Design for the here and now

Interview, Anna Tregloan

Yawn, Renae Shadler and collaborators

Yawn, Renae Shadler and collaborators

Designer Anna Tregloan is curating the Australian component of the 2015 Prague Quadrennial of Space & Design (PQ), the largest scenography event in the world. Attending the event in 2011—while on an Australia Council Fellowship–and PQ symposia in intervening years, Tregloan was inspired, “particularly by designers and artists working with sound and spatial dynamics—real space and real time rather than pretty costumes or fabulous scenic painting. I found it really interesting in terms of what’s happening in contemporary performance as a world overview. Seventy countries come together and they show works in a variety of ways. Some are snippets, some full-length works.”

What Tregloan finds fascinating is the way PQ is looking at design as something that happens in the here and now and examining live performance from that perspective, making it special and different from recorded culture.

Tregloan will principally show documentation using video, books and interactive websites representing works that are “participatory and in-location,” like the film of Renae Shadler’s Yawn (2015), part of her In Ya Ear series, made with commuters in a railway station. “It’s a beautiful work because it’s very simply shot in a single frame with a whole range of human beings yawning for the camera. It’s participatory for the volunteers but when you’re watching it also becomes a participatory experience. Renae will collect Prague yawns on location and transfer them into the exhibit room each day.”

Democratic Set, Back to Back Theatre

Democratic Set, Back to Back Theatre

Tregloan’s also showing Back to Back’s magical Democratic Set which is “non-traditional in its design frame and has been created with volunteers in 28 locations around the world. To me [these kind of works] are some of the strongest and most exciting around and I felt that the participatory aspect is (1) something that Australians do quite well and (2) it’s a really interesting take on performance in the context of PQ—kind of experimentation within the theatrical form and a bit of it is teasing out what theatre is today.”

Other works in Tregloan’s program that occupy public space are Super Critical Mass and PVI Collective’s Resist. The former is the MCA version involving 40 volunteers humming—“it was on the collections floor with works that we know quite well. The room, the whole space was refreshed by the action of the mass. We’re going to show documentation of Resist and make a new version of it—a collaboration between Prague and Perth. PVI’s Kate Neylon will be in Prague canvassing citizens for the hot issues that they want debated.” A tug-of-war will take place in Perth with locals representing the citizens of Prague; “it will be documented and sent to Prague.”

These works attracted Tregloan because of “their participatory nature and the other semantic I’m working with, the power of mass. [PQ’s other themes are music, politics, space]” Titling her curation The Mass, she says she is “working around the idea of weather as the outcome of mass action. A single raindrop is not rain; a mass of raindrops becomes rain.” Similarly, people put politicians in power, a mass effect, and they deal with the weather. To further the metaphorical connection, says Tregloan “we are going to have giant meteorological balloons in the room. Some days the room might be quite full and on others have just a single balloon. Because of the theme I wanted something participatory in the room that would be very simple. The air currents you create will shift the balloons around or you might need to push them out of the way.”

Resist, Mumbai, PVI Collective

Resist, Mumbai, PVI Collective

Resist, Mumbai, PVI Collective

Also featured in an adjunct exhibition are Melbourne sound artists Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey with their Melbourne Ports work Five Short Blasts as part of the City Walks program in The Space exhibition, which is about design but comes from an architectural background…more focused on relationships between temporary events and permanent architectural spaces. Scripted with a local writer, it’s going to be presented on the Vltava, the beautiful river that runs through Prague.”

Although more conventional theatre, The Malthouse production The Shadow King will be represented for its innovative design, especially the use of participatory filmmaking for its projections and for its dialogue between “a very old play and an extremely old culture.” The spiritually potent dilly bag from the production will be exhibited in the Object section of PQ.

Other exhibits include NORPA’s The Home Project which focused on the Winsome Hotel’s history as alternate cabaret scene, band venue and now homeless shelter and soup kitchen in Lismore. NORPA put several artists in place, working with the residents, collecting stories and creating, says Tregloan, “a one-off Hospitality event” for people welcomed back to the venue.

Tregloan emphasises that PQ “is not a market. It’s a tasting, a feast. It’s not like many biennales where everything is clean and neat and in its place. It’s quite an anarchic event. This is another of its strengths. It means everyone is there on an investigative path and you make your own way.” RT

PQ 2015, 13th Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space, Prague, 18-28 June; PQAU is an initiative of the IETM-Australia Council for the Arts Collaboration Project and with support from Arts Victoria.

RealTime issue #126 April-May 2015 pg. 40

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

20 April 2015