There Is No More Firmament at Regen Projects

by Winona Bechtle

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A five-movement play is performed amongst the solo show of Elliott Hundley

In 1933, Antonin Artaud wrote a five-movement play that dramatized the instantaneous radiation of the Earth in the year 2000. On a warm Saturday in June 2016, a tightly packed room of people gathered at Regen Projects in Hollywood for a rare staged reading of Artaud’s text, amidst the billboard collages of Los Angeles-based artist Elliott Hundley.

Artaud’s apocalyptic, surrealist play "There Is No More Firmament" lends its title to the fourth solo show by Elliott Hundley at Regen Projects. On view were dense multimedia collage and sculpture loosely inspired by Artuad’s play and his larger theory of the Theater of Cruelty. Enormous tableaux covered with pins, magazine cutouts, and paint included fragments of photographs portraying Hundley’s friends and family in elaborate narrative poses.

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Elliott Hundley’s gestural works acted as both setting and collaborator throughout the Saturday afternoon reading of There Is No More Firmament, directed by Russell Salmon. The reading featured eight actors alternately chanting, speaking over one another, and yelling paranoically through an all-black megaphone. Cries of “No more firmament! Interplanetary language established!” punctuated the twenty-minute reading with humor and mayhem, while the chaos and noise of a cast of characters fretting about the end of the earth echoed and bounced off the gallery walls.

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The reading was equal parts gesture, incantation, and song, with the occasional background flutter of paper or feather in Elliott Hundley’s compositions. The spaces between the movements of the reading were remembered in the cavities and clefts of Hundley’s collage– created by halved artificial fruit or candleholders. "There Is No More Firmament’s" unfinished fifth and final movement began and ended with a sharp inhale from all of the actors at once, and a final quiver from the pins on the elaborate constructions behind them.

Artaud envisioned the end of the world as a kind of “celestial telegraphy.” Elliott Hundley perhaps is trying to decipher these messages, delivered in ways that are alternately straightforward and cacophonous. Artaud’s chaotic drama unfolded before the audience in a brief twenty minutes, with an abrupt resolution that made no attempt at order but just simply halted. The actors exited the room and Elliott Hundley’s works still fluttered slightly beneath the air conditioner, no less anxious but in many ways more harmonious after the world had ended.

Photos by Brian Forrest, courtesy Regen Projects.

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