17 January 2018.
I first saw YESYESNONO’s new show [insert slogan here] in development at the Royal Exchange’s Co:LAB festival last year and I confess that I found it frustratingly flat. And yet a few months later, at HOME’s PUSH Festival, it feels like a different show. I came out of it and wanted to experience it all over again immediately.
Sam Ward is back after his success with the award-winning ‘5 Encounters on a Site Called Craigslist‘. This time he’s joined on stage by two people equipped with technology to provide music (Afrodeutsche) and visuals (Ryan Gilmartin). Hanson’s ‘MMMBop’ tops and tails proceedings with its cheerful reflection on the passing of time. “You have so many relationships in this life, Only one or two will last, You go through all the pain and strife, Then you turn your back and they’re gone so fast“.
Our cardboard car gradually takes shape on stage. We see the metallic gleam of the real-life Volvo XC60 on screen. Sam describes it using the language of consumerist aspiration. This is a vehicle that will put us “in complete control”, provide a “completely immersive experience” and allow us to “express ourselves”. The hollowness of those claims is exposed by sequences of music, video and spoken word that vividly offer an alternative vision of how those experiences might be achieved.
“This is how it goes” says Sam, and he proceeds to describe moments of total bliss and joyous connections with others. Feelings of pleasure, passion and wild abandon. It’s beautifully written – dense, evocative and transporting. The language of marketing is appropriated to offer an alternative manifesto for living. [seek feeling]. [be you]. And the insistent beats and flickering images create a sense of mounting euphoria and intense sensation.
It dislocates and disorientates. One moment Sam is chatting about the car we’re building. Then you feel genuinely present in poetic scenes of ecstatic joy. And the language changes perspective and you are watching and there’s distance and it’s all about ‘we’ and ‘they’. Things float further out of reach, someone somewhere else is tracing an outline with their finger on a misted window or scratching their name into a leather seat. That sense of time slipping away is also present in Sam’s nostalgic recollections of a trip to the beach as well as the audience’s memories of their childhoods. As if to emphasise the fragile nature of life and time, there are also acts of violence, random destruction and premonitions of catastrophe.
[insert slogan here] feels like an urgent call to live the best life you can, to not waste a moment. To be more than what you buy. To really feel. It’s quite a ride. The show is like an anti-product – using words, sound, video and imagination to violently collide head on with that shiny new car’s engineering, metal, tyres and fossil fuel. It possesses an elusive quality, ideas comes into focus and then dissolve, and yet it is deeply affecting.