see the kid anymore or anything. I think he’s about six now.” Cutting together these intimate portraits with the sounds of street violence and the screams of onlookers, Doherty paints a vivid picture of a familiar kind of struggle, a quotidien crash of everything into everything else. It is this image of the crash that the artist extends and develops throughout the work, positioning it as a poignant allegory of the trauma of everyday life.
These cinematic reworkings of Hope Hunt & The Ascension Into Lazarus play either side of Doherty and Truffarelli’s film adaptation of an audiovisual installation recreating a literal car crash. Moving between haunting shots of a scrapyard, the artists guide us through a slow-motion study of the crash by moving in close on its wreckage. “We found the most amazing scrapyard in Belfast,” explains Doherty, “and we used the same soundtrack that we would have used for the installation, but we captured this car morgue. It was like where the cars went to die.” Though sedentary, Doherty and Truffarelli continually remind us of the horrors that brought us here, brought to the surface as we snatch a glimpse of a scrap of fabric bearing the unmistakable pattern of the carpet of the Overlook Hotel. Familiar voices sound stark amidst the cold peals of a choir, echoing like the ghosts of the cars themselves, as a pigeon roosts over head, oblivious to the significance of shattered glass wrapped around a steering wheel.
For more information about Oona Doherty and her work you can visit her website and follow her on Instagram. For more information about the 2021 edition of Art Night you can visit the festival website and follow them on Instagram.