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In Other Words In Other Words
courtesy of the artist
TALYA CHALEF’S IN OTHER WORDS BEGINS WITH THE WRITING ON THE WALL. THE AUDIENCE IS LED INTO AN INTRODUCTORY SPACE WHERE PRINTED QUOTES ACCOMPANY PHOTOCOPIES OF MAPS SUGGESTING A TEXTUAL TOPOGRAPHY TO BE TRAVERSED. INTRODUCTIONS OVER, WE THEN ENTER A VAST PERFORMANCE SPACE THAT MAY HAVE ONCE BEEN A CONVENT KITCHEN. AND THERE’S SOMETHING COOKING AMONG THE THREE MALE PERFORMERS AS THEY SCRAWL WORDS ON CELL WALLS. SOUTH AFRICA’S TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION, PINOCHET’S DEATH SQUADS IN FASCIST CHILE AND AUSTRALIA’S STOLEN GENERATIONS COMBINE IN A BROAD RUMINATION UPON STATE SANCTIONED MURDER AND DISPLACED PEOPLES.

Chalef infuses this performance with a movement vocabulary that oscillates between quiet stillness and violent tremolo allowing us to comprehend the poetry of trauma, as well as the trauma itself. The performance is then sucked into a projected image of a cracked wall, and each performer clings to an edifice accompanied by a striking composition of synthesizer and distorted sounds.

Pain is a visceral experience, one not simply carved into flesh, but also vulcanised upon the soul. And this is nowhere more apparent than when the performers come together slightly off centre for a smoko. They resemble politicians using words to duck and weave, to stall and dominate, revealing the limitations of the English language, accentuated by Tim Stitz stuffing his lean form into a disused fireplace and thereby transforming it into a mini-proscenium, or an Auschwitz oven. When Death arrives, we do not greet it with polite words. Instead, we defiantly resist its presence with paralytic screams. During this performance, it’s the image of Death that haunts us, not the words we use to divert and conceal its ever attending presence. And so it is that Chalef’s ‘other words’ are images. The pain of remembered experience, once probed and investigated, becomes a chemical dream. When remembering, I do not speak. Instead, I feel and see...

A lesser known Kafka story is titled Under the Harrow. The protagonist has his sin carved into his chest by an “Apparatus.” In conceiving of such an image, it was as if Kafka was attempting to transcend the limitations of language. In Other Words functions similarly. We see and experience the pain inflicted upon the individual by political machines that once resided (and still exist to degrees) in three continents. But this is not before the show takes a most interesting turn. A video projection of a woman, superimposed over the actual presence of a male performer (one who has outlined his own image in chalk upon a wall), invites us to consider the liberating possibilities of technology. Thinking and feeling beyond gender, we see pain for what it really is: a kaleidoscope of flesh, blood and viscera, the gulf between anima and animus, and the painful experience of synthesising both into a fully integrated personality.


In Other Words, animateur Talya Chalef, performers Keith Brockett, Tim Stitz, Mark Tregonning, Georgina Durham, Suzannah Bayes Morton, sound design Alex Garsden, lighting Bronwyn Pringle; Basement Space, Abbotsford Arts Complex, Melbourne, August 1-11

RealTime issue #81 Oct-Nov 2007 pg. 32

© Tony Reck; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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