Champions elegantly undoes the threads of homophobia in a family unit through recordings of Andreas Constantinou’s mother, father and therapist. This tale of rejection from a father figure, emasculation and grief tugs the spectator through into the territory of healing and self-acceptance.
Christoffer Brenke and Jeppe Cohrt’s technical design of Champions is nothing short of perfection, and by far some of the most complex I have ever seen. The audio immersion is transformative, as human voices tangle with static screeches and the drumming of whirring helicopter wings. Television static spreads throughout the set, infecting the stage with all-encompassing flickering. There are moments where the whole space is engulfed in a deep purple wash, mimicking an antenna issue which snaps on and off. The gramophone leaps, gets jammed and repeats itself while the radio continually tunes in and out. On the small, rounded television screen plays an image of the set, captured as a tiny microcosm in space.
The projections are primarily composed of slow-motion footage of two nude men, wrestling ferociously. In a field of yellow flowers, they drive one another into the earth, desperately trying to keep the other down. The sky grows dark and soon the stage is overcast with a frightful thunderstorm and the men continue wrestling, their eyes and mouth coated in sand from the shoreline.
All this imagery is paired with a tumultuous father-son relationship. The exhaustion from the wrestlers is felt deeply by the spectator. It mirrors the strife bubbling beneath Constantinou’s skin as they continue to sit and breathe through the images.
The set is a fantastical snapshot into a vintage front room, equipped with a crackling gramophone and classic radio. The composition is so exquisite that the space seems detached from the rest of the theatre, like an immaculate painting hung on a back wall. It is Constantinou’s deep breathing and slow blinking that breathes life into the image, much like the milk in Vermeer’s The Milkmaid.
The first thing Constantinou does is strip nude and enter the performance space. While this may be construed as an unnecessary nod to the tropes of live art, Constantinou draws the aesthetics of nude wrestling into the space. It is a totally desexualised offering of vulnerability. They sit, breathing gently, listening to the sound of their parents’ voices. Constantinou’s presence in the space is the most significant feature which makes the work theatrical. In the act of performing stillness, Constantinou tightrope walks the line between live art and durational performance. Their meditative silence while listening to their late parents’ voices in the presence of a packed audience is astonishing. Without Andreas, there is immense potential here for an immersive audio-visual installation in a gallery.
For a thirty-minute installation, Champions will not fail to utterly astonish you. Constantinou’s creativity, paired with a jaw-dropping design team, is not worth missing.
Champions is playing online until 22 August. For more information and tickets, see the ZOOTV website.