Recently landed: Count me in, Gracia's written response to More up a tree at Melbourne Festival, for Fjord Review
Within their glass enclosure, White sat in the corner behind his drum kit. He had cast off his boots, and was using them like two soft vessels to hold his sticks. From where I sat, I could see his socked feet at the pedals, lending an air of spying-on-the-neighbours candour to the performance. He exchanged a quiet smile with de Serpa Soares as she mapped out the space with increasing intensity and pace. Caught unawares, as they teased out movement in response to sound and sound in response to movement, for the main, their containment appeared a liberating sanctuary. Hidden behind a wall of noise, de Serpa Soares could yell at the top of her lungs, but I couldn’t fully hear her. She shook sound from her body as if coaxing it all the way from her little toes, up her legs and torso, and out of her mouth. There goes the hard day; and over there, the weight of the world, discarded. They were playing, releasing, experimenting, and I was watching, experiencing, vicariously. The two of them, to paraphrase the filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky (when he wrote of the distortion of time as a means of giving it rhythmical expression), “sculpting in time!” Later, a little ‘cha-cha-cha’ sing-song movement, which I defy anyone to say or do huffily; some words and actions are happy making, no matter how you spin them.
Earlier the space had evoked a zoo enclosure, with de Serpa Soares stalking like a panther in a cage. Back and forth, her feet on repeated loop, wearing a hole in the carpet. In her march, she paused for a moment, in the corner of her confines and looks upward at the wall, her expression was one of steely focus: I will scale these walls and escape. Wild creatures confined, they break my heart, and this was perhaps why I enjoyed seeing de Serpa Soares later shake loose with high kicks, and roar, falling in and out of time.
The Rear Window style voyeurism, illumination of mundane fragments, and human modifications to architecture and personal space in Sussman’s earlier video works, Wintergarden, Balcony, and Seitenflügel (Side Wing), created with Simon Lee, is embedded within More up a Tree. Watching White play, he could well have been an unassuming inhabitant in his lounge room, in the large Berlin apartment building of Seitenflügel. To me, reflective imagery in Sussman’s work references the two sides of the one coin: time and memory. More up a Tree holds a mirror to time and memory for the performers and the audience alike. The circles de Serpa Soares drew with her bended knees pressed together at the beginning were there at the end. Her slow motion, cat-like prowl, high on all fours, also. It repeated, and yet it changed. And when the performance ended with the mirrored screen once more reflecting the audience, we were in the same position, and yet we’d changed, hadn’t we? Not so static after all.
Recently landed: Tea and Toast, and an Electric Guitar, a new article on Marginalia (by Gracia) takes you to Caroline Meaden, Alice Dixon, and William McBride's Blowin' Up, and Deanne Butterworth's, with Evelyn Morris, Two Parts of Easy Action, presented by the Substation as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival
The warmth of the spring day did not hold in the Substation. Inside the capacious, high-ceilinged, former industrial space, it is never warm. It is resolutely sub-temperature. Seated for the first of three solos presented under the collective awning of Blowin’ Up, I sat, cleared my throat, and cleared my throat again. The cold of the building crept inside my chest with the intention to make me the spluttering, wheezing, noisy audience member. My defence of stoicism and Soothers was going to be tested.
So when Caroline Meaden stood upright from an investigative, languid Cat pose, advanced to the front of the stage, a hair’s breadth from the audience, and sniffed, an exaggerated under-the-weather, nose crinkle in want of a handkerchief, my body involuntarily mirrored the waiting room action, and I coughed. And I coughed again, and once more for good measure. In a game of call and response, I was not the “silent animal…. out there somewhere, watching on.” Into Meaden’s solo, ‘Sneaky Bastard,’ I crashed into the “thick silence and …. deep restraint.” But my performance etiquette mortification was soothed by the sense that Meaden, Alice Dixon, and William McBride feel like the type of performers that make me want to ask: could your trio become a quartet?
Following on from their work together in This is What’s Happening, at the preview performance of Blowin’ Up, presented by the Substation as part of this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival, Meaden, Dixon, and McBride tell their three tales through their familiar occasional whisper and brief twiddle of the thumbs. They tell their tales with a wink that seeks to make colluders of the audience. Earlier, before ‘Sneaky Bastard’ had unfurled their “attack as life strategy,” arm movements like that of an elephant’s trunk gingerly sensing it’s way, Meaden, Dixon, and McBride had made themselves store mannequins behind the glass doors in the hallway. Still, playfully posed, and wry, Meaden in forest green, Dixon in a shade of midnight blue, and McBride in scarlet, their attire reminded me of a late '50s, early '60s art student. A tap on the shoulder and an invitation to return to their digs for tea and toast around the radiator would not feel out of place. Challenge as a coping mechanism need not ascribe to a set range of movements that fit every body, as this moment and following solos convey.
If Form Was Repeated.
If Many Was One.
If Cohesion Was Strength.
If Nature Was Beginning.
If Nature Was Heard.
Beautiful patterning that replicated nature took form and was repeated. However, unexpectedly, the suggestion of nature was inferred less in the costuming and materials and more in the movements of the dancers and a world’s worth of beanbag stuffing. This reclaimed nature was not easily found for the artifice, but it was felt. It was in the inquisitive bird-like, feet-together pitter-patter shuffle of Hall in a tinkling-light duet with McLellan. It was in the swirl of uncontrollable beanbag stuffing on the black flooring that simultaneously recalled ocean waves, a desert, and a dusting of snow. Also unfixed to one reading, the large panels employed by the dancers to move and momentarily control the tiny white beads, called to mind delicate fans, the personification of Wind on the pages of an old Atlas when the world was (believed) flat, and a line of police with riot shields. And joined to this unnatural-natural sensation, the uncomfortable loud screeching sound of small Polystyrene beads underfoot. When later adhered to the skin by static electricity, the dancers appeared all the more a part of nature as brutal as it was transfixing. Covered and branded by a manufactured pollen, five lurid pink Birds-of-Paradise, blown off evolutionary course.
If Evolution Was Key.
If Mimicry Was Survival.
If Mimicry Was Absence.
In Lake’s hands, mimicry was strength, where in McCormack’s, it was a weakness that devoured. Two sides of the one coin, spun.
If I Was Won.
Indeed I was.
Recently landed: In Recovery: Delicate and Disarming, Gracia's written response for Fjord Review
In the yawning space of the machine hall, we assembled. A small group of mourners cloaked in suitable attire, our number countable upon my fingers, no need for the toes. We came in pairs to Recovery, to a space formally the domain of pigeons and vandals, to witness “a delicate duel with time". I brought with me my curiosity and an expectation to become unmoored.
Though instructed to before entering the space, we formed something of an instinctual, loose knot around the performers, Nat Cursio and Shannon Bott. We formed, it quickly transpired, not a band of ghoulish spectators, but a family. Having read through the programme notes before my arrival, I knew that the work was born from grief, and based on earlier works involving Nat Cursio I felt certain of one thing: that I would be surprised. And in the former electricity Sub-station with its Neo Classical proportions of grandeur, I was to feel both dwarfed by the cavernous space our number barely filled and part of something bigger, greater. I had not expected this connectedness to others to form so easily, if at all, and it is testament to the stripped back, real and still (possibly always) raw work. On a quiet Monday evening, Cursio and Bott offered forth a work, absent of sentimentality and decorativeness, about how loss affects every cell of the body, and what could be more disarming and delicate than that? On a run-of-the-mill weekday, we were being entrusted with something intensely personal and particular; this was my surprise.