images that hold

adam broinowski on six striking shows

Blind Date

Blind Date

Blind Date

In retrospect, despite some strangely negative reactions in the Melbourne press, the 2006 Melbourne International Arts Festival succeeded in creating an atmosphere that was at once embracing and open. Aside from the performances, it kept its audience continuously stimulated in and outside theatres and galleries with symposiums, lectures, spontaneous speeches, bands and parties, post-performance and panel discussions, archival video and reference materials, lengthy program notes and reviews. This gave anyone interested in how the artists were thinking about the world and how it translated to their art the opportunity to participate.

sakamato & noto

In Insen, the connection created between Ryuichi Sakamoto with his pin-drop timing at the grand piano under a single spotlight and Alvo Noto at his computers housed in a mirrored horizontal obelisk lulled me into a soporific stupor then jarred me with dissonant explosions and light from an oblong screen spanning the space between them, and the vast historical transformations their instruments imply.

marie brassard

Reminding me of an Eartha Kitt song, in a carefully contained performance Marie Brassard’s solo, Peepshow, tantalized with a psycho-literary exploration of control from the perspective of Little Red Riding Hood. From the first trauma of being put into the ‘wrong’ group at school, we are taken through repeat meetings with various male manifestations of the monster and the wolf. Performed with a phaser-effect on her voice so she can perform man, woman and child, it seemed the highly protected landscape inside this person could only be traveled by a therapist, or series of therapists who, just like daddy, provided all the little girl could want. Brassard is clever and funny, manipulating stereotypes to lightly brush guilty nerves.

bill t jones

The Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane company in Blind Date produced a lavish political dance which cast the thirsty addiction of the multinational North American military enterprise into multiple and fragmented ironies. Among its many penetrating observations: a childhood memory of Turkish dancer Asli Bulbul of boys at school playing a game where they would grab each other’s testicles and only release them when the national anthem had been whistled, and then the refrain about “fourth generation warfare being widely dispersed, nonlinear and with indefinable battlefields, in which distinctions between war and peace, civilian and military may disappear.”

romeo castellucci

Br.#04 Bruxelles, Tragedia Endogonidia

Br.#04 Bruxelles, Tragedia Endogonidia

Br.#04 Bruxelles, Tragedia Endogonidia

By contrast, despite a diverting debate about the use of actors or non-actors, Romeo Castellucci’s Tragedia Endogonidia: BR.#04 Brussels produced some densely reduced images: an African cleaner in a maid’s outfit mopping the floor in a marble room aka the European Union, a white baby being taught by a robotic tutor, a bearded old man in a bikini no longer having the strength to lift his own weight wrapping himself in cloth inscribed with Hebraic script followed by a policeman’s uniform. The old man’s younger colleagues perform the act of beating a man with truncheons, cordoning his bloodied body like a crime-site and stuffing him in a bag in front of a microphone for us to hear his groans. The old man ‘dies’ in bed and a young boy-master with a cane, top-hat and what in silhouette appears to be a duck mask, struts on to pull out a tooth from the gum of a woman whose hair is falling out and to break a fluorescent light with impunity. The African woman returns in a gown from the 19th century; Moses’ tablets, which have been kicked over in the violence, hang from the ceiling in relief with hair coming from them; and out-of-focus credits roll.

dumb type

After interviewing dumb type (RT 75, p6) and seeing Voyage, and unlike those who seemed to find the performers’ investment out of balance with the technical production, I found most scenes—words dropped upon bodies to tolling electronic pings, an idle woman on a fake grass island floating among glaciers and speaking her innocent dreams in English—to signify a critical perspective. Even the daggy caving metaphor for the two women struggling to find each other in the dark at the beginning of the show was in irreverent contrast with the icily efficient perfection of the projected crystalline images of the all-seeing satellite surveillance imagery and ultra-slim lines of the solo dancer’s pointed limbs at the end.

yamazaki kota

Yamazaki Kota’s unsubtle choreography of the Australian dancers in graceful balletic symmetry combined with grotesquely blunt actions in Chamisa 4?C was a courageous attempt to represent a very real paradox: the yellow wall of light with a swinging light bulb framed by a mini-proscenium; sudden exposures of light and high wind from an off-stage fan; a woman in black in front of a full-length mirror and bodies standing with their dripping hands outstretched. The latter image was in unintentional solidarity, although with important differences which cannot be disregarded, with the deep pain of the radiation poisoning of Trevor Jamieson’s people from the land around Maralinga described in big hArt’s Ngapartji Ngapartji.

Melbourne International Arts Festival: Ryuchi Sakamato & Alva Noto, Insen, Hamer Hall, Arts Centre, Oct 12-14; Peepshow, devisor, director, performer Marie Brassard, music & sound design Alexander MacSween, design, lighting Simon Guibault, Malthouse Theatre, Oct 24-28; Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Blind Dates, State Theatre, Oct 25-28; Societas Raffaello Sanzio, Tragedia Endogonidia: BR.#04 Brussels, direction, design Romeo Castellucci, writings, direction, vocal, sound, dramatic score Claudia Castellucci, original music Scott Gibbons; Malthouse Theatre, Oct 12-15; dumb type, Voyage, Playhouse, Arts Centre, Oct 18-20; Kota Yamazaki, Lucy Guerin, Chamisa 4ºC, Beckett Theatre, Melbourne, Oct 25-28

RealTime issue #76 Dec-Jan 2006 pg. W

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

1 December 2006