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Body Imperfect

Susan Reid sees Bonemap’s Future Perfect

Susan Reid is a curator, producer of public and ephemeral art events, and occasional artist. She is currently Curator at Cairns Regional Gallery.

Bonemap, Future Perfect Bonemap, Future Perfect
photos Keith Armstrong
On an evening bringing news of the eruption of another war in the Middle East, the poignancy of being gathered in an old World War II oil reservoir was not lost on the Future Perfect audience. Surrounded by a shallow pool, 2 pale figures curled up together unfold their bodies to shake off the rubble that has buried them. A soldier leans against a streetlight, barely illuminated beneath its dim glow. Melancholy sounds pine from his melodica. The pathos of this opening image dissipates as a nurse (perhaps more dominatrix) takes the instrument in her mouth and tangoes seductively before the soldier. Future Perfect is the most recent work by Russell Milledge and Rebecca Youdell of the Bonemap intermedia collective. It was presented at On Edge, a program of new media events produced by the company. Working with Milledge and Youdell on Future Perfect was an ensemble that included Melbourne-based Ivan Thorley and local performers Jess Jones, Daniele Baccala, Maya Poole and Mark Edwards.

Milledge and Youdell have a history of mentoring local artists and presenting programs that build audiences for contemporary performance and live art in Far North Queensland. Emerging artists bring unpredictability and freshness to Bonemap’s work and develop the pool of peers for the collective to draw on. Although differences in performance experience were apparent, Future Perfect offered exceptional moments that made the event memorable.

In stark contrast to the eclectic cinematic (art house and film noir) and burlesque references of previous works, Youdell’s performance was this time generated from a fictional other world. With her hallmark gestures, she frantically twitched and tapped a code into space as if to pass an unseen security barrier. Hearing sounds or encountering entities unseen by the audience, she introduced these fictions as gestures: head cocking, ducking, cowering and glancing that coalesced into a creature-like presence. Youdell has incorporated these devices in previous performances, occasionally risking a type of caricature. She avoided this in Future Perfect with her capacity to maintain a strong conceptual framework that rendered the body imperfect, failing and displaced. Flanking Youdell were 2 immense floor to ceiling cylinders illuminated with projections of static and large hands dipping from the top of each. These fantastic images created by Russell Milledge portrayed technology as phenomenologically onerous. Its power to manipulate, interrupt and silence became a Future Perfect leitmotif.

Taking a sideways step, Ivan Thorley was compelling in a very surreal but oddly placed tableau, throwing himself into and over the waves of a violent river. After managing to slip gumboots onto his arms and legs, he transformed into a comical, dream-like creature who wandered to the top of the outside amphitheatre to sit, watch and groom.

Segments of Future Perfect were at times only just held together either through simple co-location or against the imposing sound track. The drift from Thorley’s performance back into the Tanks struggled to gain focus as the performers muddled their way through a peripatetic sequence incorporating the rhythms of sign language. An awkward, zombie walk through the audience was quickly forgotten when technology insinuated itself as a glitch repeatedly interrupting and stilling a beautiful moving frieze of huddled performers who wound their way through the space as a laughing molecular cluster.

A duet by Youdell and Thorley referenced their formal ballet origins and struggled to find clarity, not helped by a surrounding field of eyeballs shrouded in tutus and reminscent of the hatchlings’ crèche in Aliens. The insertion of such formal references at this stage of the event lead to a conclusion of a classic return—the performers drifted back to the shallow pool to splash and romp, perhaps joyous at being reconnected with their previously displaced and muted bodies. For this viewer, having emerged from a performance projecting a rather dark and distinctly imperfect future, such dubious suggestions of happiness seemed farfetched.


Bonemap, Future Perfect, On Edge, Tanks Art Centre, Cairns, July 14-16

Susan Reid is a curator, producer of public and ephemeral art events, and occasional artist. She is currently Curator at Cairns Regional Gallery.

RealTime issue #75 Oct-Nov 2006 pg. 45

© Susan Reid; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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