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More or Less Concrete, Tim Darbyshire More or Less Concrete, Tim Darbyshire
photo Ponch Hawkes
HUMANS ARE SENSATES, THERE IS NO OTHER WAY TO PERCEIVE THE WORLD OUTSIDE THE BODY. ACCORDING TO ANTHROPOLOGISTS, MEMORY IS THE HISTORY BOOK OF OUR SENSORY EXPERIENCES WHERE WE STORE AND RESTORE EACH SENSORY DIMENSION WITHIN THE OTHER, MAKING IT DIFFICULT TO SEPARATE AND VERBALISE OUR SENSATIONS. TIM DARBYSHIRE’S COLLABORATIVE PERFORMANCE IS BASED ON THEORIES OF SYNAESTHESIA, SENSORY EXPERIENCE AND MEMORY.

In More or Less Concrete, the audience witnesses a kind of abstraction of the body and its movements. The slow, dreamy pace makes this as much a study in sculptural forms as dance. Through sensory-challenging sound and lighting, it is also a retelling of these snatches of memory through performance.

In a darkened theatre, headsets deliver the minimalist and hypnotic sound. A car in the distance, a creaking chair, a metal street sign in the wind? The recordings are central to the piece, as in the dance itself they explore the intersection of sound and movement of artificial or natural environments. Microphones near the stage pick up the sound of limbs slapping the stage, heads knocking on the wooden stage and the breath and grunts of the performers. The containment and editing of sound through headphones coupled with darkness heightens our visual perception.

Three performers in boiler suits appear in a haze of low watt blue light, their heads tucked away out of sight. Without the visual reference point of heads, the performers appear to be disembodied sculptures. For much of the performance, faces are hidden, giving the performers an anonymous, inhuman nature. The unfamiliar positions of the bodies—such as upside down torsos—leave behind unrecognisable, twisted forms, like the casts of animals made at Vesuvius or Richard Goodwin’s concrete sculptures of cast bodies, Mobius Sea. The title of the performance refers to the shifts between the concrete reality and the more ephemeral forms of bodies. Movement transforms the body from recognisable states as human or animal, to something more abstract, to machine or ‘other.’

Darbyshire’s work is informed by visual art and film—initially the frequent pausing in the choreography allows for the same contemplation as visual art. Then there are the filmic qualities. We are warned in advance about loud noises—after a somnolent start there is a sudden bang, the kind that keeps you on the edge of your seat during a thriller. In a dark, controlled sensory environment this keeps the audience alert and tense.

A former star swimmer, Darbyshire evokes memories of swimming through the colour blue—the effect is immersive and cold, much like blue tint in film. We see the bodies as if underwater, with oscillating arms. The forms the body makes when suspended in water are strange yet recognisable. There are other playful impressions from childhood: sprinklers and the swooshing, claustrophobic brushes of a car wash.

More or Less Concrete is a quietly unsettling and revelatory investigation into the crossroads of our senses. We walk away having experienced bodies as abstract forms while movement is perceived sonically as well as visually.


More or Less Concrete, choreographer, director Tim Darbyshire, performers Sophia Cowen, Tim Darbyshire, Matthew Day, sound designer Myles Mumford, lighting, production Bluebottle, dramaturg, sound theorist Thembi Soddell, Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall, April 18–22

RealTime issue #109 June-July 2012 pg. 8

© Varia Karipoff; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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