Darkly, silvered, a grassland of manmade forms grows. It grows in the North Melbourne Town Hall. It is, for now, neatly contained within the designated performance space, but like all things in nature, it is as predictable as it is unpredictable. This constructed grassland of “over 270 poles, strips, or sheets of aluminium, brass, copper and sprung steel” hums with life. Its presence felt from the moment I enter the space.
Two blocks make an imperfectly perfect grid. One block is comprised of nine shake tables, arranged in three ordered bands. The second block is longer, and it is comprised of six shake tables divided by two narrow pathways that lead to a central path. A central path in a metal wilderness is a safe place to get one’s bearings. As the grassland sings and shimmers, you’d be well advised to stick to the path; those rods have teeth and they are not afraid to bite. And perhaps like all things that can bite, it is beautiful to behold. A vibrating platform2 of interconnected wooden panels that simulate an earthquake, this is also a musical instrument, a living sculpture, a stage, and a potential disaster zone. Fashioned from timber and springs, it “is a kinetic sculpture and performance where vibration is heard through our ears, seen through our eyes, felt through our bodies, but understood with our imaginations.” Upon encountering it, I want to walk around this sculpture, to see it from all sides. To get up close and see how the light bounces differently off the varied components, but for this 360-degree picture I will have to use my imagination. I take my seat in the dark. I wait.
This feels personal. With choreographer, Ashley Dyer, I have spluttered and choked in the smoke (Life Support, 2013). With dancer, Nat Cursio I have sat cross-legged and built lego houses (In the Middle Room, 2014), grieved (Recovery, 2014), and sawn the legs off chairs (A String Section, 2015). This is personal, and yet not. This is bigger than me. In part, this work is a response to the 2011 magnitude 6.3 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. Early on a Tuesday afternoon the ground shook so violently, killing 185 people and injuring several thousand. 100,000 buildings were damaged, and 10,000 needed to be demolished. Tremor is, by definition, ‘a seismic shaking movement of the ground before or after an earthquake or volcanic eruption.’