Art involves a risk, a risk for the artist that they might fail and a risk for the audience that they might not enjoy it. Sports, strippers and stuntmen are risk free entertainment for the audience; you will generally get what you expect. Art involves an investment by the audience that might not return value for their time, money and emotional investment. Not that the risks posed by art are that great, a waste of time, money and thought. I have been bored far more often than shocked and rarely hurt (use ear protection when going to live bands or night clubs).
A critic should take more risks in what they see than ordinary members of the public. A critic should be an explorer of new territory, as well as, being aware of the established areas. I have not been taking many risks recently going to events at the Melbourne International Arts Festival as they have been programmed by festival directors and praised by other critics. Arts festivals attempt, with their selection and discount ticket packages, to ameliorate the risk of sampling new work. In this respect I feel a bit negligent in my selection of items to report in this blog. I excuse myself as I am still recovering from all the secretarial work for the Melbourne Stencil Festival.
Seeing a production of Chunky Moves has become a safe bet for me, after the last three of their productions (Glow, Two Faced Bastard, and Mortal Engine) that I have seen. I know that they will take risks in new and daring dance productions. I know that they consistently produce excellent performances and I never know what to expect from a Chunky Moves performance except that it would high-energy contemporary dance. Certainly their production Black Marrow lived up to expectations in that it defied my expectations all the way through. Just when I expected not to see a face for the whole performance, a man in a three-piece suit emerges from the mass of bodies and starts to talk to the audience. I laughed, I cried, it was grotesque – it was life in all its swampy blackness. The sound, lighting and other stage effects combined brilliantly with the dance. The Merlyn Theatre at the CUB Malthouse, is well equipped for these effects and is an excellent venue for Chunky Moves.
I had less of an idea what to expect of Ray Lee’s Sirens at the Meatmarket even though by the time I saw the second last performance there had been a few published reviews. It was clear from the festival program that this did not fit into a conventional artistic format of a play, concert or exhibition. It was worth the risk its of ambiguity and minimalism as there was a lot of beauty in it. Sirens is low-tech, drone installation and performance. It required a meditative mind, a person capable of keeping silent and listening to nuances in sound to appreciate. The machines, tripods with a rotating arm with a speaker and LED light on either ends are turned on and tuned. A single oscillator provides the sound to each pair of speakers. Then a motor turns the arm creating a Doppler effect as the speakers swing around. The shadows projected onto the walls of the Meatmarket of Ray Lee on a ladder turning one of the taller tripods as other arms rotated around was surprisingly beautiful. In the darkness at the end of the spinning LED lights are another beautiful image. All of this made me keep on moving around the installation to see and hear it from a different angle.