Dancing in unison
Try this. Find a friend and dance together. Not hand in hand but actually together. In unison. Your steps matching their steps. Theirs matching yours.
There is I think something more intimate even than touch in the connection this creates. Your body speaking to their body, learning the rhythms of each other. Each compromising a little, finding something of the other inside yourself. The ghost of their bones in your bones, creating a new reality in the space between you.
The more people you add the greater the effect. I remember very vividly in a tiny, grotty late night bar at the outer limits of a music festival many years ago, looking up and noticing that the entire room had quite accidentally started bobbing in total unison.
We all noticed. We cheered. We continued bobbing. It was one of the most joyous experiences I can remember. A new reality. A kind of temporary utopia.
Figs in Wigs dance in unison
If people know one thing about Figs in Wigs it is that they dance in unison. And their dances are great dances. Neat and nimble and beguilingly strange, the kind of dances you might choreograph on an arcade machine from the 80s. Dances that seem to be made of pixels rather than steps.
But Figs’ synchronicity is about more than simply their moves. It extends out in every possible direction. It is in their identical costumes, their uniform monobrows, their deadpan expressions. It is in their jokes, the way they speak to each other and with each other.
It is even in the structuring of the shows themselves which seem to follow a totally unreadable, arhythmical logic entirely of their own devising. The journey through a Figs show is like a story told by a seven-year-old, full of false starts, extended diversions and endless repetitions. Meticulously setting up rules and conceits only to totally abandon them. Scenes of unpredictable length crashing delightedly into one another like the Figs themselves endlessly careering across the stage.
Yet none of this feels careless or accidentally. It is instead part of a meticulously constructed alternative reality, held together by uniform rhythms and matching wigs. The Figs have created for themselves an exhilaratingly indecipherable universe that only they can live in. A utopia that exists in the space between these five synchronised bodies.
And it is joyous.
Resisting reality as a radical act
In 1961 the artist Claus Oldenburg was living on New York’s Lower East Side – a then-largely derelict landscape of gaudy advertisements and abandoned warehouses. Broken industry and technicolour consumerism.
His response to this landscape was to create The Store, a small shop unit on East Second street filled with crudely made reproductions of everyday items. Shoes, chocolate bars and hot dogs made from chicken wire covered in plaster and painted in vivid blobs of glossy colour. Nestled amongst the neighbouring shops and advertisements Oldenburg’s store was both of the city and totally apart from it, a remaking of the surrounding environment as a baffling, messy, day-glo simulacra. Useless and curiously beautiful, The Store is both a reflection of New York and an escape from it into another fantastical world.
Like The Store, Figs In Wigs are experts at taking shitty quotidian reality and remaking it into something pointless and beautiful in its hand-made simplicity. In Often Onstage they trace endless patterns across the stage in their too-vivid green business suits. They speak empty motivational aphorisms from gameshow cards. They dance to the empty muzak of soul destroying aspirational advertisements.
It is an act of appropriation. It is the transformation of the reality that surrounds them into a world they might want to live in. A place of delirious strangeness and endless, flocking patterns of movement.
If you have ever walked in a protest, you have probably been told that it won’t change anything. That the message isn’t clear, or is unrealistic.
I think this misses an important point. Often the marching is itself the point. We march together, as a reaffirmation of community, as an act of collective solidarity. It is the creation of a new space we can all live in together, even if only temporarily. And the people on the march will carry the memory of that space with them when they leave. They will carry it together into the things they do in their ordinary lives. It will bleed into their future actions, and change those actions for the better.
Figs in Wigs shows don’t appear to make much sense. Like protests they are noisy and colourful, occasionally shambolic and frequently lacking in any clear ‘message’. And similarly to critique them based on a perceived failure to communicate anything would be a misunderstanding of what is taking place. Each Figs in Wigs show is a reaffirmation of the beguiling universe they are creating for themselves.
In presenting these shows to us, the audience, Figs are not asking that we decode their strangeness, or even hoping that we find it funny. Instead they are hoping that the world they have created might extend temporarily outwards to include the rest of us. That we can slip into the same odd rhythm. That we can harbour in the shelter of their strangeness from all the awfulness of the contemporary world – its competitiveness, its narcissism, its grim economic reality.
In their monobrows and matching costumes, they continue to act with the absolute conviction that they can live inside the world they have created for themselves, and that perhaps we can too. And that in itself is a defiantly, gloriously radical act.