Tuesday, July 7, 2015

“Strange Attractor: the space in the middle”

Facilitated by Margie Medlin
Curated by Adelina Larsson
With Alison Plevey and Jamie Winbank
Gorman House
28 June 2015
A report by Samara Purnell

What is the sound of shame? What happens when the audience has license to interact with an installation and how does this affect the performer’s work? How do I explore the connection between the micro and macro landscapes of the brain and the universe?

These are some of the questions and processes explored by the artists and presented in “Strange Attractor: the space in the middle”.

”Strange Attractor” now it its third year, was a week-long event that provided choreographers and artists with a space and collaboration to work on ideas, explore their creative processes and then present this to an audience, eliciting feedback and questions. The intention was to develop and deconstruct not only their own artistic works but to enhance the engagement and connection between artist and audience.

 “Strange Attractor” should be understood as part of a journey - short works that may or may not stand alone or have a beginning and end. This type of  experience is a privilege for members of the public interested in the creative process, offering the chance to engage with artists and aid in the shaping of future work.

Janine Proost aptly described her short piece as “movement research”, so if viewers were expecting to be presented with a piece of entertaining choreography it may have a limited appeal. On the preceding evening, we were told, an entirely different performance was presented, suggesting that the purpose of  this forum was to give dancers licence to experiment and judge audience reactions. Nonetheless it would be interesting to see Proost really pushing her body and physicality in this work.

Minimal seating was provided during a couple of the presentations, the explanation being that seating gives parameters and discourages active participation and movement throughout the installation. Moving around the venue meant going from heated to cold environments, although it broke up the works nicely and Gorman House proved to be a great venue for this.

‘Shame and inflicting humiliation’ – the soundscape presented by Amelia McQueen, built up ideas and tensions, partly through the rhythmic looping and musicality of groans and sighs and sobs, and partly through the subject matter. The content was a little scattered, possibly  to induce discomfort or a reaction in its listeners or possibly to present a statement from McQueen on cyclical abuse. I also wondered how this might work in a different setting – whether it could remain a stand-alone piece.

The reaction to Laura Boynes’ light installation was positive. It wasn't clear until she spoke about it afterwards, that her movements inside the cut-out aluminium sheeting, turning and suspended from the ceiling, was reactive to input from the audience, hence changing the work significantly each time. From an audience perspective, this could mean that to gain the most out of the installation, it would be best seen more than once. The choreography itself wasn't the main focus and it was interesting to hear from Boynes about her thought processes during the piece. Overall it had an element of “who’s watching whom?”

Olivia Fyfe’s work put the onus on the audience, as it required not only active participation but also divulging, if willing, deep and potentially personal information. The questions were interesting and may have provoked further thought in participants after the performance.  It would be interesting to see what Fyfe extrapolates from it. I was engrossed in the ‘survey’ undertaken and only vaguely aware of Fyfe moving and dancing around the space. She mentioned that this lack of attention to her suited her rather shy nature.  A fraction longer to read the answers others had written would have been good.   The abrupt change in music halfway through evoked a few, possibly unintentional, giggles.

McQueen’s second work was confusing. It was the most choreographically satisfying of all the presentations, but it was difficult to make out what we were watching in the film shown before and during the dance sequence and what the intention and connection was. The colour red seemed to be the lasting impression and the integration of traditional dance styles in modern dance. It appeared we were watching a cult gathering or ritual.

Alison Plevey’s examination of the relationship between the macro and micro worlds of the mind and universe felt like three distinct pieces. This may have been due in part to the timing of the transitions or presentation itself, and potentially required a melding of the pieces into each other. The glowing “amoeba” had an almost hypnotic effect and the footage playing behind her of the universe expanding and changing into neurons explained the subject matter and was lovely to look at.

The audience was happy to comment and give feedback and appeared interested to hear about the creative process from each presenter’s perspective.