Recently landed: Soliloquy, Gracia's written response to Genevieve Lacey’s recent performance of Georg Telemann’s Twelve Fantasias for Solo Flute, directed by Gideon Obarzanek and Stephanie Lake, with 38 volunteers, for Fjord Review
Soliloquy is a revelation of the intimate, shared. In the embrace of lights lowered to a fireside glow, from their seats in the theatre, the volunteers rise and softly thread their way onto to the stage to join Lacey as she plays. Summoned by Lake’s cue, and also by a call in the music, and perhaps a call within to respond, here is a rare gift! Together, a new autonomous structure grows through repeated motifs. Lake makes a sundial of her hands, and the participants follow suit. Fingers echo rainfall, puff an organ’s bellows, hug a cloud. Whether all moving as one mass (seated on the stage) or in their own interpretive swim (dancing around Lacey), truth is offered, felt, and, it feels, collectively accepted. Within such a gift, the self dissolves. Dive in!
In the lead-up to Soliloquy, a call for volunteers with “no music or dance experience necessary” was answered by 38 people, including my partner, Louise Jennison, who leapt at the opportunity to become a flowing quaver motion. Just as Lacey’s connection to Telemann’s Twelve Fantasias for Solo Flute is wound up in the personal, for Jennison, accepting the open invitation was also of a personal nature: a chance to prove to herself that her body can continue to deal with the limitations placed upon it by post-surgical chronic pain and emerge triumphant. Facing our fears and vulnerability takes courage, and here was the opportunity to open oneself up to new rhythms.
Here, too, was the opportunity to view things from a different perspective: moving from a seat in the theatre to participating on the stage; from far to near, so close you could hear the sound of Lacey’s fingers upon her recorder as she played; from inward to outward, allowing oneself to be a part of a framework bigger than the self. And like all gifts shared, this was for us all. For those in the audience, like me, moved to tears of joy and release. Whether you are transmitting joy through a “noodling” of arms twirling in characterful rhythm or seated in the audience, joy permeating your every fibre, when the opportunity to nestle within birdsong chimes, accept.
Based in Melbourne, we work from home. And more often than not, we collaborate with each other. We rather fell into collaboration, many years ago now, and it is one based on harmony. To date, we have made 99 artists’ book titles and 127 zine titles.
We decided early on in our collaboration, through an organic process, not to polish the same skills. We naturally lent towards different things and now bring those different things together to make one work not possible without the other. Working this way, a third work is made that belongs to us both.
The two of us have been fans of the book for a long time now, and it is perhaps because no work is ever as you’d imagined or saw in your mind’s eye, that we keep working with books. Every step, every part of the process, every learning curve, holds us entranced. We love the challenge artists’ books present, the possibilities and history they hold, and the intimacy they can awaken in the reader. The flexible medium of the book holds us in its palm rather than us holding the book in our own palms. In the beginning, the medium of the artists' book seemed, to us, to be free of rules and regulations. It also presented many new things to consider, from page layout and sequence to typographical decisions, and such things we tossed in the air and arranged upon their landing. Working together has meant we were able to figure out the particulars through trial and error, and groundwork.
You can see an exhibition of our artists’ books at Artspace Mackay until the 3rd of February, 2019.
Focus on the Collection: Gracia Haby & Louise Jennison
Civic Centre Precinct, Gordon Street, Mackay, Queensland
The exhibition is drawn from the Mackay Regional Council collection, and it includes
Find your place, 2007
Small collection, 2008
Postcards from... a key to make your own world visible, 2009
A vagary of impediments & a sneak of weasels, 2009
Tumble & fall, 2009
This evening, however, I am thinking of things past, 2009
Closer to natural, 2016
Prattle, scoop, trembling: a flutter of Australian birds, 2016
Paw Pad Path, 2018
You're invited to explore a collaged landscape comprised entirely from images scanned from borrowed library books, and studded with lenticular prints.
Ripples in the Open is a collage, 15 metres in length, commissioned for ArtSpace at Realm.
Ripples in the Open
Saturday 10th of November, 2018 – Sunday 27th of January, 2019
Gracia Haby & Louise Jennison
ArtSpace at Realm
Ringwood Town Square (opposite the Ringwood Railway Station)
179 Maroondah Highway, Ringwood, 3134
Officially opening this Thursday the 15th of November, 6–8pm (including a talk, by us, somewhere in the wilderness).
Cue: distant roar.
Gracia and Louise
Louise Jennison is conducting a Solander Box making workshop at Firestation Print Studio in December.
Make a Solander Box in a Day with Louise Jennison
In this one-day workshop with Louise, you will measure, cut, glue, cover, and construct a small Solander box. All materials are provided in a kit, including high quality binding cloth, screen board, and an instruction booklet.
Equipment and archival glue will also be provided, however please bring along your own cutting knife, and ruler.
Sunday 9 December
10am until 5pm
$260 non members
$220 for members
Price including material kits
Firestation Print Studio
2 Willis Street
03 9509 1782
You’re invited to our exhibition, Ripples in the Open, and we’d love to see you there.
Join us for the exciting exhibition opening of Ripples in the Open by Melbourne based artists Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison.
6pm to 8pm Thursday 15 November at ArtSpace Realm
To be opened by the Mayor of Maroondah City Council on Thursday 15 November at 6pm, to be followed with a talk by the artists about the process of imagining and creating their captivating works — from the intimate to the monumental.
Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison have been commissioned to create a huge collage for ArtSpace at Realm, presented as a floor-to-ceiling printed landscape featuring portholes of moving collage comprised of stunning lenticular prints of animals.
This exhibition invites you to join the artists in an exploration of things hidden in plain sight and to be immersed in an imaginary and not-so imaginary world.
Exhibition Dates: 10 November 2018 to 27 January 2019
ArtSpace at Realm
Ringwood Town Square (opposite Ringwood Railway Station)
179 Maroondah Highway
03 9298 455
As part of our exhibition Ripples in the Open we are conducting a zine making workshop at Realm.
Join Ripples in the Open artists Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison in this fabulous zine making workshop!
Collage across the spread of your very own stitched zine. Bring along any printed and photocopied snippets, images, and text collected from your surroundings, and in the workshop you will cut and glue them into place to create your own artwork.
In addition, you will learn to fold and stitch a simple zine structure. Paper, glue, thread, and equipment are all provided, however please bring along anything you’d like to include in your collage be they magazine cuttings, photocopies of things that interest you, original drawings. The world is your oyster; the paper is your universe!
Saturday 17 January
2 to 4pm
Meet us at ArtSpace at Realm
Ringwood Town Square
179 Maroondah Highway
03 9298 4553
As soft as a white rabbit’s fur: Edwin Landseer’s Scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Titania and Bottom (1848–51). In a down of fur, the painting, in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, depicts Titania, the Queen of the Fairies, besotted with Bottom, who has recently been reshaped into an ass, from William Shakespeare’s comedy of misplacement. A fairy queen and an ass, two, of opposite realms, entwined and for all to see, in the fairy dell, accompanied by the requisite fairy folk and white rabbits, and on the red wall of the salon room. In an engraving of Titania and Bottom by Henry Fuseli they, too, are encircled by a cast of magical inhabitants, and the print of ink assumes the blush of a rose. To look at both is to cross into the fairy realm. And now I shall add to this Liam Scarlett’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, created in 2016, in co-production between Queensland Ballet and Royal New Zealand Ballet.
To a silvered photograph of Vivian Leigh as Titania (on stage at the Old Vic Theatre in 1937), her right arm extended, her gaze following its line, Queensland Ballet’s Laura Hidalgo, in ethereal gown. From Frederick Ashton’s delirious ass en pointe within The Dream to Judi Dench as a loved-up, painted in green fairy queen in the Peter Hall film of 1968, my Midsummer wunderkammer continues to grow. Seated in Her Majesty’s Theatre on opening night, I am accompanied by all of these versions of Titania and Bottom. The moonlit forest I entered was a familiar one, and yet it was not. I knew I would meet old friends. I anticipated couples to be spun into complicated scenarios. I was expecting to be as bewildered as if I was also beneath a spell. Fairies, and Changlings, and Lovers, oh mischief!
Upon a stage made iridescent by fairy benevolence, Queensland Ballet have brought this magic to Melbourne on tour. First performed by Queensland Ballet in 2016, with set and costume design by Tracy Grant Lord, the palette may be brighter than a glow-stick, but it wears its heart upon its wing. In Scarlett’s choreography, the cast of characters, from Cobwebb and Moth to Lovers contrary, in the few moments they did pause, they did so in a circular formation, echoing Landseer and Fuseli’s compositions. And Oberon, performed by Victor Estévez, sported exaggerated winged eye makeup not so dissimilar to the photographic still of Leigh. See and hear the cymbals and triangles upon his arrival! There are, and will continue to be, many versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and for them to work, for me, they must be infused with Shakespeare’s own lines plucked from the page: “Our true intent is. All for your delight”. And delight it was.
Our exhibition, Looped, loops into infinity. Hurrah!
Our stone cats and a netsuke mouse have been minding their Ps and Qs since August 2017, and we are delighted that our #GraciaLouiseLooped inhabitants, like those within A warmed pebble in my hand, are staying in the dome dais indefinitely.
Thank-you State Library Victoria.
“Broken necks, splattered patellas, severed arteries: These are the things from which dreams are made of”, according to former professional wrestler, Road Warrior Hawk (ring name of Michael Hegstrand, 1957–2003). Said fellow former professional wrestler Cactus Jack (ring name of Mick Foley, 1965–), “if the Gods could build me a ladder to the heavens, I'd climb up the ladder and drop a big elbow on the world”. They might have been talking about old school wrestling, but on Tuesday night, their words could easily be re-moulded around the hulking form of Lucas Jervies’ world premiere of Spartacus created on The Australian Ballet in 2018.
At the 8th performance of Spartacus parallels to wrestling were shaped in place of Kirk Douglas brandishing a sword in Stanley Kubrick’s 1960s film of the same name. Spartacus was upfront, hand-to-hand, body-to-body combat, which, under the fight direction of Nigel Poulton, left no room to hide. But the fighting throughout was not there solely to entertain the makeshift arena of Melbourne’s State Theatre. Less, blood as spectacle, more, honesty in the face of omnipresent power. When not marvelling at the choreographed battles between gladiators, and, in particular, Ty King-Wall’s Crassus and poster boy, in and out of the theatre, Kevin Jackson as an exceedingly ripped Spartacus, it was the Meditations or spiritual reflections of Roman emperor and philosopher, Marcus Aurelius (AD 121–180), who wrote, “the best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury”, which etched the muscle.
The very choreography within Spartacus appeared shaped around the curve of a muscle, with arms arcing the line of a bulging bicep or sharp like the cut of a deltoid. Visual references to the movement of wrestling allowed a new lexicon into the arena, with Jackson’s Spartacus anchored to and of the earth. Every palm that hammered the stage, every fist planted into the sand, every movement stretched like an arrow in a bow being drawn within the body’s casing forged a reconnection to purpose. Jackson’s Spartacus was the body as a weapon, but it was deeper than that. Jackson embodied an earthly gladiator of great moral sinew, his weighted stoicism in stark relief to a golden-fronted, power-soaked King-Wall, whose movements were of the air, upward and with self-appointed, god-like mis-leanings.
Up in the sky there is a giant emu. They have been there all along, in the calendar in the sky. Above our heads, a creator spirit, their long form stretches in the dust clouds of the Milky Way from the Coalsack to beyond Scorpius.2And this is where Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Dark Emu begins. Looking up. Connected. Looking back. Connected. Looking forward. Connected. Like the emu detectable in the night sky, which has been there all along.
Defined not by stars, but by the dark smudges in between. If this were a drawing, we’d say the emu was there in the negative space, in the background. And if this were a dance, which it is, we’d say this is where it begins, and, being cyclical, where it will pass by again as it continues its rotation. Reading the form mapped between the stars: a whole new world opens up before my eyes. Moreover, if this were life, which it most certainly is, we’d say, as expressed by Yolande Brown, one of the choreographers of Dark Emu, together with director Stephen Page, Daniel Riley, and the dancers of Bangarra, “these are stories, ideas and practices we should all be able to access, learn from and respect…. As Australians awaken from a kind of collective amnesia”, Dark Emu is the conversation we need to have, the story we need to be told, the relearning that needs to occur.
“The Emu, as seen by the Kamilaroi and Euahlayi, changed in position from season to season, as the Milky Way containing the Emu changed position in the night sky. As the Emu changes position, it alters in appearance, and that appearance has connections to cultural and resource matters”. Once you’ve spotted the emu, the sky cannot look the same afterwards. And this, in many ways is true of Dark Emu: Aboriginal Australia and the birth of agriculture, the 2014 seminal book by Bruce Pascoe, and the recent work, Dark Emu by Bangarra: once you read the true history, things cannot look the same. Both book and dance expose the hunter-gather label of colonialisation for the myth it indeed is. Both illuminate how pre-colonial Aboriginal people interacted with the land, and the interconnectedness of all things. Where the former is a book recounting “the success and achievements of Aboriginal Australia”, the latter is the beating heart, and though both are stand-alone works, they should be experienced as one. Or rather, reading one inspires you to see the other, and vice versa.
Light and dark, day and night, youth and maturity, a flirtation and redemption, naturalistic and ethereal: Giselle spins a conjuror’s trick all the wilier for its very familiarity, its everlasting allurement.
An autumnal village presented in Act I flips to reveal the ballet blanc of Act II: two halves of a whole. We know this, we anticipate this, we lap it up. Fermented in honey before interval, raising a flagon of mead to love, and even love’s folly, and unpinned madness, we heed the warnings spun to the villagers. The flipside to a light-hearted Peasant pas de deux is heartache and mourning. We are cognisant of the fact that when we return to our seats in the theatre, the scene will have changed. Light for dark. Day for night. Of the earth for beyond this realm. A village for the darkest forest floor of folkloric apparitions who demand you dance to your death. Raise your flagon of mead for raise your ghostly spirits, cloaked in a shawl spun by otherworldly spiders.
True to a magic trick, in the Australian Ballet’s 259th performance of Maina Gielgud’s production of Giselle: how is it that I had not really noticed Hilarion, a forester (gamekeeper) before? Giselle and Count Albrecht make a ballet classic, but Giselle and Hilarion could have made for a happier life. Against the backdrop of opposites, there appears a triangle. In magic, ballet, life, it appears. Unrequited love and anguish wears a beard in the form of Jarryd Madden, and his performance portends great things to come in Lucas Jervies’ Spartacus, to conclude the 2018 Melbourne season. On Tuesday night, Madden’s Hilarion is more than a narrative ploy to reveal Albrecht’s deception through identity as the finder-of-cloak-and-sword; he is more than a game-offering, unnoticed suitor in the woods; more than a warning that Myrtha and her glow of Willis mean business: you will dance to your death.