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online e-dition jan 31, 2012


hypnotic hazes, voyeuristic visions

teik-kim pok: pact’s beguiled; shh hybrid arts’ how to lose sight

Teik-Kim Pok is an interdisciplinary artist working in performance, installation and pedagogy. A member of electronic band Toydeath, he is also Outreach Coordinator at Playwriting Australia and teaches secondary level drama in NSW.

Beguiled, PACT Centre for Emerging Artists Beguiled, PACT Centre for Emerging Artists
photos Heidrun Löhr
"CHOOSE TO BE LOST. CHOOSE TO BELIEVE," IS THE 2011 PACT ENSEMBLE’S EXHORTATION IN PREPARATION FOR EXPERIENCING THE ENTRANCING BEGUILED. THE SAME WEEK I ATTENDED SHH’S HOW TO LOSE SIGHT, A MEDITATION ON "BLIND REALITY—LIFE AND LIVING, LOVE AND LOVE-MAKING." BOTH WERE STEADY, DETAILED, SITE-FOCUSED THEATRE EXPERIENCES FROM SYDNEY’S EMERGING PERFORMANCE MAKERS, CHOOSING TO TACKLE THEIR CENTRAL OBSESSIONS BY WAY OF SENSORY SMORGASBORD AND BOLD THEMATIC EXTRAPOLATION.

beguiled, pact

Under the mentorship of Cat Jones and Julie Vulcan, the PACT Ensemble references magic and illusion to draw us into a series of performative vignettes. In the foyer, we are asked to close our eyes as smooth pebbles are gingerly placed in each of our palms, a ritual to re-calibrate our senses before entering. After a pneumatic introductory dance, the audience is funnelled into three groups.

First, I peek into a blindingly orange boudoir inhabited by an equally orange-beehived woman whose routine of being tucked into her orange-sheeted bed or drinking orange juice and tending to her orange is played out by doppelgangers Emma White and Kate Brown in alternating tableaux. Meanwhile, blood-curdling screams pierce sealed walls from a stairwell. They're revealed to be those of a twine-wrapped woman (Tanya Thaweeskulcha) who barely contains her breathy hysteria, but recovers sufficiently to herd us into the next installation.

Entering a dimly-lit space populated by keys and speaker cones dangling from ribbons, we are entranced by Madison Chippendale’s determined search for the right key to a door in front of her while pre-recorded whispers express her hidden frustration. Following this, Annabelle McMillian’s playful interaction with a miniature projection of herself on a cardboard diorama is the night’s visual standout.

At the end, the performers reunite the audience by inviting us to lie down and softly gaze at an amorphous video image above, leaving us to slip into a hypnotic daze or light slumber. On reflection, Beguiled’s attempt to engage with the dark arts rarely went beyond a visually-polished techno-vaudevillian showcase, but offered some new voices and idiosyncratic talents, supported by a haunting ambience courtesy of Melissa Hunt’s sound and Emma Lockhart-Wilson’s lighting design.

how to lose sight, shh hybrid arts

How To Lose Sight, Shh Hybrid Arts How To Lose Sight, Shh Hybrid Arts
photos Michal Imelski
Over four weeks in a heritage-listed bungalow in Parramatta, Michal Imielski, has led a troupe of sighted-performers through a body of research about blindness accumulated through interviews conducted at Vision Australia. The result is How to Lose Sight, a deeply voyeuristic offering that conflates the idea of blind existence with raw sensuality.

To limit the number of bodies inhabiting tight spaces we are split into four groups by our guide Pollyanna Nowicki. The first is a room filled with an intricate white crocheted web, gently imprisoning us while Odile Leclezio, also in virtuous white, with lifeless eyes but impassioned voice, regales us with anecdotes of her intimate escapades. Meanwhile, her black-suited aides Julia Landrey and Gideon Payton-Griffiths manhandle her through the malleable thread sculpture as she obsessively stuffs white plastic bowls into various sections of the web.

Next, we are subjected to the passionate goings-on between Shauntelle Benjamin and Peter Maple. In silence on the house’s front porch, we watch the work's gradual commencement with anticipation through the window. As we collectively wish they'd ‘get a room,’ the randy couple swiftly migrates to ours and escalates to near-consummation with a total lack of self-consciousness, evoking a Dogme-esque depiction of sexuality à la The Idiots. Almost on cue, Nowicki provides a most irreverent and innocuous interruption, wielding an iPhone to capture the couple in action and to move the story along.

A pivotal scene takes place in the main living area, where the couple and Barton Williams forensically reconstruct, via a game of charades, an altercation that leads to a chemical blinding. This compelling moment of exposition occurs around a vulvic/eye-like tent, around which the audience are seated and inside which this time more watered-down physical shenanigans are hinted at.

The final room is inhabited by dancer Cloe Fournier who, with eyes tightly shut, flails both manically and methodically amidst chairs in varying states of disrepair. In keeping with the sexually charged energy of the night, she literally climbs the walls (and window ledges) as she voices her desire for amorous attention. After munching on some carrots, she isolates me from the audience and leaves me with souvenirs of flattery and flora, sending me, with a big grin on my face, back out to the audience converged on the front porch.

In the director’s notes, Imielski describes a stint as a close-up magician in a restaurant, during which he converses with a restaurant patron who relates her story of losing sight. As an aspiration to honour the impact of this encounter, Imelski and his team have responded with a work courageous in its imagery and darkly hilarious in its humanity.


PACT, Beguiled, directors Cat Jones, Julie Vulcan, performers/co-devisors Taryn Brine, Kate Brown, Madison Chippendale, Cameron Ellis, Sam Koh, Annabelle McMillan, Lucille Lehr, Tanya Thaweeskulcha, Emma White, Amber Wilcox, sound design and composition Melissa Hunt, lighting design Emma Lockhart Wilson, design Lucy Thornett, PACT Centre for Emerging Artists, Sydney, Nov 23-Dec 10, 2011; www.pact.net.au

Shh Hybrid Arts’ in association with Blacktown Arts Centre, How to Lose Sight, director/composer Michal Imielski, performers/co-devisors Barton Williams, Cloe Fournier, Julia Landrey, Odile Leclezio, Gideon Payten-Griffiths, Peter Maple, Pollyanna Nowicki, Shauntelle Benjamin, designer Lucy Wang, movement advisor Cloe Fournier, Riverside Parramatta and heritage house, Nov 30-Dec 10, 2011; www.shh.org.au/

Teik-Kim Pok is an interdisciplinary artist working in performance, installation and pedagogy. A member of electronic band Toydeath, he is also Outreach Coordinator at Playwriting Australia and teaches secondary level drama in NSW.

RealTime issue #106 Dec-Jan 2011 pg. web

© Teik-Kim Pok; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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