Birds of a feather

26 October 2017

Review: Aeon, Lz Dunn and collaborators◆
Presented by PICA and Tura New Music as part of the 13th Totally Huge New Music Festival ◆
Perry Lakes, 26 October ◆
Review by Varnya Bromilow ◆

Confession: I am a total sucker for freaky performance art.  And if that art is site-specific and participatory – even better!  So really, artist Lz Dunn had me at the premise.  In the first ten minutes of Aeon, it felt like Dunn and her collaborators had unwittingly created my perfect art experience.  Our little group of fifteen or so, herded under the towering Eucalypts of Perry Lakes, had each been handed a portable speaker.  We were then given cards on which were printed curious and mundane facts about birds.  Birds and participatory site-specific performance?!  Are you kidding me?  I could not keep the grin off my face.

We set off through the trees, a flock of humans.  We drifted, we veered, we looked up into the unseasonably cool October evening.  We split off from each other, we meandered back.  One of random facts I learned: birds never know quite where they’re headed when flying in a flock and the actions of a single bird can shift the direction of the whole.  So we did that, without realizing that we were doing that. We were led without realizing where we were being led, or that we were being led at all.

Photo: Dan Grant

The speakers we were carrying, previously silent, began to emit noises.  Some were bleeps, some were swooshes, some were bird calls.  The soundtrack, composed by Lawrence English, at times merged with the natural soundscape of our surrounds – the cawing of crows; the shrieking of corellas – and sometimes jarred, opposing the quiet.  We carried on walking by the lake.  We encountered another flock.  

It wasn’t until about 20 minutes in that things began to get freaky.  We’d been warned of possible nudity (and joked that this seemed unlikely given the wintery temperature) and loud noise…but no-one had said anything about artists humping trees.  Aeon joyfully flirts with the barrier between audience and performer, creating a delicious uncertainty as the small crowd split identities.  Who was the audience?  Who were the artists?  (A tell – artists don’t smile as much)  Did it even matter?  Should we join the artists, humping trees, sprinting wildly, gently touching shoulders, removing our pants.  Or were we just meant to observe?

Aeon poses some provocative questions around concepts of personal space but the part of the work I found most moving was its re-examination of our relationship with the natural world,  Walking through the bushland, forced to slow down and observe and listen…Aeon creates a meditative space not commonly found in performance art.  Watching people interacting with that geography in unorthodox ways prompts you to re-examine your relationship to nature (although, don’t get me wrong…the tree humping looked downright uncomfortable).  

As a work, it is very much an evolving journey.  We ended up in a hall, pulsing with music, most of us supine on the ground.  And then it was over and there was melon and tea.  Nobody talked about what had just happened, even though it felt like we had definitely been through something together.  We talked about the weather and then we went home.   

‘Aeon’ runs until October 29th.

Top photo: Bryony Jackson.



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Author —
Varnya Bromilow

Varnya Bromilow is a happy dilettante who has worked as a journalist, advocate, oral historian, teacher and train driver. She spent 15 years with the ABC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and The West Australian and enjoys writing fiction. She loves guinea pigs and the thrill of a good slide.

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1 Comment

  1. Great review! Although my son, friend & I did talk
    what happened.. at first I thought a few fellow participants were slightly mad, handing us sticks, walking too close etc.. interesting how your perception changes. I agree the interacting with nature was the highlight.. what a beautuful location. The intense soundscape was an interesting way to digest it all. The melon and crew afterwards was a lovely touch too!

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