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Re-viewing the everyday

Derek Kreckler finds new growth: skadada@pica

Derek Kreckler is an artist currently living and working in Western Australia.

skadada are imagery and movement paced with a rhythmic beat. The ‘music’, situated somewhere between a club and the hubbub of a kitchen, utilises synthesised samples from the everyday: factories, shipyards, foundries, backyards, train tunnels and kitchens. skadada explore the hyperrealism of their/our confused consumerism and in their own words, “the body and the emergent senses”, a body transformed, extended and amplified by technology.

From the huge banality of projected bar codes to the eroticism of Burtt’s bald head spinning, twisting as a beam of video light, Katie Lavers’ computer manipulated video images achieve an iconic status. The large-scale projected Burtt is balanced by the real time and minimalist, physically articulate Burtt. The interactive body with a twitch of an eloquent shoulder blade, a finger tip, triggers events in the performance space. He spins inside a vertical column of light, lifting his arms to cut the beams—a cylinder of interactive pin spots. As the light is broken, a sound is triggered: Patterson’s midi system broadcasts a round of Chinese song—courtesy of and sung by artist Matthew Ngui—a melodic canon generated by Burtt’s body. “Red Yoyo” is hypnotic and mesmerising.

skadada@pica is skadada’s first extended performance work. It takes the form of a kind of techno cabaret. Short stories told by Burtt link image and movement, reminding me of Laurie Anderson. The form is episodic. “Jacques Tati’s Jug” for instance, tells the story of a washing machine which performs a perfect samba; “Flip Book” looks at remote control and TV dinners whilst “My Hat “ asks, “well what does a hat sound like?” The mood is cool and droll, the images seductive and the sound moves from the melodic to the cacophonous.

skadada reviews the everyday. Burtt’s movement reminds me of mortality. Few of us will ever move as well, ever have the dexterity of motion that situates Burtt as a blur between images and idea, generating actions that spawn, actions that give. Burtt, Patterson and Lavers have created a unique yet utterly familiar vision. This is not Louis Nowra looking for the real in a clichéd mélange of symbols. This is local voice and colour creating meaning, effecting displacements and minute variations, commenting and modifying those realities our mainstream arts agencies avoid or describe as if in the latter stages of drought. This is not high art but it is essential art.

Of course, this young skadada had some downsides. Some of the direction was rather too pedantically tied to the technology, causing the staging to be overly tight. Some images were a little glib, despite their relationship to other content elements. Overall, however, the technology, encompassing touch-sensitive floor panels, infra-red triggers, slide and digital video projection was witty, urbane and intelligently integrated into the landscape of the performance. Image and sound combined to complement and enhance Burtt’s performance yet operated as powerful works in their own right.

If skadada are able to continue, as I believe they should, they will no doubt have a hard time of it. Australia wastes its human resources. skadada may, as so many before them, edge close to the mark—their best performances reserved for the few. In their autumn years will they turn to each other and ask, “what happened?” I hope they remember the names of the enemy—our major and ‘excellent’ (sic) theatre companies who, mob like, pretend to be doing, but haven’t got a hope in hell of achieving more than derivation and imitation ad absurdum. Yet skadada are essential viewing if one is to gather a complete picture of contemporary performance in Australia.

We’ve seen so much of this in Australia: average work, amazing work, profound work, all kinds of work but work which seeks to expose and explore the spirit of the under-encouraged and underground. The best, like skadada, follow their own voice and employ a tenacious discipline to realise their ideas. What a joy it would be to see a linking of these energies with the so-called mainstream. I imagine an intelligence and growth; some see a calamitous infection. There will be no important growth in Australian theatre and performance until artists like skadada are sought after for their opinions, ideas and skills. This is the source culture—the grass roots—let them grow!


skadada@pica performed by Jon Burtt, visuals by Katie Lavers, sound by John Patterson. Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts. September 6 - 16, 1995.

Derek Kreckler is an artist currently living and working in Western Australia.

RealTime issue #10 Dec-Jan 1995 pg. 21

© Derek Kreckler; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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