The two dancers in Antony Hamilton’s Black Project 1 seem trapped in a kind of time that chooses when and how to release them then grab them anew. It shudders back and forth, slows and speeds – their actions synchronise and then warp into disunity, and back again. Yet the two are always ‘together’. In black, on black, Hamilton and Melanie Lane seem both fused and separate as they traverse a linear path through absence. It’s a richly-textured, ingenious, sexy journey through the dark, pulsing with a restrained, post-apocalyptic, analogue energy.
Black Project 1 is the first work in a trilogy by Antony Hamilton; all three works were created for a black space, with black set, costumes and make-up. The proposition, says Hamilton, was to remove colour and tonal variation in order to explore the idea – utopian, of course – of entirely escaping context.
“Despite this being impossible, there are interesting questions raised,” he says. “By trying to limit the potential of outside influences or visual references, how much can we view an event on its own for what it is? Can we look at something and think of nothing else?”
Hamilton became interested in this idea while on an artist residency in Berlin, where his work was completely unknown.
“This lack of reference to my history as an artist was a bit of a catalyst for exploring how to create something that has no reference to anything.”
Hamilton describes the work, aptly, as “quite dark”. But although its staging suggests a landscape devoid of forms, it’s a work in which the dancers continually create presence out of absence, seeming to devise ‘solutions’ to their predicament through a vivid and visceral engagement with their surroundings.
“The unique concern with Black Project 1,” says Hamilton, “is for the bodies to act as agents for a trail of visual artefacts left throughout the space. It also works with a very linear structure, both visually and in the narrative context of two beings traversing a one-way stretch of space.”
“[I wanted] to develop a quite alien physicality, unfamiliar to the viewer. This is very much in aid of the interest in making a work that is difficult to reference where it has come from.”
The absence of context or reference is, of course, inescapable, and Black Project 1 is redolent with seductive leads – a gesture that hints at early sci-fi films; an almost familear industrial synth-sound that throbs and then flatlines… Hamilton admits a keen interest in “the hows and whys of influences”.
“As a child of the eighties and an artist of the information and media generation, these worlds [sci-fi and cinema especially] are our grazing grounds for creative influence. And I’m a pop junkie! Artists I have been influenced by would be fantasy painters of the 1970s, Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo – or filmmakers John Carpenter, Enzo G. Castellari, George Miller, Steven Spielberg.”
“I’m huge on any kind of bad horror, sci-fi or post-apocalyptic genre with film. Also, I think a morbid fascination with the fear of nuclear annihilation in the eighties plays a big part in my influences. I’m still addicted to watching deeply frightening and dark films, such as the UK docudrama THREADS [which imagines a nuclear war and its effect on the city of Sheffield]”.
Hamilton describes the music for Black Project 1 as “an atmospheric soundscape punctuated by quite strong and industrial impacting moments.”
“The removal of all beat-driven music is intended to draw focus to the rhythm of the body and the vibration of the space around [the dancers],” he says.
Black Project 1 will be seen at Arts House as part of the double bill, Clouds Above Berlin, along with Melanie Lane’s Tilted Fawn. Lane also dances with Hamilton in Black Project 1: the two have worked together previously, having met while studying at WAAPA (Western Australia) in 1997. Both works were developed in Berlin – hence the double bill’s title.
“It’s taken a number of years for Melanie and I to reconvene and work together again,” says Hamilton, “but essentially, both our works are concerned with how the body is interwoven into an environment. This is explored through a displaced interaction with objects and other manipulate-able articles.”
“We have a common idea of how the body can be disconnected from its person and act functionally, as an implement of three-dimensional and moveable design. This is a particular perspective and philosophy on choreography which I would attribute to both these pieces.”
Black Project 1 explores a philosophy of the body in which the dancers at times seem animated from without; at other times deeply connected in mysterious feedback loops as they journey through a void that is anything BUT a void.
“The idea was to keep things very clear and simple,” says Hamilton, “so that a deeper complexity could be derived from each and every image or moment.”
“I wanted the work to be quite a Zen experience – very spacious in terms of the audience’s subjectivity. So it’s really a meditation for the audience, not in an empty way, but in the way of seeing things fully, deeply and with great focus and deliberation.”
Following the Thursday 8 March performance of Clouds Above Berlin, academic and maker Robert Walton (Theatre, VCA; Fish & Game) will introduce the artists at a post-show Q&A.
CLOUDS ABOVE BERLIN
Antony Hamilton & Melanie Lane
Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall
Wed 7 – Sun 11 Mar 2012
(03) 9322 3713