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Review 3, 10-24: The Mediums are the Message
Guerin in the Mix
By Chloe Smethurst
Copyright 2003 Chloe Smethurst
MELBOURNE -- The Melbourne
International Arts Festival, which opened earlier this month, has
revealed the recently completed Australian Center for the Moving
Image as a fresh new space for dance film screenings as well as
live performances. Bringing new audiences to the venue has been
"Plasticine Park," choreographed by Lucy Guerin and designed by
Patricia Piccinini and others, and which aims to explore the relationship
between the body and the silver screen. While perhaps seeming odd
at first, the Screen Gallery inside the center was actually a very
conducive space for exploring this collaboration between visual
artists and dancers. When I viewed the work on October 16, the performances
given by the dancers were sharp and clean, while the film work was
engaging and purposeful.
The premise for the
piece is quite interesting -- to make a work where the images on
the screen and the live performers 'interact' to create a fully
integrated performance. In this, Guerin and Piccinini have ultimately
succeeded. Neither element of "Plasticine Park" could exist successfully
on its own, but together, the dance and specially commissioned film
pieces fit snugly together, bringing depth and complexity to the
Comprising of a series
of eight solos, the performance moves between different worlds,
as created by the images on screen and the costumes of the performers.
Some are quite realistic and based in the natural world, as in the
two solos performed by Kyle Kremerskothen and Kirstie McCracken,
"Reservoir of Giving 1" and "Reservoir of Giving 2." David Rosetsky
was the visual artist working on these sections, which are set in
a designer-style bedroom. Filmed projections of Kremerskothen moving
around the room are played on the screen while McCracken performs
her solo, and vice-versa, developing a strong relationship between
the performing body and the filmed. This complex situation is heightened
by recorded voiceovers about a flawed relationship, building a tension
between the two realities.
The sections which feature
Piccinini's work are set in a very different realm, inhabited by
strange and at times frightening flesh-colored organisms which are
not quite human, but not very far from it. In the first solo, entitled
"The Keeper," the relationship between the dancer and the screen
is more subtle and implied than in other parts of the work. Here
we see Sally Gardner, costumed in a white plastic suit somewhere
between that of a beekeeper and an astronaut, involved in a minute
sequence of hand gestures. Meanwhile, in the background, Piccinini's
creation is birthing an endless supply of floating polyps. This
other-worldly feeling is continued in "The Gathering," performed
by Stephanie Lake as the final solo of the evening. Beginning at
the very back of the long gallery space, Lake is costumed in a similar
mode to that of the protuberances on screen. Bulbous, hanging, fleshy
bodies with chattering mouths begin to jiggle and squirm as the
large screen rolls toward the audience. Here the relationship is
again blurred; is the dancer part of their world or ours?
Different again is the
visual art work by Stephen Honegger, which, when projected onto
the big screen creates a digital world for the dancers to inhabit
and interact with. In fact, it is one of the pieces which Honegger
collaborated on, "Create Grid," danced with great precision by Brett
Daffy, which is possibly one of the most successful in "Plasticine
Park." The way the 3D grid on screen moves with the performer is
mesmerizing, while the choreography takes on mechanical, almost
digital elements, forging a strong link between the two. Unfortunately,
this section is placed at the far end of the gallery, distancing
the work too much from the audience. This meant that some of the
detail was lost, leaving the audience disconnected from the performance.
While a change in pace
was created by the light-heartedness of "Thermogenic Muscle Detonator"
and "A New Attitude," where an animated, cartoon-like figure, drawn
and animated by Laresa Kosloff, imitates and occasionally appears
to dance with Trevor Patrick and Rebecca Hilton respectively, the
comic, character-based choreography seemed too flimsy in comparison
to the strength of the other sections.
The choreography in
the solos, all by Guerin, was very strong overall, and obviously
suited to each of the individual performers' styles. Piccinini's
visual work was fascinating, and although the other artists' contributions
were excellent, her pieces were truly outstanding in terms of their
artistry and transportive qualities.
"Plasticine Park" is
a remarkable example of how dance can relate to and enhance other
mediums. Each of the elements was crafted in consideration of the
other, but without comprising the integrity of either.
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