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on edge


elegy for the land

victoria carless: zane saunders, blueprint

Victoria Carless is a writer and Associate Lecturer in Performance at James Cook University. She participated in the Induce-RealTime Writing Workshop. Her new play The Shining Path will be performed at JUTE Theatre in November this year.

Cast, Blueprint, Zane Saunders Cast, Blueprint, Zane Saunders
photo Jenny Fraser
FOUR EPHEMERAL FIGURES EMERGE FROM BEHIND TALL, METALLIC TREE-LIKE SHAPES AT THE BACK OF CRATE 59’S DECAYING INDUSTRIAL SITE. MARKED IN WHITE CLAY AND WEARING STRIPS OF CLOTH REMINISCENT OF BANDAGES, THE PERFORMERS APPEAR TO BE FROM ANOTHER TIME AND PLACE.

They clasp bony, life-sized, half-moon structures—the shape echoed in their facial markings. Together they guide us through a re-imagining of traditional fire and land clearing practices in Cape York. Fluid in their symbology, the performers morph from spirit to animal to human and back again.

Blueprint, a new work conceptualised by indigenous artist Zane Saunders for the On Edge festival in Cairns incorporates dreaming, circus references and the everyday to create a trance-like elegy for the dying land. We see natural formations and ancient tribes displaced by the elements, ingeniously represented by tiny styrofoam beads tossed by wind. In a burial ceremony the audience are invited to offer flowers to the deceased land at a half-moon grave.

In the aftermath of this event Saunders presents us with an indelible image. A battered fan turns the pages of what appears to be a bible and scatters printed images across the floor. Here the lines between performance and installation blur. We are cued for grief and let into the moment with a Bob Dylan track from a ghetto blaster. We are reminded that, yes indeed, “The times, they are a-changin.” A hazard light, stage left, flashes a yellow sunset as the lights dim and the first part of Blueprint ends, with an apparent snuffing out of human and animal life.

This vignette of grief has its companion piece in part two of Blueprint, where the performers celebrate regeneration of the land and the renewal of life. There is fresh energy and a greater sense of pace, and after a time, the land is re-born. Domino-like structures, possibly monuments to civilisation or colonial invasion, are knocked down. Lines of string demarcate—and perhaps reclaim—this land as spiritual territory. Like a tightrope walker, Saunders takes centre stage, balancing a long pole horizontally in his hands, while walking intently towards us. The intensity of the action is juxtaposed with Saunders’ relaxed grip as he appears to embody the spirit of both creation myth and circus performance. A ritualistic fire ceremony ensues, the performers lighting incense coils. Curls of smoke permeate the space and soften the raw industrial feel of Crate 59.

Blueprint is a new work exploring environmental management issues in an evocative, and sometimes abstract, way. It reminds us that, while it must go though fire to yield new beginnings, our land should be afforded all the ceremonies we would a loved one.


Zane Saunders, Blueprint, with Jess Jones, Joelle Baines and Hanzard, sound Nicholas Mills; Crate 59 Gallery, July 9 & 11..

Victoria Carless is a writer and Associate Lecturer in Performance at James Cook University. She participated in the Induce-RealTime Writing Workshop. Her new play The Shining Path will be performed at JUTE Theatre in November this year.

RealTime issue #93 Oct-Nov 2009 pg.

© Victoria Carless; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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