Now in 2014 we both look back to EXIST-ENCE 5 as we launch documentation of the work, both in Symposium papers, images and video and
look forward to future events here in 2014 and EXIST-ENCE 6 in 2015!!
1) Download the Catalogue – complete with abstracts and papers from the Symposium
4) A review from Robert Lort
Exist-ence 5 International Festival and Symposium, 2013
Reviewed by Robert Lort
Beginning in 2007 as a niche festival dedicated to performance and live art, the fifth exist-ence festival has expanded it’s ambitious reputation to incorporate workshops, a 2 day symposium, international guest artists and affiliated events in Melbourne and Sydney. The festival was curated by Rebecca Cunningham and Nicola Morton. The keynote address at the symposium was Jill Orr, who elaborated on her 30 year history of performance art practice and her negotiation of the process of documentation and mediation. Pivotal works like Bleeding Trees (1979) are largely known only from the photographic images that remain. The screening of the recently restored and until recently, never widely seen video from Orr’s She Had Long Golden Hair (1980) still bore the scars of visible damage from chemical decay, but managed to redefine and recontextualise the original performance. Photographic documentation from Orr’s The Promised Land (2012) show Orr in various poses on the skeletal white ribs of a unfinished boat’s prow. These iconic images succeed in focusing and freezing for a moment, the ongoing destruction of the environment and humanity that goes on all around us, allowing us, for once, to comprehend it’s full veracity.
An unimposing sign adorned the entrance to the Queensland College of Art performance spaces, ‘Warning works may include, images that may offend, nudity, stroboscopic effect.’ This was strategic advise that nothing was going to be lackluster. For Redress #6 – Hinc illae lacrimae (Latin for ‘hence those tears’) Julie Vulcan had laid out a framework of salt piles, red ribbons and hanging white muslin. She stood in a red gown, which she peeled back, semi-naked, with her back to the audience, as she used a red felt tip pen to redden circles under her eyes, mouth and across her back. Her framework of allegorical implements evoked ritual, blood-letting, purity and cleansing. Her intensification with tasks and duration would continue as a personal, yet collective, process of transformation.
James Cunningham, who has a partial disability of his left arm, has used his performance art practice to conduct investigations into his own body and the neurological pain he endures. In Antennae he extended his own body by attaching to it three meter long carbon-fibre rods. The performance immediately conjured in my mind, Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis,’ as Gregor Samsa felt his oversized torso and flailing limbs scrape and grapple with stability and movement. For Cunningham, the intention was to experience the modified body as an architecture and to re-map the internal and external extremities. The performance space is felt and negotiated as the ends of the rods scrape along the walls, wobbled in the air and protruded into light fittings. Through a heightened perception of his own body and the space enclosing it, he forced himself to overcome the disorientation of his new form and experience a new tactility. Another artist to explore the transforming possibilities of bodily extensions and becoming immersed within the environment, was Henrik Hedinge (Sweden). His performance entailed constructing geometric shapes with bamboo poles extending from his own body. Hedinge’s performance was less provocative, considering his previous forays into male pregnancy and gender flux. In an earlier artist statement he wrote, ‘In today’s twitter flow of quick information; desires and conceptions change quicker and quicker. No time to change your gender. Your gender has become a constant flow of gender metamorfis. GenderFlux.’1 (sic). More compelling was Stitch-in-Time by local artist Bonnie Hart, which explored the pathologisation of intersex bodies. This was an expanded cinema performance utilizing two 16 mm and a super 8 projector. Wearing a white body suit and white balloons, Hart used her body as a screen onto which hand painted films were projected. Her performance was equally sonic, augmented with a distorted and throbbing soundtrack. In the shadowy style of phantasmagoria, disembodied medical hands surgically inserted and removed ‘gender’ from her body to form adherence to society’s binarism of male/female. Toward the end, the hand painted films began to melt in the projector, to which the artist responded by wrapping bandages around the projector.
For Concentric Circles on Red, Velvet Pesu graced the stage wearing an elaborate costume consisting of two shark jaws around her neck, antlers, a stethoscope, glow sticks, a corset, an African thumb piano and ninja tabi. Her dress lit up as she sung operatic shamanic tones while stroking cello bows against a dressmakers mannequin augmented inside a cone of strings attached to an old penny farthing bicycle wheel. She controlled a hand cranked projector to screen abstract handmade films made entirely out of recycled materials. The rhizomatic meshing of decomposition and renewal summoned us into an atavistic other-worldliness.
The burly and always exuberant John G Boehme (Canada) and his sidekick 10 year old son, Beauregard played-up on the entrenched role of sport in modern society, as a macho ritual of assimilation. He suggests sport promotes a culture of competitiveness, of fanatic supporters, of obedience to absurd rules, of idealized and disciplined bodies, of gendered norms and mediated distractions. In cheeky defiance of the norms, Boehme revels in the faux pas – like turning up to a baseball match wearing English soccer logos. He performs wearing a mish-mash of sporting outfits and paraphernalia. He throws balls of lard toward his son, who responds by standing in a baseball stance, holding a cricket bat. Inevitably, the gallery space becomes splattered with lumps of white sticky lard.
Ana Wojak’s austere durational performance Songline, which she has performed in numerous locations, probes deeply into the historical, environmental and spiritual traces that are ingrained into the specifics of each location. Wrapped with 200m of white rope constraining her upper arms and torso and coated in a white ochre, Wojak slowly unfurled the rope to trace out a path on the lawn of the Queensland College of Art. In the dusky light and heightened silence, she progresses on a butoh like, metaphysical journey. As she progressively unraveled the rope, her body became unburdened and released. The conclusion was marked by the rubbing off of the white ochre, which rose in ghostly white puffs.
1. Hendrik Hedinge Text, 2010, p.9.