Jennifer Jackson’s Endurance at Battersea Art Centre is a 90-minute attempt at a sport spectacle which addresses themes of colonialism, cultural diversity and femininity.
The stage was black, and suddenly it begun, Jennifer Jackson, donning a traditional Bolivian festival mask and dress, jumping and moving, accompanied by fast paced music and a steady spotlight.
The music stops, she steps out of her outfit, and she carefully arranges it, allowing the mask to continue to watch over her for the duration of her performance.
Jackson then spends an elaborate amount of time preparing herself with a heartrate monitor and running shoes, and she runs. She runs for about an hour. At a good steady pace, back and forth in an arc across the stage.
And for that hour, our ears are filled with the sound of her heavy panting, a low rumbling backing track and the repetitive use of a masculine Siri-style voice-over that attempts to tell the audience what is going on, along with passages of Inca history.
Her running was very occasionally intercepted with a sudden eruption of fast paced reggaeton, accompanied by an explosion of dance and acrobatic style movement.
The robotic voice is sometimes very funny, causing scattered laughter, and sometimes very repetitive, causing silence. It eggs Jennifer on, cracks jokes, and acts as an informative voice for Jackson’s ancestral links to Bolivia.
Spanish colonial rule is a much-frequented topic throughout the piece, and Jackson makes consistent reference to Bartolina Sisa, an Aymaran woman who led revolts against Spanish rule in Charcas alongside her husband Tupac Katari in the 1700’s.
Jackson idolises the resistance and feminine power of historical figures such as Bartolina, embodying her to keep running, even when her heart rate exceeds 200 bpm and she begins to struggle.
The finale felt like a second half. Jackson stopped moving, and whilst standing in the front left corner of the stage, a man, wearing a suit and skull mask slowly appeared on stage, a spotlight brightening around him.
They dance, grind and tumble together in what appears to illustrate Jackson’s love affair with her Bolivian heritage, the skull mask referring to Bolivia’s Día de las Ñatitas.
This performance felt like it was made up of too many different elements and themes that unfortunately failed to fit together successfully.
Was the performance supposed to centre on her feelings of unbelonging and her attempt to grasp at her maternal Bolivian blood line?
Was this about a woman attempting to prove that women can do whatever they want?
Or was this about the destructive forces of colonialism on the Inca population?
Perhaps this piece was supposed to actively address the multiple themes, but unfortunately, they didn’t marry together well and often contradicted each other.
The constant moving and running was very impressive and Jennifer Jackson is clearly a very fit and determined person.
Yet, the repetition of her footfall and the deafeningly masculine Siri voice often became tiring.
Nevertheless, I would be excited to see what Jackson produces next.
Featured image credit: Grant Archer