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Proximity Festival 2013 - Program B

Nerida Dickinson

A celebration of the engagement of one-to-one performance.
Proximity Festival 2013 - Program B

Image: Proximity Festival 2013

With all admiration for attendees who tackle the three programs consecutively, the various approaches of the artists in Program B provide a fair sampling of the core concept of Proximity Festival.  Curators James Berlyn and Sarah Rowbottam have created another journey that works, in its own way, both geographically and intellectually, with a balanced mix of performer-led and audience-led pieces. My night of Program B took me through Prior Arrangement, Hang, String Duet and Where You End & I Begin, starting on the ground floor before moving up and around the first floor spaces.  As with all reviews for Proximity Festival pieces, please wait until after attending to read more.

Janet Pettigrew welcomed me into her “living exploration of the appointment we all have scheduled but haven’t put into our diary” – Prior Arrangement.  The bare metal table stood waiting, a clipboard was produced and direct questions about my personal expectations about my own expiry and eventual life accomplishments were asked.  Pettigrew skilfully turned these topics into a suitable type of small talk, before gently taking me through the process of preparing my some-days-past dead body for funeral and burial. Her quiet confidence allowed me to follow her lead, eventually finding me lying in a coffin and refusing her offer to put the lid on for me.  The photo of my “corpse” was clipped to my “death certificate”, waiting for me as I left the room.

Hang was a step back to a time when time itself seemed endless – the various share house lounge rooms of my memory, all rolled into one, with a smiling Ian Sinclair waiting for me on the couch, VHS movies lined up, popcorn prepared and snack food chosen.  For 15 minutes I was back in one of those golden sharehouse moments of comfy clothing, relaxed company and random fact sharing.  Sinclair takes his cues from the reactions of visitors to his kitchen space, and together, the artist and the audience, create the space.

Emma Craig invited me to join her in the darkness behind the curtain of String Duet, a performance created by Leon Hendroff. Starkly simple in design, Craig took me through the process of animating a string puppet with her.  The magic came from the absence of words, Craig guiding the session simply using eye contact and exaggerated movements.  The soundtrack was provided by a speaker playing the amplified sounds of the movements of the puppet itself, creating an island of light, sound and motion in the black curtain-lined dark room.  The puppet came to life, walked, ran, danced, flew and then was left lying in a heap, twitching a little as it “breathed”, until the light went off again and I was guided back to the curtain at the entrance.  String Duet was more than a simple puppetry class, it created a connection between the performer and audience, an intense connection that manifested on the tiny stage with the successful dance of the puppet. 

Finding my own way into the performance space of Where You End & I Begin, I waited in a box of mirrors for Rachel Arianne Ogle to join me.  Waiting, watching myself, growing self-conscious, it was a relief to have company, even though the space was small – a mere 2-3 metres on each side.  Initially, Ogle stood, mirroring my already many times mirrored stance.  We moved around each other a little, and then one of us started moving to the music and the other followed. I found myself frustrated by a lack of dance skills, but any time I made even a sketchy attempt to move, Ogle echoed it with a dancer’s grace and poise.  I followed her, she followed me, our reflections followed us everywhere.  When I stood back for a while, she filled the space with her own dance, one I could never hope to follow, even in a larger space.  This was again an intimate connection between the performer and the audience, and one even more dependent on the actions or otherwise of the participating attendee.

Another thoughtfully curated collection of challenging pieces from the Proximity Festival, Program B is full of memorable moments for the participant willing to get involved.

Proximity Festival – Program B

Curators: James Berlyn / Sarah Rowbottam

Producer: Sarah Rowbottam

Provocateur: Kelli Mccluskey

Stage Manager: Mary Wolfla

Technician: Ray Bradford

Program B: Prior ArrangementHangString Duet and Where You End & I Begin

Performed by Janet Pettigrew, Ian Sinclair, Leon Hendroff / Emma Craig and Rachel Arianne Ogle.

Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Perth Cultural Centre, Northbridge

23 October – 2 November 2013

For more information and tickets visit the Proximity Festival 2013 website

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Nerida Dickinson is a writer with an interest in the arts. Previously based in Melbourne and Manchester, she is observing the growth of Perth's arts sector with interest.