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Lauren Langlois, Benjamin Hancock, Alisdair Macindoe, Keep Everything, Chunky Move Lauren Langlois, Benjamin Hancock, Alisdair Macindoe, Keep Everything, Chunky Move
photo Jeff Busby
Over the years Antony Hamilton has been all too aware of what has accumulated on his cutting room floor. And he is not afraid. His new work with Chunky Move, Keep Everything, is a foray into this realm of choreographic scraps, and reveals what lies beyond the edge of our well-crafted stories. I spoke with him about his motivation.

Your decision to work with previously discarded fragments of choreography, was there a personal charge to this at all? Was it salvaging? Or scavenging?

Kind of both, really. But the work transitioned a lot from its gestation to its final form. And what I really became aware of was a fascination with collecting things, and a larger meta-narrative of history and documentation: the way we follow a single, written truth about who we are, all defined by the past. But that’s not reality—history is a cultural construct, built out of fragments of ideas. We’re told there is a logic to it all. But we create logic with meaningless material from the past. So I felt compelled to step outside of all this and assess the human trait of categorically going through moments and events and ‘making sense’ of it all.

Hence the impulse to linear narrative, which you try to resist. How do you feel about traditional forms of narrative and archetype, the great monolithic meanings? Is there any nostalgia there?

Not nostalgia. I do have a reverence for the situation they’ve created though, which is expressed in the ritual of going to performance. People seat themselves in the theatre as part of an audience, awaiting performers. We surround ourselves with that comfort and familiar context, but the moment the lights go down, there is uncertainty.

So what consideration do you give your audience in Keep Everything, in terms of possible discomfort and the risk of chaos?

Well, for one thing, my work is conventional in its set-up, with the division between audience and performer, so the comfort this gives is pretty hard to break.And that gives me a great deal of freedom. I try not to filter much for my audience, but give them a direct portal into my thinking. The challenge is in framing the material. I want to present things with a wash of clarity, not just show a mess of what’s in my head.

As for chaos, I use it illustratively to show how it can become part of the norm, the cultural fabric of a situation, a world or a space. I weave it in so it creates dynamics and texture in the work, and somehow it all hangs together. Somehow meaningless things can become meaningful.

You address the myth of progress in this work through the notion of evolution, charting the human story from apes to robots and back again.

In my pieces there is quite a lot of the evolutionary tale, covering a large time scale. But this isn’t something I plan—the work just keeps falling back into it…So yes, it becomes a capitulation to linear narrative, but a playful and poetic one in the way it loops back around to the simian condition. All civilisation is forgotten and we’re back to the beginning again. And it’s fun, not serious.

In the work one of your performers delivers a brief, documentary-style account of the human story through time. What is your intention there?

That happens only very briefly at the beginning, and it is intentionally lightweight, quite jokey. Really it points to the ridiculousness of the gravity of words in the time we live in. I’m very interested in that moment when humans become self-reflexive, and that becomes their folly. They gain language and critical thought, develop opinion and everything falls apart, because they have too much information and too much self-importance. That moment shows how we’re living in a myth—the social and cultural constructs we create are a mythology, but we can’t see them when we’re immersed in them. It’s quite silly, but it’s also quite beautiful, because it gives us meaning.

How about the reference to robots, technology and futuristic possibilities?

Again, I probably didn’t consciously choose that. I know it does read that way when you watch it. But what I’ve learned in making performance is that when you focus on the larger picture unfolding hopefully you can let your consciousness escape those overbearing ideas. The functional side helps with that; you don’t over-bake it because you’ve got a job to do…Keep Everything tends to jump away from logic and moves into a space that is dream-like over a longer period of time. It lets the audience see these bodies as physical entities rather than humans they’ve been watching throughout the piece.

Lauren Langlois, Benjamin Hancock, Alisdair Macindoe, Keep Everything, Chunky Move Lauren Langlois, Benjamin Hancock, Alisdair Macindoe, Keep Everything, Chunky Move
photo Jeff Busby
At the other end of the spectrum, in charting the so-called evolution of the human species, did the notion of human animality influence you much? In terms of choreography?

It’s tricky to talk about choreographic choices to illustrate things, they do, but I’m not driven by that. The choreography is instinctive and there’s no great attempt from me to make it illustrative. Rather than animality influencing it, my own direct experience as a dancer was informative. Daily assessment of your moving body as a dancer will just point you in that direction. To have and constantly observe that daily experience of your body, drawing your attention to it constantly really draws your attention away from humanism, because when you focus on the blood and bones, you’re both more and less than that.

How about the darker aspects of the work? If we reject the myth of progress, are we in danger of trading it in for the story of collective dehumanisation or self-annihilation? Did you find that kind of vision of doom feeding into your work at all? It is, after all, in the air.

No, not really. The piece is coloured by a darkness, but the visual world is open, uncluttered, sparse. There is a bit of rubble on stage but it is quite a free world in a way.

Those images of destruction can actually be quite liberating too. Annihilation can be cathartic, a release. This kind of stuff has been documented in war-time scenarios: when whole societies collapsed there was a sense of weight being lifted off their shoulders—as though ‘we can start again’ and all the old attachment to what was important is gone.

Can you talk about your choice to work in multiple mediums?

I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’ll do anything I can do to get away from a compartmentalised view of performance elements. I want to destabilise that and draw the functions together in a meaningful way. In the end it all serves the work.

In Keep Everything, I aim to strip away the sense of the body as human and reveal it more as a component in something, perhaps an agent of another purpose rather than that of its own ego. After studying dance for a long time, I came to realise I wasn’t actually choosing to do it; I’m a servant to the work. I’m removed from this. So I became interested in revealing the body as agent of other activities. The performers build sculptures on stage. They’re part of a greater activity.

We live in an age of multifarious stimuli, multiple overlapping and unstable contexts and cultures. More than any other point in history our minds are exposed to incongruous and jarring information. Many are burdened by this. If we ‘keep everything’ in the net of our perception, is this somehow a burden?

Possibly. But really we are hardwired to filter. These days, filtering is everything and Facebook is God. To be honest, I never meet people who are responding to a thousand different things they’re exposed to. Instead, we tend to do what we’re told and follow one truth. If anything, the burden these days might be the idea of missing out, the feeling that we really ought to be doing it all.

Chunky Move, Keep Everything, director, choreographer Antony Hamilton, national tour concluding,13-16 Aug,? Sydney; 20-24 Aug, Melbourne

RealTime issue #122 Aug-Sept 2014 pg. 35

© Jessica Sabatini; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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