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St Kilda Film Festival: (un)certain fusions

Peta Tait

Edmund Chui, Lucid Edmund Chui, Lucid
Interactivity and improvisation were complementary and central to this year’s Fusion, a night of multimedia curated by Sue McCauley as part of the annual St Kilda Film Festival. Largely an evening of young artists’ work, Fusion showed the consolidation of existing electronic arts formats rather than breaking new ground. There were 2 separate programs of 6 CD-ROM works with creator-driven show and tell from computer console to wall screen, and one program of 3 works of video, dance, live music and improvisation. The CD-ROM demonstrations were accompanied by improvised chat about interfaces and the creative and technical processes. While this new media is very dependent on other arts–word texts, film, video, photography and drawing–it restages them in its construction, repetition, fragmentation and delivery of divergent pathways across the visual text.

The first set explored violence and sex. Uncle Bill by Debra Petrovitch uses black and white archival film footage of suburban Wollongong to frame images of childhood violence and sexual abuse. Petrovitch juxtaposes mountains of industrial debris with the human detritus of one household. She commented that there had been some resistance in the reception of her work–images of sex and violence without authorial directives might be read as voyeuristic rather than shock politics. Similarly, Tatiana Doroshenko’s Shot simulates a sex website under the banner "I want you", with fake emails and video footage of a sex worker on the street, her customers in a car, looking into a mirror in a toilet. Doroshenko confirmed that this was not documentary but dramatised footage. The Exchange by David Barlas presents enticing digital snapshots; cartoons and words in poetic explorations of thwarted desires; virtual robots made of wood in a strangling duel to the death when one knocks the head off the other. Barlas’ confessed his passion for Radiohead’s music and alcohol to fuel his being-in-the-world.

The second program brought together landscapes and stories. Mike Leggett’s very impressive but unfinished Pathscape rolled through and panned around photographic footage of the beautiful southeastern NSW coastline and its salt lakes. Clicks on pristine vistas revealed cultural stories imprinted behind: Captain Cook’s journal about the coast, cinematic cultural anxieties from a ship’s crew in On the Beach, a young girl’s tantrum of environmental angst and a local Aboriginal recounting how his father crossed the lake on a log. Leggett talked of the 5-person team on Pathscape and the budget of nearly $100,000. Ruth Fleishman’s Oink presented drawing and cut-out silhouettes in a visual collage to accompany the spoken reading of Eric Dando’s science fiction novel, featuring Squiggley Fern and a half-pig-half-human who plays chess, living in a future Melbourne megametropolis renamed Circecity. The aural adaptation retained the imaginative writing from the novel, its narrative originality. City of Spare Parts by Sam Fermo, also set in Melbourne, uses the grid of a map to move from drawn images back into video footage of inner city terraces and traffic.

In Program 3, The First Law of Motion (Newton’s) by Opera Somatica had 2 dancers rolling, rising, falling, accompanied by a musician on a steel keg drum, and alluded to cultural crossings of east and west in sound and movement. Black and white film footage flickered to one side throughout the show, simulating a still image of the dancers standing together at the end of the show, with their body length costumes of 3 black and white strips. I really liked this false stillness that exposed the flicker of liveness to the eye and folded film back into photography. In one segment they danced joined around the waist. In another witty section they appeared on a large screen as "fluffy" feminine girls screaming "Oh my god" in conversation. In Edmund Chiu’s Lucid, straightjacketed dancers worked against cinematic images of childhood male violence, adult bondage, churches and cemeteries to techno driven hysterical gesturing. Peripheral Vision by Nadine Allen, Marty Damhuis and Dan Oreilly-Rowe, combined real time prop driven improvisation with live video filming.

The CD-ROM works allowed spectators to make narrative easily with their hints of familiar cultural plots: the prostitute on the street, domestic abuse. Only when Opera Somatic’s live bodies entered the frame did the ideas slip into less certain territory.

Fusion: Multimedia Program, The George Ballroom, St Kilda Film Festival, Melbourne, June 1

RealTime issue #44 Aug-Sept 2001 pg. 22

© Peta Tait; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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