Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Where It's At

You may now contact me via my personal website martinwhite.com.au.
The new site is an portfolio of work created over the last four years, as I've moved into art practice.
It's got everything you need.
You'll love it.
Don't be a stranger.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Sometimes, when everything shatters, what you're left with is something unexpected. I've been really enjoying drawing over the last month or so. I've never really done it before. I think I may pursue it. This is a drawing of Patrick White, from a William Yang photograph.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

'After the Rainbow'

By Soda_Jerk
King's Artist Run Initiative
Level 1 / 171 King Street, Melbourne
From 7 May - 29 May
Wednesday - Saturday 12 - 6pm

In 1995 I was in 'The Wizard of Oz'. It was the nadir of my musical career at high school. The yearly musical productions were my moments in the sun at school, the singular time of year in which I was totally accepted. The one time of year that I felt comfortable. I basked in the small-scale stardom that the annual musical production brought me. Over the years I had put in the hard yards. I had patiently worked my way up the rigid hierarchy, making brief but memorable stops at Tom Thumb in 'Barnum', the Artful Dodger in 'Oliver!', Professor Abner Sedgwick in the little known musical interpretation of Superman's life: 'Superman', Sancho Panza in 'The Man of La Mancha', and here I had arrived at the role of the Scarecrow in 'The Wizard of Oz'. I was the subject of high expectations, from none more than myself. The highest. It was the year after I had corralled scores of people to work on my first film (coincidentally titled 'After the Beanstalk') and a few months before I directed my first large-scale theatre work, a school production of 'Amadeus'. Ambition was writ large in flames across my future which lay before my like a golden duvet. My first true relationship had yet to come to a close. I had not yet experienced any real pain, rejection, loss or disappointment. I had not yet begun the process of developing a veneer of sadness, a veneer that comes with age and wisdom. I was still raw, I had no self protection. I was cloaked in unbridled self-belief, or at least, the belief in my skill, if not my self. My self was nothing more than a vessel for my perceived ability.

I shudder to imagine my disappointment if I could have seen myself as a broken thirty-one year old at that tender, ambitious, uncompromising age of fifteen.

At the Doctor's surgery during the week, my Doctor, as he has every right to do, began to tell me that with a chest infection and all, it really might be time to quit smoking. I have been at the Doctor's a fair bit of late as a month ago I broke my hand playing in a playground. My fifth metacarpal was shortened, angulated and twisted, ushering a titanium plate into my otherwise metal-free right hand. My hand is now strapped up in a plastic splint by electric blue velcro and somewhat out of habit I nurse it like a broken wing. Sat there, in the Doctor's surgery, with the now habitual posture borne out of protecting my broken hand, my entire body hunched around it, the Doctor told me: "You're not Peter Pan, you know." Believe me, I know.
The very day I turned thirty-one, everything was blown apart. Any expectations that I once had of stability and any sense of a future now lies in tatters. I've yet to gather any sense of what may emerge.

Judy Garland is the perfect figure to represent the dissonance between the promise of youth and the disillusion and dissolution of age. Her face in 'The Wizard of Oz' always appears as if looking into a glorious sunset. Her voice follows the cadence of expectation and promise. It is partly this vocal quality that marked her performances as an older woman with such poignancy.
To hijack Dorothy's journey to Oz to illustrate Garland's very public passage from youth to age is a master-stroke.
The journey and particularly the vision provokes a near profound tragic inevitability.
And it's gorgeously done. The groundbreaking cyclone scene disintegrates, the celluloid of the rear-projection burns away. The artifice is made tangible.
Soda_Jerk have produced the remix with an acute attention to detail, utilising the best possible footage of Garland, both from 'The Wizard of Oz' and from 'The Judy Garland Show' some twenty-three years later. The terror of the apparition is quiet and solemn.

'After the Rainbow' runs on a loop of about ten minutes. I watched it three times over.
It may well be the vulnerability I am currently feeling, but I experienced profound grief for the loss of Garland's, and all of our promised futures.

See it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Review: Mortal Engine

By Chunky Move
Choreographed by Gideon Obarzanek
The Malthouse as a part of Dance Massive

I didn't receive Mortal Engine as a piece of dance theatre, or even as choreography. It therefore felt a little strange to be applauding the dancers at the conclusion of the piece. I would never deny a performer their applause, I think I wanted to applaud Frieder Weiss, the program author whose genius generated the stunning real-time projections.
Mortal Engine seemed to me to put humans in the roles usually served by machines. The dancers were input devices, the choreography not the end result but one of many contributing brushstrokes creating this masterwork.
I have an interest in this kind of technology, often discussing with a friend the various possibilities of real-time digital projection and generation and often swapping links to projects that realise one permutation or another to varying degrees of success.

Shadow Monsters by Philip Worthington, an interactive installation created by reading visual locational data (the shadow of one's hand in front of a screen) running it through a program which adds sounds and digital visual manipulation of the image and projecting it back, onto another screen.

Or LASER tag, developed by the Graffiti Research Lab. I'm not at all sure how this works, but its a similar result. That is: real time projection of a manipulated image.

Mortal Engine achieved this with stunning virtuosity. I wish now I had seen Glow, yet it sounds as if I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much as ME. I left the theatre extremely excited.

I do, however, have some (what I think may be) interesting notes, notes which may lead me down the digital garden path into a deep dark binary forest, where I will get lost, eaten, spewed up and then will commit (justified) murder.

The production didn't solely use projection. It also used good ole incandescent lighting. This added an interesting tension that I don't feel was fully explored. The tension being, the difference between projecting an image which is being refreshed 25 or 50 times a second (depending upon how you look at it, or indeed if I am even right) onto a body moving fluidly and continuously, and lighting aforementioned body with continuous light. There is a perceptible difference and I think more could have been made of that. When watching someone lit by incandescent light there is an inevitable warmth and fluidity. We see it and we think 'human', 'natural'. When lit by a digital projector we think 'cold', 'digital' 'unnatural'.

As virtuosic as Frieder Weiss' projections were, the use of them fell into a trap common for new media use in performance, that is to say, they were used in one way only. As mentioned by Alison Croggon, your mind does play tricks on you in such an experience. The negative image left in your field of vision after looking at a bright, still image is one these optical illusions. These things were occurring but not used at all. The aesthetic of the projections sometimes mimicked the organic visual world of shadows, negative images, interplay between light and dark, I think the digital illusions needn't have been all that was going on. For instance, there is this:
Stare at the black dot. The grey haze will eventually seem to disappear.

It was a part of the exercise that all of the projection be real-time. I understand that as an exercise. As an viewer, however, once I come to understand the rules I want them broken. I think it would have added to the pieces complexity if some of the sections were not being driven by the dancer's bodies, but rather they were following prerecorded projections. This kind of subtle shape-shifting within a format is thrilling as a viewer. Is that a physical image, or is it my eyes? It would have been wonderful.

Early on the projections mimicked an oscilloscope in what I believe to be an attempt at integrating Robin Foxes LASERs later in the piece. It didn't work. As much as I admire Robin Fox and his LASER shows, and acknowledge the desired effect, it just felt like too much of a gear change.

I'll finish with what I think is a fantastic example of technology integration and playfulness. I'm a little sheepish about it being a Kanye West clip. Its awesome.

KANYE WEST "Welcome To Heartbreak" Directed by Nabil from nabil elderkin on Vimeo.

Review: Melbourne Spawned a Monster

Dancehouse as a part of Dance Massive
Choreographed and Directed by Jo Lloyd
Performed by Luke George
Music by Duane Morrison
Set by Rob McCredie

It’s an alarming space you enter at Danceworks for Melbourne Spawned a Monster. Hazard tape slung about, a huge plywood monolith in front of you. Turns out it’s the back of the steeply raked seating bank – seats pushed right up against the stage. The lighting is dim. Dimmer than dim, the kind of dim that pixelates your vision, as your brain fruitlessly attempts to compensate for the lack of visual information it has to process and makes stuff up instead.

And then it is dark as dark can be, the kind of dark in which you can trick yourself into not being sure if your eyes are open or not.

Out of nowhere: the peculiarly identifiable sound of tennis balls being bounced off a wall and falling into the audience. What was going on is amazingly clear, considering that it was one of the most unlikely things to have happened. Scattered laughter rose up from the audience. It really was what was happening. It was one of the most joyously playful ways to break the fourth wall on one hand and alienate the audience on the other.

I regrettably missed the original incarnation of Melbourne Spawned a Monster which premiered at Danceworks in September 2008. (Read Chris Boyd’s lucid review here, after you’ve finished with my ramblings you will crave lucidity. Trust me, you will.)

And having only seen Luke George’s performance of the work (and this in no way denigrates his interpretation, for it was glorious. Yes, glorious) I find myself yearning to be able to compare it with that of the piece’s Choreographer and Director, Jo Lloyd, who for matters I know not of, was not performing this time around.

I suppose this desire of mine to have seen her can be broken down thus: a) I’m having a hard time imagining anyone other than Luke George performing Melbourne Spawned a Monster. (This in itself may be either because he was very, very good and inhabited the work totally, or because my imagination is woefully limited). b) I think a woman’s performance may have absolutely re-contextualised the work. Although, perhaps her performance wouldn’t have re-contextualised the work,

Perhaps George’s performance was sort of genderless (which now that I mention it I think it may have been). Not genderless so much as not really masculine. (I mean masculine in the broadest possible manner.) And perhaps Lloyd’s performance was similarly androgynous.

Hmm. I think I need to back up the truck here. In my youth I craved a certain kind of male role model, one who was comfortable with his masculinity, one who could be poetic and graceful and humble and self-deprecating and not be competitive or protean, not needing to always prove his masculinity, one in whom the presence of softness and sensitivity needn’t mean femininity – it just didn’t really mean anything. I didn’t consciously crave this. Its wasn’t as if I was knocking about as an eight year old testing the men in my life on their verse, line, and emotional maturity, I think I became aware of the limitations implicit in the notion of “The Australian Male” early. This was the eighties. One had two choices a) Warwick Capper b) Bernard King.

I think what I’m trying to say here is that Luke George displayed the kind of humanity that is all encompassing. His unchallenging, passive, yet commanding gaze was disarming and reassuring. It was another way in which the performance toyed with the audience and both alienated you and brought you closer to itself.

This was a proscenium show. From the front of which dangled strings of LED lights, illuminating both the performer and the audience and drawing our attention to the divide and when it was being crossed. He is us. He’s with us. The LED light reflected on a simple, kitsch, ingenious backdrop of the Melbourne skyline, defined only by its windows, cut out of foil.

The choreography made little sense to me intellectually (as I’ve said before, I have no dance background, apart from tap-dancing lessons in a West Brunswick church hall with three middle-aged women. Not the most thorough preparation, I’ll admit) yet as it passed I was struck by its playfulness, its humour, its familiarity and its lack of equilibrium.

Duane Morrison’s perfectly realised music leant a pulse and a twitch to Luke George’s movements, reminding me of Harryhausen’s stop-motion skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts:

Or, perhaps more to the point:

Melbourne Spawned a Monster is a wonderfully original piece of work.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Review: No Success Like Failure

Arts House
North Melbourne Town Hall
Season ended

I saw this work in 2008 and it was one of my favourite performances of the year. When I saw it had been collected for the sublimely programmed Dance Massive I rounded up a posse to attend.
I, you see, am a fan.

The Fondue Set is somewhat unique in the Australian performance landscape, in particular, the Australian dance landscape. Akin to Wendy Houstoun (who directed No Success Like Failure), the ubiquitous Forced Entertainment, Lone Twin and even perhaps Panther’s recent work, The Fondue Set position themselves, with panache, in the realm of the amateur, that is to say they embody the joy of performance - the naff-ness of it. Their choreography sits somewhere between a jazz ballet class in 1989, a school formal and a drunken party. Yet it skilfully transcends kitsch for the sake of it.

Aesthetically, this work is very much a part of the current zeitgeist, as is, say, this:

I find its aesthetic disarmingly familiar and comforting. I know what I’m getting. And I like it.
(Interestingly, isn’t the zeitgeist as a concept itself becoming a part of the zeitgeist? What happens then? How can it objectively select movements, works and things to become a part of it, if it, itself, is a part of it. Perhaps it operates like the Freemasons, or Rotary: entry by invitation of another member.)

Positioning itself loosely as a dance company and No Success Like Failure as a dance work, in Dance Massive, certain fundamental elements of their work come as a surprise. For me, a pleasant surprise, for others, perhaps disconcerting, or even tiresome. There is an overwhelming amount of text, and much of it is situated within the oeuvre of post-modern performance. For myself, with little to no dance background, this works.
Their comedy, arising from the tension between the performance act and the performers’ inherent self-awareness, is masterful and wonderfully executed.
The position that they inhabit, somewhere between dance and comedy is unique, and I must say it’s refreshing to see women embodying both dance and comedy without any particular nod to femininity. The role of women in comedy is dubious at best and The Fondue Set has carved their own niche, outside of the norm. They have a supreme self-awareness that never results in self-consciousness. There is an absolute humanity to their self-revelatory routines, the comedy arises not only out of awkwardness and irony, but recognition. There certainly would have been more room for abstracted movement, without irony.

Bear in mind that I have seen this show twice. Upon a second viewing there are certain fundamental issues at play. What I had taken to be an extremely live event (by which I mean: fallible, susceptible to change, dangerous) now seemed much less so. In fact, I saw a lot more polish. Which isn’t a good thing where No Success Like Failure is concerned. There was a live-ness that was faithfully mimicked but somewhat disingenuous. The event that the audience is attending is always going to be roughly the same. Which is a shame. I can see how this work could genuinely fail, how many or even most of its sequences are journeys into endurance for both the performers and the witnesses, how many of its parts are journeys into failure, or at the very least uncertainty. But the thing is, they no longer are. They are very rehearsed. Some sections of direct address were hurried through without any real sense of the audience being read and responded to legitimately. This is the adversary of a live event. The creators must design mechanisms open to pure chaos. To achieve the desired spontaneity they must include the purely random and expose themselves to its inherent danger.

This is all upon a second viewing, remember. After seeing it the first time, I exited the theatre on a kind of taffeta and spandex induced sugar high. This time, I just had a bit of a come-down.

What resonated most was its genuine emotion: the ability to stimulate pure, atavistic emotional reactions from uncontrollable laughter (quite close to the beginning of the piece I heard one of my companions whimpering, not wanting to be the one audience member with the weirdly overzealous laughter) to extreme pity and grief. Even at its most self-reflexive it is offset by the inclusion of some movement, or some external stimulus that runs in counterpoint to the potential intellectual feedback loop and at one point leaves you in tears as your mirror neurons are working full time mimicking the performers’ induced emotional states.

And this is their genius: embodied by the truly confronting and hilarious nature of staring into their faces, contorted with grief and sadness, as they dance their way through an instrumental version of Everybody Hurts. It is something that begins purely as a mechanism (and is hilariously antithetical to jazz ballet) and is completely disingenuous tapping into our emotional cortex whilst we are forced to be absolutely aware of the intellectual conceits being utilized.

Dance Massive

The extraordinary but somewhat dubiously named Dance Massive has sidled its way into my life, devouring (in the most consensual way possible) my weekend.
Please stay tuned for reviews of No Success Like Failure, Mortal Engine, Roadkill, Limina and Melbourne Spawned a Monster.

In the meantime, my attention has rightly been directed to this wondrous thing, a mindblowing amalgamation of various youtube performances :

And go here, to the genius' site. Now. Don't dilly-dally. Or delay.