THE studio is almost pitch dark. A tall figure in all-white rises from

a chair, picks something up -- and the air is suddenly filled with these

cracking, swooshing sounds. It's like a flock of birds. Or sails in a

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stiff breeze. And then it changes, into something softer. Slithering

sounds. Then lighter. Fluttering, like curtains at an open window.

When the light comes up, Peter McRae repeats this sequence. This time

we can see, as well as hear, the flags he uses. We can watch the flow of

different materials through air, appreciate the effects of material

weight, the particular sounds and movement of fine cotton as opposed to

heavy canvas or slippery thin silk.

The third time he makes the moves, there's music -- a cunning collage

of snatches from national anthems, tunes that one is automatically

tempted to match to his flag-waving actions. By the end of the short

piece, Air in Three Movements, McRae has made us use our senses just

that little bit more intensely, made us think about something

commonplace -- like a flag -- from pleasingly fresh angles.

As his programme notes show, Sarbjit Samra is passionately engaged in

discerning those hidden mechanisms within popular culture that so

influence our cultural attitudes and desires. These complex notes

probably leave audiences unprepared for what they get. For Samra --

having accumulated his intricate subtext -- then compresses it into a

central image which blends visual iconography with carefully selected

music. Having done his thinking, he now intends that we should do ours.

In Breastfeeding, a CCA commision, his head bobs amidst a huge froth

of white balloons, occasionally dribbling milk, or crying, while a

succession of sudsy pop songs reinforces cliched images of

happy-ever-after romance, togetherness, mutual cosy dependency. His

targets here include soap operas and pre-digested pap entertainment --

but in order to arrive at his conclusions for yourself, you have to ask

yourself a lot of questions: you have to look well beyond the balloons

to burst the illusions he wants you to explode.