We have been working away at editing video footage from last year’s End of April, Beginning of May project. Here is the first instalment.
“Last Spring I was involved in a strange performance outside the State Library of Victoria. It was a kind of intersecting collaboration devised by 默契 (Moe Chee) and inviting The Hi God People – featuring compelling sound and movement from Clinton and Chun-Liang, and surrealist ball games amongst the rest of us. We developed a bizarrely eventually harmonious connection with a heckler. And Chun-Liang struck me as an incredibly engaging dancer, flowing with and against all surrounding phenomena.
“This Autumn, Moe Chee ran a whole week of unauthorised State Library forecourt shows entitled End of April, Beginning of May. This time, there was a distinctly political flavour swelling in the earlier part of the week – security guards expressed concern and multiple warnings about interacting harmlessly with any of the monuments, performers read from and circulated torn infringement notices. And then beautiful rituals were performed in the wee hours. Two of the seven guiding principles for the week were ‘We seek interaction with audiences/passersby, but we do not force it.’ and ‘We embrace potential confrontations without provoking them.’
“On Friday eve 11pm – 12.30am, peak hour for the swarms of party people, it was my turn to join. I wanted to swim through the night, and wore a vintage bathing cap, goggles and thermals. I packed a faux metal detector, tiny tiny micro rake to clean up individual leaves around the feet of passers-by, a feather duster to briefly demonstrate gently/cheekily to security staff a high and safe regard for the statues, and a little paper cup megaphone. Responses from ‘the public’ ranged from delight and requests to participate, to cowering and an instance of confused brief verbal lashing.
“We performed as satellites to each other for the first while before eventually drifting into a much closer orbit. By this time, we were all in a trance – Clinton and Chun-Liang were exhausted and unwell from a long week, and I’m a natural tripper. I don’t recall much of what happened during this phase, I was lying on concrete and Chun-Liang hovered over me. We were all making sound. It felt transcendental. This part was filmed.
“The following afternoon we gathered for a picnic in the same spot. Was it a show or not? Shani popped sherbert in her mouth close to our ears while Clinton drummed on food. Ernie Althoff showed up and posed with an umbrella. Chun-Liang climbed all over everyone as they read aloud from books. A guitarist played nearby. Carmen filmed the sky and captured the sounds.
“‘What did we achieve?’ asks Clinton… I guess… an interesting time lapsed record of all hours of the day in all weathers in a central place over a week… small public expressions of alternative world views and individual quirks… new neural pathways and knowledge from the social experiments… fulfilling of self-dares and challenge… synchronicity and solidarity with each other and some members of the public… but it seemed more for us than any audience member… an adventure.
“Thank you everyone.”
“I like to see expectations unmet and conventions broken in the arts. To surprise is perhaps the most important job of the arts, because it makes people consider alternatives to their habitual ways of thinking and doing. Breaking convention is especially important in genres that purport to be experimental or cutting-edge. But performances are so often (a) in pubs (b) between 9pm and midnight (c) playing through a PA (d) to drinkers who have essentially 100% certainty about what is going to happen. When so much of the context and framing is unexamined and unchanging, how can the content ever be very surprising?
“The most salient aspect of ‘End of April. Beginning of May’ was the confounding context. It was not in a venue, but in a semi-public outdoor space. There was no PA, no mixer, no bouncer, and no-one in charge. There was nowhere to buy drinks. There were 7 performances on 7 consecutive days, each at a different time, most of them inhospitable, none of them normal going-out times. It was cold and often raining. The audience were mostly bystanders who had no idea what was going on. It was often not clear when the performances had started, and most of them went on interminably, forcing me at least to abandon ship and leave without knowing how they ended.
“I went to several of the week’s events and it felt like shiftwork. I set my alarm for 2am one night to catch a 3am show in the freezing dark that had essentially no witnesses. I developed a new relationship with this familiar part of the city, and new ways of thinking about the city, its inhabitants, and the role of the arts in it. I wasn’t expecting this. I observed late night ragers subsiding, and early risers rising, while following a very-late-night performance ensemble move slowly around a city block
“I haven’t even started on the ‘content’ …”
“This is my personal summary of my experience with 默契 earlier this month. The doing of art, performance in public space, being comfortable, being challenged, being myself and finding my place, working with others, hanging out with others, under a common goal.
“In finer details of this clip [spoiler alert], I loved being ‘told off’ at about 3’10”, being silently challenged by crazy girl Chun-liang when she lay on top of me for half the video clip, the guitar guy in the ‘background’, and the reading: beginning with Clinton’s continuous flow, punctuated by conversations, its intensity eventually building as Shani and Ren joined in respectively and a nearby baby started squealing – as the clip fades out.