Review: i have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night, PICA (WA)

The air ‘out there’ is brought into close proximity through this unique, all-consuming experience.
Review: i have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night, PICA (WA)

Performer and creator Rachel Arianne Ogle. Image: Mick Bello.

It’s almost ironic that the words of 19th century poet Sarah Williams in her ode ‘The Old Astronomer’ have been used to title choreographer Rachel Arianne Ogle’s latest immersive performance: ironic in the sense that the work’s title seems to be its only element drawn from the past. 

This is in no way a criticism of the piece; rather it’s a convenient observation to highlight just how powerfully it pulses with energies of the present and the future. Indeed it’s a triumph in all that is new, unexplainable and yes, unfearful of the night.

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It begins as a darkened black box space, framed by an upstage screen of blue-white light. This empty space, soaked in electronic blue, is calming and completely silent but for faint murmurings of what sounds like static-fuelled radio noise. As the work begins, the pristine blue screen erupts into a series of dynamic, moving forms painted with flashes of light and blinks of darkness. Mirroring this are deeply resonant, at times booming, aural effects that warp and wrap in equal measure. These incredible interplays of light and sound fire the senses, yet they also create a sort of meditative cocoon, imbued with feelings of warmth and safety.

As the work progresses these tensions between danger and safety; the known and the unknown; the tangible and intangible, and perhaps most profoundly, the cosmic and the human, are poetically drawn out through intricate, rhythmic waves of light, sound and movement. Especially intoxicating are the sequences where momentum is built through climaxes in volume and temperatures of light which surround the lone figure of a woman (Ogle) who is beautifully silhouetted at centre stage. These rhythms and abstract visual and aural melodies (which are strongest in the first half of the work) are simply mesmerising.

Conceived as a sequel to Ogle’s expertly executed full-length dance work precipice, which premiered in 2014, this new work is no less polished and crystal clear in its delivery. Unlike precipice, however, this work has been realised through a more involved inter-disciplinary collaborative process. Ogle engaged two other key creatives to help her realise this vision – set and lighting designer Benjamin Cisterne and sound designer Luke Smiles. 

What these three artists have developed together could be viewed as a continuation of a form that choreographer Helen Herbertson and lighting designer Ben Cobham began almost 20 years ago with their landmark Morphia Series works, which premiered in 2002. Yet, i have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night brings something new and no less revolutionary to the stage in its ability to mobilise sound (yes, one can feel the soundwaves in motion at various moments), and in its humanising of quantum phenomena that exists beyond our reach. The air ‘out there’ is brought into close proximity through this unique, all-consuming experience. It infiltrates our insides, leaving feelings of altered realities and sharpened perceptions.

Ultimately, i have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night is evidence of a group of fearless Australian artists who are charting new ground through a strong commitment to their ideas and a rigorous development process. The result is an innovative work that speaks with impressive clarity and remains true to its intentions throughout. In this way, it is both a refreshing and noteworthy contribution to the sector.

4 stars out of 5 ★★★★

i have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night
Choreography and Performance – Rachel Arianne Ogle
Set and Lighting Design, Live Production – Benjamin Cisterne
Sound Design, Live Production – Luke Smiles / motion laboratories
Costume Design – Thomas Alfred Bradley
Costume Construction – Sheridan Savage
5-8 June 2019
Performance Space, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA)
Tickets $18-20

Jo Pickup

Tuesday 11 June, 2019

About the author

Jo Pickup is an arts writer & manager based in Perth. She has worked as a journalist and broadcaster for media such as the ABC, RTRFM and The West Australian Newspaper, contributing media content and commentary on art, culture and design. She has also worked for WA arts organisations such as Fremantle Arts Centre and STRUT dance, in roles such as Producer, Program Manager & Communications Manager.