30 Jan – 2 Feb @ Paper Mountain ·
Presented by Paper Mountain ·
Part of Peaks 2019, Paper Mountain’s program of visual art and performance for
Fringe World Festival
In a highly charged performance artwork, Bonnie Lane presents a humorous workshop that is open to all, while aiming to educate the heterosexual male on the role of masculinity in 2019. The artist invites critical debate by sharing personal anecdotes, historical references, videos, and provocative dance routines that will have the audience questioning ‘how far have we really progressed?’
Bonnie Lane is a multidisciplinary artist who unapologetically creates and responds to sexually explicit content, including but not limited to the public presentation of her body as an object of desire. This project is a direct response to the multiple requests sent from her male fans on social media, asking that she please ‘teach them’ how to navigate the contemporary woman in this time of uncertainty.
19 – 25 January @ Paper Mountain ·
Presented by Finn O’Branagain ·
It’s hard to know what to say sometimes. Is there a message you need to send? Maybe you need to tell your crush you can’t stop thinking about them, tell a partner about a little STI you have, reconnect with a sibling you haven’t spoken to in years, tell your housemate to stop leaving wet towels on the floor, send condolences to a friend with a death in the family. If you can’t find the words, play Text Roulette and let Finn O’Branagáin draft them for you — then send, save, delete, or ask for a sign. Sign up to anonymously have your text drafted, or purchase a ticket to see the process unfold.
A hit at The Blue Room Theatre’s Winter Nights Program 2018!
Part of Peaks 2019, Paper Mountain’s program of visual art and performance for Fringe World Festival.
Review: Aphids, Howl ·
Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Perth, 27 July ·
Review by Jonathan W. Marshall ·
Howl, by Australian contemporary art company Aphids, is an enormously enjoyable homage to art controversies, mostly from the last 20 years, which is joyously staged as an incongruous, camp fashion parade. The pieces featured are not necessarily well known, even to those in the arts, so the printed program offers a much-appreciated guide. The triumph of the show is that the three central performers effectively embody, in their staging and physicality, fifteen different moments in art.
The piece functions as a performative essay in art history and debates around censorship and artist responsibility. In staging the work, creators and performers Lz Dunn, Lara Thoms and Willoh S Weiland reclaim the female nude as a form of empowering self-expression. Howl commences with one of their number embodying Gustave Courbet’s painting of a woman’s crotch, The Origin of the World (1866), after standing upright and meeting the audience’s eyes. Later, the trio turn Lynda Benglis’s infamous nude photograph with a large dildo at her groin, from Artforum magazine (1974), into a carefully choreographed set of four discrete adjustments of that pose, whilst gazing out masterfully from behind sunglasses. These gestures impart a camp and broadly queer ambience.
Other sequences include a giant sunflower seed prancing below us and scattering seeds with gay abandon, before giving us the finger (Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, 2010). The trio later enter bearing a floppy recreation of an oversized white urinal turned on its side (Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917) and then spout water from pursed lips as if in a Baroque fountain. Captain Cook weaves across the floor on a Segway, his face obscured with a black mask, shaping his fingers into a gun which he points at us (Jason Wing, Australia Was Stolen By Armed Robbery, 2012).
My favourite section saw seven performers appear on stage. Three were dressed as inflatable sex dolls, the masks skewed such that the patterned eyes were not even close to the real eyes beneath. This trio was accompanied by figures in white overalls, some of whom had inflatable killer whales strapped to their backs. All bore either a blue hoop (for the orcas to pass through), a smaller inflatable orca, or a sex doll. They then proceeded to prance, punch and frolic about the stage in a celebration of the erotic meeting of human, object and animal. This alludes to an abortive live-streamed event where artist Amber Swanson was to transform a sex doll, modelled on herself, into an orca (the broadcast was cut).
Howl is fun and provocative, but the selected artworks are extremely diverse. While all attracted discussion at the time of exhibition (and after), only some were subject to censorship. When arrayed together in a celebratory way, Howl coalesces into a polemic in favour of unfettered freedom of speech and the idea that artists need not consider audience sensibilities or safety. Seeds was not actually censored, but was roped off because it became clear that allowing thousands of visitors to mingle freely in the same pile of breakable ceramic seeds for weeks was becoming dangerous. To draw close links between this and the treatment of photographer Connie Petrillo, who police effectively abducted because concerns had been raised regarding the nude photographs of her children, is misleading.
While I hugely enjoyed fêting these artworks, running through these pieces as a homage simplifies complex issues. Although much uninformed commentary suggests otherwise, complaints subsequently published by feminist critics and editors Annette Michelson and Rosalind Krauss against Benglis are not without merit.
By purchasing an advertisement rather than seeking critical coverage, Benglis did indeed have her image published without it being subject to editorial review. The editors were therefore justified in claiming that the subversion of their control required “critical analysis” and that Benglis’s act of “self promotion” could — at least potentially — be seen as an affront to recent feminist critiques and advances in the depiction of women in media and art. Rosalind Krauss later curated the landmark exhibition of Surrealist photography, L’amour fou (1986) which included a profusion of nude feminine forms juxtaposed with dildos and phallic symbols, notably works by Hans Bellmer and Pierre Moliner. She was no anti-porn puritan.
In short, while Howl is fantastic, it does not offer a coherent alternative history of art (as some have claimed). Moreover, inventive and fantasmatic though it is, the visual allusions to the artworks are not always ideal, given that many in the audience are unlikely to be familiar with the originals. Cook’s Segway ride recalls Daniel Boyd’s We Call Them Pirates Out Here (2006) and related works by Gordon Bennet, more than it does Wing’s 2012 bronze bust. The Petrillo work denoted here (Esse Quam Videri) is incorrectly dated to when criminal proceedings began against Petrillo in 1995 but it is actually from 2014. It was not involved in the prosecution, nor, indeed, is it as visually sophisticated in depicting the ambiguous drama of children’s games as Vanished Innocence, Petrillo’s wonderful 2008 collaboration with her daughter.
To some extent, though, these are quibbles. As a work of “Live Art,” the strength of Howl lies in its ambiguous incarnation as a staged physical allusion to something which is not actually present in the performance itself. Bodies are offered as substitutes, often compelling ones, but the largely flat, unaffected presentation means that the audience always has the niggling sense that something else is going on beneath this surface. Howl destabilises and provokes more than it preaches, and in this it is a triumph.
Note/disclaimer: Jonathan W. Marshall chaired a 2008 forum in Fotofreo which featured Petrillo, and in 2014, the photomedia series “Meat Fence” by Justin Spiers with Jonathan W. Marshall, was presented at the Perth Centre of Photography as part of a program alongside Connie Petrillo’s “Esse Quam Videri”.
Photos: Aaron Claringbold.
To find out more about the artworks referred to above see:
If you’re uncomfortable with nudity, you may want to avert your gaze in Freo this weekend. Actually, never mind, it’s just clever costuming! Varnya Bromilow recently caught up with Andy Burden, Head Nude aka Director of Natural Theatre Company – a British theatre company that prefers their comedy laid bare. They’re in town this weekend for the Fremantle Street Arts Festival.
If you had to, what would you rather do:
A. Eat a stew made of chopped liver, finely diced worms and earwax
B. Go to work and sing your heart out in front of all your colleagues with no explanation
C. Wander around the streets naked for 30 minutes
I would choose A. No question.
For a posse of bold Brits this would be a no-brainer. Option C – easy! The Natural Theatre Company has been doing nude runs all over the world for the last 45 years. And okay, they aren’t actually nude – they’re wearing extremely realistic costumes. But still, it leaves little to the imagination. Director Andy Burden explains that the intention is not to make people feel weird or freak out, it’s to laugh.
“Our aim is to make people smile,” Burden explains on the phone from the UK. “In our street theatre we focus on comedy and making people around us feel comfortable so they can have fun.”
So, how on earth does one come up with the idea? Counting back, I guess it was 1973, which explains something but still…
Burden laughs. “The idea for the Nudes originated from our naturally cheeky sense of humour, the characters are very charming, very British people who do not realise that they are naked, which people seem to find hilarious.”
The costumes are deliberately silly, but it definitely requires a double take to realize that the person you are gawking at is not actually nude. Which begs the question – do audiences realize immediately that costumes are involved?
“It depends how far away from the action you are! But yes, once you get closer it becomes clearer. The fact that they are ‘nude’ adds to the comedy but these characters have a great personalities too.
“The Naturals designed the costumes many years ago,” Burden explains. “We create them ourselves – one of our longest serving actors makes the, er… ‘accessories’.”
The nudes are a very diverse bunch, physically speaking. From your slimline versions to other more portly forms, the representation really runs the gamut of physicality. Burden explains that this range was intentional.
“We didn’t want to shy away from what nudity is but our characters make the costumes comical,” Burden says. “Body shape is completely irrelevant, we celebrate all shapes and sizes! The Natural Theatre Company has a diverse range of actors in terms of age, ethnicity, and body shape. There is no particular ‘type’ in terms of appearance, all of our actors play all of our characters…over 100 scenarios!”
With such realistic costumes, not much is left to the imagination. So why cloak up at all? Did they ever consider going the whole hog? In the early 70’s you probably could have gotten away with it!
“Not really,” Burden laughs. “A large part of the comedy lies in the fact that they that are not really nude – it is the surprise our audiences have thinking that the actors might be and then the realisation of what is actually going on.”
It’s easy to imagine the gobsmacked response of children to the show. But when I ask Burden about the shock value, he says any initial eyebrow-raising subsides surprisingly quickly.
“Less shock, more laughter,” he says. “After a while it is not even about the ‘nudity’, they are such charming characters that people completely forget and just end up chatting to them.”
Any company that has lasted 45 years can be counted as a serious success. The Naturals have toured all over the world, spreading their innocent glee. Considering how much attitudes towards nudity vary from culture to culture, have they noticed a difference in reception, depending on where they’re performing?
“In our experience, the Nudes always get a great reception, people completely understand the tongue-in-cheek comedy,” Burden explains. “Sometimes clients can be nervous about booking the Nudes but every single time we get amazing feedback. They are a great ice-breaker!”
But it’s not all about (the illusion of) getting one’s gear off. The Naturals have expanded their enterprise into a drama school, education and workshops as well as a sub-company Natural Diversions that feature performers who are disabled.
Laughs aside, it seems the over-arching theme of the Natural Theatre Company is acceptance.
Perth Festival review: The Second Woman by Nat Randall and Anna Breckon ·
Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, 3 March ·
Review by Varnya Bromilow ·
How many ways can you say the words: I love you?
In sarcasm; anger; desperation; with nonchalance; with love.
Nat Randall’s revelatory performance at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art was a study in the nuances of language and in epic theatre. Randall began the show at 3pm on Saturday and performed the same, fairly short scene with 100 different men over a period of 24 hours. 24 hours! Is she mad? Maybe. But wow, it was good.
The scene is inspired by a very similar one from the John Cassavete classic, Opening Night. In her version, Randall is a woman alone in what appears to be a hotel room. She is visited by a man (well, 100 men), her partner. They exchange about ten minutes of sparse dialogue, parsing some of the details of their relationship. They dance, they drink, the man leaves. This short exchange was performed over and over and over, separated by intervals of ten minutes during which the packed audience could leave, chat, or stay. Most chose to stay, many for an hour. Some stoic souls stayed for the whole fraught adventure.
Randall is a Sydney-based performance artist and a core member of the collectives Hissy Fit and Team MESS. She’s no stranger to Perth audiences, having performed most recently in last year’s Proximity Festival. She performed The Second Woman in Hobart’s famed Dark Mofo last year and in the Next Wave Festival in 2016 for which the piece was created.
Randall is incredible to watch. Taking her cues from each new sparring partner, she changes the tone of the same piece as easily as you or I might change underwear. The first iteration I saw was bursting with humour – the audience breaking into laughs at every second line. The second was heartfelt, intimate. It felt like we shouldn’t be there, hanging on each word. Another was a scene of fatigued sadness, of love gone old and stale. In each scene of course, the dialogue was almost identical. The dramatic tension of the work arises from the chemistry between the players, and the audience’s concern (or investment) in the welfare of Randall. (When) will she falter? When will she get to go the toilet? Is she wearing special senior’s knickers? (Answer: she has a 15 minute break every two hours)
The male players were chosen from a general call-out made through the Festival’s publicity channels. They called for men of diverse ages and backgrounds with non-performers specifically encouraged to apply. Of course, some of those who were featured were certainly actors, but many (most?) were not. They were blokes who might otherwise be in the audience…in some cases wonderfully unwitting of the thrills of live performance. In preparation, each was given a script with the barest of stage directions. They knew where to move, what to say and do, but the open question was how. And therein lies the power of the piece. I love you. I love you. I love you. It was genuinely surprisingly to see how ten minutes of dialogue could be interpreted in such radically different ways. How a tone can change an outcome.
The set, designed by Future Method Studio is a thing of great beauty. A boxed room, red and lushly lit with the fourth wall sheared off for our viewing pleasure. It feels a little Lynchian, as does Randall in her red fitted frock and tragically blonde wig. This room dominates only half the stage with the other half of PICA’s black box taken up with a large screen – each scene is filmed in real time by two camera operators who hover just outside the room. Randall’s collaborator for this project is Anna Breckon, a film writer and director who is the co-creator of The Second Woman. It’s Breckon directing the footage as it gets projected onto the adjacent screen, resulting in a very unusual cinematic experience that is almost as compelling as the live action happening next door.
Audience members came and went. And the line to get in grew ever larger (though I’m betting there was no line at 3am). I wanted to get in for a third viewing – but alas, by that time, word had well and truly spread and the line snaked outside PICA. A small band of brave ones (mostly artists themselves as I understand it) stayed for the full experience. I wish I had.
Brave, intense, strange. These are a few of my favourite things.
Fringe World review: yourseven by James Berlyn ·
Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, 3 February ·
Review by Varnya Bromilow ·
There’s something very comforting about experiencing silence with strangers. James Berlyn’s one-on-one performance piece, yourseven, celebrates this unusual form of communion, as well as other unlikely delights such as Elizabethan endearments, yarn and the pleasure of being wrapped in a blanket. There’s comfort here, but not without quirks of embarrassment.
Yourseven was initially developed by Performing Lines WA in 2014 but this is the first time it’s been staged. For its world premiere, the actors are from WA Youth Theatre and the venue is PICA. Audience members are led in one at a time, at five minute intervals, to experience their seven stages of life, as described by Shakespeare in As You Like It. Berlyn challenges this concept from the get-go, questioning the number and character of these stages, as well as the inherent maleness of life as defined by the bard.
Participatory one-on-one theatre is not for the faint of heart. My companion for the evening was thoroughly relieved to hear that she would not be required to speak. Dance yes, but not speak.
We begin by donning headphones, through which we hear some bonny Elizabethan baroque that becomes the soundtrack to our experience. PICA’s performance space has been cleverly converted into a maze of canvas-covered cubicles, each the site of a life phase. Led by a single actor from one darkened cubicle to the next, we are compelled to reflect upon birth, schooling, loving, fighting, adulthood, ageing and death. There’s a guide for each experience, but the young actors act more as our shepherds than coaches – yourseven is only as rewarding as the personal energy you are willing to expend on it.
The stages are almost painfully brief – five minutes apiece – so rather than try and aim for an especially accurate representation of each phase, Berlyn opts for a more playful, snapshot approach. In each of the seven cubicles, you participate in an exercise that aims to capture an essence of your own experience of life’s seven stages. These range from activities as passive as being wrapped in a blanket to dancing to a song you fell in love to. Each of these is recorded in a Polaroid image, sometimes taken by yourself, sometimes by your accompanying actor. These are compiled in a photo album that is given to you at the conclusion of your experience. It’s cute, but it’s not representative.
This makes for a very different experience than comparable one-on-one participatory art experiences. Berlyn was one of the co-founders of the Proximity Festival – the popular biannual art event wherein participants join artists in the throes of creation. But while those experiences feel like a joint craft, where you are actively engaged by someone who definitely knows what they are doing, yourseven is more of a create-your-own-adventure experience. For the bold, this turns out to be a rewarding, surprisingly emotional journey; while for those not as well versed in the intimate nature of one-on-one performance, it can be confronting or even awkward.
Regardless of how enthusiastically you embrace the concept though, there is something intoxicating about existing in a confessional space. To divulge your secret self-perceptions to a stranger feels wonderfully self-indulgent. It was interesting to reflect on how less thrilling this experience might be for the actors, all of whom have grown up in the age of Instagram. Personal divulgence is their currency; naval-gazing a far more natural mode of being. For someone of my vintage it still feels mildly transgressive to impart such intimate knowledge. Does family weigh me down or lift me up? Have I poured more energy into adventures or into career? Who do I fight and why? Part therapy session, part solipsistic adventure, yourseven is a compelling and surprising way to spend an hour.
Described as a one-woman, one-Roomba show, Future’s Eve will also feature a paddling pool, breakfast made live on stage and lasers, according to its maker and performer, Michelle Aitken. The Perth-based independent dance artist took some time out to tell us more about Future’s Eve and the path that’s led her to creating a work that asks why our vision of the future looks so much like the past.
Seesaw: When did you first know that you wanted to be an artist? Michelle Aitken: I don’t know when I decided to chase arts as a career. I was aiming to do something creative at high-school and, having not really danced before, fell into the ballet program because it meant I didn’t have to do phys ed…
I remember saying quite early on that maybe I could do dance as a career and my mum just laughing. And I don’t think I was serious at that point, but I never stopped thinking that, and maybe it’s happened.
S: Where did you train? MA: After dancing at school and as part of STEPS Youth Dance Company, I went to WAAPA for three years to do the contemporary dance course. I graduated in 2016 with a BA (Dance). Since then, I’ve learned about who I am as an artist by doing a lot of things for the first time in a professional context. I recently performed in Unveiling: Gay Sex For Endtimes, where I had to learn to juggle wearing a full head latex locust mask and nine inch heels, while naked, while wielding a microphone on a lead, sexy dancing, and (most terrifyingly for a dancer) using my voice. In a lot of ways that show is the most challenging thing I’ve done. It’s also probably shaped my practice the most. I wouldn’t be making Future’s Eve without everything I’ve done since leaving uni.
S: Are you new to Fringe World? MA: No! I made my first show Milk, Moonlight for Fringe last year, as part of the double bill “Topographs”, at The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights.
S: Tell us about Future’s Eve, your 2018 Fringe show! MA:Future’s Eve is about women and the techno-scientific future. Between sex robots, developments in AI, and sci-fi images in pop culture, the majority of female-appearing robots fulfil stereotypically female roles: as receptionists and aged care workers, as the voices of our digital assistants, and as hyper-sexualised objects. So I wanted to ask, why does this vision of our possible future look so much like the past? And how can we think about shaping a more equal future?
The show itself is not actually a dance show – I’d call it an experimental performance. Expect me dressed in full body lycra, a Roomba, a paddling pool, breakfast made live on stage, lasers, popping balloons… It’s got this DIY futuristic vibe, it’s really fun to make, and I hope it’s ultimately thought provoking.
S: Aside from your show, what are you looking forward to seeing/doing at Fringe? MA: I’m looking forward to catching all the other shows at Peaks, as well as heaps of other new works from local theatre makers! Off the top of my head, Squid Vicious’ godeatgod, Rhiannon Petersen’s The Big Dark, Bow & Dagger’s The Beast and the Bride, and as much contemporary dance as I can possibly fit in.
S: What is your favourite playground equipment? MA: My favourite playground equipment would have to be the monkey bars. No reason. I like swinging around.
Dreaming up new worlds for people to experience is what KAN Collective’s Noemie Huttner-Koros loves about performance-making, so she’s excited about inviting audiences into KAN’s interactive installation, House of Joys, at Fringe World 2018. She spills the beans on what makes her tick and what to expect when you enter the House of Joys.
Seesaw: When did you first know that you wanted to be an artist? Noemie Huttner-Koros: I knew when I performed in a production of Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis directed by Karla Conway at Canberra Youth Theatre in 2012. It was an exhilarating, terrifying and totally incredible experience showing me the power of performance to shed light on issues while also blasting open what I thought performance could look like, sound like, feel like…
S: Tell us about your training… NHK: I am currently in my third year of a Bachelor of Performing Arts (Performance Making) at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). I’ve also studied at the Intercultural Theatre Institute in Singapore, at Makhampom Living Theatre in Thailand and at Song of the Goat Theatre in Poland. With performance it’s a lot of learning on the go, seeing what works in the moment, taking on feedback from directors and peers and collaborating and listening to people from all walks of life.
S: Describe your artistic practice… NHK: My artistic practice centres around devised theatre, site-specific and intimate performance. I make theatre with people of different backgrounds and experiment with various forms such as physical theatre, musical theatre, puppetry, clowning and performance poetry.
S: Career highlight so far? NHK: Devising and performing my solo show Borders at WAAPA as part of the Solo Stage 2017, “Moments of Being”. It was about my family history and refugees, using a combination of poetry, movement and puppetry. I covered the stage in white paper boats and lifejackets that I manipulated throughout the performance. It was very close to my heart and felt quite necessary in the current political and social climate.
S: What do you love most about what you do? NHK: I love walking into a theatre or performance venue and seeing all the energy and creativity that goes into making and curating an experience for a group of people. I feel like performance is a gift that you share with a group of strangers in this awesome place we call the theatre. It’s an electric environment where you can dream up new worlds, alternate realities and make things explode.
S: Are you new to Fringe World? NHK: Annika Moses and Kate Thresher (the other co-creators of KAN Collective) both performed and exhibited at Fringe World in 2017 with the show Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast at Paper Mountain and The Dream at YMCA HQ in Leederville. It’s my first project at Fringe though and though I’ve volunteered before I’m really excited to create and perform our first show together as KAN Collective!
S: What can we expect when we enter the House of Joys? NHK: House of Joys is an immersive art experience where the rules of the outside word are replaced with excitement, play and mischief. Participants are guided through through a series of encounters, interactions and activities in a journey through a tactile playscape. This part installation, part one-on-one performance creates a world where transgressions are encouraged, difference is celebrated and freedom flourishes.
S: What is your favourite playground equipment? NHK: KAN Collective love flying foxes. Annika says, “There used to be this playground down South made of tyres and old planks that felt like such an adventure.” We have been quite inspired by the setting of the playground/playscape while creating House of Joys, a place of fun, mischief and rule breaking.
20-21 February 8pm, 22 February 6pm @ Paper Mountain Upstairs, 267 William St, Northbridge, Perth •
Presented by Marijke Loosjes and Paper Mountain •
West Australian artist Marijke Loosjes presents an honest and raw depiction of the various stages of grief and the steps taken in attempt to heal. Through an array of conceptual performance pieces and visual artwork, references are made to various mourning practices with a strong focus on those of the Victorian era. Exploring the mental state of one’s mind amidst grieving, Loosjes shares the detrimental rituals that ultimately inhibit the healing process. DROWNING is an intimate and beautifully cathartic experience for both the artist and the audience.