PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 26.2 (2004) 87-91
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Animation Dances With Percussion
Sound and Vision Interlocked in Australia
Animation Improvisation: Arpeggio, a part of the Jammin' Festival, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia, May 9-10, 2003.
As part of the larger Queensland's Jammin' Festival of music, a number of interdisciplinary works were staged in May at the Arbour Wall, a thirty-foot outside wall of the Queensland College of Art (QCA) Gallery at its relatively new campus on the river at Brisbane's Southbank. Percussion students from the Queensland Conservatorium are merely metres down the road from the QCA campus. Both colleges are now parts of Griffith University, traditionally noted for encouraging interdisciplinary experimentation in its curricula. To set the scene, the improvisation Arpeggio aimed to reflect and comment on the immediate environment of river environment. Brisbane's Southbank is similar to the generic dream emanating from the Parisian Leftbank or perhaps the London Southbank arts mecca. The atmosphere is leisure, pleasure, culture, and entertainment in all forms, within a tropical paradise nestled amongst landscaped palms and frangipanis. Tanned swimmers dive from shimmery white sands into impossibly free blue pools, an incongruous foreground for the north shore skyscraper backdrop. A multicultural array of restaurants and galleries reside on the river boardwalks and surrounding streets. On the north end, Southbank is comprised of various cultural buildings: the Queensland State Library, the site, pending construction, of the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, the Queensland Art Gallery itself (home to the Asia Pacific Triennial), and a mutiplex of theatres called the Cultural Centre of Performing Arts. Most of the designs exhibit the cool minimalism of International-style architect Robyn Gibson. The new gallery's plan introduces a contrast with more peculiarly localised Brisbane flavor of shady overhangs and verandahs, pertinent to the summer swelter. ARCHITECTUS + DAVENPORT CAMPBELL are the selected architectural team, which features the design partnership of Queenlanders Lindsay and Kerry Clare for the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (http://www.qag.qld.gov.au/qgma /default.htm).
Visual arts animation and music students cross-sectioned their lives and obsessions [End Page 87] to create Arpeggio to reflect on this copious amalgamation. The audience scattered informally on the lower lawn area of two grass levels created as an arena around the QCA Gallery outer wall to stage such events. Prior to the start, the audience were already punctuated by the sharp glitter of musical instruments interspersed between them, indicating they would soon be inextricably immersed in the performance. Percussionists initially poised like sentinels behind the audience like surround sound, anticipating the challenge of the baton of the animated images. Arpeggio commenced like loose layers of tribal atmosphere. Percussion artists began to move; ducking and weaving a constant human line through the spaces on the ground, counterpointing, clashing with or echoing the digital visuals dancing across the wall. A real and unreal mix resulted; a round sound created by a round arm movement mirroring a round shape on the wall all in sync; and then, out of sync, a soft shape met a jarring noise. Sound ricocheted off surrounding buildings as light from the projection reflected and highlighted these activities below. Soft abstract shapes, loud color bursts, linear or shapely marks made an eclectic mix of grab bag stimulating ideas. Surprise, experimentation, and chance were intrinsic to the improvisational nature of the entire event. Visually and acoustically, it was very rich and each new viewing would no doubt reveal something missed from this theatre in the round. The event seduced casual passers strolling by in the arbour into joining the congregation. The arbor is a walkway covered with a twisting yellow metal ribbon for shade.
"They're forming accidental coincidences," says Vanessa Tomlinson, Head of Percussion at the Queensland Conservatorium. She is echoing John Cage, whose Living Room Music the percussionists featured later in the program. Tomlinson, who took up this position in 2003, feels she was selected because of her record for experimentation with visual materials as well as sound. Classically...