In the movies departures by rail are always the most dramatic, agonisingly stretched by a lover running down the platform following the head poking from the train’s window. This is the metaphoric territory of Return Journey, an installation and performance in Project’s Cube. James Kelly’s three films are set in an Irish train station, not bustling with commuters but deserted and silent. It is the non-mainland geography of the Ballybrophy line or the Rosslare to Limerick Junction line, sparse journeys in rattly Cravens to stations where nobody boards or alights.
But the trains still run, just as the dancers orbit the Cube’s dark space from noon to 8pm every day whether anybody is watching or not. Mary Wycerly and Immaculada M. Pavon join choreographer Mary Nunan (although there are only ever two performing) in walking around the square walls. As they move they take their black and white houndstooth overcoats off with slow toreador swishes and put them back on by sliding the sleeves along rigid arms that soften and embrace. Although always at the farthest point away from each other around the square, their concurrent movement gives a sense of empathy and intimacy. It is an unfulfilled journey, both a departure and return. The overall sense is close to the expression “coming and going at the same time,” that state of uncertainly and restlessness that is magnified by Michael McLoughlin’s soundscape that includes the indistinct reverberations of public announcements, unanswered phones and distant bells.
On the three screens a child’s shoe, Schindler’s List-red against the monochrome backdrop, is clutched between gripping hands, turned inside out and lovingly clasped and unclasped, later furtively stuffed into a coat pocket. Elsewhere, cupped hands crack open, spilling a yolk of blood red petals that slowly float down to rooted feet, or a warm hand presses against the station’s cold floor, a houndstooth sleeve harmonising with those square black and white flecked tiles that are disappearing from updated stations. Although the images balm the viewer with a sense of nostalgia, particularly when low winter sun adds wet sepia to the screens, it is Return Journey’s aesthetic conversation around space, perspective and presence that most beguiles and is rewarded by repeat visits.