Friday, November 21, 2008

A Smattering of Responses


I did not like this piece. I mean, if you meet someone who “liked” it I’d suggest taking a few slow steps back while eyeing the exits. It’s not meant to be liked. But I didn’t appreciate it either. I thought it was exploitative torture porn. Like the Hostel or Saw films, but presented under the aegis of Greek tragedy and with the stamp of Barrie Kosky to make it ok to watch. It was a catalogue of horrors and a sensory assault on the audience. Deafening gunshots going off around the audience unexpectedly – and often – and degraded, brutalised women and children being murdered and raped and photographed. Ok, it’s in the script, it really happened, etc. but Kosky’s appropriation of imagery from Abu Ghraib and other contemporary sites of human depravity are gratuitous and, worse, wonderfully imaginative. The violence is artfully realised and even aestheticised at times.

The monstrosities of Abu Ghraib were made so much worse by the way they were recorded, and I’ve got a lot of thoughts about the complicity involved in viewing any of those images. Seeing violence makes the witness a part of the event, and staging it therefore carries with it a great burden of responsibility. In another context, Tommy Pynchon has written that “when we speak of ‘seriousness’ in fiction ultimately we are talking about an attitude toward death--how characters may act in its presence, for example, or how they handle it when it isn't so immediate.” I guess my problem is that The Women of Troy is to me no more meaningful or “serious” than a gross-out horror film, but at least Hostel challenges its audience by not pretending to be other than it is. I don’t know what this production is pretending to be. But I did not like it.


I liked this piece. When I was a professional rapper (c. 1997-2001) I learnt a lot about the relationship between spontaneous freestyling and pre-planned preparedness, and the Black Lung guys have this down pat. It’s like a post-Apocalyptic Moby Dick scripted by Takashi Miike. It’s complete anarchy, which can only be achieved through incredibly tight control. Someone who worked with Tim Etchells/Forced Entertainment recently told me that Etchells’ apparently chaotic works (like Bloody Mess) are the result of his being a complete fascist as a director. Which makes sense.

Here’s an awesome clip from the Wombles.

I haven’t seen Avast II: The Welshman Cometh but I’m up for it tomorrow night so I might report back then.


As theatre this new piece from Red Cabbage is a bit undercooked but as an installation experience it’s freaking incredible. It’s HUGE.


And it involves a boat trip, more post-apocalyptic imagery and some of the best set design you’ll ever see. Imagine a Hayloft piece mashed up with the vastness of Peepshow Inc’s Mysteries of the Convent and a bit of Herbertson/Cobham’s Sunstruck.

It’s vision of a bleak future veers well away from the Mad Max-style post-apoc imagery and instead tends toward the austere, sublime decay of Tarkovsky’s Stalker (closest comparison I could think of here). The audience travels on a long, meandering journey, and while our attention wasn’t controlled in the sophisticated way Mysteries of the Convent managed to achieve, Collapse is more interested in establishing multiple occurrences simultaneously (Greenaway is noted in the program as an influence in this regard). The result is that there’s not really a strong narrative to follow, but the cumulative effect of passing through increasingly astonishing set-pieces is stunning. Highly recommended – its good points more than make up for any shortcomings.


I really wanted to Cow. When I heard the title of this piece I was already sold, but when I read that an audience member would be given the opportunity to dress as a giant cow and receive on-the-spot directorial instructions from Margaret Cameron and Aphids’ David Young I signed up toot sweet. My girlfriend wasn’t so sold and it took a bit of convincing to get her along, but half an hour later she was wearing a massive cow costume, sunglasses and oversized headphones doing a naaaasty dance to the Flashdance theme in front of a decent audience. I felt a bit guilty. We were hearing a meditative eastern tune, after all, so it kind of looked as if she had gone mad and been possessed by the spirit of some erotic bovine deity. But it was luck-of-the-draw – four audience members were picked from a hat and suited up for the challenge. And everyone involved had a pretty good time. The piece itself needs some development, but it’s a work in progress so that’ll happen. I’m not entirely sure of the point but the show’s backbone seems to be an explora
tion of the relationships between audience and performer. I’ll be there next milking session.

Hmmm. I’ve seen a bunch of other things lately but am running out of steam. I’m really just waiting on a phone call regarding an EXCITING NEW ADVENTURE. Hint: giant clockwork cats, the Warren Beatty movie Shampoo, bluegrass music and an underground collective of grifters known as “the Knucklebone Boys”. Also: I have accepted that I will never in this life be able to “call in an airstrike” as sometimes happens in movies.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"I’ve got a lot of thoughts about the complicity involved in viewing any of those images"

Do share them. As someone who saw the images in the context of Seymour Hersh's original exposé, they were documentation of a written reality that seemed incredible. The images made the horror credible.

Also ... the historiographer in me loves this...

"The violence is artfully realised and even aestheticised at times."

... contrast ...

Alison Croggon: "As in conventional Greek tragedy, the violence occurs off-stage, a most effective means of engendering imagination"

... compare ...

Jana Perkovic: "More insidiously, being repeatedly exposed to shocking, brutal images hardens us against feeling shocked, feeling brutalized, by them. The repetition and the distance makes them feel less real, banalises"