So, the coldest June here ever (or something like that!), has continued this week. A successful indoor outing on Monday morning was to the NGV’s new children’s exhibition ‘Fake Food Park’ by the Catalan designer Marti Guixe. He had created a big industrial-style kitchen full of brightly coloured/interestingly textured ‘foodstuffs’ which the kids could collect up in bowls and put in various ‘appliances’ which made noises/smells/flashed lights when buttons were pressed and dials turned. When you laid out your foods on a plate and scanned them, the shapes would turn into pictures of very random meals (ours featured a lot of oysters, broccoli and cupcakes). Tommy was particularly taken by the whole thing – give him a few buttons to press and he’ll be happy for hours!
Afterwards we went for a coffee at the ACMI cafe, and the kids enjoyed racing around in the rain on their dog-shaped high chairs!
I was back at ACMI in the evening to see ‘The Fits’, a new film by first-time writer-director Anna Rose Holmer. Set almost entirely in an inner-city Cincinnati gym/community centre, it was about Toni, a shy young tom-boy who trains with her older brother in the boxing gym but yearns to join the sassy teenage girls in their brilliant and hard-as-nails dance troupe (they really were far more aggressive and terrifying than the boys!). When Toni finally plucks up the courage to audition, the dance team leaders suddenly start suffering from strange ‘fits’ – a type of mass hysteria – which brought to mind Carol Morley’s unsettling film ‘The Falling’ – but these weren’t so much a working out of a trauma, as a mysterious pubescent rite of passage. It was an intriguing film, and the cinematography was stunning.
On Wednesday night Neil and I went to a performance by the Nederlands Dans Theater. Although based in Holland, the astonishingly talented troupe and choreographers are multinational. They presented three short works. The first, ‘Sehnsucht’, was perhaps the most striking. It started with the gentle, mesmerizing, stretches of a lone male dancer on a black stage, before the backdrop lifted to reveal a small box-like suspended room, containing a pair of dancers (male/female) who performed an intricate and beautifully articulated set of movements exploring the confined space. Periodically the box would rotate – the wall becoming the floor, the floor a ceiling, and the choreography gracefully incorporated this in balances or gentle slides (although on one occasion, one of the dancers suddenly disappeared headfirst out of a window!). A second, contrasting, section featured the whole company, dressed identically in loose black trousers (and ‘topless’ – except the girls were in flesh-coloured body stockings) in an athletic, balletic display responding to Beethoven’s muscular 5th Symphony.
The second work, ‘Solo Echo’, set to several well-chosen sections of Brahms’ wonderful cello sonatas, was a beautiful and melancholy melding of bodies (one reviewer likened it to a ‘moving sculpture’). Against a dreamy backdrop of falling snowflakes, the dancers formed a great, gently undulating organism, their brief moments of individuality (breaking free, almost falling) soon absorbed into the gentle ebb and flow of the conjoined group.
The third piece, ‘Stop-Motion’, played with various pairings of dancers. It explored transition and transformation, and featured large video screens with slow-motion portraits of a flying hawk and a haunted-looking, black-clad, Victorian-costumed lady. It was immaculately performed and there was some great stage-craft (at the end the floor was coated with a layer of white dust which flurried up in cascades as the dancers stomped and twirled around in it), but I wasn’t transported by it. I think the main problem was the dreadfully obvious, emotionally manipulative, music by Max Richter – none of the subtleties of Beethoven or Brahms here!
On Friday we were devastated to hear the results of the Brexit vote (we had voted, by post, to remain). It made us feel further away from our home country than ever – and with the concomitant reduction in academic research funding (45% of education research is currently EU-funded), it will make it harder for us to find work there.
On Saturday I watched ‘Chameleon’ – a fascinating Canadian-made documentary about Africa’s renowned investigative reporter, the young Ghanaian Anas Aremeyaw Anas. He is known not only for his great success in ‘naming, shaming and jailing’ countless human rights abusers, fraudsters and corrupt officials, but also for his unorthodox undercover methods and mastery of disguise. There are so many people who’d like to get rid of him that he rarely reveals his face in public (disguising it with strings of beads/masks/hoods etc.). He came across as an indefatigable and inspiring man – passionate about justice but also with a nuanced and human concern for victims, and even on occasion, perpetrators, as a case involving an abusive cult demonstrated.
On my way home through Fed Square I joined some kids interacting with the giant theremin that has temporarily taken up residence by the cathedral. Running in its beam triggered random squeals and tone clusters and growls, it was very entertaining!
After an exhausting Sunday shopping trip into town accompanied by the kids I escaped for an hour into the NGV Ian Potter Gallery. They are currently exhibiting a small selection of photographs by Henry Talbot, a gifted German/Australian photographer who made his mark in the 1960s/1970s taking photos for leading fashion publications (including Australian Vogue). He had a great sense of light and design, and the images were playful and full of movement (some looked as though they could have appeared in a magazine last week!). He had an eye for Melbourne backdrops that could bring to mind Paris or New York, or convey the glamour of flying or disco dancing. An evening dress shoot against the the flashing ‘futuristic’ night lights of the oil refinery was particularly striking.
A little commercial gallery across the way from the NGV featured winners of this years ‘illuminated glass’ awards – the frondy seahorse caught my eye!