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Transporting hearts and minds

Review: Sym Parr, The Presence of Wool ·
Shearing Shed North of Albany, 14 April ·
Review by Maree Dawes ·

Sym Parr has been working with community dance projects and the concept of the shadowy remnants of things – including wool – for over five years. The Presence of Wool is a culmination of both these strands.

From the outset, this work has a time-shifting quality; most audience members arrive by bus, swept from the city through the darkening streets, then country roads, to arrive at a shearing shed in the last of the light. The tea and coffee available for patrons on arrival could have been laid out for shearers past.

The shed is large, distorted by shadows and decorated with repurposed woollen artefacts. Its structures creak as it stirs in the cool wind, augmenting composer James Gentle’s soundscape. Though the work takes place, predominantly, inside the shed, the mind of the viewer is swept with the dancers, through paddocks, trees and pens, over fences into the wool stalls.

A group of dancers, moving in smoky semi-darkness.
Smoke billows through the slats, evocative of fire. Photo: Bob Symons.

The cast consists of professional dancers Rita Bush, Cayleigh Davies and Talitha Maslin, alongside community dancers and local dance students, all of whom perform with noteworthy focus, energy and joy in movement. Exciting changes of pace are heightened, both by the range of experience amongst the dancers and by the choreography, which encompasses mechanical movements, characterisations of 1950’s workers, child-like play, struggle and death.

Dim lighting and an uneven floor ensure that audience members’ senses are on high alert as they make their way through the shed, directed only by flashlights. One scene sees lighting and smoke billowing up through the slats, evocative of a fire. In another, a dancer (Talitha Maslin) flees through the darkness, slamming gates and thumping the corrugated walls – an escaped sheep, the cook on the rampage? At times, the movement of the audience is distracting but it can also been seen as part of an immersive experience.

Three dancers in a shed, they each step one foot forward and spiral towards the front foot, arms held up as if in surrender.
The dancers perform with noteworthy focus, energy and joy in movement. Pictured (L-R): Cayleigh Davies, Talitha Maslin and Rita Bush. Photo: Bob Symons.

The inexorable soundscape has its softer moments, possible reflecting on childhood or pastoral scenes. More often, though, it amplifies the edginess of the performance. The shed is a character in its own right and Gentle’s sound recordings from local sites – including the old woollen mills (foundations laid 1923), voice recordings of people who worked in the mills and snippets of 1950’s pop tunes – are central to the creation of that character.

With little divide between the viewer and viewed, the audience is wrapped in the experience. In the final moments three dancers are silhouetted by hand-held lights, out in the paddocks. Audience members drift in, closer and closer, until suddenly it is over and the doors of the bus open.

On the bus ride home I think about refugees, homelessness, poverty, death camps, animal welfare, childhood games, meaningful work, precious fabric, shedding the unwanted and repurposing. The Presence of Wool is an immersive experience that stimulates heart and mind.

The Presence of Wool had its season in Albany, April 12-14.

Pictured top, from left to right are Rita Underwood, Annette Davis, Jassica Hesford. All photos by Bob Symons.

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Glow in the park

Review: ARTTRA Light Festival ·
Claremont Park, 5-7 April ·
By Belinda Hermawan ·

Returning for its second year, the ARTTRA Light Festival showcased 16 original light installations in a family-friendly outdoor setting, after dark. Having attended last year’s spectacular debut, I was looking forward to another display of innovative, one-of-a-kind artworks.

Amongst the highlights of this year’s Festival was Roly Skender’s Flywire film, which was expertly projected on a screen installed between two trees. The mesmerising projection used shifting geometric shapes and lines to create movement in the night sky.

Another favourite was Combs VJ’s box installation, which also made use of monochromatic audio-visuals, with the encased pyramid and mirrored sides creating an eye-catching effect, all set to perfectly timed beats. Also well-engineered was Naz Sumadi’s playful, origami-inspired Mechanical Morph, an ever-transforming pinwheel.

Both interactive and highbrow, Wilma van Boxtel’s Love Seat was more than a park bench. Her illumination recreated the red velvet seats of a theatre and encouraged community members to take a moment to sit and enjoy art together. Also using the park space to advantage were the three rock-like pillars of Sean Adamas’s colour-changing Crystallines (pictured top), Glenda Dixon’s Coloured Clouds that lined tree canopies with wool felt lamps, and ARTTRA Prize winner Per Aspera ad Astra by Amy Perejuan-Capone, the shimmering gold geodesic dome evoking a playground atmosphere.

A dome, lit golden
ARTTRA 2019 winner Amy Perejuan-Capone, inside her installation ‘Per Aspera ad Astra’.

Strolling through the grounds of Claremont Park, I was struck by how much families were enjoying themselves amongst the art. Children were actively engaging with pieces, running in and out of spaces, asking questions, playing games, taking photos, and watching moving images intently. Participants could play a Tetris-inspired video game by stepping on a control-board, walk in front of an animation playing on a theatre-sized screen, or pose for portraits with rainbows. Paired with a program of live entertainment, craft activities and food trucks, the festival atmosphere this year felt more palpable and inviting.

It was, perhaps, fitting that the work I came across first, and came back to again out of continued curiosity, was Joanna Sulkowski’s clever yet ambiguous neon banner Not What You Expected. We bring our own expectations to events, and there seemed to be a shift in focus from last year’s event. If the objective of this year’s festival was to raise the interactivity level to make the event more accessible for families – particularly those with primary school-aged children – then it was undeniably a success.

The trade-off, however, was a variation in production quality and consistency of theme between pieces. I felt there were two exhibitions this year: a collection of ground-breaking art-works worthy of a professional gallery, interspersed with what appeared to be a lower-budget set, for child’s play. I found, too, that the presence of promotional material interfered with the experience, with one installation risking the appearance of a market stall.

That said, the Town of Claremont has set an excellent example of what local governments can do to actively promote arts and culture amongst all ages. Harking back to childhood memories of glow-in-the-dark stickers and recreational star-gazing, ARTTRA Light Festival celebrates the sense of awe that comes with illumination and discovery. Fittingly, the installation that best encapsulated this spirit of wonder was that of Freshwater Bay Primary School’s entry: a spectacular field of papier mâché mushrooms of all sizes, glowing iridescently through silhouettes of fairy tales. It was pleasing to see this generation producing art as well as consuming it – the future is indeed bright.

Pictured top is Sean Adamas’s ‘Crystallines’.

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Sea story strikes a sad note

Review: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Blueback ·
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, 10 April ·
Junior review by Isabel, age 9 ·

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre’s production of Blueback was adapted by Peta Murray from the book by Tim Winton, and directed by Philip Mitchell.

The play was about a boy called Abel Jackson and he lived by the sea. One day when he was scuba diving he met a fish and he called him Blueback because of his colour. The story follows Abel as he grows up and tells about the changes in the ocean like pollution.

Abel moved away to go to school and when he came back in the holidays, people were trying to buy his family’s land. After he finished school, Abel went to university to study the ocean and he travelled the world. Meanwhile, his mother was back at home watching all the changes in the ocean like dying fish and sea lions from Antarctica washing up on the coast.

The performers (Daniel Doseck and Jessica Harlond Kenny) were really good at moving the puppets. At the start they moved an eel around and it moved in a very realistic way. My favourite puppet was Blueback because he was really friendly and when he first met Abel he grabbed his flipper and wouldn’t let go. The puppets for Abel and his mother were a bit creepy because they were bald and they didn’t have mouths. The puppets used for when they were swimming made the people look like eels because they had no arms or legs.

The lighting made everything look blue like the sea. The set was used in several ways to make a coral reef, a road and some grape vines. My favourite part was at the end when Abel’s daughter Anna met Blueback.

Overall, the play was quite sad and a little bit scary. I would recommend it for older children because all the death makes it too scary for younger kids.

 

Junior review by Eddy, age 6 ·

This was a story about a fish called Blueback. He was very big, blue and very old. There was a little boy and his mum who lived by the sea. The boy was little at the beginning of the play but he grew up and went to school and then university to study the sea.

The play is very sad because lots of things are dead or get killed, like fish, a shark and lots of people.

The puppeteers moved the puppets really well and made it look like they were swimming. The best part was when the boy discovered Blueback and Blueback nipped his flippers.

There were flashing lights for the lightning. The music got sad when the sad parts happened and was happy when the happy parts happened.

I think this play was quite good and big kids will enjoy it.

Blueback continues until April 27.

Read our “senior” review by Rosalind Appleby here.

Pictured top is a scene from ‘Blueback’.

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A timely take on migration and displacement

Candice Breitz & Angelica Mesiti, ‘REFUGE’ ·
John Curtin Gallery, 7 April 2019 ·
Review by Jenny Scott ·

Splitting the John Curtin Gallery into two distinct viewing spaces, ‘REFUGE’ presents a pair of cinematic video installations that explore the experiences of immigrants and refugees. Curated by Chris Malcolm and Felicity Fenner, and presented in association with the Perth Festival, this exhibition brings together the works of Australian artist Angelica Mesiti, who has been selected to represent Australia in the 2019 Venice Biennale, and South African artist Candice Breitz.

Mesiti’s Mother Tongue (2017) is a dreamy two channel video work featuring members of a diverse range of communities from Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark. Initially inspired by the Danish tradition of communal singing, Mesiti has recorded her subjects in the act of private and communal performances – four dancers link arms as they lunge in sync around a wet asphalt square, a three-piece band plays on sofas in an ornate living room, a man slowly executes perfectly-balanced handstands across the benches of a formal meeting chamber. Presented without didactic information, these strangely beautiful portraits unite to form a hypnotic reverie that encourages reflection on diversity, community, and the practice of “living” cultural heritage.

Mesiti’s evocative imagery is also sleekly edited – the singing of an assembly of enthusiastic Danish school children synchronises with, and then fades out into, the rhythmic wordless drumming of the Ramallah Boy Scouts troupe practising their routine while crowded around a table. This juxtaposition of footage across two screens creates shifting points of cohesion and difference, evoking the lived experiences of migrants integrating into new places after being displaced from their home countries. Despite running at 18 minutes, Mother Tongue is easily re-watchable, with each viewing offering new moments of captured intimacy.

Alec Baldwin in 'Love Story'.
Alex Baldwin in Candice Breitz’s ‘Love Story’ (still), 2016. 7-Channel Installation, featuring Julianne Moore and Alec Baldwin. Commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria, Outset Germany and Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg. Courtesy: Goodman Gallery, Kaufmann Repetto, KOW and Anna Schwartz Gallery.

In the second half of the gallery is Breitz’s multi-channel video installation Love Story (2016). Approaching this work, gallery visitors are first confronted with a large screen showing footage of famous actors Alec Baldwin and Julianne Moore, each recounting extremely personal testimonies of displacement, war, and violence. In an easily overlooked adjoining room, six smaller screens present these same stories – although this time spoken by the refugee subjects who actually experienced them. Cleverly installed as if they are sitting across from you, the refugees on each of these screens recount their stories in long, unflinching detail – in direct contrast with the snappy edited soundbites of the recognisable Hollywood stars.

It is a confronting work for many reasons – the sheer amount of video content, the harrowing stories of each refugee, and the ridiculousness of Alec Baldwin lamenting the difficulty of travelling on a Somalian passport. While Breitz’s provocative use of famous actors almost feels like too much of a novelty, the underlying message is clear – the viewer is challenged to consider which stories and storytellers we privilege, where we direct our empathy and attention, and what we feel comfortable to watch.

In a timely exhibition worthy of sustained consideration, the works of ‘REFUGE’ present a thoughtful and sophisticated examination of migration and displacement.

“Refuge” closes April 18.

Pictured top is  a still from ‘Mother Tongue’, 2017. Two-channel high definition colour video installation and surround sound, 17 minutes 54 seconds. Photography: Bonnie Elliot. Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery.

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No short cuts here

Review: STRUT Dance, ‘Short Cuts 2019 – Program A’ ·
Studio 3, King Street Arts Centre ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

There’s something special about seeing dance performed in a studio setting. It’s that sense of peeping behind-the-scenes, watching dance in the place that it’s made. For this reason, I’m always pleased to head along to STRUT Dance’s annual “Short Cuts”, a mixed bill of short new contemporary dance works by independent artists, divided into two programs, A and B.

As the audience is reminded each year, each “Short Cuts” artist has just 20 hours in the studio to create and rehearse their work. So, although the program is presented to the public, the works are generally first-stage developments of new ideas; works in progress.

The nature of “Short Cuts” makes it more accessible to younger choreographers than most creative opportunities, and this year’s Program A is comprised, predominantly, of works from young emerging choreographers, with the exception of Unsex me here, created and performed by Kynan Hughes and Bridget Le May. An exploration of the character of Lady Macbeth, this grappling and compelling duet is accompanied by droning strings, electronic beats and snatches of text from Macbeth, spoken with intensity by Le May. Particularly effective is the use of a hand-held light which creates pockets of darkness as it disappears between the dancers’ bodies as they clasp one another.

At the other end of the spectrum, in terms of professional experience, are two works by 2018 graduates of WAAPA’s Link Dance Company (a one-year pre-professional company for graduates). fish feet, by Jessie Camilleri-Seeber and Jocelyn Eddie, is a primary-coloured, four-part “conversation as word association” performed by Alex Abbot, Rhiana Katz, Kimberley Parkin and Macon Riley. A series of overlapping and interweaving anecdotes from four characters – accompanied by and interspersed with solos, duets and quartets – this work has a cartoon-like feel. Nights in White Satin, by Kimberley Parkin, is a solo work (plus cameo by Parkin), performed by Ana Music, in which the dancer lurches, physically and metaphorically, from audience member to performer. Though entertaining, and performed with zesty aplomb by their young casts, both these offerings felt a little too ambitious in terms of length and scope.

The remaining four works are by dance artists who graduated from WAAPA between 2013 and 2016. Two are solos, the first of which is Tried, In My Way, choreographed and performed by May Greenberg. Set to a recording of Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire” by Ester Ofarim (but initially sung unaccompanied by Greenberg), this gutsy solo showcases Greenberg’s strengths with surges and collapses, and long leg extensions that draw air-borne circles. The second solo, Different I’s, is choreographed by Russell Thorpe and performed by Rhiana Katz. Investigating “consciousness and how we remember ourselves”, Different I’s has a dreamy, thoughtful quality, that was beautifully conveyed by Katz.

For me, the two highlights of the evening were the first and last pieces. Opening the program, The Collapse of Brief Systems, choreographed by Dean-Ryan Lincoln and danced by Lincoln and Tahlia Russell, impressed with its movement exploration. In particular, the latter section of the work, in which a subtle weight shift almost imperceptibly expands and morphs from quiet to desperate gestures, is captivating.

Concluding proceedings, Mitchell Harvey’s Views and Series is trio for three women that takes its inspiration from the paintings of Japanese artist Hokusai. Though the resulting work seems more abstract than the program notes imply, as an exploration of movement and light, this work is engaging. The strong drum beat of Hirota Joji’s “Heart Beat” drives the work, which is at times serene and sculptural, at others athletic and sensual. There’s a pleasing physicality to this work, embodied here by dancers Ana Music, May Greenberg and Zoe Wozniak.

With its limited creative development and rehearsal time, “Short Cuts” can be a mixed bag. This year’s Program A, though varied, is consistently engaging.

“Short Cuts – Program A” is showing again at 5pm, Saturday 13 April. Program B runs Friday 12 April and Saturday 13 April at 7pm.

Pictured top is Mel Tan, whose work appears in “Short Cuts – Program B. Photo: Simon Pynt

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Putting together the puzzle pieces

What does it mean to be lonely in a world where we are never alone?
That’s a question local performance company Whiskey & Boots is asking audiences to contemplate in its latest work The Loneliest Number. Nina Levy chatted to the show’s creative team to learn more.

There’s no such thing as a person with one job in Whiskey & Boots. One half, Georgia King, is a performer and producer; the other half, Mark Storen, is a performer, director, writer and musician.

In keeping with this theme, Whiskey & Boots’ productions tend to cover multiple disciplines, evading easy definition. Their award-winning production, THE ONE, a play written and directed by Jeffrey Jay Fowler and produced and performed by King and Storen, is accompanied by song… but it’s not a musical. The most recent iteration of their Bystander project which sees King and Storen collecting real-life stories from people living in country towns and transforming these into a one-off verbatim theatre performance, brought together theatre, music and photography, and included an interactive installation.

Mark Storen and Georgia King in ‘Bystander’. Photo: Fionn Mulholland.

So it’s no surprise that Whiskey & Boots’ latest work, The Loneliest Number, also weaves together three artistic disciplines into a single program… but this time the experience is immersive. Audiences are invited to bring a picnic into ART ON THE MOVE’s Fremantle gallery space, and listen to original and classic music played by Storen, and Holly and Tom Garvey, while taking in a photography exhibition (also by Holly Garvey), before the story-telling part of the evening begins (written by King and performed by King and Storen).

Though the various components of the work can be enjoyed separately, they are inextricably linked. “By using music, photography and storytelling/performance, you’ve kind of got three parts of the puzzle, and it’s up to you, as the audience, how you put them together,” explains Storen.

“Holly has taken the photos directly in response to the performance, so there’s a photo for each character in the performance, with a didactic [panel],” continues King. “So audiences can read the didactic [panel] and pick up the ‘clues’ about what’s going to be in the performance. And the original songs are also a reflection on, or a response to, the performance.

“The image tells a part of the story that the narrative doesn’t; the songs give you an insight that you haven’t already got from the text.”

“And it’s interesting to look at the conversations that happen between the three elements,” reflects Holly Garvey. “With the photography I’ve been trying to look at what hasn’t been told, at what we are saying if we layer that with Georgia’s text, and with the music performance.”

As the name of the work suggests, those three layers – music, photography and performance – are also linked by the concept of loneliness, an idea that came from King. “Loneliness is a state that is interesting to me,” she remarks. “I grew up as an only child, and I lived on a very large farm, so I was alone a lot growing up. I feel like I’m sensitive to lonely people and the sense of being lonely. It sounds like a cliché but we’re so connected now that I think people struggle being alone, more, perhaps, than they used to.

“I like the idea of pushing people to just ‘sit’ alone. I think we avoid that… I do, I’m totally guilty of it. We avoid just being with ourselves. I want to challenge people, to shake that up a bit, to feel that feeling of solitude.”

A man eating fast food, sitting alone
‘Loneliness is confronting’. Mark Storen in one of Holly Garvey’s images for ‘The Loneliest Number’.

It’s a concept that it is very relatable – we all know how hard it is to resist the temptation to fill any spare time by picking up our smart-phones. As Storen remarks, “Loneliness is confronting. When the noise goes away, and you’re left with the quiet, that’s when it’s really confronting. So we fill it with white noise, strange noise.”

Confronting it may be, but the Whiskey & Boots team believe that there is something precious to be found in those quiet, ordinary moments. “It can be really beautiful to just sit by yourself,” points out Garvey. “And we’re celebrating that.”

When the company presented a showing of the work-in-progress last year, the feedback from the audience was telling. “People wanted more of the stillness,” remembers King. “Audiences are interested in details.” And people are curious, notes Garvey. “This show is like people-watching.”

“The show has got a voyeuristic feel,” agrees King. “The audience is getting a peek into this secret moment.”

The Loneliest Number plays ART ON THE MOVE in Fremantle, April 23-28.

Pictured top is Georgia King, in one of Holly Garvey’s images from ‘The Loneliest Number’. 

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A space for children to explore

“Manguri Wiltja”, an interactive play space/installation by FORM in collaboration with Polyglot Theatre and the Tjanpi Desert Weavers, brings experiences of remote community life to city kids.

With a focus on the creative and community-building possibilities of collaboration, and a strong commitment towards leaping into the unknown, project curator Andrew Nicholls gave Miranda Johnson some insights into the background of the project and what to expect when the installation is opened to the public at Revealed: WA Aboriginal Art Market, Saturday 13 April.

Miranda Johnson: How did the relationship between Polyglot, Tjanpi Desert Weavers and FORM originally come about?
Andrew Nicholls: FORM has worked with Tjanpi on numerous exhibition projects over the past two decades we are huge admirers of their work in general, and well-aware of their artistic significance at a national level. Although we had not previously worked with Polyglot, they came to our attention a few years ago when we were looking to incorporate some more children-and-family-focused programming into what we do. It was actually my colleagues Amy Plant and Mollie Hewitt who first came up with the idea of bringing the two organisations together, as they recognised strong aesthetic similarities between the work made by both organisations. The three of us just had a gut feeling that there was the potential there for a really exciting collaboration.

I then approached each of the organisations (back in 2016) with an exceedingly vague invitation to collaborate, which was a bit daunting because at that stage we really didn’t have any clear idea what we were pitching! Luckily it turned out that Tjanpi had been thinking about exploring performance for some time and had just been waiting for the right project, and that Polyglot were huge fans of Tjanpi and also had been looking for a project that would allow them to collaborate with Aboriginal artists, so everything just fell into place. There’s been an extraordinary amount of serendipity and good luck as the work has come together over the past three years.

A man and a woman listening to headphones
Polyglot’s Justin Marshall and Tjanpi artist Dianne Ungukalpi Golding at ‘Manguri Wiltja’ third development workshop in Perth, November 2017. Photo: Bewley Shaylor, courtesy of Tjanpi Desert Weavers, Polyglot Theatre, and FORM.

MJ: How were the project’s artists selected?
AN: Tjanpi Desert Weavers engage artists from numerous communities spread across hundreds of thousands of kilometres of central Australia, so to make things manageable they suggested we work with four highly respected tjanpi artists from Warakurna, in remote Western Australia: Cynthia Burke, Dianne Ungukalpi Golding, Nancy Nanana Jackson, and Dallas Smythe.

Polyglot similarly recommended some of their most innovative performers, Justin Marshall, Justine Warner, and Tamara Rewse, with their phenomenally talented artistic director and co-CEO Sue Giles leading the development workshop sessions.

A circle of tents in the bush.
Bush camp as part of ‘Manguri Wiltja’ second development workshop in Warakurna, July 2017. Photo: Bewley Shaylor, courtesy of Tjanpi Desert Weavers, Polyglot Theatre, and FORM.

MJ: How has the collaborative process rolled out?
AN: We held our first workshop at Polyglot’s premises in Melbourne in November 2016, to get to know each other and throw ideas around. Again, it was quite daunting for everyone because none of us had a clue what we were actually going to do together, or if a collaboration would even be possible. Thankfully everyone very quickly realised that we wanted to work together to make something really special. It has been an absolute joy to develop the work together, and to draw inspiration from such a talented and professional group of creatives.

The initial workshop was followed by a trip to Warakurna, where all of the non-Tjanpi artists were introduced to the Tjanpi artists’ Country. This was a transformative experience for everyone involved and allowed the artwork to really start to take shape. Further workshops followed in Perth and then in Warakurna again, and now in Fremantle during the lead-up to Revealed.

MJ: What are the similarities and differences that you noticed between each arts organisation’s artistic practices? 
AN: The project came about because everyone involved recognised similarities between what Tjanpi and Polyglot do. Both organisations make very sophisticated work from simple materials and techniques, and both of them have a joyously playful aesthetic and a highly mischievous sense of humour. In terms of the working methodology, the content of the project was primarily driven by the Tjanpi artists and how they wanted to share a sense of their Country, which was then shaped by the Polyglot team into something that would work as an experience for audiences. Throughout this process, FORM played the role of facilitator.

But the joy of tjanpi weaving is that the techniques are so easy to share, so within a couple of hours of meeting everyone at the first workshop in Melbourne we were all making tjanpi creatures that will be travelling across the country to be part of the work in Fremantle.

Women sitting in a circle, weaving colourful objects
‘Manguri Wiltja’ third development workshop in Perth, November 2017. Photograph by Bewley Shaylor, courtesy of Tjanpi Desert Weavers, Polyglot Theatre, and FORM.

In terms of differences, Polyglot allows everything they do to be driven by input from children – kids are involved wherever possible throughout the development of their projects. This isn’t necessarily how the Tjanpi artists work, but children are always a strong presence in remote community life, so this felt like a very natural thing to incorporate into the process, and we worked with children in each of the workshop locations. The Tjanpi artists meanwhile are primarily inspired by culture and their connection to Country, and everyone got a taste of this in Warakurna. While non-Indigenous visitors to Warakurna are never going to have a comprehensive understanding of what this means, the creative team were given an extremely warm and generous introduction that really crystallised the project for everyone involved.

A child, manipulating a tyre.
Manguri Wiltja third development workshop in Perth, November 2017. Photograph by Bewley Shaylor, courtesy of Tjanpi Desert Weavers, Polyglot Theatre, and FORM.

MJ: Can you tell me more about the interactive nature of the installation?
AN: The installation is a space for children to explore at their own pace. The artists will all be present to guide this, but as with most of Polyglot’s work it is the participating children who will take control. They will get to climb over and explore the installation, discover tjanpi creatures hidden throughout the space, listen to the sounds of Warakurna, and sit inside the wiltja (a traditional shade structure) and learn how to create a tjanpi object of their own. We have tried to make it a work that children of almost any age, and all levels of physical ability, will be able to enjoy.

MJ: You’ve spoken about the wiltja as a literal safe space created from collaborative labour, which became central to the project. Tell me about this idea of a safe space, and what it can provide in terms of creativity…
AN: Something that I think resonates with everyone who learns tjanpi weaving technique is how incredibly meditative and soothing it is to do – spending an hour or two in the company of those artists, hand-making something and sharing conversation simply makes you feel fantastic. I think the technique itself is a “safe space” and the wiltja was an organic extension of this. As an object in its own right it’s very clearly hand-made and it’s something you can sit inside, so it has a very cosy feel.

Everyone involved in “Manguri Wiltja” has had nothing but respect toward everyone else for the duration of the project, and this trust was able to build up over a solid length of time, which has given us all the confidence to work at our best and take a few creative risks with each other. That’s an incredibly rewarding space to be in as a creative. Ten days out from the world premiere we still don’t entirely know exactly what the experience of the final work will be, but we trust each other enough to know it’s going to be marvellous.

MJ: Do you see collaboration as central to cross-cultural learning and communication? Do you think this is something that would be beneficial to adults as well as children?
AN: Absolutely. At FORM we always strive to try to achieve a level of collaboration in most projects we undertake with artists – we are passionate about placing artists in conversation with Western Australian communities and seeing what can happen as a result. However, co-creation is not something you can force. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. The great joy of “Manguri Wiltja” is how the various collaborators “clicked” almost immediately on our first day together in Melbourne. Given how vague the parameters of the project were to everyone initially, and how disparate the various creative practices and cultural influences were, it could easily have gone the other way.

We have always intended for “Manguri Wiltja” to be a work that children can experience with their parents (or other relatives) so we absolutely want people of all ages to share in the joyous spirit of the project and learn some more about life in remote Australia.

“Manguri Wiltja” will be at Fremantle Arts Centre, as part of “Revealed”, Saturday 13 April, 10-12pm and 2-4pm. Entry is free.

Pictured top: “Manguri Wiltja” third development workshop in Perth, November 2017. Photo: Bewley Shaylor, courtesy of Tjanpi Desert Weavers, Polyglot Theatre, and FORM.

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A generous double bill

Not Sold Separately, ‘ceilings’ ·
Huzzard Studios, 7 April ·
Review by Jo Pickup ·

ceilings” is the debut production by new dance theatre collective Not Sold Separately. Spearheaded by recent WAAPA dance graduates Olivia Hendry and Briannah Davis, this duo’s venture follows in the wake of various other independent collectives recently added to Perth’s busy contemporary dance and theatre scene.

What sets these young dance makers apart from others in the pack is their resolve to self-produce and present a raw, challenging dance programme in an off-the-track theatre space, outside of Perth’s peak performance season (Perth Festival and Fringe World time). The brains and brawn required to successfully pull-off such a professional production is already a noteworthy achievement.

As a double bill of mid-length dance theatre pieces, “ceilings” appears to hinge on the experiences and politics of being a young woman in today’s world. In this way, both works seem deeply personal and signal this collective’s gutsy and honest approach to performance.

The first work, Bloom, is directed by Briannah Davis, and features four female dancer-performers Jessie Camilleri-Seeber, Jocelyn Eddie, Olivia Hendry, Georgia Smith. It opens with a scene in which a young woman (Camilleri-Seeber) lies motionless (perhaps dead?), on the floor, in silence. She is attended to by another young woman (Eddie) who kneels beside her, gently “washing” her body with a small spray bottle and cloth.

Conducted in silence, this prolonged introduction is a clever way to both focus and unnerve the audience. As we watch the repeated actions of this quiet purification process, we are compelled to closely consider this young woman’s fate. Then, as the attendant cleanser eventually breaks the silence, we listen to her deliver some beautiful prose that describes in detail the process of seeds becoming flowers, and the power and self-sufficiency of the seed itself – in its containing of everything needed for the oncoming life of the plant.

This text, for me, is the key motif of this work. As the other dancers join the stage and move through a series of choreographic and text-based scenes which frame the young women as both strong and vulnerable, it seems that this seed and flower analogy holds the key to it all.

The strongest parts of this work are those that use dance alone to explore these complex states of being and becoming, with some of the other purely text-based scenes losing the subtleties of the opening. With further development and research, these ideas of the female “becoming” could be communicated with greater clarity and resolve.

Lilly King and Ana Music in ‘No Mandarin’s an Island’. Photo: Minni Karamfiles.

In the second piece, No Mandarin’s an Island by Olivia Hendry, there are similar strengths and weaknesses. Hendry has chosen five female dancers (Jessie Camilleri-Seeber, Jocelyn Eddie, Lilly King, Briannah Davis and Ana Music) to portray her wonderfully pink vision of women’s experiences of solidarity and separateness.

Instead of the flower, Hendry uses water as her central theme. From here, she creates analogies of “swimming without sinking”, “the struggle to come up for breath”, and “speed-swimming towards the winner’s prize”. Again, these poetic motifs are ripe for further exploration, and with more time spent in development they could be directed to more resolved ends.

Overall, this double bill revealed not only the active minds, but the deeply felt performance qualities of these young female artists. The ensemble dance sequences of both pieces were particularly enjoyable to watch, in their reflection of the artists’ imaginative choreography and their sensitive interpretations by the dancers.

For this audience member, the show marked both the beginning and the continuation of a bevy of sharp artistic intentions, and their sharing of these ideas in motion, with us, was a very generous offer.

Pictured top is Georgia Smith (front), with (L-R) Olivia Hendry, Jessie Camilleri-Seeber and Jocelyn Eddie, in ‘Bloom’. Photo: Minni Karamfiles.

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A wall of crocheted corals
Installation, News, Reviews, Visual arts

A fragile wonderland

Review: Mulyana, “A Man, A Monster & the Sea” ·
FORM Claremont, Goods Shed ·
Review by Belinda Hermawan ·

In his first Western Australian residency, Indonesian installation artist Mulyana delights with a playful yet thought-provoking sea-themed installation “A Man, A Monster & the Sea”, at FORM’S Goods Shed exhibition space. Using yarn – a medium traditionally associated with accessories such as scarves, throws and blankets – Mulyana‘s soft and dynamic knitted and crocheted sculptures of reef, coral and marine creatures not only subvert our expectations but reference the threat that climate change poses to underwater worlds.

Mulyana’s grouped installations are ambitious in scale; each installation piece is its own standalone feature occupying the floor, wall or air-space. In combination with the intricate detailing that cleverly mimics coral, the works evoke a sense of wonder.

Crocheted and knitted jellyfish and fish
Schools of fish and jellyfish ‘float’ in the air. Photo: Taryn Hays, courtesy of FORM.

First, we encounter the safe world, where Mulyana’s alter-ego, a monster named Mogus, takes refuge. The colourful coral reef in Mogus World IV is teeming with life and vitality. It reaches, sprawls and cascades. Hung from the ceiling to “float”, the resulting movement of the schools of fish and jellyfish mimics the undulation of water. This exhibition is not a static experience; for children and adults alike, the installations invite exploration from different vantage points. Though touching the works is discouraged, there is an interactive family-friendly activity in the exhibition which encourages participants to use props to play and imagine.

knitted white jellyfish and coral
A sobering reality in ‘Satu’. Photo: Taryn Hays, courtesy of FORM.

Though the googly-eyed creatures of Mogus World (as Mulyana describes his imagined marine environment) are cute and cartoonish, the narrative of the exhibition is grounded in sobering reality; environmental disaster is not the stuff of fairy tales. As the Satu installation reminds us, coral turns white when it starts to die. The vivacity of Mogus World IV starkly contrasts the stretch of bleached jellyfish, whose tentacles dangle eerily towards the skeleton-like coral below. The fish are gone, the jellyfish are drifting away from the coral, leading to Si Hideung, who stands as a warrior evolution of Mogus. He is now on the defensive, in armour woven from a foreign material; plastic rope. The messages seem clear: it is plastic that is starves and destroys marine life.

The final installation, Kosong, is constructed in monochromatic dark tones. Mulyana explains that “while blackness may appear to be a symbol of emptiness, it also provides space in which to pause and begin a new journey”. So, though the word  “kosong” means empty, the work speaks to renewal; the end of one cycle leads to another. This cyclical nature is depicted in the tilted ring of numerous black jellyfish suspended above the greyed coral like a halo askew. The effect is ethereal; highlighting, perhaps, the fragility of these precious and unique underwater environments.

Mulyana originally learnt how to knit and crochet at the Tobucil collective in Bandung. Now based in Yogyakarta – aka Jogja, a city well known for its contemporary art – his collaborative community-based projects see him training and working with a group of women known as Konco Mogus. He and his “Mogus family” work to co-create these vivid, intricate clusters of sea-life. It’s this spirit of connection that embodies how we should interact with each other and our surroundings if we’re to realise conservation efforts.

An exhibition for all ages, “A Man, A Monster & the Sea” is worth diving into.

“A Man, A Monster & the Sea” shows at FORM Claremont, Goods Shed until the end of May.

Pictured top is ‘Mogus World IV’ in which intricate detailing cleverly mimics coral. Photograph by Taryn Hays, courtesy of FORM.

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News, Performing arts, Visual arts

In the spotlight: Häxa House

What do you get when you cross an art exhibition and performance with a house party?

The answer is Häxa House. The brainchild of local independent artists Kelsey Diamond,  Sophie Kruse and Joel Murray, Häxa House is an evening of live music, poetry, performance art and visual art, presented house party style. As part of this year’s KickstART Festival, Häxa House will be presenting an event in Northbridge. Nina Levy talked to Diamond, Kruse and Murray to find out more.

Nina Levy: Talk me through your career paths as artists so far…
Sophie Kruse: I’ve always had a keen interest in the arts and have dabbled in visual art and poetry as a hobbyist but my main focus has always been music. A few years ago I began focusing on more experimental work and became involved with the modular synth community here in Perth. I’d never really considered a career in the arts, even though it was a constant fantasy in the back of my mind, until becoming more of an organiser. It made me realise how few opportunities there were for artists to establish communities in Perth. So, I decided to create some opportunities along with some amazing people who made it happen.

L-R: Sophie Kruse, Kelsey Diamond and Joel Murray. Photo: Sam Beard.

Joel Murray: I became interested in visual arts as a young kid. I always loved expression through art. Art was my favourite subject, and where I would invest the most part of my energy. I moved to Perth when I was 18, with the hopes of becoming involved in the art community, though never really had a desire to study it. I found myself surrounded by it in my own way, starting up little projects with friends, going to art events and having a few close friends who are amazing artists. I never deeply considered a career in visual art, although I know I will always be surrounded by it comfortably.

Kelsey Diamond: I always loved making art, so naturally I decided to study art (and contemporary fashion) at uni. Curating was always something I wanted to do, and when Sophie and I met and became best friends in one night, I found out about Häxa House and I was so excited about the event. Not long after, I got involved and it’s been an amazing experience.

NL: Why did you call your event “Häxa House”? What does “Häxa” mean?
SK: The name Häxa means witch in Swedish. We thought this accurately captured the weird and magical nature of the kind of events we wanted to have. The name was fun, and it just stuck.

Aisyah Aaqil Sumito will be exhibiting work at Häxa House from their ongoing project “A Place to Reckon”.

NL: How did Häxa House come into being? And what kinds of events have you hosted to date?
SK: One evening in early 2017 Joel Murray, Swedish sister Lovisa Sandlund and I were talking about wanting to create a communal space for artists of all disciplines and all levels to come together and share their work with each other, unrestricted by a gallery format. Later that evening we created a Facebook page for Häxa House without any plans, as a pact to ourselves to deliver on an event.

When our first event came around and people were spilling out into the stairwell and the street of my small Beaufort street apartment, we knew that we had met a need for this kind of event in Perth. Since then, the visionary Kelsey Diamond has joined us to make Häxa grow. We’ve now hosted events in three different houses and had many more artists, poets and musicians on display, building a beautiful community that has enriched us beyond what we could have imagined.

NL: And what will people experience when they attend this iteration of Häxa House?
KD: We have a lot planned! We have 14 amazing artists involved in an exhibition that will span across two huge rooms at our venue, the Centre for Stories, which is based in an old house on Aberdeen Street in Perth. We are so excited to use this beautiful old venue with floorboards and high ceilings and a really homely vibe.

We always decorate our events with lots of plants and twinkly lights, and create a magical atmosphere. There will also be amazing grazing platters made by Joel and adorned with flowers.

The night will kick off in the courtyard, with poetry and live music from five local talents, followed by a performance art piece in the main room. Then there will be more music to finish off the night.

Sam Huxtable performing at Häxa House. Photo: Anastasia Julien-Martial.

NL: And what was the motivation to create this particular Häxa House event?
KD: We were approached by this year’s Propel Arts Kickstart Festival Program Coordinator Maddie Godfrey to put on an event as part of the festival. We knew Maddie because they read poetry at our very first event and had become a good friend of ours. In terms of the curation, we really wanted to showcase past Häxa House artists and performers as much as possible, as well as include some amazing people who had been on our wish list for some time.

NL: Tell me about some of the (many!) artists who are involved in the project…
KD: Sam Huxtable has been in EVERY Häxa House event and makes work exploring the queer body and psyche, in their soft satin sculptures, metalwork/jewellery and performance.

Sophie Nixon has also exhibited with us in the past, with her textiles that investigate processes of repair by repurposing worn, old garments or by incorporating live plant matter into fabrics.

A man with insects crawling on him
Teori Shannon with his giant insects. Photo: Jesse Ingram.

Teori Shannon is also back with us once more. Teori is a taxidermy artist who brings giant insects to our events and lets everyone hold them. It’s terrifying and we love it.

Sarah Sim is an incredible emerging dancer who won the multimedia award for this year’s Fringe for her video work The Divine Feminine. This work will be included in our event, which is really exciting. Her film bio reads “This is for anyone in love with what it means to be female. After watching this film, we hope that you will dance free and naked slowly, basking in the sun”. Amazing.

Aisyah Aaqil Sumito will also be joining us, showing work from their ongoing project “A Place to Reckon”, a reiterated installation navigating personal history and multidisciplinary modes of storytelling.

NL: What is your favourite part of the playground?
KD: We unanimously voted for the swings! Is there anything more fun that swinging up really high and then jumping off?

Häxa House takes place Friday 19 April, at the Centre for Stories.

Pictured top are the Happy Girls and Annika Moses performing at ‘Häxa House IV: Bring Spring’. Photo: Sam Beard.

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