The structure of Layers of the Earth is proclaimed in its title. There are four layers to the earth, and so this ‘immersive audio-visual performance’ – a joint-creation by the Dutch musician Maarten Vos and the French artist Maotik – is separated into four corresponding sections, beginning with the crust and ending at the core.
Mankind has always been ensorcelled by the subterranean. Before science mapped the world beneath our feet, we had literature: the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, Dante being escorted by Virgil through the circles of the Christian hell (Judas Iscariot is imprisoned in the innermost circle, but on its fringes reside Plato and Socrates and other legendary writers from the Ancient Greek period, who had the misfortune to perish before the birth of Christ).
I was disappointed by the incuriosity Layers of the Earth showed towards its artistic antecedents; the implacable literalness with which the concept is portrayed. Vos’ music and Maotik’s visuals merge to simulate the materials of each succeeding layer: for an hour, all is rock and water and sibilant pools of lurid lava. I’m not suggesting that the performance would have been improved by incorporating literary or mythological personages, only that the version I saw suffered from a monotonousness. After a while the viewer starts to tire of studying variegated patterns swirl and shift upon the theatre’s arena floor. Jacob John Shale 21st April 2023