The Light Room

Keith Gallasch: Company in Space, The Light Room

Space is constantly and magically reconfigured in The Light Room, a reverie of recollection and projection, a theatre of sublime simultaneities and hectoring distractions, of remarkable transparency and numbing opacity. Light, images, sounds and bodies are captured and refracted on and through the glass walls of a room as abstract as it is palpable, a hard-edged modernist construction made fluidly contemporary by all that flows through it. Curiously, however, it is the word that dominates; sounds, images, singer and dancers come and go but the words flow on and on, ritually intoned throughout, demanding but increasingly losing our attention. There is, similarly, a superfluity of images (some quite inexplicable), as if produced in fear of a visual vacuum. The Light Room can create astonishing spaces, evocations of the entwining of biography and architecture, but it has yet to resolve its own performative time and space. None of this is suprising for a work of such ambition and collaborative complexity (RT 50 p21-22) in its first realisation; hopefully its creators now have an adequate distance from the work to enable them to edit and open it out.

“This could be a planetarium”, says writer-performer Margaret Cameron early on. She’s right. The very space where a table or a chest of drawers is mined for its associated memories, or litanies of everyday objects recited or their images projected tumbling through space, can transform into something cosmic: a glass jetty reaching into the stars, resonating with the analogy between sea and outer space heard in the text. Along this jetty in 2 key scenes, dancer Ros Warby moves, curling down and curving up, standing on one leg, reaching as if for transcendance. At the end of the work, she calmly surveys the universe from the end of the jetty (her view of it projected on the huge screen behind) before walking into lines of light and the stars, no mere fade, but absorption.

The constant sense of transformation is amplified by the passage of spoken text into song, aural parallels (the wrap-around wash of flowing water), the tenor (Alan Widdowson) bending and curving a huge grid of light, the pulsing mutations of the music, and the way images, once seen, live on in other spaces as miniatures or distant reflections. The orchestration of the often beautiful filmed and computer-animated images, text and movement is masterly, dense and competitive though it sometimes becomes. Memory and the spaces we inhabit, from the domestic room to the stars are, like The Light Room itself, fluid and resonating with each other, suggesting a deep interconnectedness. In this planetarium of the memory, as in that of the stars, we can be awed or defeated by sheer volume. This makes the scene in which projections of a Renaissance library fill the room a reminder that the book is a form of memory. The Renaissance also prized architecture as a memnonic for life. (Incidentally, it would be nice if the substantial quotation, beginning “In my child’s eye..”, from The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard, the great theorist of architecture, space and memory, was acknowledged.)

The Light Room is an impressive work-in-progress, building on many talents. The dancers are their idiosyncratic selves. Michael Whaites provides a fluent dance of semaphoring as Margaret Cameron rummages through imagined drawers discovering even the first memories of sounds. Whaites and Rebecca Hilton tangle in a fast duet with sudden reversals of power, seemingly taking up the struggle for equilibrium evinced in the text. Ros Warby’s idiosyncrasies and sense of interiority are best at exemplifying interaction with the space and its transformations. Cameron, always a fine writer, provides some excellent text, even if it inclines too much to abstraction and its frequency and tonal insistency mean that we rarely get time to sit back and absorb it. I look forward to a more lucid Light Room.

Company in Space, The Light Room, concept, direction Hellen Sky, interactivity design & VR environments John McCormick, text & dramaturgy Margaret Cameron, Hellen Sky with performers, sound design & composition David Chesworth, sound spatialisation Nigel Frayne, image & light design Margie Medlin, architectural design Tom Kovac, VR worlds & animation Marhsall White, spatial design Simon Barley, costumes Leon Salom; Australia Gallery, Museum of Melbourne, Oct 15-26

RealTime issue #52 Dec-Jan 2002 pg. 5-6

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 December 2002
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