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Cairns: On Edge

An axis of edges

David Williams

All around The Tanks Arts Centre, a tropically camouflaged World War 2 naval fuel depot in Cairns, there are advertisements for edges. The well-to-do suburb nearby is even named Edge Hill, with the inevitable Edge Cafe. In The Tanks, On Edge is the inaugural contemporary media and performance week, the brainchild of Cairns’ own axis of edges: Bonemap, KickArts and The Tanks. In his opening speech Nick Mills, director of The Tanks, declares that On Edge intends to “push out to the rest of the country that Cairns is culturally mature”. On Edge does much more than this.

I follow the crowd down the overgrown path to the scent of citronella and the sound of water dripping for Derryn Knuckey’s endemic enigma, billed as a development showing of a Spark mentorship but actually a sprawling, ambitiously conceived and occasionally exquisitely realised evening of performance featuring over fifty performers. The overall structure was elemental: Earth (strange tree monks with a barely comprehensible narrative of ecological destruction), Fire (an aerial sex scene, pyromaniacs, and fiery percussion), Water and Air (video projections over swaying performers in flowing white costumes). For me the work never became more than the sum of its parts, but there was certainly something for everyone. The highlight was the Water section—a beautiful installation of rain falling down from the dangling roots of a huge fig tree over a white lounge setting, a bushie sitting comfortably watching the downpour dripping off his Akubra. The lighting was perfect, producing a magically suspended moment, unfortunately broken by an extended meandering monologue from the bushie. “How ‘bout this rain then? Doesn’t rain like this in Cobar.” A bit tangential, even for me.

The second big night kicked off with The Impurist, candlelit electronic music under the fig tree. After blessedly cool beers we move into the concrete vastness of Tank Five for time motion studies (3 ball) by Brisbane’s Circa. Juggler David Sampford, all in black, including balaclava, stands on a platform, a grid of juggling balls arranged about his feet. All but one of the balls is white, the odd one red. Sound artists Laurence English and Robin Fox use Sampford’s movement of the red ball to control audio samples, its height and motion captured on video and processed to output shifts in pitch, tone and rhythm. Technically, it’s an extraordinary feat, and surprisingly gripping. After virtuosic displays from all concerned we’re left with just the sound of one ball falling and being caught in the dark. A mesmerising and thrilling ride.

Back under the fig tree we get low tech with local Indigenous artists Zane Saunders and Ian Connelly. Connelly enters wearing only a loincloth and body paint, banging clap sticks. Similarly dressed, Saunders responds to the same rhythm using a cigarette lighter. This simple substitution playfully undermines the cliched costumes, sets the tone—they’re having fun, and so should we. They explore the space, intermittently illuminating people and objects, constantly adjusting their improvised loincloths, which threaten to fall off. After a low key physical comedy duet of competing sonic rhythms, they untie and unravel an orange cloth draped elegantly in the fig tree, dispersing small leaves with great ceremony to gracefully conclude a compact and witty performance.

With these, as well as Bonemap’s Brink in Tank Three, additional programs of sound and digital arts (liquid architecture and d>Art.04), and Tina Gonsalves’ video installation, Somewhere in between, not to mention the stimulating Intermedia Symposium, On Edge is an impressive beginning to an important initiative. Expect more surprises next year out on the wild edge.

See Jennifer Teo’s review of Liquid Architecture at On Edge.

On Edge, organisers Rebecca Youdell, Russell Milledge, Nicholas Mills; endemic enigma, produced and directed by Derryn Knuckey; time motion studies (3 ball) by Circa, David Sampford in collaboration with Lawrence English and Robin Fox; Spark sound and performance interventions by Zane Saunders, Ian Connelly and The Impurist; Venues: Tank Arts Centre, Kickarts Gallery, CoCA, Cairns July 12-16;

RealTime issue #69 Oct-Nov 2005 pg. 8

© David Williams; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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