Review: Ana Music and April Vardy, Susan and The place in which I’ll fit will not exist until I create it” ·
Paper Mountain, 30 January ·
Review by Nina Levy ·
Running at less than half an hour, Ana Music and April Vardy’s double bill of contemporary dance makes for a perfect pre-show show, a performance hors d’oeuvre of sorts that finishes with enough time to get to a 7.30pm main course at any of the other Northbridge Fringe venues.
The two short solos that make up the bill are certainly snack-sized and easily digestible, appropriate given that these two local choreographers are in the very early stages of their careers as makers. First on the menu is Susan. Choreographed and performed by Music, it’s a light-hearted tribute, of sorts, to her parents.
The Paper Mountain gallery space makes for an intimate viewing experience but Music boldly meets our eyes as she charges past in a folk-style dance that pays homage to her Serbian roots. Fast paced, it makes the spoken interlude that follows something of a challenge but she catches her breath eventually and keeps us entertained with her observations. The movement that follows sees her roll and fall to ambient electronic sounds. Jagged pacing is followed by long lunges. Though there’s not an obvious link between this movement and the parental reflections, Music is an engaging performer and holds our attention with ease.
Vardy’s self-devised and performed solo, The place in which I’ll fit will not exist until I create it, is an abstract concoction that sees her swing and fold smoothly through the space. Against a jittery soundscape, Vardy appears coolly elegant. As the beat drops, she becomes loose, her hips rolling and circling, her spine rippling, as though the music has possessed her body. Having watched Vardy perform since she was a student, this seems like a new moment for her, a pleasing progression in her performance style.
The two solos don’t feel particularly connected by anything other than the fact that they appear on the same program – a marriage of convenience, perhaps? Nonetheless, the double bill makes for a pleasant start to the night.
Fringe World review: Bonnie Lane, How to be a Better Man in 2019 ·
Paper Mountain ·
Review by Miranda Johnson ·
As a performance and dance artist whose work uses stereotypically “sexy” imagery of her own body, Bonnie Lane has archived the messages she’s been sent by men, mostly through Instagram, over the past few years. In her performance, How to be a Better Man in 2019, the Australian born, New York-based artist presents them with a healthy dose of commentary. Her aims in collecting and responding to these messages is to educate (straight white) men on how to avoid the pitfalls of modern social media communication that – all too often – these same men fall back on: dick pics, frankly weird DMs (direct messages), and, when these first two strategies inevitably fail, gender-based insults, slut-shaming and rape threats.
On opening night, Lane was obviously nervous, and as the performance – which is really more of a presentation – continued, the emotional effect that her archive has had upon her psyche became clear. I can understand why – ten minutes into the show I was already feeling emotionally drained by the sheer weight of fairly nauseating, sleazy, or outright pornographic screenshots of messages looping continuously as Lane spoke. I cannot imagine what it would be like to receive these on a daily basis, let alone return to the material to compile it into a work.
Lane has many insightful comments concerning her attempts to respond to, or educate these men who message her on a constant basis, as well as several interesting and provocative points about who “owns” or even gets to “identify with” artwork of women’s bodies. However, the show is unfocused as a whole, more like a workshop for the artist than for the audience, with material that is so draining in its sheer volume that Lane’s performance seems encumbered, not empowered by it. It feels as though she started out to make a work that would examine this archive and ultimately reclaim it, undermining its power, but I am not convinced that it succeeds in this aim. If anything, this proves the absolute necessity of interrogating the role of toxic masculinity in our culture, a job that seems to have exhausted Lane. I hope she can dig her way out of her archive.
Fringe World review: Sophia Natale, Flesh and Bone ·
Paper Mountain, 24 January ·
Review by Nina Levy ·
Arriving at Paper Mountain to see local independent dance artist Sophia Natale’s Flesh and Bone, we are handed a piece of paper. It’s not a program, but a letter from Natale to her audience. In it, she confesses that the description of her work contained in the Fringe program was written “on a whim, the night before the Fringe event applications closed … it does not reflect what my show is truly about.”
It’s an endearing confession. It’s also a common issue for independent artists – that one often has to describe a work, before it’s been made – but I’ve not come across any who decided to ‘fess up at showtime until now.
That honesty sets the tone for the work that follows, a structured improvisation in which, says Natale, she aims “to embody a being that represents communication in its purest form; emotion.”
The performance itself takes place in Paper Mountain’s gallery, a long but narrow room. The audience sits on cushions around its edges, so that the performance space is enclosed by viewers. Natale slips into this enclosure through a gap between bodies, her own body folded in half at the hips. Panther-like, she makes her way around the space on all fours, lithe and long, taking little sniffs of air, as though searching for a scent.
Sometimes she sniffs at audience members, leaning in close, as if to rest her head on their shoulders. Other times she looks at us nervously, as though preparing for flight.
Sporadically she breaks into phrases of movement. Now she arches, flips and curls snail-style. Now she creates a loop between hand and foot through which she threads her other limbs, with an elasticity that comes from years of dance training, but in this context brings to mind something inhuman, a snake perhaps?
I could watch her move like this for the full 60-minute duration, but projected footage, first of rocket launches, then of a horse giving birth, break the spell. Almost against my will, I find myself mesmerised by the explosive and sometimes catastrophic launches, and then the struggle of mare and foal. Natale’s creature is visibly distressed by these events but it’s hard to watch both dancer and video at the same time.
The sections involving projection feel disjointed – the rough segues, intentional or otherwise, add to this sense of discord. It appears that Natale is investigating the relationship between humans, technology and nature… but the parameters seem too broad.
Nonetheless, there is something strangely compelling about the “being” that Natale creates. As she says in her letter, she sees herself as being in the “infantile stages of… exploration”, and this performance has the quality of a work-in-progress rather than a complete work.
But it’s not often we’re afforded the opportunity to see work in its early stages of development… and when that work is performed by a dancer as physically articulate as Natale?
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.
14-17 February @ Paper Mountain ·
Presented by Catface Productions ·
Join femme-identifying performers of the Fringe as they tell their stories through different mediums; all stripping down society’s expectations and taboos, speaking about what stigma silences. Sexual and political, cathartic and heartfelt, provocative and vulnerable, FEMME is about performers sharing intimate details; their stories. Our stories.
FEMME is a fusion of intimate story-telling and performance art curated by veteran burlesque performer Lola Cherry Cola. Each night the performers will explore themes of physical, mental and emotional health, what it truly means to be healthy, and how society shuns us when we are unhealthy. Stripping more than clothes and revealing more than skin, smashing stigmas and speaking on taboo. We are here. We are FEMME.
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.
31 January @ Paper Mountain ·
Presented by Finn O’Branagain ·
The world’s oldest recorded spider died in WA’s wheatbelt in early 2018 from a wasp sting. She was 43 years old. News of her travelled all over the world and was featured in The Washington Post, The Smithsonian, National Geographic, CNN and TIME. This is the story of her life, and last few days. This is a one-woman show from the point of view of the spider, starring Andrea Gibbs (8 Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography) and written by Finn O’Branagáin (The Epic, Medusa, Selkie).
Proud recipient of the FRINGE WORLD Inspiring Australia STEM-Arts Grant.
Review: Jenn Garland, ‘Dark Skies Ahead’ ·
Paper Mountain ·
Review by Miranda Johnson ·
“Dark Skies Ahead”, currently at Paper Mountain, is another exhibition presented as part of SymbioticA’s Unhallowed Arts festival. Curated by Jenn Garland, the exhibition responds to the 200-year anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by reflecting on the specificities of the climate at the time the book was written, using this as a starting point from which to examine the responses to our own current period of climate change. For Frankenstein was written in the “year without a summer” – a period of extreme weather triggered by a volcanic eruption in present-day Indonesia. In our present of impending climate doom and catastrophe, this exhibition is concerned with questioning, in Garland’s words, “what we can draw from Mary Shelley’s cautionary tale of unnatural life borne of unrestricted techno-science.”
The works in this exhibition by Angela Garrick, Kynan Tan and Devon Ward, Amy Perejuan-Capone, Kira O’Reilly and Jennifer Willet, and Nathan John Thompson articulate or make concrete the abstract yet alarming fear of impending climate devastation, through creative use of data, emotions, bodies, text or the materiality of the weather itself. In doing so, they consider the ways in which science and technology contain the potential for either rapid progress or total destruction.
Many of the works deal directly with the weather, either to make visible the ways in which it impacts our daily life as a constant material force and an immaterial backdrop to our social interactions, emotions, and politics. Kynan Tan and Devon Ward’s Co•–st•–l W•–ve Tr•–nsl•–tor converts data from buoys in the Indian and Pacific Ocean near the islands of Manus and Nauru into waves of sound. Providing a memorable entry-point into the exhibition, the speakers stand guard near the doorway, sentries that invite – or challenge – the viewer to walk between them. The work makes unavoidable that which is rarely productively discussed in Australian political discourse – both the sea of data relating to our changing climate as well as the toxic political climate and literal environment experienced by refugees imprisoned by the Australian government on these tropical islands.
Other works deal with the humour and pathos of weather-related issues in our daily lives. Angela Garrick’s participatory work encourages us to have a “weather vent” whilst reflecting on the now-defunct ways in which communities have historically communicated in regional areas – an insight that is carried into Nathan John Thompson’s Your future self is watching you through your memories. Here, our changing relationship with technology is reiterated through quotes stretching back through history. Thompson’s work succinctly articulates the stuttering pace at which science and technology changes and mutates – sometimes ahead, sometimes behind our own comprehension of its capabilities. This suggestion of progress, real or imagined, is carried through into Kira O’Reilly and Jennifer Willet’s Untitled (Pig Tales and Showgirls Protocol) in which the sterility of lab environment is undermined, as the messy activity of biotechnological progress unfolds, questioning the ethicality of science that privileges human aims above all else.
Amy Perejuan-Capone’s works were produced on the other side of the globe in the world’s northernmost permanent settlement – Longyearbyen, Svalbard. Her delicate prints were left outside in the freezing temperatures as they dried, with the extreme weather leaving fascinating and intricate patterns that variously look like cracking ice, the surface of the moon, shells on the beach, an ultrasound of the body, and cell samples viewed through a microscope. In these works, the weather is re-centred as an active participant in the complex ecology that makes up our world; a participant that has agency and presence of its own beyond that of human activity.
The distinct and moving works in “Dark Skies Ahead” together interrogate the specificities of location and local environments whilst articulating the large, anonymous sea of data and information that announces the arrival of impending climate disaster.
We all know the Manic Pixie Dream Girl of the contemporary romantic film. She’s that off-beat, mysterious one, that free thinker who enables the male hero to shake off the shackles of his dull, suburban life… and though she may seem carefree, she’s a problematic figure, defined and delineated by her relationship to a male protagonist.
In “Magical Woman”, an art exhibition curated by Aisyah Aaqil Sumito and Sophie Nixon, she’s being utilised differently, however. A platform for six emerging female and non-binary artists to explore representations of romance in film and popular culture, “Magical Woman” invites artists to use the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope as a starting point to produce a new body of work, while taking into consideration the intersections of racism, misogyny, queer exclusion and trans exclusion. Nina Levy spoke to Sumito and Nixon to find out more.
Nina Levy: I think most of us are familiar with the concept of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) but can you talk about who the MPDG is and what she represents?
Sophie Nixon: The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a colourful and quirky character who exists to uplift, enrich and fulfil the
lives of white-male protagonists. Think of films like 500 days of Summer, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. If you pay enough attention you may catch these women encouraging the male protagonist to try new things and step outside of his comfort zone.
Manic Pixie Dream Girls are characterised as having bubbly and eclectic exteriors, often partnered with underlying poor mental health; this is often romanticised as being part of their “quirk” to add seeming depth, mystery and intrigue to the character – a plot device in the central character’s narrative.
Aisyah Aaqil Sumito: Referring back to what Sophie said about encouraging centralised male characters to “live”… these characters are infantilised by their inability to communicate their feelings, how they act, and what they enjoy – while simultaneously being granted the emotional capacity to teach these men how to live their lives (almost like mothering). It’s a harmful and unrealistic representation of women that is very ingrained in our ways of seeing things. In more simple terms, it affects the way that we interact, and the warped standards that women and non-binary folk hold ourselves to – even if we don’t fit into the mould of a trope that applies to a very specific demographic.
NL: What made you decide to take the Manic Pixie Dream Girl as the starting point for this exhibition? AAS: “Magical Woman” began as a means to vent about frustrations and representations of women in media. Initially we were only planning to respond to Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope itself – a small, spunky project that we would use to rock the boat. The longer we looked for a venue, the more time I had to actually think about this particular trope and how transgressive critiquing it would actually be, and how beneficial it would be for the artists. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a trope that only applies to white cisgender women. With that considered, I wanted to encourage the artists to go a bit deeper than the trope itself, critically engaging with intersections of racism, misogyny, trans exclusion, and queer exclusion, regardless of what kind of work they decided they would make. For me it’s really important that it is distinguished as a starting point, and that our exhibition is a small contribution to an ever-expanding conversation.
NL: You’re co-curating “Magical Woman” – how did you meet? And what made you decide to work together? AAS: Sophie and I met around February 2017, for an exhibition that I curated alongside Olivia Tartaglia at City Arts Space for Propel Youth Art’s 2017 KickstART Festival “KickstARTISTS: Symbiosis”. Beyond the work we do as artists and as curators, we are good friends. Working together to embody discussions we have on a regular basis, in the form of a curated exhibition, was really beneficial and a huge learning curve for both of us.
SN: Outside of “Magical Woman”, I’m working to complete my honours in Fine Art at Curtin University and hustling odd-jobs. As Aisyah mentioned, we met within the happenings of the “Symbiosis exhibition”. I was a participating artist in mentorship with Jess Day, and Aisyah was co-curator with Olivia Tartaglia in a skillshare/mentorship context. Shortly after that, I produced work for another show that Aisyah curated alongside Claire Bushby. I remember being so in awe (still am to be honest) of Aisyah, their dedication, professionalism and how they carried themselves as a curator. For both of us, this is our first time curating independently (outside the program of a mentorship/institution). Knowing Aisyah and I were in this together made the process of applying for shows and grants so much easier, I don’t know if I would have had the same amount of courage, ambition and motivation if they weren’t there.
NL: You’re both emerging curators as well as visual artists… what draws you to curating? What are the challenges/rewards of being a curator? AAS: My first curatorial project was “KickstARTISTS: Symbiosis”, since then I’ve curated “Borders and Transitions” (in mentorship with Claire Bushby) and “The Corsini Collection: Revisited” (in mentorship with Dunja Rmandić), all of which have been hugely rewarding learning experiences. Before I took on these projects, I was really interested in the role of the curator, and how that role fostered growth for emerging artists in a gallery context. It was something I started thinking about when I visited my first Paper Mountain exhibition “Stay/Keep” (2014), curated by Melissa McGrath.
I find working with artists, pushing their conceptual development, as well as their capacity to do and be better (despite inevitably recurring moments of doubt) incredibly rewarding. For the most part, balancing unpaid administrative labour within my curatorial practice, and setting my boundaries so that I don’t burn out from overwork, have been the most challenging aspects of curating. “Magical Woman” is the first show I have co-curated beyond a mentorship context, which is both nerve-wracking and exciting.
SN: During the last year (2016) of my Bachelor of Fine Art at Curtin, I was the student coordinator of the graduate showcase exhibition, which included organising several fundraising exhibitions. This experience gave me a taste for arts management and curating. After that I completed an internship at PSAS in Fremantle under the wing of their director Tom Mùller, which saw me curate an exhibition of their studio artists.
When it comes to the opening night I usually have this moment of stillness where I really take it in: reflecting on where it started and seeing a show in its resolution. It’s a very wholesome feeling. I think that’s what drives me to keep curating. One of the most challenging things about curating for me personally is managing my time between curatorial duties and honours research.
7-23 September @ Paper Mountain ·
Presented by Drug Aware and Propel Youth Arts ·
Opening Night: Co-curators Nixon and Sumito invite everyone to come along to the official opening of Magical Woman, and to meet each of the talented artists amongst an energetic celebration of queer and women art in Perth. Opening night event will be held Friday 7 September 6-8pm in Paper Mountain’s main gallery.
Exhibition open to public: Saturday 8 – 23 September, 10am – 4pm Tuesday to Friday, and 11am – 4pm on weekends
Curator & Artist Talk: A Curator & Artist Talk event will be held in Paper Mountain’s main gallery Wednesday 12 September 6pm. Facilitated by Megan Hyde (Adjunct Teaching Fellow, Cultural Precinct, UWA) and Carly Lynch (Artist), this event will offer an in-depth view into the motivations of the artists and curators, and a reflection on the outcomes of the exhibition.
Magical Woman is a public art exhibition set to be displayed in the main gallery of Paper Mountain Artist-Run Initiative. It has been developed to provide a platform for six emerging women and non-binary artists to explore representations of romance in film and popular culture. Taking into consideration the intersections of racism, misogyny, queer exclusion and trans exclusion — artists have used the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope as a starting point to produce a new body of work.
Emerging artists, Amy McGivern, Astro Francis, Sam Huxtable, Shannon Marlborough, Natsumi de Dianous and Pip Lewi have worked closely with Sumito and Nixon. Producing work across a variety of mediums including: animation, comic art, video, installation, textile soft-sculpture and ceramics.