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global transmission in progress

tony reck: nest of cinnamon

A Nest of Cinnamon A Nest of Cinnamon
photo Damian Vincenzi
Cross-cultural collaborations can produce surprising hybrids, especially so when the resulting collision is one of Australian-Greek, Chinese and Japanese cultural and aesthetic practices. Angela Costi, poet and performer, quietly confronts her audience dressed in a spiffy yet heavily symbolic black suit. In contrast to this rather business-like cloak of death, musician Wang Zheng Ting, covered in an azure silk gown, solemnly holds before him an enigmatic imbroglio comprising grained wood, labyrinthine finger holes and a stainless steel mouthpiece. It's a musical instrument the like of which I have never seen, and the wail that it produces is reminiscent of a flightpath borne of great pain.

The driving motif behind A Nest of Cinnamon, a work in progress, is the phoenix; which is appropriate really. Resurrection, or the release of human consciousness from its earthbound location in order to reshape itself elsewhere might very well be a type of 'creative development period' in and of itself. Time, space and matter compressed into an eternal present, cross-cultural arts practice is similarly characterised by a Borgesian premise, ie what if..?

Creative development showings are potentially testing for all concerned, particularly so here. The Japanese offering, rather than being performed live, is a video presentation of work completed in Japan some months earlier. It's more perplexing that Stringraphy, the performance troupe who transform gallery space into acoustic installations that screech with the sounds of global transmission, is the basis for this performance's rhythmical component. Consequently, the rhythms of the overall performance are simultaneously live, pre-recorded and split between watching bodies move through space and hearing the pre-recorded sound of Stringraphy's musical instrument. Of course, the rhythms of video and live performance are very different. Digital sound and what the audience hear as Stringraphy pluck decentered lengths of monofilament stretched and threaded through polystyrene cups can in no way compare to the sound and active rhythms of Stringraphy's ensemble members seen projected on a rear wall as each moves through a gallery space. A dilemma to be sure, but one that teases at the brain in the same way a prototype model of Stringraphy's installation cum musical instrument does: one constructed in real time centre stage by the creators of Nest of Cinnamon in order to familiarise this Australian audience with the presence of the monofilament and styrene confabulation that can also be seen onscreen.

A Nest of Cinnamon A Nest of Cinnamon
photo Damian Vincenzi
And yet I sense that all is well in this performance. In spite of the difficulties in understanding the context of this work there occurs a moment onscreen when a Stringraphy ensemble member steps forward and utters something in unintelligible Japanese. Almost immediately, the oblique rhythms of Angela Costi's poetic presence and the piercing tremolo of Zheng Ting's metal and wood imbroglio coalesce with Richard Vabre's subtle shifts in red, orange and yellow light. This shift in complexion is less to do with external stimuli and more a case of individual perception. I can now see how this performance might integrate, once in its completed state. The intricate rhythms of Stringraphy's global transmitter will, like all successful collaborations, intermingle and underpin Costi and Zheng Ting's reflection upon the resurrecting spirit. From Canterbury-Bankstown to Reservoir, via Beijing and Okinawa, the story of what was once called migration is still one of people incinerating the past for the purpose of igniting a future. The global flow of human traffic is still, and forever will be, consistent with the resurrecting myth that is the flight of the phoenix.

A Nest of Cinnamon: a work in progress, dramaturg, director Christian Leavesley, poet-performer Angela Costi, sheng performer Wang Zheng Ting, Stringraphy Ensemble: Midori Yaegashi, Mitoko Shinohara, Momo Suzuki, Kiku, lighting Richard Vabre, producer Keiko Aoki, Global Japan Network; Arts House Meat Market, Melbourne, June 19

RealTime issue #92 Aug-Sept 2009 pg.

© Tony Reck; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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