There are some seriously innovative creative happenings going on in Brisbane at the moment and King George Square was one location to receive a recent demonstration (in more ways than one) as part of the Slipstream Festival of Time Based Art.
The Stance, a nine-hour endurance performance piece choreographed by the brilliant Liesel Zink stopped, interfered with and swallowed day-time pedestrian traffic in the city centre on August 13 in an exploration of the act of public protest and the physical effect of that age-old cycle. Zink recruited nine daring Brisbane performers who would put themselves to the test by presenting two ninety minute pieces in back-to-back loops starting at ten in the morning and finishing at seven in the evening with only small breaks for bathroom and refreshment (not all at once however as the performance must not stop). Some of the audience members (or witnesses may be a better description) took up radio headsets, which played an evocative soundscape created by Mike Willment while others were happy to just look on, staying one step removed as if the entire event was the spectacle. The performers wore ear buds that presumably played Willment’s track giving a sense of immersion, inclusion and solidarity; That headphone-induced ignorance of the outside world is a space that many of us have become comfortable with and yet Zink’s performers step into this space and interrupt that lone world in order to shake you awake – much like the role that public protest plays in society’s day-to-day as it seeks to infiltrate the general consciousness to invoke change or perhaps it is that the voice of the people has become the background noise of a competitive, sound-drowned society, the agitators lost in the undulating crowd?
Brisbane has a long and intense history of civil unrest and it sounds like real audio footage of historical riots can be heard whispering in the background of some parts of the soundtrack. We are all somewhat familiar with the reign of Sir Joh and the outlawing of public gatherings, an era revisited recently with the Newman government who may have underestimated the collective Brisbane memory. Freedom of speech and the right to protest are not negotiable and it was auspicious that as we “gathered” in King George Square on that chilly Thursday morning to reflect on the ghosts of Brisbane’s protest past, picketers and supporters were called to action at a camp outside Hutchison’s port berth protesting the recent sacking of workers via SMS.
There is so much wonder in The Stance experience; ‘experience’ an apt descriptor as everything in the Square that day became part of the contemplation from the marauding lunch-time public and groups of school children and for those listening through the head-sets and watching intently, it was sometimes difficult to tell if you were on the side of the protesters or not. As all were free to chose where they viewed from, sometimes you could find yourself very closely confronted by a rushing frontline and almost inspired to jump up and join in and yet other times you were on the outer, far removed from the action and the cause. Even the very idea of endurance provoked so many epiphanies as you contemplate not only the physical endurance of the dancers (and the performance was exceptionally physical) but also the endurance of the public that weaved around or between them, some oblivious, some suspicious – they were enduring their lives, the cold, the work-day and their own physicality provided an extra level to the exploration of ‘the line’ we continually walk. I ‘witnessed’ The Stance twice during the day, an hour to see it kick off (the Welcome to Country was exceptionally poignant) and then wandered back around five in the afternoon and was quite surprised to see how energetic the performers still were visibly worn by the day in the sun but the spark was still there.
Liesel Zink is a really exciting Brisbane creative who pushes the boundaries of craft and contemplation. To find out more about her and to see footage from The Stance, go to Liesel Zink’s website. To find out more about the Slipstream Festival of Time Based Art go to the Metro Arts website I really hope to see more of this groundbreaking festival.