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Nerve Engine, Bonemap Nerve Engine, Bonemap
photo Tai Inoue
Bonemap invites one audience member every 15 minutes to participate in Nerve Engine. Designed to ensure a very personal experience, this interdisciplinary and immersive one-on-one format has been perfected by this Cairns-based company (new media artist Russell Milledge and performer and co-creator Rebecca Youdell) over the past four years.

The installation is made up of two large round netted and transparent scrims hanging from roof to floor in a darkened room. The participant, with an iPhone attached to the back of their hand, stands inside one scrim while the other, four metres in front, is empty.

I’m immediately submerged in an environment of sound and image. Four double projectors fill the corners of the room with digital imagery, all of which is stitched together by software developed by Milledge. At the same time I’m engulfed by a 4.1 sound system. The work is coordinated by Milledge from a control desk behind me. Along with the programmed light and sound, an extra layer of sound is triggered by the iPhone—influenced by my movements.

As Nerve Engine begins, a spotlight illuminates a dancer, Youdell, in a brilliant red dress dragging a treasure chest. She too has an iPhone attached to her hand and I’m gently enticed into a duet of movement, finding myself imitating her arm movements. Then through a series of gestures she almost becomes my puppet as I guide her into the chest and she disappears.

The experience lasts for approximately 10 minutes and crescendos with loud, all-encompassing drumming while the performer reappears making frenzied movements in a red tutu.

The images projected on the participant’s scrim are elemental—water, air, smoke and flames. At times there is sensory overload—images are layered, the sound is engulfing and attention repeatedly drawn to the performer—theatrically lit and always garbed in red: the red of blood, the life force and nerve engine of the work.

With Youdell suspended in space like a lab specimen in the middle of the second scrim, the work concludes with a projection of the dancer in the stance of Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man, linking Nerve Engine to Bonemap’s ongoing exploration into the relationship between body and universe.

Most impressive is the way image, sound, light and action combine seamlessly, the result of clever use of technology alongside physical performance. As a participant I come away feeling privileged to have been part of a unique experience—a performance orchestrated just for me.


2014 Cairns Festival, Nerve Engine, director, scenographic design, media Russell Milledge, co-director, choreographer, performer Rebecca Youdell, sound design Steven Campbell, programmer Jason Holdsworth; Cairns Entertainment Centre, 26-30 Aug

RealTime issue #123 Oct-Nov 2014 pg. 32

© George Dann; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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