AIA Launch / Morrish and Bower at Strut / Berlin

Last night, Arts Initiative Australia launched in Sydney. I curated/produced an event with 8 performance stations;

1- Natalie Wadwell from State of the Arts taking feedback from our audience
2- Ben Hinchley and I performing a DREAM (data responsive experiential art media) score for 3 heartbeats, drone and physical scored improv in our Vordenker team
3- Dan Graham (director) and Natalie Ayton (performance artist) hosting a tea party and talking abut Dan's dreams of realising a show based on Shakespeare monologues and Neurodiversity
4- Natalie Zwar (lawyer and chair of Arts Initiative Australia) talking about the foundation's purpose and direction
5- Emily Granger (harp) performing the work that inspired her to become a Harpist and talking about how she came to become an internationally touring independent harpist
6- Bruno Panuccio (performance artist) presenting a performance installation and Guy James Whitworth (visual artist) creating artwork of his performance
7- Kim Walker (arts leader) leading a discussion on the value of the arts
8- Melanie Eden (performance artist) leading participatory art experience over skype where she got kids in Iceland leading the audience through artistic exercises

It was a wonderful experience, at Yellow House. We had 60 RSVPs but not everyone showed up, and some people showed up late!... I didn't expect that... I'd planned to be dividing the audience into 6 groups and then rotating each group around the venue, but what happened was that we just started groups of people as they arrived and sent them through the artistic journey we created. The performers each repeated their experience 5 times to 5 audience groups (the largest of which was 12, the smallest was 1).

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I didn't have any time to really prepare my physical performance (I had to bump in everything, and deal with all the things producers have to deal with), but I found some really beautiful see-through purple fabric that had been used in the venue for a previous event as a curtain, and used that as a 'heart costume' which pulsed with the beats provided by the live heartbeats until I emerged from it as the embodiment of an open heart, feeling empathetically the audience's pulse, and articulating (through movement, sound and eventually actual words) the power and terror of being completely open... only to end bathed in light, embracing the universe. 

The score I wrote for the piece was just a graph indicating pitch and dynamic contours with specific rhythms I wanted the heatbeats to trigger, and a few times/pitches for changes. Ben did a great job realising the score. It kept me grounded as I performed.

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Some audiences interpreted my very abstract performance as a birthing. Others saw me as life itself emerging from the depths of the sea, onto land, and coming into full being beyond. I'm not sure how everyone else took it, but it was fun to perform (and repeat 6 times - I was drenched in sweat after and today my body is tired!).

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Thank god I had a workshop the week earlier in Perth with Andrew Morrish and Humphrey Bower on physical improv with text at Strut Dance - I wouldn't have been able to have coped had I not had the plethora of improv tools that they showed us.

I also performed at the end of that Perth workshop over 2 nights. The first night I performed my own solo where I started back stage, behind the audience, singing in a very reverberant space (so you couldn't really tell where my voice was coming from) repeating the phrase "Ex Nihilo Omnia Fit" (from nothing comes everything), breaking my physical movement and sound down as I emerged in front of the audience transitioning to chaotic physical and sonic fragmentation of the original material then rebuilding into the phrase "Ex Machina Omnia Fit" (from the machine, or from design, comes everything). After that exhausting elation, I fell silent and then began an un-scored improv of movement, sound and text which essentially became a play on the title of the showing "Terror Incognita" which I modulated to "Terra Incognita" and translated for the audience, "unknown territory", as opposed to "unknown terror". I don't think there were many latin speakers in the audience and my singing wasn't terribly clear so I daresay the nuance was lost... but I was told that it was an extremely 'real' experience (I employed the techniques of "state" that I was taught by Sarah Dowling in a previous workshop and my movement was inspired by physical modalities Dean Walsh had taught me including "authentic movement", and I abstractified my authentic movements... so the threat of reality was quite strong, yet surreal)... 

For me, composing sound, text and movement in the moment this way is a wonderful way to articulate my years of training in form as a composer... taking elements and repeating, transforming, developing, having a sense of "beginning middle and end", conveying abstract meanings that people can interpret at their will. It is an incredible way of scoring, or indeed letting the score develop. There is a time for literalism or conveying specific meanings, and there is a time when sometimes abstract form is more welcome to allow the audience to interpret what's happening from their own perspectives.

As I performed my solo at the AIA launch 6 times, it developed so much that there was such a departure from the original that the progression of the repeated form itself would have been an interesting audience experience... a 1 hour performance in 6 segments. Though truely, if it were a 1 hour experience, those 6 segments would be timed differently... with an accelleration score overlaying the macro structure... and I'd have to control my energy levels with getting some performed down-time somehow.

In Perth, though, I also participated in group works... it was very interesting to be directed in a scored improv by different people with different interests and levels of performance experience. Some were very precise in their requirements, others allowed for more free ranging within certain constraints. In one work though I had one fixed text line which I completely screwed up in performance... argh I was so ashamed - but the rest was ok... I had a particularly fun duet with an incredible young dancer where we depicted an abstract domesticity whilst repeating "you're one of them bones people" (it was in a work with 5 performers, and our duet was one element within an otherwise complex narrative of text, song and movement with deep meanings and context).

So, my next performance is going to be in Berlin at the Loop conference in November where Ben Hinchley and I are going to be demonstrating our Vordenker tech. This is going to be heaps of fun - we'll have a half hour segment to strut our stuff. I think it's time to really flex our muscles and show 3 aspects of possibility of the scores, and make something that I can effect with movement using an accelerometer and/or gyro, as well as audience data, weather data, and controlling solenoids. 

Though we have some bugs to sort out. Last night in one of the performances the tech failed about 1/3rd of the way through.... I went ahead, making my own sounds acoustically, until the big drone came in (and I knew then it was not the fact the speakers stopped working but that the heart rate monitor signal had failed)... so at least I was able to keep to my form/time easily enough - but a tech fail like that won't be allowed to take place in Berlin, where we're trying to on-board other artists and partners to help us develop the tech and indeed perhaps invest in the company we share, Vordenker.

I'll produce more events later in the year in Australia, though I don't know which city yet... I'll keep you posted!

(Thank you Sarah Malone for taking the photos!!!).

Andrew Batt-Rawden

Arts Illuminated Pty Ltd, Level 13, 167 Macquarie Street, Sydney, NSW 2000

Publisher and artist. I have a background in music composition, festival direction, media publishing, some uni teaching here and there as well as performance art. I make websites for various projects that I'm involved with.