Touching lightly

Virginia Baxter: Light/House; Conversation with the Architect; Red Dice; Robbery Waitress on Bail, Lucy Guerin & Ros Warby

On the Adelaide Festival plaza there’s a display of lightweight structures—light houses. Architect Glenn Murcutt in a conversational forum with Robyn Archer refers to buildings as needing to have a level of transparency allowing legibility of landscape. He cites a knowledge of morphology, typology, scale and materiality as necessary for the architect wishing to touch lightly on the land.

Bill Seaman’s Red Dice (part of Verve: The Other Writing) is installed in a cool, darkened room at the Contemporary Art Centre of SA where there are cushions to lie, look and listen. It’s a beautifully complex work. A factory loom is explored in loving detail until it practically pulses its mechanical heart. The film moves back and forth from lingering close-ups of machinery parts to languorous views through leafy windows, to waterfalls, birds in flight and eventually to a hand throwing dice. The editing a friend describes as “liquid”. The voices (Seaman’s own in English and another in French) are mellifluous. They remind me of other soft male voices of contemporary art like Robert Ashley’s. Sentences sidestep closure, dissolving into the next discrete utterance. The work is a response to a Mallarmé poem and this version part of a larger work in which sentences and images are interactively woven by the viewer to create what Bill Seaman describes in another festival forum as “fields of meaning.”

For touching lightly on the land, my feather goes to Lucy Guerin’s cap for the unforgettable Robbery Waitress on Bail. A small clipping from a newspaper has clearly caught the choreographer’s eye. A waitress who assisted her boyfriend to rob the all night restaurant where she worked is out on bail. For her part in the crime in which she pretended to be the hostage, she was sentenced to two years in jail. Now she’s out. The story of the crime is revealed in 3 small sections from the clipping on illuminated panels above the heads of the dancers (Guerin and Ros Warby). Having given us the story, Guerin (with music by Jad McAdam) proceeds to explore the material of the rest—place, character, the state of being. It’s all done economically in a set of often mirrored movements between the dancers who swagger and strut with a shifting sense of bravado, indolence and fear. It’s totally engrossing and I know I wasn’t the only one in the audience who would have traded the experience of the second piece on the program (the more densely choreographed, less successful Heavy) for an instant replay of the first.

Light/House, Adelaide Festival Centre Plaza; Red Dice, Bill Seaman, Contemporary Art Centre of SA, March 7; Conversation with the Architect, Glen Murcutt with Robyn Archer, Adelaide Festival Piano Bar, March 7; Robbery Waitress on Bail, Lucy Guerin, Space Theatre, March 5; Adelaide Festival 2000

RealTime issue #36 April-May 2000 pg. 21

© Virginia Baxter; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 April 2000