News, Performing arts, Puppet theatre, Reviews, Theatre

Chilling consequences superbly rendered

Review: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre and WAAPA 3rd year performance makers, Life on Earth ·
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, 2 November ·
Review by Steven Cohen ·

The earth is fragile. So are we. So is a puppet.

The timing is conspicuous. A series of short vignettes that acquire a cold and earnest insistence. The audience, quiet and still, silently gasps at the state of our Earth and the consequences of failing to look after it.

Such discomforting scenes form Life on Earth, a work of puppet theatre that had an all-too-brief season at Fremantle’s Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, October 30 – November 2. Directed by veteran puppeteer and Spare Parts Puppet Theatre associate director Michael Barlow, and performed by the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts’ graduating Performance Making students, Life on Earth is a master showing of recontextualization, animation and creation.

‘Life on Earth’ is a master showing of recontextualization, animation and creation. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography.

Indeed, the name of the show conjures up images of David Attenborough’s close encounter with a group of gorillas. At the time, Attenborough famously suggested that despite our projection of gorillas as dangerous and foreboding, it is in fact humans who are the most destructive and aggressive of all creatures.

This is what the puppets were saying.

Certainly, most of this 80-minute production — short scenes enacted by a variety of puppets manipulated by a visible team of performers — suggests a critical take on universal themes: of love, and connection.

Youthful dinner party guests paying homage to themselves. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography
.

The participants in a youthful dinner party, replete with chic and bonhomie, pay homage to themselves; two charming women engage in a slow lovers’ embrace; a child is born and then catastrophically handed away (or dies?); two men vie for the love of a beautiful woman, which increasingly agitates warfare and culminates in the piercing of cupid’s arrow; a man – like many men – embarrassingly attempts to engage with an exotic and alluring woman.

The delightful couple seated next to me watched these pursuits with hands clasped, chuckling, aware of their own love. Like everyone, they were silent, their embrace more conscious when the stage turned to mist and a seahorse meandered, terrified and tangled in a plastic sheet.

More was to come. A horrifying ending where misunderstanding and ego resulted in the performers falling over, one by one, as the last voice trailed off into a murky and deleterious end.

The success of this work lies in the simplicity of its observation. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography.

Life on Earth – while harrowing at any point during the last two centuries, is particularly traumatic as we selfishly engage in epochal conflict and harm to our home. The success of this work lies in the simplicity of its observation: that we stand to lose all that makes life worthwhile – love and the lightness of just “being”.

The tone of Life on Earth is chillingly gruesome, unfolding as a pessimistic registry of slaughter and vivisection, in which classic love stories and worldliness become fixtures of a possible Armageddon.

An outstanding work, superbly rendered by its cast of graduating students.

All photos: Stephen Heath Photography.

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Old building in Fremantle
Calendar, Festivals, November 19

Fremantle Biennale

1 – 24 November @ Various venues throughout Fremantle ·
Presented by The Fremantle Biennale ·

The Fremantle Biennale is thrilled to present a diverse array of site-responsive art and architecture through a public program of works by celebrated international and Australian artists and architects. Situated in open, hidden, underused and interesting spaces throughout Fremantle, discover how each artist responds to the history, landscape and communities that make up the rich tapestry of this port -side city.

UNDERCURRENT is the guiding theme of the second Fremantle Biennale – immerse yourself from 1 – 24 November 2019, and dive deep into the (mainly free-to-attend) programme of visual art,performance, music, contemporary dance, architectural pavilions and film. Suitable for young and old, visit the Fremantle Biennale website for the full program of events.

More info
W: www.fremantlebiennale.com.au
E:  info@fremantlebiennale.com.au

Pictured: Fremantle credit: Rebecca Mansell

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Image of car at beachside with things piled on roof
Calendar, Children, Immersive Experience, October 19, September 19

Children: On Our Beach

28 Sep – 12 Oct @ Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Fremantle ·
Presented by Spare Parts Puppet Theatre ·

A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” John Lennon

You are invited with us and Fomo the Dog, on a shoes off, hands on,  never before experienced holiday to a very special beach. Once you have cleared the serious identification business and passed the pest control border you will be straight into the pre-departure fun and games – we recommend you arrive early to get some gnarly selfies! It is your chance to ride a surf board, be part of sculptures by the sea, play a game of beach volleyball and swim in a sea of shimmering balls.

The show is not seated, so be prepared to enjoy, participate if you want to and be transported to an imaginary beach where strangers become friends.

Duration: 50 mins
Perfect for 5+ but suitable for everyone!

More info
W: www.sppt.asn.au/
E:  boxoffice@sppt.asn.au

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Children, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

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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Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Choral cross-section

Review: Australian National Choral Association, Choralfest “Gala Concert” ⋅
Fremantle Town Hall, April 13 ⋅
Review by Leon Levy ⋅

The Australian National Choral Association’s Choralfest must have been heaven for lovers of choral music. Four days in Fremantle filled with talks, masterclasses workshops, concerts and pop-up events can’t but have been an inspiring, illuminating – and probably exhausting – experience for all involved.

The festival ran from April 13-16 and the epicentre was Saturday night’s Gala Concert which showcased an impressive cross-section of the participating choirs, both local and national.

Young Voices of Melbourne provided a delightful opening as the men, lined up across the stage, started Away from the Roll of the Sea, conducted from the floor by Mark O’Leary, while the rest of the choir filed in through the hall and added their voices. Clear diction and disciplined singing did justice to the evocative melody, as did accompanist Julia Piggin. An arresting Aboriginal chant took Waltzing Matilda a considerable distance from comfortable nostalgia as, with didgeridoo effects and paired sticks, an atmosphere of both the indigenous and introduced bush world was created. The tricky arrangement was skilfully negotiated.

The Australian Waratah Girls’ Choir (conductors Lindy Connett and Jennifer Scott) opened with a work inspired by the Ash Wednesday Fire, with music by Matthew Orlovich who also assembled the words. Loss, defiance, and a good deal of feeling were conveyed, and flame-red dresses only underlined this reaction to the tragedy. Tundra, in stark contrast, displayed striking vocal leaps, cleanly achieved, with beautiful solo voices emerging from the choral backdrop.

The all-female Perth Harmony Chorus under Carol McIntyre, the largest of the evening’s ensembles, displayed well-integrated sound as well as relaxed enthusiasm. Three items showcased their joy in singing: In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning was tenderly and affectingly performed, although the accompanying gestures from the choir were superfluous.

The Australian Voices choir has distinguished itself in the promotion of Australian new music and conductor Gordon Hamilton’s introductory explanations were appreciated, an essential adjunct to appreciation of the two unfamiliar works, Flight and We Apologise. The first, by Berlin-based Australian Jaret Choolun, was something of a technical tour-de-force; the latter, an ingenious slowing down and scoring of a recording of Kevin Rudd’s historic utterance, where the captured overtones were all represented in this setting. Fascinatingly, the conductor then replayed the choral sound successively faster until it matched the speaking voice of the former PM.

A pause in the programme allowed the announcement of the winners of the ANCA Choral Composition Competition Open Section, one of whom, Brian Connell, was in attendance to acknowledge his award. His setting of Siegfried Sassoon’s poem Secret Music written from the Western Front, is a work of gathering power and was conveyed by Voyces with great feeling and conviction.

The Giovanni Consort then eased us back into the compositional world that we are fortunate enough to have inherited, with music of almost ineffable beauty. The renditions of Holst’s I Love my Love and Perth musician Perry Joyce’s excerpt from The Song of Solomon were flawless: two gems within the evening.

Finally Voyces, with conductor Robert Braham and accompanist Jonathan Bradley, provided further balm for the soul in Jake Runestad’s adaption and setting of American naturalist John Muir’s Come to the Woods, whose opening few words could indeed be an anthem for Perth. The course of the day to sunset was faithfully reflected in both singing and accompaniment, and seemed a most appropriate conclusion to an evening of varied choral music, performed to a standard of high accomplishment.

All involved are to be congratulated and the only suggestion is that in future texts be provided, even if at a small cost.

Pictured top: Australian Voices

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Features, Music, News

Our singing city

Perth’s choral music renaissance is about to get a boost. Seesaw editor Rosalind Appleby talks to Luke Donohoe as Fremantle gets ready to host a four day festival of choral music.

For several years Perth has been experiencing a renaissance in choral music, with new, agile ensembles like Voyces, Baden Street Singers and ensembles from St George’s College building on the work of established groups like St George’s Cathedral Consort, Perth Undergraduate Choral Society and the Giovanni Consort. Appreciative audiences have been enjoying vibrant and creative performances of an increasingly broad range of choral repertoire. The interest in choral music has also found its way into the education program with expanding choral programs in schools like John Septimus Roe Anglican Community College and Aquinas College.

Next week Western Australia’s growing appetite for singing will be indulged with four days and over 80 performances by local, national and international ensembles at Choralfest, the Australian National Choral Association’s biennial celebration of choral music.

The festival will be held in Fremantle and kicks off on April 13 in true Aussie style with a pub choir at Clancy’s Fish Pub. It includes workshops, concerts, keynote presentations and free events including a Palm Sunday Procession through the streets of Fremantle.

The Australian Voices (Queensland) will feature at the Choralfest Gala Concert on April 13.

It is the first time the festival has been held in WA in 25 years. Choralfest manager Luke Donohoe says organisers wanted the festival to be as broad as possible.

“We wanted to present the breadth of the choral music tradition and also to reach as wide an audience as possible. If you like to go to free concerts, join a pub choir, or listen to the best choirs in the country – it is all available.”

This year the festival will include a unique feature on Noongar song with presentations by ethnomusicologist Clint Bracknell and Roma Winmar, sessions on teaching traditional songs and a choral presentation involving indigenous dance.

“The traditional owners of the land we live play an intrinsic role in life in WA and to overlook that would be an oversight,” says Donohoe. “Indigenous Australians have an incredible history of singing – it is a unique culture because we can trace their songs back to before they spoke.”

The English tradition of choral singing will be also be showcased with keynote speaker Robert Hollingworth bringing his experience as director of the Britain’s I Fagiolini ensemble. Sessions on youth choral music will be presented by keynote speakers Mark O’Leary (Gondwana Voices) and Jennifer Tham (Singapore Youth Choir).

Forty-five choirs will participate, from as far afield as Botswana, New Zealand and Singapore, presenting a breathtaking range of repertoire from sacred choral music to barbershop.

“We believe choral music can and should be for everyone. It may have a reputation for ruffled collars and cassocks but it is also about pub choirs that are going to sing Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping,” says Donohoe, who is also president of Voyces choir who will be performing at the festival.

Organisers are expecting more than 300 local and interstate delegates and over a thousand participants by the end of the festival. The flexible registration means music lovers can register for just a concert or a day, and choose to participate in choirs that match their age or taste.

Choralfest also offers local choirs and audiences a vital link to choral developments nationally and internationally.

“We think it’s important that the great choral work being done in Perth is connected to what is happening across the rest of Australia and the world,” says Donohoe.  “In Perth there are new, unique and agile choirs leading the charge, telling relevant and contemporary stories and having great success generating audiences and international recognition – but this doesn’t exist in isolation; we are expanding and developing a unique strain of what already exists worldwide.”

Choralfest runs April 13-16. Registration and concert details can be found on the website. 

Pictured top: Choralfest manager Luke Donohoe with Voyces choir. Photo Nik Babic

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A line of yellow boats, floating up a river. The sky is very blue.
News, Perth Festival, Reviews

Clear intentions

Perth Festival review: Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey, Five Short Blasts ·
Derbil Yerrigan (Swan River), 20 February ·
Review by Varnya Bromilow ·

A small flotilla of bright yellow boats bobs along the river, carrying four passengers apiece. It’s 6:15 on a still Wednesday evening and we’re taking part in Five Short Blasts, a place-based work from Melbourne artists Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey. Five short blasts is the maritime signal for uncertainty – literally, “I do not understand your intention.” It’s a funny title for a work with a very clear intention – to illuminate the beauty and utility of our waterways. In this case, the Derbil Yerrigan (Swan River) is the centrepiece, but this work has been staged in waterways worldwide – in Prague, Hamburg, Brighton and Melbourne. For the Perth Festival variant, it’s a cliff-lined corner of East and North Fremantle that is the focal point, with Freo’s working harbour thrown in for good measure.

Most of us regard Perth’s coastline as its defining geographical glory, but the river that leads to that coast is an underappreciated wonder all its own. Bordered with limestone cliffs and sandy beaches; populated by more birds than humans; our river is often overlooked in favour of its more vivid oceanic cousin. Five Short Blasts gently persuades us of the error of oversight. Weaving together a varied narrative of voices, it’s a compelling aural journey that shares the rich history of this part of our world, while celebrating the social currency of the modern-day river.

Beginning with a brief history of Noongar use of the area, we are taken on an evocative ride into the personal experiences of others when they are in, on or near the river. Aided by local artists Marie Taylor, Cassie Lynch and Bec Reid, community members were asked to contribute their memories or experiences of the river, as was the case for the Festival’s previous oral history works – A Mile in My Shoes (2016) and The Museum of Water (2017). One woman talks about diving for prawns and scallops; another about her childhood experiences of boating; a Noongar elder shares the history of the riverside camps and the importance of campfires; a man talks about fishing; another about working on the boats in the port. The experiences are personal, visceral… we feel as though we’re sharing secrets.

Meanwhile, the four of us are having our own experience of the river. We notice the pelicans, their beaks wriggling with catch; the amber reflection of the sunset over the hills of North Freo; the bump and loll of the waves as other crafts pass; the immensity of the container ships, piled high with their multi-hued cargo; the gasps of delight as the fins of dolphins slice the water right next to our tiny boat.

Children from North Fremantle Primary and Spearwood Alternative School have been recruited to provide additional riverside antics. On this night, this means synchronised bombies off Harvey Beach jetty and some very eager waving. Other “plants” included two trombonists, knee deep in the water; a sketching artist, and a yoga class.

As our little pod made its way back to the East Fremantle beach, we stopped near the modernist fabulousness that is Stirling Bridge for tea and biscuits. Each passenger filled out a manifest with details of the journey and we headed into shore, the sun slipping out of sight. We disembarked, all of us grinning, grateful for the opportunity of seeing our world anew.

Five Short Blasts is sold out! But you can be part of the event by coming down to the riverside in East or North Fremantle at 5am, 7am or 6pm every day until March 2.

Photo: Toni Wilkinson

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What the Fandango?!
Cabaret, Calendar, Fringe World, Performing arts

Cabaret: What the Fandango?!

10 – 12 Feb @ The Ellington Jazz Club ·
14 & 15 Feb @ Sonar Room, Fremantle ·
Presented by Robert Hofmann ·

Come on a multi-gendered cabaret romp through South America and beyond in What the Fandango?! as part of Perth Fringe World Festival 2019. Starring singer Robert Hofmann and musician Cathie Travers, What the Fandango?! is an energetic blend of visual humour, spicy stand-up, and poignant performances peppered with operatic perfection. Its back-by-popular after a smash-hit, five-star-review season at Fringe World 2018.

“All delivered with a luxurious flair for costume, a devout sense of character, and a classically trained operatic voice”.
★★★★★Fourth Wall Media 2018

“hilarious, poignant cabaret…Hofmann’s classically trained baritone and falsetto voice is a continual wonder”
William Yeoman, The West Australian 2017 (for Desperately Young at Heart)

10 Feb 5.15 pm, 11 & 12 Feb @ 7pm at The Ellington Jazz Club
14 & 15 Feb @ 6.30 pm at the Sonar Room, Fremantle (next to Little
Creatures Brewery)

More info
W: https://www.fringeworld.com.au/whats_on/what-the-fandango-fw2019
E:  roberthofmann15@gmail.com

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Wacky Magic and Mad Science
Calendar, Children, Fringe World

Children’s Events: Wacky Magic And Mad Science

19 – 26 January @ Big Top @ The Pleasure Garden ·
27 Jan, 2 Feb @ Sonar Room, Fremantle ·
9 February @ Funtavia, Geraldton ·
Presented by Pierre Ulric ·

The 2018 West Australian Magician of the year is back with a brand new production that uses magic to put science in the spotlight. Our eccentric mad scientist is still trapped on Earth following last year’s festival. What wonderful discoveries will he make as
he attempts to get back home?

All will be revealed in this brand new crazy and dynamic show that is part magic and illusion, part science, all fun and learning! Inspiring, engaging and amazing entertainment for all ages.

This show follows on from ‘A Fabulous Teleportation Experiment’, a hit with kids at Fringe World and Adelaide Fringe 2018. This one is bigger, better and brings in brand new levels of madness.

Winner ‘Best Magic’, Adelaide Fringe Weekly Awards 2018
‘Best Children’s Entertainment’ Nominee, Fringe World 2017
Sold Out shows at Fringe World 2016, 2017 & 2018
“A master at his craft” – ★★★★½ – The Australia Times
“Done with such style and flair that you can’t help but smile and
clap” – ★★★★½ – The Fourth Wall
“One beautifully enigmatic extravaganza” – Beat Magazine Melbourne
9.5/10 – The Adelaide Show

Big Top at The Pleasure Garden
Russell Square, James St, Northbridge
Daily from 19-26 Jan at 4pm

Sonar Room
42 Mews Road, Fremantle
27 Jan & 2 Feb at 3:30pm

Main Deck at Funtavia
189, Marine Terrace, Geraldton
9 Feb at 10:45 am

Bookings: www.fringeworld.com.au/whats_on/wacky-magic-and-mad-science-fw2019

More info
www.pierreulric.com
www.Mysteries.Global
www.instagram.com/pierreulric/
www.facebook.com/PierreUlricMagician
www.youtube.com/channel/UC50PVol6ZvXLonaR5Ad_23w

Email: info@pierreulric.com

 

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Dark room, lined with shelves, lit dark blue.
News, Reviews, Visual arts

How to find hope

Review: Moana Project Space, ‘It is a long time since this moment’ ·
Old Customs House, Fremantle ·
Review by Jenny Scott ·

“It is a long time since this moment”, presented by Moana Project Space, explores the possibilities of care and connection in our current age of late capitalism and eco-anxiety. This show forms part of the “Unhallowed Arts” program, a series of Perth-based events organised by SymbioticA to celebrate 200 years since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was published.

The Moana curatorial  team (Jess Boyce, Grace Connors, Miranda Johnson and Matthew Siddall) have taken Shelley’s text as an expression of scepticism over Enlightenment ideals, specifically those surrounding the concept of progress and mankind’s control over nature. In a gesture to Moana’s roots as an artist-run initiative, the participating artists are all emerging and experimental practitioners – with the show’s title also referring to the period since the closure of Moana’s CBD-based gallery space last year. The works examine our interactions with non-human entities, the natural environment and each other; questioning and testing the constructed boundaries that separate us from our wider ecologies within the context of the Anthropocene.

A video of a woman in bathers behind a row of pot plants
Marisa Georgiou’s ‘Afternoon Fountain Routine’ (2016) invites the viewer to act as a voyeur to Georgiou’s sensual bodily interactions with the greenery.

In Marisa Georgiou’s Afternoon Fountain Routine (2016), a playful and calming video that runs for almost 20 minutes, the artist uses their body to disperse water from a hose onto a balcony full of potted plants. It is an intimate action set against a familiar domestic backdrop, inviting the viewer to act as a voyeur to Georgiou’s sensual bodily interactions with the greenery. The artist’s movements resemble a meditative act of personal self-care (rather than any kind of effective gardening technique), perhaps revealing the performative nature of the relationships we have with our pot plants.

In another sensual video, Columba Livia (2017), the artist Nadege Phillipe-Janon slowly inserts pigeon feathers into their mouth, one-by-one, thoroughly caressing each feather with tongue and lips. This video provoked a visceral reaction for me – it was hard not to cringe while watching the feathers penetrate such an intimate bodily boundary (not to mention the taste). Intended as a comment on the undeserved reputation of the pigeon as a disease-carrier, Phillipe-Janon’s work encourages us to reflect on the human tendency to categorise and moralise the natural world, as we designate some animals as “dirty” and others as “clean”. Archie Barry explores how these evaluative tendencies are extended to people in Shutter utter (2018), in which the artist’s blinking is enhanced to super-speed to critique the power of the gaze.

video screen with a picture of a person holding a feather
Reflecting on the way we categorise the world: Nadege Philippe-Janon, ‘Columba Livia’ (2017).

After applying sunscreen or coconut oil (your choice), visitors can put on a head torch to explore the vault containing Matt Aitken and Mei Swan Lim’s installation Aqua Familial (2018). The framed photographs, plant matter and other trinkets in the bunker (defined on the room sheet as “various personal possessions from artists’ living room”) are accompanied by a soundscape playing on a record player. This private, and very relatable, collection of artefacts provokes an instant sense of nostalgia, despite the artists and their families remaining strangers (to me). It’s as if the artists have shored their emotional landscapes through the creation of the work, producing a place they can retreat to in times of crisis. Outside in the gallery space, the works of Red Slyme Incubator identify this crisis as imminent and specifically environmental; their elaborate assemblages react against “greenwashing”, instead encouraging pathos and rage-based responses to climate change.

These distinct works cohere in a thoughtful exhibition that encourages contemplation of our place in the Anthropocene – how we can find hope, understanding and other strategies to survive when the future seems bleak.

‘It is a long time since this moment’ plays Old Customs House until November 2. 

Pictured top: Matt Aitken & Mei Swan Lim, “Aqua Familial” (2018).

A series of tubes and vessels that look scientific, with red wires draped over the equipment.
Red Slime Incubator, ‘Erwartung (expectation)’ (2018): a reaction against ‘greenwashing’.
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