regional lives and very live art

anne thompson: kumuwuki, regional arts australia national conference

 If There Was A Colour Darker Than Black I’d Wear It by Rising Damp Youth Theatre & Illuminart

If There Was A Colour Darker Than Black I’d Wear It by Rising Damp Youth Theatre & Illuminart

If There Was A Colour Darker Than Black I’d Wear It by Rising Damp Youth Theatre & Illuminart


the coriolis effect

This event is the outcome of a professional and creative development program for 10 artists exploring regionally based live art collaborations. Country Arts SA and central Victoria’s Punctum worked together on the program supported by a grant from the Theatre Board Cultural Leadership Program. Artists from Central Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia participated.

In physics, the Coriolis effect is a deflection of moving objects when they are viewed in a rotating reference frame [Wikipedia]. In this Coriolis Effect an audience on bikes becomes the rotating frame of reference. Armed with maps and orange vests for visibility we rode to and between five sites. First, a short ride to the wharf where artist Ben Fox unloads a van. He shows me a picture taken 99 years ago near Hindmarsh Island just across from where we are. It’s of a boat in the 1913 Goolwa Regatta decorated with flowers and swastikas. He has a set-piece boat, costumes, beach chairs, plastic flower garlands, costumes, props and symbols crafted by a group of artists in Indonesia. Our job is to set up and be in a photo using the boat and any other material. The source photo is soon forgotten in the flurry and fun of dressing up and posing, people coming and going.

Then a 15-minute bike ride to a bird hide set amongst the reeds on the River Murray. We are met at the start of the boardwalk to the hide by a woman (Susie Skinner) in 60s dress, coat, red wig and court shoes. Is this Giuliana (Monica Vitti) from Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1964 film, Red Desert? Speaking with an Irish accent, she hands out books with photos of the bird hide and the words “In Loving Memory Yarluwar—Ruwe (Sea Country) and the Murray River.” We are at a wake for the River Murray. Standing in the road, she recites a poem, an invocation to turn away from material consumption. She walks towards the hide and we follow her. Sitting inside on wooden benches, we can see the river from our place of hiding. The Adelaide roots/alt country duo the Yearlings (Robyn Chalklen and Chris Parkinson) along with Jacques Soddell and Jamie Brown accompany Skinner. A number of songs are sung, songs of loss and being lost. She then offers us a whisky to toast the river. I am being led through a ritual that feels familiar and comforting. I like being there just as I can like sitting in a church. Other things can happen that I didn’t plan, like finding myself still amid the world; like thinking about a river.

I ride into a head wind to The Palace of Nothing. Franca Barraclough has worked with locals Kate Toone, Andrew Bray and Marike Oliphant to create this palace. The site is a derelict milk shed. The interventions do nothing to mask this. Leaving my bike in ‘the black hole,’ a painted circle on the weeds out front, I am guided to some children’s chairs and books. Inside the front cover of every book is a mud map of the site. The voice of a young woman plays through speakers, describing what it’s like being young and living in Goolwa. She paints a picture of boredom and time filling, of treasured childhood pursuits no longer possible, with nothing new existing to fill the gaps. I climb the stairs to the milk shed. The door is boarded up but I can see through a gap. A film of the view out of a car window driving around Goolwa plays on a loop. A miniature model of the township with matchbox cars fills the veranda space. There’s not much here. I guess that’s the point.

Back into town to visit the Goolwa library. I am met by Michael, a tall, affable man in his 70s who asks me why I have come to Goolwa and whether I have been here before. What have been my impressions? He takes notes in pencil on an index card. We chat about the Wooden Boat Festival and about places to go rowing. Just as I go to leave, Katerina (Kokkinos Kennedy) grabs me and asks me to describe my experience of Goolwa. I find myself saying something unexpected. She’s a member of Triage Live Art Collective which “creates intimate and social live art events that allow strangers to encounter one another in disarming, playful and sometimes confronting ways.” The starting premise for this event called Snapshot is the fact that the history of a place is full of holes so people have been invited to bring to the library a story, email or object to be archived for the future.

Just round the corner on open ground I meet Tamara Marwood unknotting some string. She tells me that in 1928 the mayor of Goolwa, Percy Wells, failed to get support for a state of the art cinema so he went ahead and built it at his own expense and ran it successfully for 30 years. It is now the Civic Centre. There are kit bags and some tent-like structures dotted around a central table. Marwood invites me to build my own structure for civic gatherings using one of the kits: a large sail, tent pegs, poles, string. I lay the sail out. It rains briefly and I shelter under it. I decide I want it to form a roof. There will be no walls, just a flapping sail roof. I worry about my ability to achieve this idea. Then Steve, Antonietta and Craig turn up. Craig organises poles, guy ropes and pegs and in no time there’s an open structure with a sail roof about 1.5 metres off the ground. I’m both grateful and disappointed I didn’t get to work it out. Marwood films the process on her phone.

mcmansions, shacks, fries & a coke

I board a coach. Our tour guide is architect Steve Grieve. Over 10 years ago he bought a house on Goolwa’s outskirts, liked it so much he purchased another down the road, renovated this one, sold it, then demolished the first and built a new one on the property. This is his subjective tour of Goolwa. We see stone cottages and Norfolk pines in Little Scotland and simple shacks built in the 60s: one storey shacks, two storey shacks and A-frame shacks on properties with a native tree or bush or two. No formal gardens or fences here. We drive past a number of eccentric homes. Then we travel across the bridge to Hindmarsh Island. We hear the story of the building of the bridge from Grieve’s perspective. We disembark to visit a one-room shack on the island. We travel through farming land. Most of the island has been cleared. We then arrive at the Mariner and drive past two-storey ‘mansions,’ their style appearing in housing estates across the land. We stop at one particular house and Grieve explains the glorious mishmash of architectural features in evidence. He awards it a finial [a sculptured ornament, often in the shape of a leaf or flower, at the top of a gable, pinnacle, or similar structure. Eds], planting one near the letter box. Complimentary cocktails at his house conclude the trip. He’s a wry and engaged commentator with an axe to grind about beach homes needing to reflect the simple human impulse to have shelter near the water and in a landscape.

i met goolwa

The Australian Bureau of Worthiness (theatre makers Tessa Leong and Emma Beech with visual artist James Dodd) has spent a week in Goolwa asking people “What makes your day worth it?” Goolwa is the fourth place they have surveyed; the others are Port Road in Adelaide, Geelong in Victoria and Viborg in Denmark. From the experiences of the week the Bureau has organised a low-tech presentation. This one included Beech telling stories and impersonating people, James Dodd showing his drawings of Goolwa using an overhead projector and some sound grabs of music and recorded interviews orchestrated by Leong. Having experienced a number of raffles during the week, the Bureau ran one themselves and in a nice turn of the table, the winner got to ask any member of the Bureau any question and they had to answer. A picture formed of the people of Goolwa and the Bureau, the sum of the parts. I found myself appreciating the care in this project—for community per se, for this community in particular and for us in the sharing of what was unearthed in living in and talking to the people of Goolwa.

if there was a colour darker than black i’d wear it

We meet at a bus stop for If There Was A Colour Darker Than Black I’d Wear It by Rising Damp Youth Theatre and Adelaide-based projection specialist Illuminart. We are introduced to Ado through projection: a figure in a hoodie on a shed wall, spray paint can in hand. We text a mobile number and our message appears as graffiti across the wall. It’s a fun game. We board the bus. It’s dark outside. On a screen next to the driver we watch YouTube-style clips of Ado, his mates and girlfriend mucking around, talking to camera. We pull up at a house to be greeted by two performers, Ado’s parents. It is his 21st. Their performance is heightened, grotesque. We visit the party but Ado never turns up. There is punch, signing the card, Twister and stylised interactions between the parents. Things go awry. Ado’s dad hits Ado’s mum. He chaperones us out. Ado’s mum is last seen out the back banging her head against the glass patio doors. Back on the bus we receive texts from Ado over the next hour: “Home soon Mum. Please don’t embarrass me in front of my friends. Do you need me to bring anything? A.” And “Mum if you are going to hack my Facebook page at least log out afterwards,” and “Sorry I swore at you. Didn’t mean to make you cry. A,” and “Love you mum. X Adrian.”

Ado’s Facebook page appears on the screen. Past posts are shown. Audience members post new messages. Then the bus pulls up at a football oval. We pile into the club rooms—inspirational notes, lockers, footy boots and then a video plays above the door showing the coach in close-up revving us up for the game. We file out. On the field we see Ado in footy garb, an opposition player and the coach. Their breath steams in the cold night air. We get grabs of a game as floodlights turn on and off. But these figures exist like ghosts outside of time since there are no other players, or crowd or noise. Then we climb stairs and enter the clubroom set up for an awards night. The coach wanders amid the tables, sits and eats a sandwich, puts money into the jukebox and stares out the window. The sounds and speeches of an awards night can be heard but there are no players.

Back on the bus an eerie noise pervades while on the screen video footage taken from the driver’s seat of a car repeats, headlights lighting up a bend. We pull in somewhere to see a car on fire; a closer look reveals the flames as projections. My mood has changed from intrigue and anticipation to dread. After some time in the dark we arrive at a hall. It is empty. Home movies of Ado and the ocean play over each other on the walls. We walk through a small room with sympathy cards, remnants of a wake, serviettes, mugs and an urn unplugged. Back outside, we hear the messages on Ado’s answer machine, people looking for him, waiting for him, as we watch him walk away from us and disappear, a projection on a stone wall.

By now I felt completely interpolated into the drama and felt sick to my stomach in the bus once I realised Ado was about to die or was dead or had disappeared. The piece also worked retrospectively. On the way home I reconsidered the video footage and scenes we had witnessed, seeing them as after-images of the disappearance rather than as present time images leading to it. The experience lingered for days.

Kumuwuki, Regional Arts Australia National Conference, Goolwa, SA, Oct 18-21

RealTime issue #112 Dec-Jan 2012 pg. 12

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

11 December 2012