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Aimee Smith, Breakings Aimee Smith, Breakings
photo Christophe Canato
Aimee Smith, Breakings Aimee Smith, Breakings
photo Christophe Canato
 Aimee Smith, Breakings Aimee Smith, Breakings
photo Christophe Canato
Aimee Smith, Breakings Aimee Smith, Breakings
photo Christophe Canato
CHARACTERISTICALLY, AIMEE SMITH CONCEIVES WORKS ON A SINGLE SOCIAL CONCERN. IN BREAKINGS IT’S THE RAMIFICATIONS OF BEING IMMERSED IN MEDIA-DEFINED HYPER-REALITIES. IN THE BEST OF HER WORKS, A RIGOROUS CLARITY OF PURPOSE EITHER PUMMELS THE IDEA UNTIL ITS TENETS COLLAPSE (WAITING FOR THE REVOLUTION, 2009) OR THE SURFACE IDEA FRACTURES INTO ITS INEVITABLE INTERPRETIVE MULTIPLICITIES (REFUND POLICY, 2007, AND ACCIDENTAL MONSTERS OF MEANING, 2009).

Smith’s first full-length work, Breakings, driven by schizophrenic responses of the character/performer, both affirms the array of options given by the media-dominated environment and closes down personal agency in a claustrophobic deadend of failure and loneliness. The unforgiving perspective enfolds the terminable condition of an isolated individual brought about by virulent bombardments of realities from somewhere beyond word and screen.

The cornered life begins in a tightly set bed-sit, plastered with newspaper across every conceivable surface and furbished at appropriate points with electronic screens. Pathological obsession lurks as paper and text, image and pronouncements operate in juxtaposition with Smith to enact curious metaphors and misplaced relationships. The morning alarm rings and the screen image is switched off before Smith rises to extract cat food from the screen fridge for the screen cat. Normality pervades the Baudrillardian simulacra-scape without missing a monotone 2D beat.

Beginning with the normal action of reading the morning’s paper Smith then travels the room’s dimensions devouring endless printed edicts with an increasing avidity that drags the body in its wake. It is as if spectators are taken on a pocket-compact history of human engagement with the media, suggesting a viral susceptibility to information born with the invention of print. Fuelled by a compulsion to know as much and as quickly as is possible, the quick-fix ingestion is serviced by the production’s innovative and deceptively simple technologies that extend word into sound and pictures. Screens, formerly stand-ins for reality, splutter into action and project images and statistics of atrocities in the same breath as seductive views of glamour and success. Media has, in a sense, acquired its proper stride or, more tellingly, its crazed flight. Death and mutilation interpenetrate sexual allure with a speed and ease which is played out by Smith’s corporeal appropriation of collisions of horror and hope. Smith’s body becomes the site of abuse, penetrated by an artillery of information with scant regard for human comprehension.

Entrapment folds to a false quietude, when Smith, the achingly human young woman, moves within an isolated rectangle of coloured light. The movement sheds its frenzy to become calm and beautifully fluid until spectators realise that this light is nothing more than a television test pattern. What seems like a respite from affliction sours into the affliction itself: the human individual is but a standby pattern before the main action begins. In such an impasse, a human soul is a mere figment of broken desire. The ending is thus forecast long before the screen lights emit evidence of cross-wiring malfunction. Unfed screen cats and deformed and abused children share a similar fate with their co-performer, Smith; they are shattered and extinguished though, unlike her, they are never immune, in their digital sanity, from relentless replication and projection.

Breakings does not end when the lights go out but extends through post-performance forums, designed not so much to elicit reflection on the production as to promote dialogue on issues raised between Smith, guests from academia, arts and the media, the affable facilitator James Berlyn and the audience. I suspect the exchanges will focus on Smith’s singular focus which omits all trace of the new media’s democratic activism and social networking and thus can cast Breakings as a throw-back to the days of media-mogul control. However, such questioning can explore artistic storytelling, utilising, ironically, the tactics of social networking to probe Smith’s approach, enabling its singularity to provoke a diversity of ideas.

Breakings may not have plumbed the full range of media intervention into our lives but it has pushed feeding the cat into a peculiarly revealing—and perhaps enunciated—can of digital worms.

One paradoxical worm raised by Breakings involves questions about the capacity of dance and dancers to portray mental and bodily disintegration. The physical fitness and beauty of dancers (if not the whole philosophical/psychological basis of the discipline) inhibits grotesque or undesired states like damage and decrepitude. Entanglement in beauty facilitates a sense of identity loss in the performer but, at the same time, impedes the more distressing schizophrenic disability which seems to be in Smith’s sights. The screen cat in spite of screen and reality confusions remains cute and Smith carries her breaking perhaps too eloquently to convey unhinged reality.


Breakings, choreographer, performer, audio visuals Aimee Smith, sound Ben Taaffe, lighting Mike Nanning, video mapping Jerrem Lynch, set design Bryan Woltjen, set & costumes Fiona Bruce, outside eye Michael Whaites, co-produced by Performing Lines WA and STRUT dance; PICA, Perth, April 8-11; www.aimee-smith.com/blog/

RealTime issue #97 June-July 2010 pg. 28

© Maggi Phillips; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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