pain makes art

varia karipoff: XX, brigid jackson, la mama

Brigid Jackson, This is—of the other

Brigid Jackson, This is—of the other

THIS IS—OF THE OTHER EXAMINES THE COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN XX AND BRIGID JACKSON; THEIR FIREFLY-BRIGHT HOPES, SEPARATE SETBACKS AND THEIR ONSTAGE CHEMISTRY. AT ITS CORE IT IS A STUDY OF YOUNG ARTISTIC LIFE, OF THE DESIRE TO BE IN THE MENTAL AND PHYSICAL SPACE WHERE A CREATIVE SPARK IS IGNITED AND BURNS, THE ARTIST BECOMING A CONDUIT FOR SOMETHING ELECTRIC AND COMPELLING. WHAT TEARS PEOPLE AWAY FROM THIS PRODUCTIVE STATE IS THE STUFF THAT INFORMS ART—LIFE. DEATH LOOMS TOO, AS DO ILLNESS AND DISAPPOINTMENT.

X and Jackson have tackled autobiographical material using two complementary elements, touch and text. The words here range from prosaic to poetic, sometimes in the same monologue. Occasionally the performers seem to antagonise each other for real; spontaneous flashes of heat in their words raise questions about the proximity of real life to their art. Favouring performance based solely on movement, Jackson admits that hearing the first words come out of her mouth on stage is challenging.

The two young women who met at VCA in 2007 are tense and loose by turn, one earthy, one ethereal. The material in this performance, while broad in scope, has developed from their experiences of isolation. Jackson, the ethereal one, was at her mother’s side last year as she succumbed to cancer and then suffered a physical breakdown herself—”my scalp just let [my hair] go.”

Jackson’s grieving is conveyed powerfully and simply with a wet tissue placed over her face like a death mask then slowly inhaled into her mouth. On the floor, her ballerina-slim body raggedly convulses as it struggles to breathe through sobs. Remaining silent here, she avoids histrionics.

Bare-boned and intimate, the performance relies on few props—a radio, vacuum cleaner and tissue box—which relate to the shared living arrangement of the artists at one point. It was difficult not to feel a pang of empathy as Jackson expressed a desire for a baby to please her dying mother. X was in Paris at this time, directionless and lonely—reality in the city not living up to her artistic ambitions.

The stories overlap and run parallel to one another, the performers picking up loose pages from the floor, reading from their missives to each other unsystematically. X crawls close to the walls in the claustrophobic, blackened space at La Mama, scratching her arms against their surfaces in an act of frustration and restlessness. Unable to console each other adequately through written language, the dialogue turns to the platitudes that close their emails. Their unravelling is best conveyed physically. Jackson traces an operating vacuum cleaner nozzle across her skin in an act of seeming self-harm or procrastination.

Jackson and X push each other into new depths of their practice, both in the thoughts they share and their exploration of physical expression. There is a moody, ad lib quality to the piece as the duo builds a quiet, emotive landscape brick by brick, word by word.

This is—of the other, made & performed by XX and Brigid Jackson, La Mama, Melbourne, March 23-April 23

RealTime issue #103 June-July 2011 pg. 37

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

14 June 2011
Close

Join our e-dition list

Sign up for free online e-ditions offering occasional reviews and commentary and curated selections from and response to the RealTime archive 1994-2017.