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Philipa Rothfield

 L to R Stephanie Lake, Shona Erskine, Amplification L to R Stephanie Lake, Shona Erskine, Amplification
photo Jeff Busby
According to Judith Butler, although we tend to think of bodies as being formed from some material essence, this is not the case. Rather, it is through repeated actions that bodies assume the character which they do. Butler writes of the performative realm as that space wherein bodies enact their being. Phillip Adams’ Amplification can be seen in such a light. His characteristic choreography—in the context of this work—produces a certain kind of body; one which hovers between life and death.

Amplification brooks no nostaligia for humanist notions of the body. Purportedly set in those attenuated moments between a car crash and death, the performers flung and were flung in hyperreal fashion. Sometimes wearing bags over their heads, sometimes not, duos and trios created a highly dynamic interchange. What was distinctive about this intricate and intertwined choreography was that the movements did not divide into active or passive roles. Although it was possible to discern a strong kinetic input from certain parties, the other participants in the dance were equally active. Thus, one could observe manipulative movements being both accepted and replied to in the one moment.

The work as a whole consisted of short scenes whose serial effect was to present and perform bodies on the edge of life. Biologists have long pondered the definition and essence of life. Adams’ work provided a minimalistic conception of living corporeality–active but not affective, interactive yet strangely mute—his final moment, a tableau vivant of naked flesh. One could be forgiven for thinking his dancers lacked the trappings of conventional personality but for that final moment. For it’s in nakedness that one sees very quickly the vast difference between life and death.

Amplification, by Phillip Adams; performed by Geordie Browning, Shona Erskine, Michelle Heaven, Stephanie Lake and Gerard Van Dyck; turntable composition, Lynton Carr; Athenaeum II, Melbourne, September 9 - 19, 1999.

RealTime issue #33 Oct-Nov 1999 pg. 2

© Philipa Rothfield; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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