A brief inhabitation of the senses
Whispering limbs was an intermedial performance that gestured towards identity and place as a series of liminal cultural boundaries. In openness to an exterior world, the principal collaborators immersed themselves into the natural features of a rural area in far north Queensland, Australia. These features included a remote river and forested areas where shared sensation-based experiences consolidated the ensembles purpose.
Whispering Limbs was art that offered a set of symbolic coordinates from which the poetic real-fiction—perhaps the surreal—was interpreted. The artists were not neutralizing the audience, but not rampant with narrative cohesion either. There was an inscription already alive within the limbs of the dancers, within the intertextuality reliant on the experience of reading the dancers body. The audience was charged with authorship in the interpretation of the dancers movements. The whispering relationship of cultural identity and place was determined through reading the performing body in action. The shared technique of contemporary dance was the ensembles movement vocabulary however, it appeared ostensibly optional and a deliberate interruption in the interpretation of their presence.
Collocating the techniques of media mixing and intermediality within the exchanges of intercultural identity and place, the creative development produced unpublished moving image and photomedia concurrently with choreographic development and scenographic design presented in the work.
Whispering Limbs was performance collaboration between Cairns-based duo Bonemap, Brisbane-based dance trio Polytoxic, Indigenous Cairns-based dancer Earl Rosas and Townsville-based sound artist Steven Campbell. Bonemap’s foundation artists, Rebecca Youdell and Russell Milledge, facilitated the project. Through the lens of inter-cultural collaboration, the work placed the dancers in a sweep of surreal panoramic landscapes, where they explored a range of contemporary themes within a highly integrated, immersive and improvised performance arena. Devised within two weeks and presented over three nights during the 2009 Cairns On Edge Contemporary Media and Performance Festival, Whispering Limbs presented a cultural mix of Indigenous, Polynesian and Caucasian performance aesthetics.
The inter-cultural choreography within the work was supported through pre-recorded and live improvised image projections and sound. As noted by Gallasch (2009) “the collective power of the work…is reinforced by Russell Milledge’s sweeping diorama projections that reveal the performers in an almost gothic natural world, and by Steven Campbell's percussive electronic score, mixed live.” Similarly, Carless (2009) comments “[Whispering Limbs] evokes issues and images of spirituality, ecological sustainability, transformation and doubling, generating a metaphysical whirlpool of ideas and images. The media components integrate with the physical performance perfectly to produce a work that is part dark ritual, part mad hatter’s tea party.
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Carless, V 2009, 'Beautiful Hybrids', RealTime (on line), vol. Induce-Workshops
Gallasch, K 2009, 'Never Too Far Away', RealTime, , vol. October/Novemeber, no. RT93.
Whispering Limbs is a collaborative intercultural project and lush intermedia presentation.
Six independent artists immersed themselves in an intensive residency in the verdent Far North Queensland environment. The approach considered the role of environmental representation in the construction of identity.
Russell Milledge and Rebecca Youdell artistic co-directors of Bonemap in collaboration with performers Lisa Fa’alafi, Fez Fa’anana, Earl Rosas, Leah Shelton, sound Steven Campbell, technical manager Steve Barton, and technical assistance from Paul Barron and Alex Cuffe
Performance: JUTE Theatre Centre of Contemporary Arts Cairns as a component of On Edge: Contemporary Media + Performance Festival Cairns, July 2009
Sponsors: On Edge: Contemporary Media + Performance, Polytoxic, JUTE Theatre, KickArts Contemporary Arts, Cairns Civic Theatre, James Cook University, Arts Queensland and the Regional Arts Development Fund a Queensland Government and Cairns Regional Council partnership to support local arts and culture.