Reviews/Perth Festival/Visual Art

Rhythms of life

3 March 2020

Jenny Scott finds much to contemplate in the three video works by Tina Havelock Stevens that make up ‘Thunderhead’.

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Review: Tina Havelock Stevens, ‘Thunderhead’ ·
Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, 22 February 2020 ·
Review by Jenny Scott ·

Projected on to a huge screen in the central space of the PICA Ground Floor Galleries, video footage of a supercell thunderstorm shows it seeming to float, a semi-sheer column of ethereal white mist against a distant mountain range.

This is the titular work of ‘Thunderhead’, a solo exhibition of evocative works by Sydney artist, drummer and documentary film-maker Tina Havelock Stevens. As the looped footage – shot from a moving car – ensures the storm poses no threat by advancing towards us, we are free to contemplate the awe-inspiring natural phenomenon from the comfort of some massive beanbags.

The footage is perfectly paired with a spontaneously composed post-rock soundtrack by Havelock Stevens and collaborator Liberty Kerr. Emotive and immersive, the work invites us to consider the scale of our environment, to reflect on the systems and events much bigger than we are.

One of the smaller side galleries shows Come Together, Right Now (2006-18), a video of a public vigil held in New York in 2006 to commemorate John Lennon’s birthday. A diverse crowd is seen silently singing, playing guitars and gently bopping their heads as they surround a makeshift shrine to Lennon on the footpath outside the Dakota Building, where he lived and was fatally shot in 1980. The soundtrack features an instantly recognisable musical phrase from the Beatles’ track, “Come Together”, which repeats, plays in reverse, and repeats again.

Exploring the role of music in the collective consciousness, the work represents and evokes moments of unity and intimacy between strangers – on the street in the past, and in the gallery space in the present.

Tina Havelock Stevens, ‘Let’s Groove’, 2020. Installation view at Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts. Photo: Bo Wong

In the other smaller gallery, Let’s Groove (2017) is a powerful (and very cool) improvised video self-portrait of the artist showing just her head and bare shoulders. She is moving with clear purpose and mental focus, with a far-away look in her eye.

It is only once a stick comes into view at the bottom of the screen that we realise she’s drumming – her complex physical actions are mostly hidden out of frame. This is a fascinating and empowering representation of a female artist, presenting beauty through talent, invisible labour, and a proficiency in a traditionally masculine mode of music-making.

Presented in association with the Perth Festival, the compelling works in “Thunderhead” offer fleeting moments captured to encourage consideration and awareness of the social, environmental and musical rhythms of life, reverie, and the transcendental power of music.

‘Thunderhead’ continues until 19 April 2020.

Pictured top: Tina Havelock Stevens, ‘Thunderhead’, 2020. Installation view at Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts. Photo: Bo Wong

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Author —
Jenny Scott

Jenny Scott received a Bachelor of Fine Arts (First Class Honours) from the University of Western Australia, and has spent the past ten years working and volunteering in the arts sector on Whadjuk Noongar boodja. She has fond memories of the dangerous thrill of the playground roundabout.

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    Jenny Scott says watching the strange ‘machinima’ film, Hudson Valley Ruins is compelling at times, and unsettling at others.

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