Welcome to the 42nd guest blog post of Time Out Sydney's 52 Weeks of #SydCulture 2017 challenge! October’s culture selector is Nerida Ross: Arts and Culture EP at FBi Radio, and the producer of Two Up talks and the after pARTY series. Every week in October, Nerida will be telling us what she loved the week before. Think of it as your recommendations for this week, from someone who sees a helluva lot of arts and culture. Over to her.
Continuing Sydney’s unofficial art month marathon is Liveworks, Performance Space’s ‘festival of experimental art’. A friend of mine raised a very good point this week when they asked “what’s the difference between Liveworks and Underbelly Arts?”. Where Underbelly claims to represent the ‘boldest voices’ in contemporary art and Liveworks purports to present ‘brilliant, brave and innovative voices’, you can see why people might be confused.
One difference is that Liveworks has a stronger focus on the whole Asia Pacific region. Another is the fact that its program is made up of more established artists. Because of Liveworks, this year we get to see performance art rock stars such as Christian Thompson and Justin Shoulder. Because of Liveworks, Sydney got the opportunity to see one of the year’s best artworks: The Second Woman.
The Second Woman is all I have been able to talk about since I left Carriageworks at 3am on Saturday morning – having been captivated by the performance for over five hours. Created by Nat Randall and Anna Breckon, the endurance performance sees Randall repeat a single scene of a relationship breakdown 100 times over a 24-hour period. Each time the scene is performed, the male protagonist ‘Marty’ is performed by a different male-identifying volunteer. Although the script and staging remain consistent across each iteration of the scene, the subtle changes in tone and character demonstrate a fascinating power dynamic, and keep the viewer hooked. “It’s like watching Rage,” a friend commented. “Each time a scene ends, you think, ‘I’ll just do one more’. Next minute it’s 3am.” It’s the performance artwork our Netflix generation has been training for.
For me, the experience was a lot like watching Stranger Things with my housemates: the audience gasped, laughed and booed along with each other. When Randall tipped her box of takeaway noodles on a particularly aggressive man, the crowd cheered in support. When another went in for an unsolicited kiss, he was booed into retreat. After each man left and Randall reset the room, she picked out noodles from the carpet and returned the whisky glasses to the drinks cart. The prevailing emotion from the scene before lingered heavily in the air. Whatever power she had gained dissipated, and your heart broke for her.
In contrast, my other favourite artwork from this week was sent directly to my phone. It’s called The GIF of Dance and is created by choreographer Matt Cornell. Each day my phone would buzz and instead of a work email I would receive a gift in the form of a GIF of a couple dancing. The clip could be anything from swing to break dancing – no matter what it was, it always made me smile.
While The Second Woman seemed to transcend time, The GIF of Dance goes beyond the limits of geography and finds a way to integrate performance into everyday life.
Liveworks closes Sun Oct 29 at Carriageworks.
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