Showcasing First Run

Anna Arabindan-Kesson at a new home for media arts in Perth

Intimate, quirky and running late, First Run, a new Perth multimedia, film and performance art initiative, began its visual offering in the dark space of the Bakery Artrage Complex. The unexpected fits in well here: moody, under lit, the floor dotted with beanbags and chairs, strewn with artists, filmmakers and an assortment of other viewers, there’s a blend of the familiar and the disruptive which complements the experimental expectations of an event like this.

In the juxtaposition of short documentaries, animation, features, music videos and performance art, there was nothing thematic, apart from their localness, about the multimedia work on view. The audience was given the rare opportunity to engage with a range of works without the usual sensitisation. It’s here that microcinema and performance art are at their most profound, thriving on the fragile relationship between viewer and media. For instance, the short film Spell Me Freedom (director Dean Israelite), deals with the situation of asylum seekers through the story of one man’s escape from a detention centre. His subsequent journey to the city and the decision he faces between attempting to survive in an alien environment or returning to imprisonment and his best friend is a kind of visual protest. Cut through with grainy flashbacks, the film’s rapid movement between camera angles, its harsh lighting and eerie soundtrack capture the desperate situation of asylum seekers. Israelite’s production crew included 3 former refugees, and the rawness of this film forces us into unexpected discomfort that is tempered by the space he offers for a response: any response.

On the other hand Tim Watts and Wyatt Nixon Lloyd’s Greed For the Animation (Weeping Spoon Productions) is a comical, purposely unwieldy 2D animation that satirises consumerism and obsession with possessions through the adventures of a would-be filmmaker. Inventive, fun and even surreal in parts, Watts and Nixon Lloyd’s farcical animation also pokes a little fun at the profundity with which we approach these kinds of artistic endeavours, while managing not to take themselves too seriously either.

During the intermission, the flashy, toothy, spoken word performance of Tomas Ford’s Cabaret of Death, preying on audience passivity, appropriated the glam of pop for humour and ultimately drew attention to the strangeness of the audience-performer relationship. The sometimes excruciating vulnerability of Ford’s performance, which was interrupted by a few technical difficulties, reflected my own as I silently hoped his next act wouldn’t involve me.

The breadth of First Run’s presentation and the informal experimentalism it offers audiences suggests that it has the potential to provide an important forum for the development of media arts in WA. As the First Run organisers have noticed Perth lacks a thriving experimental media scene where artists can gather, create, experiment and get their work out there on a regular basis. I’m sure that these monthly showcases will change that.

First Run, Bakery Artrage Complex, July 26, http://web.mac.com/first_run/iWeb

RealTime issue #74 Aug-Sept 2006 pg. 28

© Anna Arabindan-Kesson; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 August 2006