Tropical Liquid Architecture

Jennifer Teo

As part the On Edge Festival, a week-long celebration of contemporary new media and performance, Liquid Architecture brought an exciting selection of international and national sound artists to the region. Three shows were held at the magnificent Tanks Art Centre, a series of old fuel tanks from World War II that have been converted into live performance spaces. Acoustically unique due to their cylindrical structure, the venue fascinates audiences, musicians and sound artists alike.

The first Liquid Architectureconcert was a 'beat less' evening of sonic exploration and experimentation and featured 4 acts that approached sound making from varying perspectives. The show was held in an amphitheatre enclosed by tropical gardens and was the perfect setting for such an event.

After opening with warm, melodic tones that created a dreamy ambience, Ai Yamamoto introduced layers of textured sound and harsh industrial noise-a performance aurally intense in parts and thoroughly enjoyable. Robin Fox used an oscilloscope to generate fascinating kaleidoscopic patterns triggered by simple tones generated from his laptop. New York sound artist DJ Olive followed with the most engaging performance of the evening, demonstrating some brilliant avant-turntablism. Graceful to watch, he oscillated between turntables perfectly reproducing a pattern of movement and in rhythm with the vinyl. This clever, multilayered performance included a cut-up of the voice of George Bush (repeating the word “terrorist”), with DJ Olive utilising his laptop to create beautiful washes of sound and then turntables to construct abstract sound collages.

The debut performance of local sound artist Spiral Soundsystem began with minimal ambient pieces that combined deep drones with beautiful, melodic flute playing and distorted digital effects. Popular with the audience, the long second half of the performance strayed somewhat from the theme of the evening with the introduction of beats and dubby bass lines.

Friday night's diverse performance program attracted a large audience for collaborations between sound artists and performers with the audience moving about the space. Fox and Lawrence English (Brisbane) collaborated with David Samford (Brisbane) on an intriguing new circus performance (see Williams), while File_Error and The Impurist (both from Cairns), and Yamamoto and English provided subtle sound interventions throughout the evening, performing under a glorious fig tree. The climax of the evening was Bonemap's spectacular performance, Brink, with DJ Olive on sound (see Winning).

The intimate second concert was a beat oriented night with the audience sitting on the stage or dancing with the artists. Popular local act, the Urban Monkeys, opened with their unique blend of funky breaks and abstract beats. Machina Aux Rock from Victoria delivered an impressive performance, literally rocking the house. The night ended with a minimal techno set from German artist Thomas Brinkman.

On Edge was a thoroughly inspiring festival that stimulated and challenged audiences to think about performance and sound art practices. The Friday night event proved that combining experimental sound making with performance is clearly the way to go to attract an audience in Cairns. Liquid Architecture left quite an impression, perhaps greater than the festival directors realise, and we look forward to it returning next year.

Liquid Architecture, On Edge Festival, The Tanks Arts Centre, Cairns, July 13-16

RealTime issue #69 Oct-Nov 2005 pg.

© Jennifer Teo; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 October 2005