site-specific media & performance
The Conflux project began as a mechanism for exchange between artists in the Asia Pacific region. Commissioned by Kick Arts to landmark centenary of federation for the Fed on Arts Festival, Cairns 2001, the project involved practical development and fieldwork for performance, installation and multimedia outcomes.
Stemming from international involvement over a six-year period, Conflux is a project in a series to focus on engaging in critical debate, and interdisciplinary research at a fundamental level. Questions of social, historic and environmental impact and of cultural identity and relevance bounce across 6,000km in an effort to embrace the blur of tradition, change and urbanisation implicit in contemporary lifestyle.
Australia's antipode European history and colonial influence became a catalyst and departure point for artists to engage in dialogue, stimulating idea sharing. Visioning of this premise saw Conflux develop an imaginary geography, challenging perceptions and offering a broader perspective on isolationism, transience, postmodern and postcolonial rationale.
It is the human condition, universal and the global that Conflux examines through the sentiment of individual, community and locale. The complexity of multi-racial artists residing in Singapore and Australia amplifies global multiplicity. Language, the usual barrier, tempered with the gestural in process, experientially convenes a holistic mind/body approach. The artists in dialogue, process and practice encounter the body and space with the notion of dynamism and stasis in the micro/macro world. The body in/as site and the greater environment serve to reveal insight into Australian identity.
Sites chosen in Australia pinpoint the diversity of Far North Queensland's environs, which teeter in flux of progress. Ongoing urbanisation reflects the impact of humanity on natural environs as eco-tourism and the urban dream celebrates the reef, rainforest and savanna country. In revealing a greater sense of place, Conflux grew an understanding of process and inclusion, raising awareness of the environment, culture, and the flux between them.
On the 15 September at the Cairns Esplanade, over 300 people observed the 90-minute sunset ‘Work – in – progress’ performance, which progressed to the Cairns Celebration of Film presentation. The promenade to the film festival outdoor screening saw a further 200 people participate in the performance as audience and view screen based components of the work. Cairns Esplanade is currently undergoing redevelopment, making access to the site intermittent as the site changed from day to day. Utilising this site highlighted the changing environment, our activities, and communicated it to tourists and audience.
The aftermath of the festival saw constant exchange between artists of video, still image and sound files, resulting in a DVD with the purpose of documenting the project and placing creative ideas into a succinct format for ongoing reflection and debate. Extended audience of Conflux through media screening occurred at the Ausdance ‘Creating Performances’ in Armidale Australia, and' Expreimentica02' at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff Wales UK.
• sunset performance: Cairns Esplanade, 15 September
• residency + forum: Tanks Arts Centre: forum facilitator Nicholas Mills
• development + fieldwork: Undara Lava Tubes, Emerald End Artcamp, Fitzroy Island
Jim Denley (Australia/Brussels), George Chua Khim Ser (Singapore), Russell Milledge, Rebecca Youdell
Christian Green, Charmaine Hart, Lisa McLymont Hayley Warren, Christine Williamson
Asialink , Australia Council - New Media Arts Fund, Kick Arts Collective, in association with the Queensland Centenary of Federation Celebrations, Arts Queensland, The Australian High Commission Singapore and The Substation.
review by Sue Gannon
Arts Nexus Oct-Dec 2001
Almost sunset. In the softening light, six strange figures glide across that wide new curve of grass on the Cairns Esplanade. They move between scattered clusters of backpackers, picnickers, tourists walking from the Pier, others en route to or from the Multicultural Arts Festival, and others of who already knew an event is about to happen.
Each figure strides to a point where the land ends and then freezes. The two men are barechested and wearing long trousers, the women in red or white silk slips and elastic sided boots. Each performer carries a slender bamboo pole with a light attached draped across their shoulders or under their arms. They each wait, quite still, except for a slight tremor of the tips of the lengths of bamboo. Then at the very edge of the water, a black clad saxophonist drops to one knee and plays a long mesmerising note. And so begins Conflux.
For the next hour or so, I follow the performers as each slowly traces their own precise and invisible trajectory to the point of confluence. My eyes are seduced by one figure after another, by the incredible control and grace each body displays as it moves so slowly and inevitably toward towards that moment. My mind also slows and drifts through images of suspended Chinese lanterns, of tai chi movements, od spirits not quite there. All the time the light continues to change and deepen and the music becomes more layered and as soundscapes recorded at Undara (lava tubes) underpins the burst of saxophone calling the dance onwards. Many of the watchers move along with them, trying to maintain a good vantage point, trying not to get in their way. By the time the dancers come together, place their poles into formation, and move into the next frenzied phase of the performance, the quite a crowd has gathered. Whilst no one seems ready to give clear answers to whispered questions like “What’s going on?” or “What does it mean?”, most people stay intrigued until the dancers cross the lights and disappear up Shield Street.
One year ago I spent an evening amongst hundreds of others in the Schaübuhne theatre in Berlin, watching the amazing Sacha Waltz Dance Theatre performing Körper (Body), parts of which resonate with Conflux. Afterwards I tried to justify to my friends in Berlin why it make sense to me to live in a provincial city in Australia where access to contemporary culture is erratic. Yet here I was watching an original, collaboratively developed, cutting edge dance performance pulled together in less than a month by Bonemap – Rebecca Youdell and Russell Milledge, just back from their Singaporean residency – with performer George Chua Kim Ser and Belgium-based musician, Jim Denley, and a team of great local talent –Lisa McLymont, Charmaine Hart, Hayley Warren, Christian Green and Christine Williamson. And this performance was not locked into a theatre for an elite audience but was out on the street, amongst the people, against a backdrop of water, hills and that gorgeous soft evening light. How could I possibly want to be anywhere else? Does it matter that I’m not prepared to answer “What does it mean?” I don’t think so. That hour of beauty on the Esplanade is enough.