Arts House: Piece for Pearson and Ghetto Blaster

Sometimes there is a work that is so refreshingly provoking that is leaves you in a state of euphoria. This is precisely what happened with Nicola Gunn/SANS HOTEL’s latest work, Piece for Pearson and Ghetto Blaster, which is based around a knotty philosophical conundrum involving a woman seeing a man throwing stones at a duck (all things involving ducks are, by their very nature, philosophical).

Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster. Photo by Sarah Walker
Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster. Photo by Sarah Walker

In a sparse white set, Gunn tells the story of the woman, man and duck from three different perspectives and the simple question (why is that man throwing stones at a sitting duck?) is problematised again and again. The narratives weave into one another only to explode out again, as they interrogate ideas around morality, social conventions, intervention, art and conflict.

Shifting between perspectives of a woman, man and duck, there is a sense that Gunn is examining the parallax gap that exists between people (and the way they see the world). The parallax gap is a confrontation of multiple perspectives, which cannot find neutral or common ground. What becomes interesting, as the performance continues, is actually the gaps between these perspectives, which forces us to ask what angles (or perspectives) of this moral conundrum are we missing out on? Combine this with Jo Lloyd’s choreography and we are left with a complex semiotic parade.

Lloyd’s choreography initially looks like a warm-up or gym class but rapidly shifts towards “senseless” movement, its disjointed nature signaling a divide between body and mind. We soon realise, however, that the choreography is a text running parallel to Gunn’s speech, affirming it, contradicting it or providing yet another perspective to the narratives being told. Within the dialogue between body and language there exists another gap: between thought and feeling, “logic” and “irrationality”, embodied experience and critical distance. Lloyd’s choreography contains heightened moments of sustained tension and eruptions of physical energy, which layers the work with added tension and frisson.

All this considered, it is Kelly Ryall’s composition that unites Gunn’s exceptional writing with Lloyd’s choreography. As the work continues, the surreal combination of text, movement, and music places the spectator into a sort of ritual trance, it is only after our waking that we realise, Gunn has transformed into a duck.

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