An interactive one-on-one performance, Program A of the Proximity Festival 2013 was a journey without a dull moment in sight.
My journey on this episode of the Proximity Festival 2013 took me through The Plantarum: Empathic Limb Clinic, Asterion, Remains Management Services and Ours, a diverse selection of interactive performance styles and topics, delivered one-on-one. Due to the intimate, subjective nature of all these performances, I urge anyone still to attend this festival NOT to read these reviews until after attending, both for spoilers as to content and also to avoid creating any pre-conceptions beyond the published program.
Cat Jones welcomed me to The Plantarum, where we conversed about plants in general and then in terms of scientific developments in plant life communication research. After sharing a refreshing toast, each with a tinted glass apothecary’s vial, we got down to the business of grafting a plant onto my limbs. Jones’ engaging manner made this performance work, bringing credibility through sharing information and explaining the nature of her research into plant-human interaction. The greenhouse, placed in the middle of the central gallery, was memorable and set out in a whimsical manner that put me at ease while setting the atmosphere perfectly. This performance was over all too soon, with a keepsake to send me on my way.
Ascending a tightly spiralled staircase and then being blindfolded and led, in a particular manner, to a chair in a dark room, meant that I was thoroughly disorientated for the opening lines of Asterion. Humphrey Bower’s mellifluous voice came from a corner – “Do you know why you’re here?” A rich, resonant tone, his voice moved, and floorboards creaked, and I heard about his life and the house he lived in, this son of a queen, Asterion. After a while I thought I recognised the story – maybe something by Borges? – but was simply drawn in to the spell of the voice, now closer, now further away, telling its lonely tale. While led around the “house”, still blindfolded, Bower’s Asterion came alive and real, and at times, threatening. But the final denouement was well-staged, leaving me thoughtful on my way back down from the tower.
The five minute break from that intense experience was quite useful, as was the cup of tea and biscuit offered by Loren Kronemeyer in her Remains Management Services office. With fluorescent lighting and shelves full of files, the setting seemed more appropriate for a job interview rather than a performance, but Kronemeyer was welcoming and eased into her work with some small talk… before asking what my plans were for the eventual disposal of my own corpse. Tactfully, she went through options that might suit my personality, with consideration of payment methods and suggestions of local businesses offering the various products and services. Bemused, I left the office at the bell, taking a manila folder containing a statutory declaration we had filled in together, as well as a copy of an invoice from a local funeral parlour as a guideline as to costs. Oh, and with a head full of thoughts of my ultimate fate.
Ours had not filled me with excitement when I read the blurb on the performance guide. Despite trying to avoid expectations when going into any show, I suspected that I would be reprising rather underwhelming experiences of music group sessions with amateur attempts at using basic percussion instruments. I am delighted to report that I was totally, absolutely wrong. Elise Reitze was playing a tuned percussion instrument, using cello bows, as I walked in, keeping the atmosphere calm and mellow. She then asked some personal questions, which I answered succinctly into a microphone. Each time I answered, she chose a different set of instruments and improvised her musical response, playing over looped recordings of previous responses. From thumb piano to cymbal to glass jars, it was a thoughtful, thought-provoking process. Definitely not a comfortable experience for people who wince at hearing their own voice played back to them, I wait with anticipation to hear the recordings when they are loaded onto Reitze’s website.
Another treat from the 2013 Proximity Festival, there was never a dull moment (for me, at least) in the offerings of Program A.
Proximity Festival Program A
Ours, The Plantarum: Empathic Limb Clinic, Asterion and Remains Management Services
Performed by Elise Reitze, Cat Jones / Melissa Hunt, Humphrey Bower and Loren Kronemeyer
Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Perth Cultural Centre, Northbridge
23 October – 2 November 2013
First published on