HOT, Tramway’s festival of new performance and dance from Australia, is now well under way, and with shows only popping up for a night or two it’s difficult to get an overview of the whole fortnight.
Robin Fox’s RGB Laser Show - Tramway, Glasgow
Shifting Ground - Tramway, Glasgow
However, while both of these pieces have ended their runs, they offered a contrasting, interesting insight into contemporary Australian performance. They’re both by Melbourne artists, and the high-tech confidence that city’s visual artists and architects display is on show again here.
Robin Fox’s RGB Laser Show sits awkwardly in the programme, being strictly neither dance nor performance – it’s a show made up of a red, a green and a blue laser. That’s all. The scenario was probably familiar to a number of the audience: we were gathered together on a concrete floor in a darkened, smoky room, a series of electronic drones and bleeps vibrating the air, as the lasers flashed in time above our heads in a stunning show of audio-visual co-ordination.
However, half an hour is a long time to stand in one place, and after a while, the crowd began shuffling awkwardly. The sounds created as part of the show, while timed perfectly to fit the lasers, never quite tip over into anything approaching music; the frantic squiggles and flashing dollar signs the lasers occasionally project on to the wall aren’t an attempt at communication and don’t offer any deeper meaning or nod to a higher state of consciousness. Lacking the emotional connection or release of music, prevented by the robotic, mechanical noises and the strangeness of the set-up from indulging a very human urge to dance, the audience are left in a strange, laser-beaten limbo, waiting for the beat to kick in and something to happen.
Achieving something much more human from equally wordless, tech-heavy production, Zoe Scoglio’s Shifting Ground seems at first to be a fairly typical, twee, twenty-something performance piece take on the Japanese tea ceremony – Scoglio herself welcomed the audience in with ginger tea and rock cakes, and asked them to pick a stone that fits in their hand from the pile in the corner. From the moment the lights went down, though, when Scoglio wriggled into an over-sized grey garment filled with tiny microphones that captured her every twist and breath, we were taken somewhere very different indeed.
Over the next 45 minutes, Scoglio became gardener, explorer, scientist, primeordial being, playful cat and tiny atom, in a piece that uses spectacular – and spectacularly simple – light projections and bass-heavy sound. Exploring the elemental nature of rock, in all its (mineral) forms, Shifting Ground takes us from minute experiments with light and pebbles on a table top to a huge, droning, vibrating projection which seems to gesture towards the infinite possibility of the Big Bang.
Mostly unspoken, apolitical, impersonal, and therefore at odds with contemporary performance trends over here, this is still a very emotional work; even in a small room, we were brought right up against our relative tininess in the universe. And it features a surprisingly moving climax, too, considering nothing happens but salt bouncing off the soundwaves on top of a speaker.
Seen on 18.06.14l
Both runs ended.
HOT: New Dance and Perfomance from Australia continues until 3 July