info I contact
advertising
editorial schedule
acknowledgements
join the realtime email list
become a friend of realtime on facebook
follow realtime on twitter
donate

magazine  archive  features  rt profiler  realtimedance  mediaartarchive

contents

  

THE BODY IN QUESTION: SPILL


Breaching the body

Julie Vulcan, SPILL Festival of Performance, London

Sydney based performer and interdisciplinary artist Julie Vulcan’s attendance at SPILL 2013 was supported by the Australia Council Theatre Board’s Cultural Leadership Program and the NSW government through Arts NSW.

Jamie Lewis Hadley, Analogue to a Blunt Trauma, Spill Festival London Jamie Lewis Hadley, Analogue to a Blunt Trauma, Spill Festival London
photo Guido Mencari
In the 2013 SPILL Festival of Performance, I witnessed three artists presenting diverse interpretations of personal and public desire using raw, essential and intimate body fluids.

Jamie Lewis Hadley, Analogue to a Blunt Trauma

Waiting at the far end of a cavernous white warehouse space feels like being on a film set. There are lights and cameras anticipating action and a white sheet-covered couch framed by a corridor of pillars. At the far end a door opens, a man enters and emerging in silhouette he walks purposefully down the centre of the room with what seems to be a gun in his hand. As he passes each pillar, fluorescent tubes blink on. This beginning of Jamie Lewis Hadley’s performance is an intentional set up, referencing cinema tropes and creating an expectation of theatrical artifice. However, from here we witness a more intimate yet perfunctory act, as collaborator Dr Belinda Fenty proficiently extracts and fills a medical grade blood bag with Hadley’s blood.

The casual demeanor with which Hadley lies across the couch and the friendly exchanges between the two belie the more serious nature of the act. I think of blood and loss, this reflection amplified by the subsequent proceeding violent act, in which Hadley takes aim and shoots the hanging blood bag multiple times. Real gun, real membrane and a rapid release of real blood; the metaphor is not lost. The moment is shortly echoed on a blood-stained sheet that had been dragged across the floor and hitched as a screen. Here the action is replayed in high definition slow motion. The effect is at once jolting and seductive. Jamie Lewis Hadley’s work is provocative and intelligent, its precise delivery relies on blurring boundaries while challenging the politics behind consumption of shocking, ‘beautiful’ trauma.

Julia Bardsley, Medea_Dark/Room

Julia Bardsley, Medea_Dark/Room, Spill Festival, London Julia Bardsley, Medea_Dark/Room, Spill Festival, London
photo Pari Naderi
From the moment I ‘enter’ through folding red and cream latex, I understand something is developing in here and it’s sticky, magnetic, electric and gold. I am reminded of entering the folds of the domestic heater to find the minute liminal world inhabited by the radiator lady on her stage in Lynch’s Eraserhead. There is a stage of sorts in Medea’s room, which she inhabits intermittently to conduct her ‘glorious genitalia’ experiments. On one visit I witness one such moment. Medea stands in front of a wall piece, one of the many expertly considered installation elements that make up her darkroom. Referencing theories of the relationship between sex and the gaze, this metaphorical mirror contains seven round sculptural elements that signify a journey from arousal to sublime bliss—the centrepiece literally bursts out of its frame like a red multi-pronged fleshy sea creature. Medea selects a frame and enters her ‘stage,’ defined by a projection. The image is striking, she has become the personification of one of her many detailed scientific constructions and formulaic scribblings. Wired up from nipples to groin, each breast protrudes from Medea’s fetish-styled garment. She pulses electrically, literally etching out orgasmic potential onto the carbon canvas of her genital frame. There is an exquisite seductiveness to Julia Bardsley’s loaded and intricately layered performance installation. Regardless of the point at which I encounter her experiments, I witness the vital moment of creative combustion; whether it is the small detail in the eclectic workstation amid liquid drenched gold sheep and a magnetised prophylactic or a pulsating Medea in a circle of light.

Martin O’Brien, Last(ing)

Martin O’Brien, Last(ing), Spill Festival London Martin O’Brien, Last(ing), Spill Festival London
photo Guido Mencari
The room smells of chemicals but I wonder if this is conjured by the sight of a radioactive green substance that fills various buckets placed around the edges, where we the audience hug the walls. Martin O’Brien lies ceremoniously on a table as David, his assistant, ritually applies gold leaf to his chest. This delicate act, of marking out a pair of golden lungs, is broken by O’Brien intermittently coughing up mucous into a glass beaker. It is at this moment that the other elements in the room feel more menacing and foreboding.

I am aware that O’Brien’s practice revolves around “physical endurance and hardship” informed by his chronic cystic fibrosis. What follows is a series of procedures and tasks that not only serve as metaphorical illustrations of symptoms but also convey a sense of a body objectified within a medical regime. The artist’s work is unforgiving, messy and raw, never pretending to be otherwise. Within moments of fragility there is strength. I am held by the final action, reflecting the journey of a body purged. Martin stands encased in a prison of barbed wire, his head covered in a lung shaped latex hood. The green fluid into which he had previously plunged forms clumps on his body hair. As I witness the labour of his breathing and excruciating gasps for air, one thing shines through—the remnants of his golden lungs, a defiant signal of the artist’s reclamation of his body.


SPILL Festival of Performance 2013, producer Pacitti Company, London, 3-14 April; spillfestival.com/

Sydney based performer and interdisciplinary artist Julie Vulcan’s attendance at SPILL 2013 was supported by the Australia Council Theatre Board’s Cultural Leadership Program and the NSW government through Arts NSW.

RealTime issue #115 June-July 2013 pg. 10

© Julie Vulcan; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

Back to top