Human Engine

Recently landed: Human Engine, Gracia's written response to the Australian Ballet's contemporary triple bill, Faster, for Fjord Review

See below the line. Look beyond the surface. Delve beneath the city. Peer underneath the skin. Vide infra. What makes us tick, and ultimately what holds us together, piece by splintered piece.

Drawing its name from the Latin word for ‘below,’
Infra (2008) surveys the internal. This work is a part of the body, within the body; this work is the human condition. Infrarenal. Wayne McGregor invites us to look at the “interior emotional landscape” by observing and drawing inferences from the data on the stage, in turn calling upon our own emotions. The choreographic language is both felt and distinctly human. Beneath the surface of both city and skin, the binding agent is similar.

Segmented by an LED screen that runs the length of the stage, two letterboxed worlds are presented. Above the line, visual artist Julian Opie’s flow of uniform pedestrians are an unwavering rhythm. From the left and right they flow in a mesmerising pattern that is both soothing and indifferent. If you stumble, assistance is unlikely; you’ll merely disturb the pattern. Simplified to the core — a circle for a head, a block for a torso, a rectangle for a briefcase — they are in stark contrast to the activity below the line. The twelve dancers from the Australian Ballet, beneath the ‘unreal city,’ reveal deep inward feelings. Below the line, within the body, visceral and real, and with a capacity to feel, ache, and sometimes break. The binding agent is fragile.

Kevin Jackson and Vivienne Wong of the Australian Ballet performing in Tim Harbour's Squander and Glory (image credit: Jeff Busby)