Liveworks: AEON, a desiring flock

Cleo Mees

Two pieces of information return to me throughout the experience of AEON and the hours that follow: that flocking birds work in a context of uncertainty, and that flocks are physically a bit like “flying avalanches.”

These facts are written on cards that we, a group of eight participants, read out to each other at the beginning of our journey. The other key piece of information we receive at this time is that there are no leaders or followers, and no right or wrong ways to experience this work. With a portable audio speaker in hand and no further instructions (except to refrain from speaking), our facilitator turns us loose into Sydney Park.

It strikes me immediately that what happens next — what we do next — is potentially in all of our hands. I have agency, and I have responsibilities: to find a listening place between leading and following, to remain open to possibilities on all sides.

We drift over open grasses, filter through banks of trees. We snag and billow, form momentary intimacies that swiftly dissolve. Our portable speakers emit unique streams of sound that feel both electronic and organic. Together we tick, rumble and caw — a haunting, syncopated chorus. Eventually, we see it: a much larger flock of people, up against a hillside. It is clear that this is where we are headed.

Aeon, Lz Dunn and collaborators, photo Bryony Jackson

We meet, and merge. A sea of half-strangers, weaving, feeling each other out. Unique soundstreams moving in and out of earshot. In this slowly churning mix, something starts to shift: individuals break into sprints, running for their lives in great, swooping arcs, and then return to walking. The running feels urgent, and looks delicious to do. Questions thump in my chest: “What is happening? What will we all do? Also, what will I do? Will I run? Should I run? I really, really want to run.”

Flocks are like flying avalanches, and these runners feel like an avalanche. The vivacity of their movement tugs at me, pulls me toward flight. But most people are not running, and there are no instructions to run (or not to run), and is it really my place to run? I recognise, somewhere in this mix of intense longing and uncertainty, something that relates to emergent frontiers in my own desire and becoming. I also reflect, later, that other responses, including the desire not to run, might have been just as compelling.

I give it a go: I run as fast as I can over the sloping grass. The running feels full, energising. I try again — longer this time. And again.

As the crowd drifts on through the park, those who initiated the running (and who are gradually emerging as AEON’s collaborating artists) start to do other things. They bounce rhythmically on their haunches, rub up against trees, balance experimentally on rocks and logs. Later, their movements evolve again: they become bolder, more sexual. The expanding, expressive vocabulary of this group throws into question what is okay for me to do, and simultaneously floods me with longing and awe, so that by the time we reach the edge of the park, I am brimming with feeling.

This is what AEON, a study of flocking and queer ecologies, facilitates so effectively: an immersive encounter with the feelings of these phenomena — uncertainty, agency, desire, becoming — which have both personal and wider ecological significance.

Performance Space, Liveworks Festival of Experimental Art: AEON, lead artist, concept, performer Lz Dunn, choreographer Shian Law, sound artist Lawrence English, performers Carly Sheppard, William McBride, Kieran Bryant, Bonnie Cowan, Leila El Rayes, Caroline Garcia, Loren Kronemyer, Rhiannon Newton, Sue Reid, Ian Sinclair, Dinda Timperon, dramaturg Lara Thoms; Sydney Park, 19-22 Oct

Top image credit: Aeon, Lz Dunn and collaborators, photo Bryony Jackson

1 November 2017