The body transported & transformed

Mary Ann Hunter experiences Cheryl Stock’s Accented Body

Living Lens, Richard Causer, Ko-Pei Lin

Living Lens, Richard Causer, Ko-Pei Lin

Living Lens, Richard Causer, Ko-Pei Lin

Queensland University of Technology’s Creative Industries Precinct is architecturally innovative but before Cheryl Stock’s Accented Body project it had yet to reveal its human dimension. Shadowing the squared-off streets and clipped turf of the ‘Kelvin Grove Urban Village’, the precinct has been earmarked as the heart of this new inner-city planned community while it continues to build its profile as an international hub for practice-led new media arts research.

Leading up to the village’s grand opening, Stock’s ambitious event was timely. Accented Body conjured character from the precinct’s newborn architectural skin and, in the project’s exploration of “the body as site and in site”, a conversation was started between the land (which had been startingly transfigured by the village development), human bodies and the built form. The event was a logistically awe-inspiring gathering of dance, music, media and digital performance art drawn together in 6 installations creating an “animated form of urban public art.”

On 3 chilly nights during the Brisbane Festival, the promenade experience of Accented Body opened in the neatly rectangular Kulgun Park, with Prescient Terrain’s movement prologue on the transformative capacity of the organic body. Choreographed by Richard Causer and conceptualised by Maria Adriana Verdaasdonk (who played a role in conceptualising other installations), flesh and stone were brought into contested relations as bodies emerged from the earth, vigorously combating the park’s rock features and morphing with butoh-like grotesquerie between human, animal, insect and plant states.

As the audience moved with performers to the grand outdoor staircase of the main Creative Precinct building, cameras were tracking, making us aware of our role in peopling the landscape and, in turn, effecting the creation of images and sounds in other mediated sites—both locally within the precinct and beyond in live streaming to London and Seoul.

In the momentary interactions of Presences, we encountered the “global drifters”—among them women wearing spectacular tulle skirts lit by blue bulbs—who didn’t really claim space or make transaction but arrested us with their presence. As one might expect of drifters, they did not invite us to settle but their role as provocateurs was integral: in the new global order do we make space for them or do they make space for us?

In Separating Shadows, indoors and outdoors became fluid in a play of shadows, bodies and text. Devised collaboratively with direction by Vanessa Mafé and performance by Jondi Keane and Avril Huddy, a relationship between intimates was played out in a mélange of familiar phrases projected on a semi-transparent screen visible through the building’s external glass wall: “He said, she said…”, “You always want the last word.” After Keane and Huddy’s lithe bodies run across, through and around the inside/outside area—never really connecting—the paradoxes of love are signified in the contrast between the heavy clumsiness of trying to shift the ground (via Keane’s sculptural antics with the floor mat) and the ethereal presence of the words whose ‘light’ projection betrayed their weighty consequence.

Two large scale installations, Ether and Living Lens, foregrounded more strongly the use of sound and sound/body interactions. Framed by 10km of cascading red rope on the outdoor Terraces, Ether, directed and performed by Tony Yap, extended “traditional temple rituals and practices into contemporary aural-kinaesthetic realms.” Composers and musicians Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey deftly reworked vocals collected via public “memory sound booth” in Brisbane and Melbourne to engage the audience in a collective ritual of sound as it resonated and reverberated with Yap’s trance-like body, swirled within the terrace auditorium and took flight into the night sky. In Living Lens, a team of Japanese, Australian and Taiwanese artists lead by technical director Tetsutoshi Tabata, had the alternate effect of vortexing the mind to an indoor fixed screen which overwhelmed the bodies of dancers whose attached motion sensors were directing the projected forms. Living Lens’ revisited Prescient Terrain’s organic body—although, this time, the body was in dialogue with electronics rather than stone.

Perhaps the most effective animation of civic space—which simultaneously problematised and celebrated the body “as site” and “in site”—was the large-scale Global Drifts projections in the outdoor Parade Ground. Although billed as an internationally live and streamed event (which in retrospect seemed amazing), for me it was engrossing to simply revel in the connective play of body, sound and light between what at first seemed an abstract projection on the feature wall and 2 real life bodies I only spotted by chance in the far corner of the ground. The 2 sites were informing and interacting with each other and, from the angle I perceived them, they seemed in concert with the building and city lights beyond. This moment of recognition and strange delight in a building that I had earlier not warmed to, is local testament to the value of the big, global, and ambitious conversation that Cheryl Stock has initiated.

Accented Body, producer-director Cheryl Stock, logistics & technical coordination Daniel Maddison; QUT Creative Industries Precinct, Brisbane Festival 2006, July 15-17

RealTime issue #75 Oct-Nov 2006 pg. 10

© Mary Ann Hunter; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 October 2006