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online e-dition august 21


radical relief in reactionary times

virginia baxter: under the radar, 2012 brisbane festival


I war, The Danger Ensemble I war, The Danger Ensemble
photo courtesy Brisbane Festival
WHAT SORT OF WORKS, I WONDER, FIND THEMSELVES CORRALLED INTO EVENTS SUCH AS UNDER THE RADAR, THE ADJUNCT TO BRISBANE’S ANNUAL ARTS FESTIVAL? BY DEFINITION THESE SHOULD BE “UNDETECTED OR UNNOTICED WORKS” BUT AS IT TURNS OUT, THEY’RE NOTHING OF THE SORT. IN FACT, YOU WONDER WHY THEY EVEN NEED TO HAVE THEIR OWN CATEGORY IN A FESTIVAL THAT CELEBRATES ACCORDING TO ARTISTIC DIRECTOR NOEL STAUNTON, “THE EXTRAORDINARY TALENT WE HAVE RIGHT HERE AT HOME.”

For UTR 2012 producer Britt Guy it’s about “the most exciting independent artists and collectives working across Australia and the world” who challenge conventions and offer “fresh creative landscapes” or “raw and intimate…rough and ready” works in public spaces “that will change the way you think about Brisbane.” For those wishing to forestall the inevitability of the Campbell Newman vision of their city, UTR might be just what the doctor ordered.

The packed program of largely Australian works suggests that the hybrid performance genre is mutating nicely to include such multi-headed beasts as lighting design + live art party (Dark Matters), stand-up + left-field performance in the buff (Envoye://Fragmente) and what must be a first—a soprano (Heather Keens) communing with a nasendoscopic projection of her vocal folds to “explore the sounds and memories that return to a singer during a performance” (Conversations with my Voice).

Capital, Tina Dobaj Eder and Gregor Kamnikar Capital, Tina Dobaj Eder and Gregor Kamnikar
photo Suncan Stone
In this context Capital, the work of Slovenian dance duo Tina Dobaj Eder and Gregor Kamnikar on the subject of consumerism sounds almost conventional—the strategy of positioning an “interactive” audience taking their chances amid a flurry of dancers being something of a live art norm these days. An onstage whip-round to fund completion of the night’s performance is edgier and suggests that the dance scene in Slovenia is in about the same state of health as our own. Many of the works in UTR would not have made the journey without Pozible.

Fifteen, Liesel Zinc Fifteen, Liesel Zinc
photo courtesy Brisbane Festival
There are many therapeutic ways to lose yourself in UTR such as Fifteen in which you can relax while you observe the quiet chaos of Liesel Zink navigating Brisbane’s peak hour. Jane Howard (in RT109 online) described this work as “infused with humour in the matching of choreography to recorded and live narration; and in the juxtaposition of commuter routine and dancer movement Liesel Zinc has created a dance work that is ultimately a joy.” And we have heard tell of people refusing to ever return from the sensory journey that is Blind Date by Big One Little One in which a stranger guides you blindfold through the city.

Underground Underground
photo Gerwyn Davies, courtesy Brisbane Festival
Underground, a Korean speakeasy run by an eccentric proprietor is “immersive to such a degree that you find yourself completely forgetting about the world outside the venue,” says Matthew O’Neill (RT107) of an earlier incarnation of this work at Metro Arts' Independents season. “Stepping into the venue, you’re immediately flooded with all the apprehension, fear and excitement inherent in being thrust into an alien culture unprepared. This is Underground’s greatest achievement.” Director Jeremy Neideck and ensemble afford their audiences an entire world to inhabit and explore over the course of the performance. Stepping up to the plate Metro Arts offers the one thing that was missing the first time round—a real bar so you can linger longer in fantasyland.

Best We Forget, is this yours Best We Forget, is this yours
photo courtesy Brisbane Festival
If only total amnesia will do, you might want to tie a knot round your finger so you don’t miss Best We Forget by Adelaide’s nattily titled Is this yours in which “three characters fight off panic as they explore their fears and fascinations with forgetting.” In the spirit of Sydney’s POST by the sounds of it, is this yours “approach serious ideas in a ridiculous manner and ridiculous ideas in a serious manner.” A useful strategy in conservative times.

And what sort of a festival would it be without contemplation of the afterlife? In After All This you’re in the expert hands of the highly decorated Elbow Room (Best Ensemble, Best Director 2012 Victorian Green Room Awards; Best Performance 2011 Melbourne Fringe). Or maybe live art with video installation will take you out of yourself. Among the ephemeral offerings in UTR’s Inter Art Works program “seeping into the public spaces of Brisbane” is the experiential heaven::himmel in which one performer (Henriette Kassay-Schuster) in Berlin and the other (Hermione Merry) in Brisbane together create a liminal zone for you “to explore the joy and tragedy of (mis)communication through the use of space, multiple projection, live performance and sound.”

Accept the invitation to Katie Sfetkidis’ Dark Matter (Brave New Works program) and you’ll get music, disco balls, food and party games followed by a sobering wind-down with a “private sound and light experience in a darkened room.” Or you might feel safer in the hands of Stuart Bowden creator of the multi-award winning Loungeroom Confabulators who introduces his latest incarnation in The Beast a duet with a flickering silhouette called Winslow.

Potential peril is inherent in witnessing the early stages of any new work in development. Perhaps moreso when you enter the realm of the Danger Ensemble. But if you like your theatre edgy you won’t want to miss I WAR in which the ensemble throws OH&S cautions once more to the wind to “delve heart first into a visceral world of dance, theatre, music and media to investigate the human identity at war.” Late great RT writer Douglas Leonard described the Ensemble thus: “As a company, they seem to be exploring that friable edge which divides the tolerable from the intolerable, but they’re equally committed to physical precision, lucidity and direct expression that comes from training in the disciplines of Butoh and Suzuki method.” (RT105, Hamlet Apocalypse)

Reparation of the Heart, Jacopus Cupone Reparation of the Heart, Jacopus Cupone
photo courtesy Brisbane Festival
Then again, you might prefer to avoid dark thoughts in black boxes altogether and instead take comfort in ritual and the one-on-one. In The Reparation of the Heart, Jacobus Cupone, an artist who revels in “the transient and ephemeral…small histories of nothing…pays homage to his former family through painting, performance and site-specific intervention.” 1,370 paintings for each paving stone that surrounded Cupone’s family home will eventually be buried by hand after the artist has been led, blindfolded by a local resident to a place from their own past.

Indulge your paranoid projections in Communication Facilitation Devices for Everyday Conversation or Other Emotional Outbursts in which we’re reminded, “Everything is sent, tracked, recorded and updated, every piece of information accounted for." The performance based video works of Astrid Woods-Joyce are framed as ‘thought experiments’ that aim to test or transcend the normal bounds of communication space by speculating on new and different ways to connect with individuals, spaces and place. City surveillance is also invoked in ThreeFold, a series of public video installations and interventions from Pirrin Francis, Melissa Ryke and Hayley Brandon, projected in various locations across the city.

Still Night, Berlin, Nevada Still Night, Berlin, Nevada
photo courtesy Brisbane Festival
There are many more alternative visions in this program but if, in this new-man era, nothing less than total annihilation will suffice, head for Still Night (UK/Italy). Inspired by Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities and conceived by Berlin, Nevada (Silvia Mercuriali and Gemma Brocklis), Still Night "casts Brisbane as the central character," wrapped up in a fantastical narrative where real events are mixed with imagined and mythical perspectives on the city. “The walls of the room we are in begin to split apart and the whole city starts to crumble and disappear.”


Under the Radar, Brisbane Festival Metro Arts and selected festival venues, September 8-29, www.brisbanefestival.com.au

RealTime issue #110 Aug-Sept 2012 pg. web

© Virginia Baxter; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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