“I ain’t goin’ bionic!”

Jonathan Marshall: Fiona Cameron, Carlee Mellow, Inhabited

“I ain’t goin’ bionic!”
( Chuck D)

Fiona Cameron has for some time been one of the most striking presences within Chunky Move, her tall, statuesque pose breaking down into low, complicated, interwoven positions with disarming ease. She has produced several of her own works, notably Looking For a Life Cure (2001), in which she explored the near schizophrenic internalisation of contradictory states within modern life. Her latest project is a pair of duets dealing with urban alienation and the distance between individuals, performed at various informal locations (indoors and outdoors) within Melbourne.

As always with these much in demand dancers, Cameron and partner Carlee Mellow move with such elegance, poise and confidence(as well as with a touch of self-deprecating humour(that their merest physical inflection is eminently satisfying. Cameron is all jagged discomfort to Mellow’s absent-mindedly musing traveller, the knots they tie each other up in taking on a mood of accidental combat. Composer Luke Smiles adds a sense of sonic complexity, jumping from hip-hop loops to hyped techno flourishes, as well as more abstract digital fields and soundscapes (horns, motors, coffee-machines; a cacophony of urban samples).

The dance itself is somewhat slight both in terms of overt content and choreography. It is predominantly the performers’ dramatic nuances that bring it to life. The first piece is an extended joke of how when one is on public transport, one can end up with one’s foot over the ear of a neighbour, despite one’s best efforts to avoid physical proximity. This is a fun little dramatic sketch, but that is all.

The second dance is more provocative, depicting Cameron as a city dweller who has learnt the physical regimes and moves one must go through to avoid chance encounters. To draw on Public Enemy’s hip-hop terminology, Cameron’s character has been rendered “niggatronic,” or robotised in body and psyche (if not race, given that Cameron is white). Like break-dancers, her character moves to the subliminal beat of contemporary, urban capitalism(yet unlike B-boyz, her character (as opposed to Cameron the choreographer) does not consciously manipulate these movements and feelings so as to dramatise her condition. Mellow by contrast seems to follow John Cage’s exhortation to consciously react to the random sounds and textures which surround one in urban life. Not so much stopping to smell the daisies, she pauses to hear the music of the city and pay attention to the other individuals who move throughout it.

Cameron’s dance-theatre scenario of 2 movers who respond very differently to the barrage of Smiles’ sounds encourages such reflections(particularly for those familiar with hip-hop preachers like Chuck D or Kodwo Eshun. It is nevertheless an uncomplicated work in itself, depicting a simple exchange between the characters leading to a comic resolution in which Mellow leaves Cameron reluctantly holding the hands of 2 co-opted spectators. The production was disappointing in the limited way it interacted with or was consciously situated within the spaces it was staged(beyond dealing with the broad theme of urbanity. Overall Inhabited was a thoroughly enjoyable, interesting, short performance which nevertheless did not amount to anything substantial. One hopes therefore that this curious divertissement represents a taster for more impressive full-length works to follow.

“I ain’t goin’ niggatronic; smart enough to know that I ain’t bionic.”
Chuck D, from Public Enemy, Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age (NY, Def Jam, 1994)

Inhabited, director/choreographer/performer Fiona Cameron, performer/co-choreographer Carlee Mellow, co-choreographer Nicole Johnston, music Luke Smiles. Various locations, Melbourne, Aug 2 -Sept 1

RealTime issue #51 Oct-Nov 2002 pg. web

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

1 October 2002