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Precarious Movements

If you believe, you can make yourself into Cerberus the three-headed dog-like monster, who guards the third circle of Hell, the circle of the gluttons, by buttoning together a couple of oversized shirts, and sitting together with two other people, in a huddle on the floor. With three heads close together, you’ll never miss a trick. There is no-one in the assembled audience in the gallery that misses your detection. Or so it feels momentarily in Atlanta Eke’s “Innocence.”

Performance

“Innocence” by Atlanta Eke / “Alter Edith” by Holly Durant / “Liable” by Amrita Hepi

Place

Great Hall, National Gallery of Victoria / Dancehouse, Melbourne, Victoria, March 15 & 16, 2024

Words

Gracia Haby

“Innocence” by Atlanta Eke. Photograph by Michael Pham

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If you can make the audience believe you can split yourself into three variations of one person, this time a person named Cass about to embark on an audition, you can pull the audience into a state of “playful polyphony, exploring how [the audience] might listen with [their] bodies” when faced with the “unreliable narrator”[1] in triplicate. Or so it feels candidly, momentarily in the impossible spaces Amrita Hepi’s “Liable” reveals.

If you believe an alien from beyond the Earth’s atmosphere should wish to return to Earth to pour a cocktail and, in turn, pour themselves into a cycle of constricting chartreuse costuming to states of undress and back again, anything is possible. Or so it vibrates, at excruciating volume, in Holly Durant’s “fling the pickle away”[2] ongoing investigation in “Alter Edith.”

Three independent works that traverse the space where dance rubs shoulders with performance, and invite you, albeit not always warmly, to experience the revelation of a new space; to shake off your need to place dance in a neatly defined box; to unlatch from your mind the parameters that get in the way of feeling what is before you when you are, by turns, confronted and caressed by the left foot advancing beasts of William Blake, a body that speaks, and an alien that squeaks.

Holly Durant in “Alter Edith.” Photograph by Cat Black 

Unfolding in the Great Hall of the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), Eke’s “Innocence” and Hepi’s “Liable” performances were commissioned by NGV as part of “Precarious Movements: Choreography and the Museum,” “a research project that aims to bring artists, researchers and institutions into dialogue about best practice to support the choreographer and the museum, and to sustain momentum in theory and practice around dance and the visual arts.”[3] With two viewings possible of each free performance, to coincide with the book launch of Precarious Movements: Choreography and the Museum, “a publication that surveys the choreographic turn within the visual arts,”[4] edited by Erin Brannigan, Pip Wallis, Hannah Mathews and Louise Lawson with Amita Kirpalani, beneath the ‘prismatised’ splendour of the stained-glass ceiling by Leonard French proves an ideal location to address Eke’s questioning of “how museums might protect and tend to an artwork.”[5] Like the pen and ink and watercolour over pencil and black chalk of the original works on paper by Blake, Eke sponged and scratched out the space with the central suspension of a semi-transparent divide onto which the artworks scrolled, and the performers, Eke, and paint-daubed Angela Goh, Ivey Wawn, and later Hana Miller, became a part of, in the redefining of a stage. Meanwhile, in the Sylvia Staehli Theatre of Dancehouse, Durant, as her alien alter ego, together with said alien’s director, Maude Davey, returned to their research last dissected at fortyfivedownstairs in 2021, in the durational remount of “Alter Edith,” and turned a stage into a gallery replete with domed sculptural forms by Danielle Brustman.

“Liable” by Amrita Hepi. Photograph by Michael Pham

Obstructed sightlines, whether by the suspension of large sculptural forms or due to the size of the assembled crowd folded on the floor and upon small, collapsible stools in the Great Hall on a Sunday afternoon for “Liable’s” debut, and dissolved edges, whether due to the softness of a Blake watercolour on a semi-transparent screen in a bright hall or musician singer-songwriter Jonnine Standish, held in a spotlight as she later sang from the balcony, and was visible to me only through the illuminated screen of a person adjacent to me, as they recorded Standish’s performance, wove a link between the three works stronger than location and a weekend. In the gallery, you can record everything, in the role of a Be Your Own Curator on a Choose Your Own Adventure. And so, like proud parents at a school performance, the view before me is one of multiple images of the scene ahead as people raise their phones, record. 

In continuation of the cyclic theme, the three heads of Cerberus, animated so as to sing Pattie Page’s “(How Much Is) That Doggy in the Window,” have near morphed into Hepi, Sarah Akin, and Standish, each in the role of Cas Perhaps, in a pre-audition confessional meets slippery half-truth. Cas, having been asked to dance, sing, and act, repeated the steps, but altered them ever so slightly, by tempo, phrasing, and emphasis, in the spinning of a dream, in and out of time. “A lie should be as close to the truth as possible,” explains a version of the Cas loop. “Change small details. Change the times things happened. Change the order of events. I got that off Reddit.”

Upon one of several large screens, Aiken looks at the appearance of a murmuration (in a moving image collage of layers slowly altering by Rel Pham). Atop the screen the words read: “The aim is to produce an affect in the audience.” Dante’s hill on which the sun is shining. Out the corner of my eye, Blake’s leopard of worldly pleasure still spins. A diversion in an umwelt bubble, an environment of my own comprising, until the next time.

Gracia Haby


Using an armoury of play and poetry as a lure, Gracia Haby is an artist besotted with paper. Her limited edition artists’ books, and other works hard to pin down, are often made collaboratively with fellow artist, Louise Jennison. Their work is in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia and state libraries throughout Australia to the Tate (UK). Gracia Haby is known to collage with words as well as paper.

footnotes


  1. Amrita Hepi, “Liable” project notes, Triennial, National Gallery of Victoria, https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/triennial/artists-designers/amrita-hepi/, accessed March 16, 2024
  2. Holly Durant, “Alter Edith” programme notes, Season One, Dancehouse, https://www.dancehouse.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/Alter-Edith-by-Holly-Durant-Program-Notes.pdf, accessed March 15, 2024.
  3. Precarious Movements: Choreography and the Museum, The University of New South Wales (UNSW, Sydney), https://www.unsw.edu.au/arts-design-architecture/our-schools/arts-media/our-research/our-projects/precarious-movements-choreography-museum, accessed March 15, 2024.
  4. Book Launch; Choreography and the Museum, with keynote by Jimmy Robert, NGV, https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/program/choreography-and-the-museum/, accessed March 15, 2024.
  5. Atlanta Eke, “Innocence” project notes, Triennial, NGV, https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/program/performance-innocence-by-atlanta-eke/, accessed March 15, 2024.

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