Showing posts with label Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Review. Show all posts

Monday, November 9, 2020

REVIEW: Topography of Breath 2.0

November 09, 2020 0
REVIEW: Topography of Breath 2.0

From The Synopsis: 

Topography of Breath 2.0 is a virtual encounter with skin, flesh and breath, which takes from Toh’s ongoing exploration of the body in relation to productivity and exhaustion.

live stream performance, Performance Art, Wednesday 28th of October, 8pm, 2020 

Approximately 45 minutes

CO-PRODUCTION: ARTFACTORY SUPPORTED BY: National Arts Council, Singapore & OH! Open House 


Topography of Breath by Pat Toh takes what would be short fun scenes in a science fiction-like film and draws them out into durational experiential nightmares of physical endurance. A figure suspended, twisting and turning in black space, gasps for air and vocalises strain and effort into the void. Repetitive exercise type movements create rhythm with a steady and hard breath. The body is dissected by shifting video panels.


Toh's stamina and physical application is impressive, rousing the same type of appreciation usually reserved for athletes. Her anxious rants reveal an internalised cultural dialogue of striving, competing and self-reliance. She is alone, isolated but also crowded by the expectations of family, culture and work. I wanted to reach out and offer some peace to her hurried mind.


As our world edges into catastrophic environmental and social meltdown, and science fiction becomes reality, it’s time to confront what that means as an experience and take the time to feel and acknowledge the physical strain. Toh has put her body on the line and takes us on that journey. The detachment of the human species from the planet, from the ecosystem and from others will be, and is, a great physical trauma.

A body being subjected to technological and social control submits to being scanned; a relentless sequence of inescapable assessment and evaluation ensues. The internalized voices now seem to subside with a dystopian body colonized by the state. The body is duplicated and multiplied, making an army of replicants. Toh loses her individuality. She is a part of a larger machine. 

A pixelized impression of city landscapes, public spaces and people in transit is presented, with Toh's body placed above. She kisses and sucks at her body, yearning for intimacy and connection. Her shiny sweat and warm flesh contrast against the sanitized pixilations. A calm and detached voice implies a male gaze, or the powers that be, watching on; interested, but unperturbed. 

Women’s spoken reflections on an individual’s utility in consumer society overlay a lingering gaze up Toh’s body. Once arriving at her face, Toh's expression appears resigned, still, perhaps a little peaceful. The work, her literal hard physical labour and psychological torment, and the piece itself has come to an end. The final feeling is one of exhaustion and sadness.


The sadness is reminiscent of seeing a beautiful, powerful animal in a cage at the zoo resigned to its fate. 

What is the purpose of this work? It reminds me that although systems of power may seem like intellectual concerns, the final place of contention, in all power dynamics, resides in the body. The body is ultimately where the individual must eventually contend with the broader implications of social, corporate, and labour policies.  What are the expectations, controls and limits placed on the body and what capacity do we have within to question, observe and combat those forces?

What Toh manages to achieve so beautifully is to elicit a palpable, physical empathy. As I watch and experience her journey with her, Toh shares what’s at stake when submitting to the hierarchy above and around. She lives the experience so that an audience may viscerally know and feel that same tender, human, alive part of our selves, wriggling within, questioning and fighting back. 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Billie McCarthy Takes Up Space

September 22, 2018 1
Billie McCarthy Takes Up Space

Billie McCarthy, Kate and Julia at High School/  Ms Boon art class.

I went to high school with Billie, and now I was going to her cabaret show almost two decades later. Her show is called Billie takes up space. She tells stories and sings songs that include her experiences of being identified as ‘fat’ and living in her skin. She recalls experiences from her childhood, high school and adulthood.

I recalled my own memories with Billie from high school, we would sometimes keep each other company in the school grounds, café or an occasional visit to her house.

I recall laying on the grass with Billie in the park and giving each other intimate face massages. This was the type of intimacy that was significant as a teenager. Moments like this in the park felt defining. I was at an age when small interactions such as a friendly hug, a kiss on the cheek or an intimate conversation was enough to shape your sense of self; what I could or couldn’t do as a person. Can I have that type of intimacy with another person, am I worthy.

Billie reflected on her time time in high school and how her body played into these defining moments. I remember that in a performing arts school, there was a keen sense of how beauty and charisma could define who we were and our path in life.

Billie joked about being the best friend of a beautiful, slim, goddess girl in school, and having to listen to all the boys as they confided in her about their love for that friend. But how that love never seemed to be directed her way. I confess, I couldn’t remember who this friend might have been in high school, all the girls seemed so beautiful and spectacular. It was true that Billie moved in a crowd that was particularly charming.

I remember Billie being beautiful and charming and seemingly perfectly suited to her group of friends.

Later in Billies stories she speaks of a trip to New York where she feels appreciated in a way that didn’t seem forthcoming in Australia. She received more attention from men and it was both exciting and challenging. The type of attention that is laced with the potential to turn possessive and aggressive at any moment.

This story became harrowing, and it is difficult to hear how a friend has struggled and come so close to a type of annihilation. I felt for Billie, I wanted to give her a hug. In this moment, her music and voice gave so much depth and feeling to her story.

I love Billie, her musical and dramatic skill is intrinsic, it appears to come so naturally. With this show I felt so grateful that she has managed to cultivate and maintain the magic she shares with the world, even though at times, the world has made it difficult. Her ability to open up and share her touching vulnerability is so brave and generous, and in this show we learn that it is sometimes risky and dangerous and hard to keep giving that to the world. I’m so glad she shares her magic with us.

Billie McCarthy Takes Up Space
Written and Performed by:
Billie McCarthy
Created and Performed by:
Andrew Bruce, Nick Meredith
Fringe Hub: Lithuanian Club - Ballroom
Melbourne Fringe 2018
Billie McCarthy high school /Mischa Baka
Charlotte, Natalia, Camilla, Peter, Billie McCarthy and Kate at my 16th/17th? Birthday Party Mischa Baka

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

ECHO. Healing stillness, what lies beneath

September 05, 2018 2
ECHO. Healing stillness, what lies beneath

Echo is a new dance theatre work by Lola Howard, performed at Trades Hall in Carlton as part of LaMama Theatre.