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on edge


never too far away

keith gallasch: on edge, cairns


Rebecca Youdell, Bonemap Rebecca Youdell, Bonemap
photo Russell Milledge
THE 2009 ON EDGE PERFORMANCE FESTIVAL INCLUDED NEW WORKS FROM BONEMAP AND ZANE SAUNDERS, A DANCE EVENT, STREET PERFORMANCES, GALLERY SHOWS, LIQUID ARCHITECTURE AND AN INDUCE WORKSHOP PROGRAM WHICH INCLUDED ARTIST MENTORING, A REALTIME WRITING WORKSHOP AND A WELL-ATTENDED FORUM ON HYBRID ARTS PRACTICES WITH GUEST SPEAKERS DAVID WILLIAMS OF VERSION 1.0, MEDIA ARTIST AND CURATOR JENNY FRASER AND JACKSON CASTIGLIONE OF PERTH’S PVI.

The festival highlight was Cairns performance group Bonemap’s Whispering Limbs, a collaboration with the members of Brisbane-based Polytoxic (Lisa Fa’alafi, Efeso Fa’anana, Leah Shelton) and Aboriginal dancer Earl Rosas who has worked with Chunky Move, Aboriginal Dance Theatre and the Australian Ballet. His was a powerful presence that framed the work, carrying a fish in a large glass bowl on his head, doubtless representing the fragility of our relationship with nature and the Aboriginal guardianship that has been for so long ignored and denied. Other images were ironic: a raincoated trio copiously leaking valuable water; a man dragging a ‘For Sale’ chunk of lawn, which he meagrely waters before giving away a precious slice to a member of the audience; and Rebecca Youdell’s memorable ballet brat in tutu and Blundstones—culture with Australian affront and a bouquet of dead weeds. Moments when all the performers come together are particularly strong and underline the collective power of the work which is reinforced by Russell Milledge’s sweeping diorama projections that reveal the performers in an almost gothic natural world, and by Steven Campbell’s percussive electronic score, mixed live. This was a work I saw twice, admiring its cogency, dynamism and the Bonemap-Polytoxic merger, and hoping Whispering Limbs would have another life beyond the festival.
LAPS (Live Art In Public Space) LAPS (Live Art In Public Space)
courtesy On Edge
One of the midday street performances (LAPS, Live Art in Public Space) was set up like a movie shoot in a narrow lane with two ‘dead bodies’ and potential clues littered about. The audience attached post-it notes to the objects and the bodies, on which they wrote, with a mix of wit and TV-informed savvy, the likely meanings of the forensic evidence.

The other major festival work was local artist Zane Saunders’ performative installation, Blueprint. It was strongly sculptural, as you’d expect of Saunders, presented with a live art informality and included some vigorous dancing as well as delicate moments when Saunders’ quiet presence took centrestage. An evolving work created with extremely limited rehearsal time, Blueprints generated strong if elusive images that spoke even more strongly than Whispering Limbs of the necessary guardianship of the land, in this case by fire management.

Combat Drag (video still), 2008, Jemima Wyman Combat Drag (video still), 2008, Jemima Wyman
images courtesy the artist and Milani Gallery Brisbane 2009.
Striking video works by Jemima Wyman were on show at the KickArts gallery, alarming some of the locals (if the guest book was to be believed) with eerie images of masked figures—young men playing ‘terrorists’ in the bush in balaclavas and with sticks for guns, and on another screen sinister glove puppet figures. Victoria Carless wrote about the show in the RealTime writing workshop: “This work disconcerts by skewing the familiar. Cultural symbols, ideas about identity and images of extremism trip over each other” .

Jenny Fraser’s Big Eye Animation program (RT 91, p26) was on show at Mofo Gallery, William Duckworth & Nora Farrell’s (US) wi-fi Media Garden featured at KickArts (when you could connect), and video images from Beth Shorter’s Peripheral impressed at the eccentric Digital is the new Analogue show at Crate59 gallery where Liquid Architecture artists vibrated the corrugated iron roof until rusty fragments fell lightly.

It was a pleasure to experience On Edge, to meet artists we rarely see and to enjoy the intense discussions about the works in the festival and where they fit in the bigger arts picture. The Induce program, organised by Nicholas Mills, formalised and heightened the sense of exchange of ideas and information that comes with a festival. On Edge continues to be an admirable rarity, an Australian festival of contemporary performance and media arts.


Bonemap and The House of Falcon, On Edge, Contemporary Media + Performance, Cairns, July 3-18

RealTime issue #93 Oct-Nov 2009 pg. 14

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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