Taube, Ellis, McLeod & the uneasy body

Philipa Rothfield: Pervert




People make work for different reasons. What unites these 3 pieces is a strong sense of artistic concern, especially in terms of content. Pervert, by Louise Taube, has been a long time in the making, reflecting Louise’s intent to explore and represent issues of spectatorship, desire and sexual difference. There are 2, perhaps 3 protagonists to this tale. One I shall call misogyny (the man), the other narcissism (the woman), and the third a Jungian anima, archetype of the female.

Through clever use of multiple video cameras, screens and curtains, a great deal of observation occurs on the part of both the characters and the audience. The setting is contemporary grunge, perfectly evoked in the HiFi Bar and Ballroom, which consists of several rooms, bars and a stage of sorts. Several young dancers do party-club impersonations, mirroring the narcissist’s kinaesthetic pleasures. A narrative develops between the man and the woman. Their interaction is always mediated, whether by video, telephone, time or space. In fact, they never really meet. The feminist philosopher Luce Irigaray would be pleased, for she thinks there is a vast difference between man and woman.

In the end, the man is killed off, the woman preferring the company of women to wolves. Although we cannot be too sad about this (he was revolting), there is something unsatisfactory here. For this was not just about a bad man. It was also about the woman’s subjectivity, especially her narcissism which was represented through the pleasures of movement. This bespeaks the need for more outside direction, not merely to direct the traffic of virtual and real images, but also to work through the nuances of the female character.

Simon Ellis’ Full is a delicate piece in comparison. Set in the tiny Glass Street Gallery, North Melbourne, it begins with the sounds of Simon’s grandmother. She speaks with simplicity of her life, nearly over. She tells us of her work, the loss of her husband, the cat she misses. Ellis lies in a glass box, suspended over the onlookers. Naked almost, he is born unto this piece. We hear more about the grandmother as Ellis descends amongst us to dance a life over time. Slides of her are projected onto his white shirt, words spoken by a young voice, displacing the logic of time just enough. The final image ensues from her remark that the dead are outside, wanting in. Ellis places himself against the roof’s skylight. The cold pink of the sky beckons his silhouette. The dead are there, amongst us. Whether we see them depends upon whether or not we look.

Chamber by Shaun Mcleod is a meditation on maleness. Not your standard ocker masculinity but the kind of men you might know and like. And yet, they cover each other’s mouths, cutting off speech. When they are nice, they nestle heads, they echo each other’s movements, creating a kind of harmony. When they are not, they move out of synch, forming an uneasy dance.

Chamber is substantially improvised. The focus of the performers is great. Mcleod sits at the back of the theatre watching these young men play out the echoes of his imaginary reflections. How much was this about masculinity? It is hard to say, in that this was not about stereotypes. So, in a sense, just because it was danced by men, it was about men. How then to move beyond that? Is this a reflection of how things are or a dance into the future of possibility? The ending, which juxtaposed poetry with Jacob Lehrer’s comedic meanderings, seemed to suggest a future. But it was hard to make out. The light was fading. The words were disappearing.

Pervert, xn, music Mik La Vage, performers included Shona Erskine, Taube & Gred Ulfan, Hi Fi Ballroom and Bar, June 6-13; Full, creator/performer Simon Ellis, music Jacqueline Grenfell, installation & design Elizabeth Boyce, Glass Street Gallery, June 20-30; Chamber, Shaun McLeod, performers Simon Ellis, Martin Kwasner & Jacob Lehrer, video Cormac Lilly & Christina Shepard, music David Corbet, Dancehouse, Melbourne, July 7-9

RealTime issue #44 Aug-Sept 2001 pg. 37

© Philipa Rothfield; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 August 2001