in the black box





i don’t really have a good command of the language of performance. for those that do, please forgive my smushed-together, ham-fisted attempt at talking about some performances i’ve seen recently.


i haven’t had too much of a chance to see much static art in perth lately, as i seem to be surrounded by much more performance/music work happening. it has, actually, been a nice change to see movement/sound works, a chance to reacquaint myself with the nature of experience.


i did have a little realisation, that i’ll perhaps unpack on here soon, that as someone who works in conceptual/intervention/action works, i don’t really have a place that elevates my work to a professional level. the way that the gallery and the black box do for a lot of artists/performers [even though i have exhibitions too]. anyway, i’ll save that for another time.




Etica – Scale Variable 11.2 by tura new music


A three-part musical showcase including a solo flute piece and two small ensembles works – one with a mezzo soprano and both with a syncopated, non-traditional rhythm. 


The sensual nature of Brett Dean’s Demons flute piece was quite intense. i guess breathing heavily into an instrument for 10 minutes is pretty taxing on the body, but it was obvious to watch. and the piece was seemingly focused on broadening out the method of delivering the breath – a combination of traditional tone/pitch and atonal amplified breath-like sounds.


John AdamsChamber Symphony was a crazy and elaborate work that zipped across the Ensemble – no clear ‘section’ focus and a nutty rhythm. it’s little wonder that the percussionist was particularly focused on the conductor jon tooby for direction. I quite enjoyed the nuttiness of it all, even though i’m not trained in classical music at all. I found that it messed with my need for rhythm, in the way that improv jazz from the 80s did.


Sofia Gubaidulina‘s Hommage à T.S Eliot was not quite as frenetic, but certainly not a traditional ensemble piece. It was a smaller group of instruments, with a soprano (Penelope Reynolds). I didn’t enjoy this work quite as much, but it did prompt the spark of an idea, which i think will be quite interesting to see through. Admittedly, i spent much of that piece observing the piece (rather than properly listening to it), thinking about my idea. Sorry – i guess that’s not quite ettiquette.


Overall, I enjoyed the night. As you all know, though, i’m a bit of a lightweight and appreciate pretty much anything on a stage that’s a bit different.

Prime Cut by strut dance

Another three-part showcase, this time contemporary dance from WA. I’m even less versed in the canons of contemporary dance than I am classical/new music, so it might sound a bit short and sharp. Again, mea culpa.

Emma Sandall‘s Crossing Satie was a contemporary dance piece that I didn’t really like too much. Maybe i didn’t understand it. Even i could tell that the dancer was a ballerina and her body was just too intense and sinewy for the work. I always find it difficult to watch dance work that is solely about the body, because I feel like i’m just watching someone exercise. i would have liked a little more attention to costume, lighting, design, or something. I know, i’m a philistine.

And almost the same for Brooke Leeder‘s Iron or Gold. This time i did find some interesting dynamics between the dancers, and the gesture of being ‘stuck’ to each other. There were some sequences where the dancers would shimmy low across the stage that i found strangely compelling – in an amphibious, or even generative systems way. And they used large elastics hung from the ceiling, which were interesting in terms of the elastic and stuckness of the dancers’ dynamics. the music choice was pretty naff and the costumes were also super-naff [in fact, i would loved to have designed the whole thing for her], but – even in my ignorant state, i could see that there was something to work on.


Bianca Martin‘s Bikini Eye Short Show (dress to kill yourself) was, as a contrast, exactly what i have been craving in Australian culture for a while: something with a bit of political crunch. Sam Fox from Hydra Poesis called it agit-prop panto, which i thought was not as derogatory as it sounds. And it was fuckin’ ace. It was a critique of drunk aussie chicks, footballer jock mentality and the prone state of women in australia. all with a fanatstic sardonic wit and tongue in cheek cultural references (collingwood football club, surf-life saving club, aus-flag bikinis). The orgasm of a footy call by the mezzo soprano was sublime – the two dancers performing acts of clear sexuality in the kitchen and the bathroom were appalling and enthralling. And i thoroughly enjoyed the in-house protest of the national anthem our little band of three performed. It was all in the spirit of the evening, and I left feeling quite charged and excited by life again. Huzzah.









Later this week, i’m off to see Lily Hibberd‘s performance Take Me In at Fremantle Arts Centre. We went to see the work yesterday and i’m reserving final judgement (and writing about it) until after i’ve seen the performance it is associated with. The work is supposed to be able to stand on its own, without the need to see the performance, but i have a feeling that I can only make that call once i’ve seen it.


i’ve not ever seen Lily do performance or installation at all (only beautiful paintings) so i’m interested to see what the final outcome will be. If the staging, lighting, and seating are anything to go by, it will be an intimate and intense piece about incarceration, that hopefully plays with the relationship between audience and performer. But we’ll see. i’ll update you all later in the week.




image credits:  bianca martin bikini eye short show from the strut site

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