The distances within

Ali Graham

For the past few years, para//elo has been engaged in a series of collaborative projects with European artists on the theme of distance. These have included workshops, email conversations, a website, and sound and video compositions, culminating in the “live art experience”, In the Time of Distance. The Victorian-era Queen’s Theatre in Adelaide, little more than a heritage-listed shell of its former self, was transformed by James Coulter’s installation into an intimate and immersive space. Video projections covered most of one wall, soundscapes (by Scanner and Jason Sweeney) emanated from the opposite side of the venue, while a bar, computer monitors and television screens (peeking out from 1950s petrol pumps) completed the eclectic setting for this multi-faceted work.

The audience, seated on couches and chairs, were scattered around the centre of the venue. Performers moved freely through the audience, stopping occasionally to quietly impart fragments of the text (“days like this the simplest things fail to make sense”). Lines were delivered into microphones at the front of the space, with the audience hearing them from speakers at the rear. Hypnotically looped images, sounds, text and movement shifted slightly through every iteration, states of being changed gradually so that it was impossible to distinguish where one ended and another began. These techniques evoked the feeling of being inside someone’s head, their thoughts and memories washing over you, varying from lyrical evocations of a remembered Eden to chanted propaganda: “Be wary! Distrustful! On guard!”

One central theme of the performance was the nature of the migrant experience—alienation from the original culture, and from the new. Much of the subject matter depicted emotional responses to the changes brought by distance, especially those journeys that were forced or undertaken with mixed feelings. When emotions this fundamental to our nature are explored, some truths that result are necessarily banal, but no less true for our having heard them before.

In the Time of Distance was a lament, an evocation of the injustices of the past and present without offering more than a glimmer of hope in the future. Remembered stories of rape, torture, forced dispossession and imprisonment unsettled the audience and darkened the mood. This was a confronting and thought-provoking work distinguished by strong performances from Elena Carapetis, Irena Dangov, Astrid Pill and Jason Sweeney.

para//elo, In the Time of Distance, co-directors Teresa Crea, Laurent Dupont, installation James Coulter, soundscapes Scanner, Jason Sweeney), live image manipulation Lynne Sanderson, photography Peter Heydrich, Queen’s Theatre, Adelaide, Sept 4-13 http://www.parallelo-distance.net

RealTime issue #57 Oct-Nov 2003 pg. 47

© Ali Graham; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 October 2003
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