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Machine and man come together in this futuristic Melbourne Festival show
It’s difficult to accurately describe the multisensory experience of Diaspora, a performance work by laser, light and sound artist Robin Fox with Melbourne company Chamber Made. The hour-long work is inspired by Australian sci-fi writer Greg Egan’s 1997 novel about a post-human future in which technology has merged with humanity to create new beings. But in truth, it could be inspired by just about any work about a similar imagined future, with its loose and simplified narrative and futuristic imagery and sound.
The best way of describing Diaspora might be as an experimental abstract opera. Which makes sense, given that Chamber Made is a company that until recently had the full title Chamber Made Opera. It opens with a slowly evolving, bass-driven soundscape as lasers flood across the floor of the Substation’s theatre space. Suddenly, in the distance, we see a projected object, spinning and growing. As it approaches – and somehow it looks eerily three-dimensional – it starts to evolve into a human brain. But this is not the object’s final form.
Live instruments are merged with synthesisers and electronic production – there’s even a theremin in there at one point – as the soundscape reaches new and strange heights. When you finally hear ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ performed, it’s unlike any rendition you’ll have ever encountered.
As the show hurtles towards an uncertain future, it becomes even more bizarre and overwhelming. We see humans blending with machines before lasers and lighting take over the entire room, spilling spectacular and fantastic light into every corner. The sci-fi themes are apparent throughout, but it’s the visceral experience of this work that will stick in its audience’s minds. It only played a short and sold-out season at Melbourne Festival, but the response suggests it might get another run in the near future. Keep an eye out.