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 Lisa Griffiths, As You Take Time Lisa Griffiths, As You Take Time
photo Patrick Neu
CHOREOGRAPHER AND FILMMAKER SUE HEALEY HAS MADE AN EFFECTIVE MULTIMEDIA INCURSION INTO GALLERY 4A’S VARIOUS SPACES STARTING WITH THE SHOP WINDOW ON HAY STREET, CHINATOWN WHERE DANCERS SHONA ERSKINE AND LISA GRIFFITHS OSCILLATE BETWEEN BUTOH-ESQUE SLOW MOTION, ALBEIT WITH WESTERN DANCERLY GRACE, AND SMALL, SUDDEN ARTICULATIONS THAT SUGGEST ROBOTICISED SHOP DUMMIES. BEHIND THEM ON TWO LARGE MONITORS THEIR MOVEMENTS ARE TRACKED AT A SLIGHTLY SLOWER PACE LEAVING PAINTERLY, DIGITAL TRACES. ALREADY, AS YOU TAKE TIME IS PLAYING WITH TIME, OUR SENSE OF IT HEIGHTENED AS A MIX OF INTENDING AND ACCIDENTAL AUDIENCE FORM SMALL ATTENTIVE CROWDS AND THEN EVAPORATE WHILE PEDESTRIANS BREEZE BY, SNATCHING GLIMPSES OF THE DANCE.

These initial movements and disorientations seem apt: Japan is the world leader in robotics, has given us the performative body states of butoh and, as Healey writes in her program (and many before her), to visit that country is to enter a very different time zone, where the fast is very fast and the slow is meditatively so.

Inside the small downstairs gallery space, Rachelle Hickson, in Ritual Room appears to cower in a corner, extending her long body to the full and then contracting, hand across face and fenced in by small cutouts, at her feet, of the letters T I M E. Meanwhile, in accelerated footage, video projections on three walls show on older Japanese woman dressing Hickson in traditional kimono complete with obi and footwear. The letters of TIME are rearranged by Hickson, perhaps in an effort at control, and then by an interloping Kei Ikeda who becomes the subject of the next passage. As geisha makeup is applied to her face in closeup on a video projection (another focuses on the foot and kimono movements of someone—Hickson?) Ikeda leans and rolls against a video image of herself. While these video transformations appear passive, the live action is tense, as if adjusting to new cultural pressures that constrain and fold the dancers’ bodies. In a brisk duet, the pair race in a circle before their bodies merge, falling slowly into each other. It’s interesting that although both dancers seem to experience similar states, Ikeda is Japanese. However, the program tells us she came to Australia as an eight-year-old and, of course, the images of kimono and geisha makeup belong to a very different time for Japanese and Australian alike.

The dancers invite us to follow them to the upstairs gallery where Erskine and Japanese dancer Norizaku Maeda, in Shona in Japan, solo and duet against three screens which they raise and lower. Here we’re immersed in sweeping images of Erskine on Tokyo streets and railway stations and by water ways, sometimes filling the whole space. On screen Erskine is often still, prominent in her red coat as the city world flurries about her, or she moves in near harmony with a group of men in a quirky little dance on the road or lines up with them to fish for carp. Mouthing exaggerated o’s, Maeda abstractly mimicks the carp we see in close-up. There are moments of intimacy in the live performance, where the brief images of urban life give way to a passage in which the dancers lie side by side, hands and arms entwining against city lights. The differentiations between day and night, between tourist time and everyday time, between work and play and between two people further the work’s temporal play.

Lisa Griffiths performs The White Room in exactly that, an adjoining bright space we look into where the performer stands on a narrow light box, one low wall of which is a screen for fascinating images created by Jason Lam. Griffith’s body is almost immediately taut, every extension as if a desire to exceed, but always abstractly, whether leaning out to the wall or tottering on all fours (on toe tips and clenched fists), working from the box’s narrow parameters. The first projected image on the box wall is a black and white negative of a tree growing and then shedding its leaves, and then dissolving into another tree, and another. A later image is of gently waving leaves of grass amidst which a tiny real time Griffith appears. The tension between Nature’s long-term time, amplified by the long whining notes of Darrin Verhagen’s score, and the human body’s urgent drives is palpable, not least in Griffith’s realisation of the exacting choreography.

We crowd into a black box of a room stacked with small mountain of DVD players and monitors. Here Maeda too exhibits a vibrating tension right to his finger tips as his hands gesture into the sole pool of light, as if reaching for something utterly and painfully unattainable. Finally, he simply switches the monitors on and leaves; we stare uncomprehendingly at images from other dance works and everyday family life. Time is retrievable, but how and whose?

The final passage, Norizaku in Australia, takes us into a large space featuring the whole ensemble. As in The White Room, Maeda, like Griffith, is hemmed in, restricted to performing atop a box. Here, expansive, serene, sunny coastline images are projected, but what first draws us in is sand falling from the performer’s cupped hands to the box top in an amplified reflective sonic reverie. On the screen Maeda is seen in the ocean, above the water line, gesturing abstractly from a rock plinth, a performance which he duplicates live—another kind of seeking across time and space? Meanwhile the four female dancers dance near and far in chorus, shaping their hands into binocular shapes with which they regard us and Maeda with touristy brevity to a bouncy pop score from Ben Walsh. Again different kinds of time experience are juxtaposed—the deep time of interiority and the filling-in time of kitsch—and doubtless we learn a little of Norizaku’s alienation, of feeling utterly isolated and intruded on.

Though deftly executed and alternating nicely between the intensity of Maeda’s performance and the neat frivolity of the ensemble dancing, Norizaku in Australia seems rather slight coming after the focused power of its predecessors. But it’s worth recalling that ‘artentertainment’ comes easier to Japanese culture than it does our own. This is something Walsh captures in his scores for Shona in Japan and Norizaku in Australia, drawing on traditional Japanese music and cheeky pop and using his own distinctive instrumentation (was that a piano accordion I heard)?

As You Take Time does not theorise cultural temporal difference, but it yields a pretty good impression of contrasting and overlapping sense experiences, not least from the mix of real and virtual means that Healey and her dancers and media artists deploy and by moving their audience through a range of states themselves. As You Take Time is an intricate, engrossing multimedia dance experience.


As You Take Time, director Sue Healey, performers Norikazu Maeda (Tokyo), Shona Erskine, Lisa Griffiths, Rachelle Hickson, Kei Ikeda, music Ben Walsh, Darrin Verhagen, lighting designer Nicholas Higgins, projection designers Jason Lam, Sue Healey; Gallery 4a Asia-Australia Arts Centre, Sydney, Aug 14-25

RealTime issue #81 Oct-Nov 2007 pg. 42

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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