"..on the razors edge of a new kind of circus." - Richard Watts, Artshub.

Occupy the street

Urszula Dawkins: Skye Gellmann, Bodies Over Bitumen

Bodies Over Bitumen, Naomi Francis, Skye Gellmann

photo Ponch Hawkes

Three interdisciplinary circus performers lead an audience on a 60-minute wander through the streets of North Melbourne. At intervals, we stop to watch their ‘tricks.’ But in a manner rare for circus-based works, Bodies Over Bitumen deeply engages both performers and audience with the site. Dressed-down in jeans, sneakers and hoodies, the artists carry stuff around that suggests they could be travelling, or even homeless.

The way we are led is fugal—a passing cyclist (Alex Gellmann) provides our initial cue to follow, disappearing when we notice another performer and stop to watch, then returning at unpredictable intervals. As one act finishes, another performer—not always Alex—subtly distracts us and we move to follow again. It’s a kind of guided flâneuring, each segment dovetailing into the next.

Early on we pause to watch Naomi Francis pull aerial silks and rigging gear from a bulky backpack. She contemplates an exposed beam over a gated laneway, figuring out how to rig it. Perhaps put off by a car entering earlier, she seems to change her mind, stops, stuffs everything back in her bag and strides off fast enough for us to lose her trail. She looks lean, maybe even mean. On her way where? The cyclist swings around a corner into view as she disappears into the night.

Francis’ initial caution is countered by her eventual claiming of the night-time streets: it’s she who later suspends herself from a tree to perform a space-eating aerial routine in black gym gear, no spangles or frills. And it’s her body that supports four heavy strands of webbing in the centre of a roundabout for Skye Gellman’s slacklining routine, evincing awareness of the risk, physical strength and vulnerability that lies at the heart of circus.

Alex Gellmann tore major shoulder ligaments in a cycling accident ahead of the show. His sling-strapped arm can’t help him as he rides his bike one-handed, or both one-handed and seated back-to-front, or carries it on his shoulder. His tricks are necessarily curtailed, but this evidence of a real-world encounter with risk and danger cements his role in the work. Somewhat ‘broken’ himself, Gellmann marks his path at intervals with miniature cairns of shattered pavement illuminated by bike lights. In a tricky balance-board routine, he incorporates these fragments, tossing them with his usable hand and catching them on his head.

In what for me is Bodies Over Bitumen’s key scene, the performers do nothing. Skye Gellmann lies starfished in the middle of a narrow side street; Alex Gellmann flops in the gutter, half on the footpath. They lie there for a long time. Francis crouches against a brick warehouse with her too-big backpack.

Now and then a car turns into the street. Francis calls “Car!” and the guys roll quickly to the footpath and sit facing the road till it’s passed; then return to position. The scene intensifies, sparks literally flying, when Skye Gellmann begins scraping the ground with a hefty flint. Entering vehicles hesitate and we feel their intrusion and ours—as well as the folly of lying in the middle of the road. It’s a poetic and visceral pause that stretches into long minutes, pulling our guts right down to the tarmac.

At the end of Bodies Over Bitumen, Skye Gellmann applies virtuosic pole-acrobatics to a parking sign, twisting, circling and shimmying without ever touching the car parked close alongside. With a rare combination of strength, technical ability and dancerly poise, he illuminates, tests and defies gravity. Even arching on the footpath at the base of the pole, he maintains a defiant, balletic relationship to gravity’s incontestable force.

With histories spanning homelessness, squatting and street daredevilry, Bodies Over Bitumen’s creators are credentialled with lived understandings of space and who it belongs to, as well as how to claim and disrupt it. With a shared language born of past collaborations, they create a mood sometimes of aimlessness, sometimes of interrupted purpose, and equally of experimental occupation. Even the best of ‘new circus’ often boils down to a sequence of thematically related ‘acts,’ failing to create emotional immersion. By contrast, Bodies Over Bitumen places us in direct relationship to the surface of the road, making the space of the streets subtly dangerous, but also a place to play. It illuminates and destabilises the city environment, gaining our investment in uncertainty and caution from the start. From a modest approach—this work really hinges on the ‘less is more’ philosophy—Gellmann, Francis and Gellmann, with off-stage creative collaborator Kieran Law, have created something quietly extraordinary.


Bodies Over Bitumen, creators, performers Skye Gellmann, Naomi Francis, Alex Gellmann with Kieran Law; Melbourne Fringe Hub, North Melbourne Town Hall (starting point), 18 Sept-3 Oct

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: http://www.realtimearts.net/article/issue130/12133

 

Body/tech crossings

Urszula Dawkins: Melbourne Fringe Festival

Snow, performer Skye Gellmann

photo Vincent van Berkel

Snow—a quiet circus

Skye Gellmann is building a reputation with his stripped-back, participatory circus shows—his previous work Blindside (with Kieran Law) had audience members fumbling in the dark with smartphones, seeking out sounds in gloomy corners in between watching Chinese pole tricks. His new work, Snow—a quiet circus, eschews technology in favour of large quantities of butchers’ paper, more pole tricks and, for much of the show, silence. The audience wears earplugs; not to suppress a loud soundtrack (nor the slash of metal-guitar from the nearby rock venue), but because, as Gellmann tells us at the start, if we pause first and adjust to the silence “the ringing in your ears becomes the soundtrack.”

Snow proceeds with a mix of audience games and circus tricks, focused around a central pole covered in taped layers of paper that are torn down over time. Gellmann, ever keen to get his gear off, it seems, performs naked for much of the show, as in Blindside—though what draws our gaze is his physical power and control, especially in managing to perform on the paper-clad pole, with that inkling of ‘calm fear’ in his focus. In one entrancing sequence, Gellmann repeatedly pirouettes and slips from a rolling ball. A moving Grecian statue, all torque and form and marble skin, he displays playfulness, virtuosity, attempt and failure all at once. From the ‘live-art’ participatory perspective, Snow’s high point is the ‘snowball fight’ that Gellmann orchestrates: the audience balls up paper into rounded clumps and goes for it with the abandon of several dozen primary school kids let loose in their thermals and mittens. Faint giggles, ripping paper and the thud of feet on the polished floor seep through the earplugs.

2014 Melbourne Fringe Festival: Infundibular, choreography Rachael Heller-Wagner, Ashlee Bye, Moriya Rosenberg, interaction design Mark Pedersen, music Jess Keefe, Camille Robinson, Roger Alsop, visual projection Travis Cox; Dancehouse, 25-28 Sept; Gareth Hart, Symphony of Strange, choreographer, performer Gareth Hart, composer, performer Edward Willoughby, performers Alex Elbery, Alex Gates, Justine Walsh, Stephen Weir; The Substation, 30 Sept-4 Oct;Skye Gellmann, Snow—a quiet circus, artist Skye Gellman; The Melba Spiegeltent, Melbourne, 1–5 October

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: http://www.realtimearts.net/article/issue124/11769

Minus Signs

jana perkovic: contemporary performance at arts house

image

Scattered Tacks, by Skye and Aelx Gellman and Terri Cat Silvertree (seearticle), stripped away spectacle to reveal the essence of circus: awe. Circus is a naturally postdramatic form: its narrative arc fragmented, aware of its own performativity (what Muller called “the potentially dying body onstage”) and constantly anxious about the irruption of reality on stage. Scattered Tacks is raw circus, naked: at times it felt like an austere essay in thrill. It revealed that the rhythm of audience suspense and relief hinges less on the grand drama of leaps and tricks and more on visceral awareness of the subtle dangers and pain involved. Eating an onion, climbing barefoot on rough-edged metal cylinders, overworking an already fatigued body—these were the acts that left the audience breathless. Yet they also achieve poignant beauty. The Gellmans and Silvertree bring Australian circus, traditionally rough and bawdy, closer to its conceptual and elegant French sibling, but in a way that is absolutely authentic.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE by jana perkovic: contemporary performance at arts house  http://www.realtimearts.net/article/issue97/9874

Circus: second class artform?

Antonella Casella

Contemporary circus is a wonderfully open form. It harnesses a multitude of approaches that stem from the notion of ‘Circus’ as the central informing principle. There continues, however, a prevailing opinion that circus skills should only be harnessed for performance when they reflect a narrative/contextual intent—that the display of circus skills, in and of themselves, is somehow gratuitous.

It seems to me that underlying this attitude is a belief that circus as an artform is somehow second rate unless it is woven into another, more worthy, artform such as text-based theatre or contemporary dance.

While I am in no way arguing against the use of circus in conjunction with other elements—text, movement, narrative, or character—I would like to make an argument for the acceptance of circus in its own right.

Over the last year I have seen a series of new works from emerging companies that demonstrate the unique role circus skills play within a performance text. In these pieces, circus skills are used variously as metaphors, character traits, moments of narrative exposition, key elements of mise en scène, heightened atmospheric moments or avenues for creating tension, suspense, surprise, shock or as ways to skew reality and challenge conventional perspectives. At the same time, the acrobatic bodies are used as sites to explore gender, sexuality and race. These works also consider the possibility of circus as pure spectacle, as part of the interplay between form and content.

Skye Gellmann, Blindscape

Skye Gellmann’s Blindscape can be reduced to two main elements: audience members individually navigating the open space through narration and sound effects from an iPhone; and two performers pushing the boundaries of their physicality, as individuals, with each other and with the audience.

Pure spectacle arrives as an element when the artists perform feats of extreme acrobatics on the black circus pole which is the visual centrepiece of the work. The question for me at this point, is what is the iterative effect of this moment? We, as audience members, expect this piece to include circus, and have been watching a series of body movements leading up to this point. Yet until now, all of the physicality could arguably be described as heightened, realistic, dramatic expression. Is there a moment where the work stops being contextual, and presents a moment of pure spectacle? Or has the gradual build-up of dramatic body movements ensured that this moment is just another in the fabric of exploration found in this piece?

Melissa Reeves, The Lost Act

With The Lost Act, playwright Melissa Reeves has created a unique script which utilises a kind of vaudevillian realism, much along the same lines as the literary genre of Magic Realism. In this work-in-progress (directed by Suzie Dee) Reeves collapses the naturalistic world of her characters with that of a vaudeville show. Throughout, the relationships between performers in a circus act completely mirror the relationships in the dramatic narrative. The plot revolves around a young set of siblings in search of their lost parents, who once performed an infamous circus act. At the same time, the siblings are themselves seeking to create their own new act, or, perhaps, recreate that of their parents. Within this plot, Reeves explores notions of identity in a post-colonial world. It is a world in which nothing is quite what it seems, and reality itself is a performance.

Once again, like Blindscape, The Lost Act allows for the possibility of spectacle for its own sake, with a number of scenes that present pure circus skills. However, these are more than mere divertissements, as they are an integral part of the world that is being made. It would be interesting to see how this interplay between naturalism and vaudeville evolves in a full-scale production, so I hope this show reaches the next round of development.

Polytoxic, The Rat Trap

Queensland company Polytoxic’s The Rat Trap is, on one level, about pure display from go to whoa. It tells the tale of Siamese twins, separated at birth and reunited in a Tiki bar where burlesque acts are indistinguishable from the extraordinary lives of the artists who inhabit them. The show has powerful themes, yet the pleasure, skill and showiness of the circus sweeps around these, giving us a sense of being at some kind of fabulous cabaret, rather than at a serious piece of theatre. At the same time, because the characters are performers in a Tiki Bar, the circus skills are to some extent, though not completely, motivated actions within the narrative. I would call the circus in this context a kind of “Nietschean excess”—the circus is representing that which is beyond definition, or limitation. It is not hiding the narrative, it is exploding from it! If The Lost Act is vaudevillian realism, The Rat Trap is burlesque hyper-realism.

Rat Trap’s vignettes evoke fantastical ideas, but the physical exploits within them are real. This show totally up-ends the idea of reality, and inspires audience members to question the very notions of place, presence and identity, all the while convincing us that we are in an escapist dream. Pure spectacle is the essence and the trump card of this show.

Sara Pheasant, Leggings are not Pants

In Leggings are not Pants, Sara Pheasant, directing performers from the Women’s Circus in Melbourne at 45 Downstairs and Gasworks Circus Showdown, deftly uses circus to heighten themes of gender, sexuality and, ironically for circus, the mundanity of everyday life. For example, a group of women watching television perform a chorus of naturalistic movements which build to become spectacular acrobatic tricks. This allows the skills to be interwoven in the piece, and yet emerge in key moments of strong spectacle. These function much like music in a film. They heighten the audience response to each scene, and occasionally provide an extended exploration of its emotional heart.

Casus, Knee Deep

Knee Deep, by Casus, is a unique work, inspired to some extent by the work of Circa, in that it combines highly athletic circus with a pared back aesthetic. Casus does, however, bring something new to the table. Over the course of the piece we see distinctiveness and quirkiness emerging from each of the cast members. This is mostly achieved through exploring each performer’s relationship with a raw egg. As a framing device, the egg also reminds us of the fragility of life and creates a striking juxtaposition with the strength of the circus performers. This show has a light touch, and invites us into the world it creates, yet, at times, as with many of the pieces discussed, often opens up moments for the celebration of pure circus acumen. Individual acts climax with great skills that seek, and receive, applause. In the context of this show, these spectacular moments are triumphs over the fragility of human existence.

These works demonstrate that circus, even when it is presented, arguably, as skill for its own sake, is always doing more. Circus is much more than a trope or a narrative device. It is a complex ‘body of representation’ which resonates uniquely in each work.

Circus artists/creators seek to use circus skills in performance for myriad reasons: to harness a populist form; to develop a craft they have been honing for years; to use circus as a history of representation from which to draw images, metaphors, characters; to work with an artform that offers freedom from linear, text-based, narrative-driven theatre; and, ideally, freedom from the gendered and cultural stereotypes of dominant discourse.

Ultimately, circus-based theatre makers draw from all of these inspirations to create their work. First, and foremost, they select circus skills ipso facto, for their own sake. Circus is the form from which all else follows.


Blindscape, PACT, Sydney, 19-29 June and touring throughout 2013; The Lost Act, presented as a rehearsed reading in 2012, is scheduled for development in 2013-14; The Rat Trap premiered in 2012, with further seasons in 2013; Knee Deep is touring internationally this year.

Formerly a performer, director and producer of contemporary circus and physical theatre in Australia and the UK, Antonella Casella is the Circus Oz Artistic Associate and a board member of the Australian Circus and Physical Theatre Association.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: http://www.realtimearts.net/article/issue115/11129

To Go into Darkness: Blindscape

John Ellingsworth | Sideshow Circus Magazine

image

Blindscape takes place in near darkness, in underground caverns, across rooftops, beside waterfalls and under the ocean. The audience are free to move wherever they like, but are guided by sound queues delivered by smartphone as they search for light to reveal the performance happening around and among them. John Ellingsworth talks to the artist Skye Gellmann about glitch art, losing control, the character of light, and combining improvised physical performance with game design.

‘First thing I do is I walk into the space naked and I climb up the pole in a spiralling way. In this first section I kind of become like a hologram or an image — because the audience are in a heightened state, and my image is lit by iPhone light, the scene becomes surreal. ’

A show which moves through five levels, including a disco, and culminates in an improvised team-play competitive game, a show which sends each audience member on a privately mapped but collectively shared quest to find light and illuminate the performance around them, and a show which, in spite of its foundational use of technology, can’t really exist on video — to hear Skye Gellmann tell it, Blindscape is surreal. Or unreal. Or maybe hyperreal? Realness itself is at stake.

At the start of the performance, outside the space, each audience member is given an iPhone with a set of headphones. Led through the backstage areas, they’re taken into a dark, curtained off room adorned only with a central Chinese pole, and given their instructions through the headphones: during the performance they will have to find light. The iPhone tracks their location and orientation within a 3D soundscape, and signals their proximity to light using the sound of wind chimes: they grow louder as the audience member approaches light, quieter as they move away. When they find light the screen of the iPhone illuminates and can be used to reveal the physical environment and the performers who occupy it.

In this first section the two performers, Skye and co-deviser Kieran Law, slip in and out of the space and the language of the piece is, as Skye puts it, 'sculptural’, the audience illuminating static or slow-moving images which, like sculptures, don’t look

back. Unlike sculptures, however, they might appear and disappear, looming in and out of Blindscape’s darkness. 'Because the space is surrounded by curtains we can come in from any side,’ says Skye. 'The space becomes… disorientating is the wrong word, but the space is designed so you lose track of where you came in.’

As the game progresses through a series of levels — five in all — the objective of finding light becomes steadily more challenging and the environments grow more complex, the simple tone sounds that make up the first level becoming full soundscapes that send audience members through underground caverns, over rooftops, behind waterfalls, into the interior of a train, and down to the ocean.

image

The idea to experience a landscape only through sound was the seed forBlindscape’s long development: it’s first iteration was actually as a short, conceptual computer game, developed by Skye with his friend Dylan Sale as an audio-only experience where the player navigated a series of soundscapes using only headphones and a keyboard. In 2005 they showed an early build of the game at the Freeplay Festival in Melbourne, where it was well received, but the project at that point was still just an idea, a concept, and eventually slipped out of mind. 'We didn’t know exactly what to do with our cool idea,’ says Skye. 'The project slowly died away, but the central idea kept brewing in my subconscious. For years I continued to make games alongside my circus work, then in early 2011 Next Wave Festival opened for applications. By that time I hadn’t done any game development for a year or two, and had the itch again. The old Blindscape idea found a new expression in the iPhone. Using the gyroscope we were able to make 3D soundscapes feel more real then ever: the player could turn their body in order to look around these landscapes in physical space. Blindscape was really just waiting for the right time.’

Blindscape’s original programmer, Dylan Sale, returned to work on the app, physical theatre performer Kieran Law came in to co- devise and -perform the piece with Skye, and Thom Browning designed the soundscapes for the game. The piece premiered in May 2012 at Next Wave, a multidisciplinary, genreless festival, which, while not self-identifying as a live art event, shares a few of that form’s enduring interests: durational work, secular ritual that investigates urban routine, the visceral body, disruptive technologies and their possibilities for sensory manipulation, and, most of all, artwork where the conceptual origin and framework is a critical and indivisible part of the whole (the performance being sort of better thought of as a manifestation of a larger and ongoing creative process).

The Next Wave programme might not seem like the most obvious home for a circus piece, but when I talk to her director Emily Sexton is clear on the place Blindscape earned: 'What bound Blindscape to the other works in the programme was its interest in the relationships between audience and performer,’ she says, 'particularly in how that could be mediated by technology. Many artists in Next Wave are experimenting with their artform, stretching and pushing what is possible or “allowed”. That culture of experimentation is unique, and we went to a lot of effort this year to ensure that people really did see it as a united collection of artists taking risks.’

Blindscape is the first of Skye’s pieces to be programmed at Next Wave, but Sexton was familiar with his previous work — productions characterised by a stripped-down aesthetic centred on the performers’ physicality, the use of non-conventional spaces (or the non-conventional use of conventional spaces), and, as Sexton articulates it, a sensitivity to light 'as a character in its own right in the work’. In the solo Retinal Damage, the performance was cut into slices by the mechanical light of a slide projector opening and closing; in Scattered Tacks, a show made with Terri Cat Silvertree and Alex Gellmann, high-powered flashlights and head torches were used to rough effect (Skye: 'that show was built in the squat so it had that kind of grimy squat feel’). In Blindscape, the light is, more than an expression of a particular aesthetic, a subtle yet affecting presence that is constantly both demanding its own attention and diverting that attention elsewhere. Sexton: 'You feel elated when you win light, frustrated when you don’t, and intrigued by the distinction between what the performer wants from you and what your own personal journey requires.’

Hearing Skye explain the dynamics of the piece, I’m curious about the experience of the performers — if it’s a strange, split experience for the audience then what must it be like for the two of them, navigating a night garden of insulated audience members, seeing only by the diffuse light of upheld iPhones? 'It is surreal,’ confirms Skye, 'being in a room full of people that are in their own little bubbles, and for the audience there’s so much going on — they’re problem solving and they’re trying to work out where the light is. When me and Kieran come into the space we know exactly where everything is, but we can’t hear anything. suggestion.’

'We’ve discovered that when people have headphones on it puts them in their own little world, but also makes them more open to suggestion.’

And while the show is built to be robust enough to survive the most stubbornly individualistic of audience responses ('even if an audience member decides to wander beyond the black curtains and go backstage the game still functions and the show goes on,’ says Skye), it nonetheless makes it easier for the performers if the audience allow themselves to be immersed in the Blindscape world. For Skye and Kieran the show’s technical execution means it’s impossible to know exactly where the audience will be at most given moments. 'We can’t predict where they’ll find light, but we can predict when they’ll find it,’ explains Skye. 'There’s a flow to the piece; generally one person finds light, then three, then five, then ten, then fifteen — and the whole room is filled with light.’

In game design this form of non-linearity is sometimes described as the parallel path model: player choice is permitted in discrete sections but is reigned in as the game passes through specific milestones, the possible paths, if you visualise it, curving outwards only to collapse back in at a series of points spaced along a line. In Blindscape this structure of fluctuating freedom and control underpins the show’s driving interests in the nature of virtual and physical realities, the division and granularisation of attention, and the increasingly dominant role of technology as a mediator for our senses and experiences. 'There’s this tension between the user controlling the show and the show controlling the users,’ says Skye. 'So it begins very much that the audience has a lot of control, and then throughout the show we take that control away. It snowballs to the point where me and Kieran come to the space and we change the rules: we begin to directly interact with the audience.’

A desire to break the rules, the system, the game informed the development of Blindscape from its earliest stages. During the devising process Skye and Kieran picked up the term 'glitch art’ from visual art practice as a nuanced descriptor for the style they felt they were discovering. 'It has to do with failure, but it’s not failure,’ says Skye. 'It’s just a break in a system and from that break something else is born. You don’t see the break as a failure.’ Working on the physical material for Blindscape the two would push tricks or movements to breaking point, then go past the breaking point — an improvisation method that they are constantly running within performances of the show itself. Skye: 'The tricks are “glitched” and broken. Bodies fly and land dangerously, mangled in strange contortions on the floor. It becomes what I call “fragile acrobatics”, a term which actually came from a juggling friend of mine who described his juggling as fragile juggling because he’d gotten to the point where balls were flying everywhere and he was dropping a lot.’

This way of thinking and working connects Blindscape with Skye’s earlier performances, but he sees the new piece as an evolution rather than a continuation — the same basic urge driven by a different, more refined and more exact intent. 'I’ve done a lot of corporate circus performance, and some of my work was kind of a rebellion against entertaining people. So with Scattered Tacks, the first show I made, I had this idea, What if I make a show that people hate? It’s going to be the worst show, so shitty — and then it became really popular. In the other shows failure would be a part of the work, but it’d be me spinning on a bowling ball until I got really dizzy and fell over a lot. It was really blunt; in Blindscape it’s doing this more gentle thing.’

'Blindscape is the show where I really want to go into darkness with the audience. There are long sections of the show which happen in complete darkness, including eight minutes of Chinese Pole where the audience can only see four minutes. First of all I like how the actions which happen in the dark trigger a reaction from the audience which forces them to look at things with an outside perspective. Then I like how, once they accept the reality of only seeing fragments, an intense focus is created. Through this we see the essence of the body — and at the same time question if the glimpses of circus we see are actually happening or are just imagined…’

Blindscape premiered at the Next Wave Festival in Melbourne, running 19-27 May 2012. The project was conceived by Skye Gellmann and co-created with Kieran Law. Dylan Sale programmed the game, Thom Browning did the sound design, and the show was produced by Gareth Hart. 

Original Link: http://sideshow-circusmagazine.com/magazine/features/go-darkness-blindscape

Blindscape: iPhone technology and circus arts combined — video feature

20th May, 2012 | Written by: No Comments Yet and 3 Reactions

Described as “a boundary-breaking exploration of circus through smartphone technology”, we at AussieTheatre couldn’t help but be intrigued by Blindscape, a brand new show which mediates circus through interactive iPhone technology at Melbourne’s Next Wave Festival. What’s not to love, right?

Matt Edwards recently caught up with producer of Blindscape Skye Gellmann and physical theatre performer Kieran Law to talk about the show, interactive circus and their innovative use of technology.

“Our personal technologies have become an extension of ourselves. Blindscape looks to exploit that connection to engage its audience in a visceral environment that disintegrates the real and virtual boundaries”, says Gellmann.

(Original Article: http://aussietheatre.com.au/features/show-profiles/blindscape-iphone-technology-and-circus-arts-combined-video-feature/)

Blindscape 19-27 May , Timeout - Town, Circus, Performance Art, Theatre, Theatre Previews

Immersive virtual soundfield, fragmentary acrobatics, ghosts and iPhones: this is circus the Skye Gellmann way

First published on 7 May 2012. Updated on 8 May 2012.

“It can be really heady, actually,” says Skye Gellmann about his latest hybrid circus work, Blindscape. Or, not about the work itself, but rather some of the thinking that sits behind it.

“We draw on the idea of glitch, which we are applying in different ways to movement.”

This “idea of glitch” is a reference to something called “glitch art”, a visual arts genre which uses actual or simulated interruptions to a flow of information to break through conventional expectations about artistic representation.

The medium for the glitch artist is traditionally digital, but by broadening the definition of glitch to encompass any kind of disruption to a performance, whether the performance is technical or social, the glitch gains a more general metaphorical value.

“Glitches are kind of paradoxical,” explains Gellmann, “because the glitch that is produced by a glitch artist can’t really be called a glitch, but they’re important as metaphors, as a metaphor for how failure leads into something new.”

But what does this borrowing from the visual arts have to do with circus arts?

“In acrobatics, failure can be quite catastrophic,” says Gellmann, who has in recent years produced some of Australia’s most innovative, edge-of-mat circus art, “so we try and push it to that tipping point where catastrophe is possible, but not actually imminent. That spot where you’re thinking about the possibility of failure, which can lead to different kinds of creative thought.”

In practice this means an improvised acrobatics that “deconstructs” itself. “Slicing it up,” explains Gellmann, “so you see the parts of the trick.” But it’s in the way that this deconstruction is framed that things get really heady.

Rosa Menkman, the leading theorist on “glitch art” has drawn up a stimulating manifesto for glitch studies, and one of her demands is that artists compel their audiences to undertake an audio-visual journey.

“Create conceptually synaesthetic artworks that exploit both visual and aural glitch (or other noise) artefacts at the same time,” Menkman implores. “Employ these noise artefacts as a nebula to shroud the technology and its inner workings and to compel an audience to listen and watch more exhaustively.”

Gellmann response to this is unexpected: iPhones.

When you arrive at Blindscape, the first thing you’ll receive is an iPod Touch – the non-telephonic version of the iPhone – loaded with a specially designed Blindscape app. You’ll also be shown how it works. When the lights go down, you use the app to enter a virtual audio world at the same time as you enter the physical performance space.

Using the phone’s touch screen and gyroscope, you explore the virtual environment in search of light. When you find the it, the screen of your phone starts glowing and you’re able to light the circus performance.

It’s a game and a performance – you have to play one in order to experience the other. But is it possible to lose the game and miss the performance?

“It’s not possible to lose,” says Gellmann. “But it’s possible to have an experience which is less rich. You can just stand there in the dark and watch other people engage the game and use their light.”

The app is designed by Dylan Sale, a games programmer from Adelaide, and also draws on Gellmann’s interest in designing computer games. “It’s mostly as a hobby, but with an emphasis on immersive and engaging games.”

There are four “levels” to the performance-slash-game, and each level corresponds to a different circus theme.

“It’s complex,” admits Gellmann, “but I think this use of the technology is already there in the subconscious of a lot of people. I think if did it a year ago it would have been the wrong time. The great thing about iPhones is that my parents love it – the technology is not intimidating.”

Though the project has been in development for eight months, Gellmann was only recently able to raise the funds, using an online crowdfunding platform, to purchase enough of the iPod Touch to gear-up the nightly audience of 30.

Blindscape premieres as a part of the Next Wave Festival at Arts House Meat Market.

Date 19-27 May
Artshouse Meatmarket
Words by Andrew Fuhrmann


How to stand out with the crowd

120424 arts skye gellman

Skye Gellmann, right, with Kieran Law at rehearsals for Blindscape, which benefited from crowd funding. Picture: Aaron FrancisSource: News Limited

BRISBANE artist Jason Bray is happy to report he may never have to apply for a government arts grant again.

The filmmaker was one of several people sharing their experiences in Brisbane at a public forum last week on crowdfunding – the increasingly popular practice of securing pooled donations online. Organised by Australian creative crowdfunding website Pozible, the event forms part of the platform’s push to redefine how Australians think about and fund the arts.

Pozible co-founder Alan Crabbe says crowdfunding has turned the tables on the passive exercise of waiting for grants as almost half of the website’s traffic is generated by social media use. Bray’s documentary Street Dreams, about southeast Asia’s prostitution trade, is one of about 500 Australian projects that have secured $2 million collectively since Pozible’s launch in May 2010.

“A lot of artists would say they have to wait around, and there’s a lot of unknowns, but being able to get out there and do your own projects without having to shape the project to suit other people or organisations is probably the most valuable asset of running your own campaign.”“It’s empowering creatives to do their own work and not be limited by governments to provide the grants or facilities or resources to do it,” Crabbe says.

Crowdfunding allows artists to bypass the usual funding models and appeal directly to the consumer for support. Elliott Bledsoe, digital content officer at the Australia Council, says the audience-focused nature of the platform is appealing for many artists.

“Rather than trying to convince an arm’s length peer assessment board about the merit of a project, you’re trying to convince the people who will ultimately press play, or sit in a seat and watch it on stage or whatever. I think it presents a very different way of thinking about how you plan a project that you’re hoping to deliver,” Bledsoe says.

The recently released Mitchell review into arts philanthropy backs this approach.

Among the recommendations is a capped matching funds scheme for small-scale projects, where the federal government provides the final 20 per cent of money needed after the rest has been crowdfunded.

Caroline Vu, NSW manager at the Australia Council’s philanthropic arm Artsupport Australia, says crowdfunding is still in its early days, and that donors and artists need to become more familiar with the platform before it reaches its potential.

“There’s work that we need to do to build confidence with those people (donors) by showcasing the fact that there is competency and professionalism in the arts sector and also that the projects go ahead. That will help us get to a tipping point where you do start to see bigger projects being put on Pozible,” she says.

Artsupport Australia is mentoring a small group of artists and organisations through their crowdfunding campaigns for a pilot project, and plans to present their findings across the country to encourage others.

Each Pozible campaign is unique: some artists seek funds for an entire project, others for creative development or particular equipment.

Circus performer Skye Gellmann recently raised $3000 for his new production Blindscape, which premieres at the Next Wave Festival in Melbourne next month. Gellmann and his collaborators had built a special mobile application to be used during the show but needed money to buy iPods to supply to audience members.

Donations are made via credit card and handled by a third party. Pozible pockets a 7.5 per cent fee on successful projects. Like Kickstarter, the US-based crowdfunding platform, the website operates on an all-or-nothing basis: if the target isn’t met in the allocated time (a maximum of 90 days), the project receives nothing. Money received is considered taxable income, as tangible rewards such as free tickets, DVDs and recordings are offered to encourage pledges.

Pozible’s early successes were modest, but within a few months the struggling website New Matilda secured $175,000 in just 50 days, which remains the platform’s biggest project to date.

Gareth Hart, an independent choreographer from Melbourne, also looked to crowdfunding in a time of need.

Hart is a co-director of the Crack Theatre Festival, part of the larger This is Not Art event, held annually in Newcastle, NSW. When the local council announced in June last year it was not renewing triennial funding, the organising committee was left with an $18,000 shortfall.

Within a fortnight Hart had set up a crowdfunding campaign with a target of $4000.

Copyright Agency Limited then pledged to match all donations dollar-for-dollar up to $9000 and $18,300 was raised in total. Hart says tracking donations in real time was a nerve-racking but ultimately affirming experience.

“The biggest way it differs to a government agency or an NGO funding you is that you really feel the support of the people,” he says. “You don’t write an amazingly good grant application and then one person decides ‘yes, that is worth it, we’re going to acknowledge that and support that’. It’s a collective, unanimous voice.”

Crabbe suggests potential Pozible users compare themselves against projects with similar ambition and scope, and communicate their needs clearly and regularly to would-be donors.

Creative pitches using video testimonials are becoming increasingly popular.

Pozible does have a screening process and about half the applications are given the green light to proceed but no receipts or funding reports are required following a successful campaign. A lump sum minus the service fee is transferred directly into the artist’s bank account.

This creates both flexibility and the potential for misuse. Crabbe says an honour system is a powerful deterrent for dishonesty given the majority of donors are usually known by the artists involved.

“For someone to run a project and take the money and not provide what they promised is probably reckless on their part and very bad for their reputation, because any campaign usually starts with their instant network,” he says. That the most popular Pozible pledge amount is $50 brings this risk into perspective.

“The kind of expectation that emerges in a crowdfunding environment and the likelihood of a return on that, at least in most situations, seems to match up,” Bledsoe says.

“Who knows what that will look like when crowdfunding becomes a much more accepted and commonplace environment, but as a fairly new phenomenon within the internet it seems to be holding its own at the moment.”

The two founders of Pozible are not artists.

They met in 2007 when Crabbe, visiting from Northern Ireland, advertised online for a road trip companion. Rick Chen, an international student from China, responded to the call.

The gen-Y duo’s first business venture – a website to help visual artists sell their work – was a false start but within nine months they had refocused to launch Pozible, and have continued to expand the site without any external funding to date.

While the government has yet to respond to the recommendations contained in the Mitchell review, Vu says the power of crowdfunding to support and promote the arts is clear.

“The end game for crowdfunding, as well as raising the money, is really about building long-term relationships with donors,” she says.

“You have supporters for life and have an audience for life. That’s kind of the point of it”.

Original Link: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/how-to-stand-out-with-the-crowd/story-e6frg8n6-1226336495964

SvD Newspaper - Sweden

Häftigt blandgodis utan salt och surt

Installationen Mothlight med Skye Gellman och Naomi Francis.

Installationen Mothlight med Skye Gellman och Naomi Francis.

Foto: Adam Potrykus

25 augusti 2011 kl 15:34, uppdaterad: 25 augusti 2011 kl 16:03 Dans, Show, Installation Perhaps, perhaps, quizás… , Mothlight, Mopa m fl Taket, Kulturhuset Performance

Fiktiva äktenskap, gladpack-cirkus, grabb- och flickdans, stripp, elektronmusik. En första Stoffkväll på Kulturhustaket är en osannolik röra av högt och lågt, konstnärlighet och rent trams.

Tanken verkar vara att publiken ska kastas mellan nycirkus, subtil dans, clowneri och burleskshow och njuta av just blandningen, det oförutsägbara och genremixen. Allt är möjligt – det är den undertext som knyter samman kvällen.

Inte sedan Scenhöstfestivalerna under början av 1980-talet har någon arrangerat en så stort anslagen gruppfestival. Stoff är förstås något annat och mer: stora konstnärliga experiment har fått vika för små, korta och spretiga föreställningar. En del är vitsiga mer än något annat, performancevågen har ersatt det genomtänkta och det dramatiska berättandet.

Här får också elektronmusiken plats när kvällen övergår till augustinatt. Anna Zaradnys solokonsert för dator känns till att börja med som att befinna sig inuti tinnitus, ett höghastighetsbrus av vassa ljud.

Generöst nog är föreställningarna på Kulturhustaket gratis. Först ut är Perhaps, perhaps, quizás… av mexikanska Gabriela Muñoz. Hon genomför en halvtimmeslång clownisk akt där hon gifter sig med en generad man ur publiken. Det är roligt att iaktta hur han förhåller sig till fiktionen och den bröllopsceremoni Muñoz iscensätter på scenen med inlånad präst.

Hon har en stark, aktiv roll och här hämnas hon på århundraden av manlig dominans. Det hela blir förstås olika var kväll och beror på vem som plockas upp från publiken och hur skeendet utvecklas. Det är kul, lättsamt sympatiskt.

Installationen Mothlight är något helt annat. En man och en kvinna (Skye Gellmann och Naomi Francis från Australien) viras in med kilometervis av gladpack till ett slags puppor som man bryter sig ur, föds ur. Därefter påbörjas en märklig parningsdans med drag av nycirkus – på en gång plågsamt och vackert, där man bär varandras tyngd och kropp. Människan som mott och mått, som insekt och tid – snyggt.

Innan spanjorerna Mopa börjar snabbstrippar svenska burleskartisen Lily Deluxe, och gruppen ”Johanssons pelargoner och dans” tjurrusar genom Post Wedding Depression klädda som brudar.

Mopa är den stora behållningen. Två manliga dansörer börjar med att nostalgiskt, långsamt och subtilt skildra minnen från sin barndom vilket övergår till vuxenmobbning när ännu en man kommer in på scenen. Det är absurt, drastiskt och bra dansat om än aningen diffust mot slutet. Våldet verkar vara en immanent vuxenmanlig beståndsdel som tar över pojkarna.

Komo tar över med sina digitala ljudirritationer och den första Stoffkvällen är slut. Stoff på taket är en handfull blandgodis där jag saknar det riktigt svarta, svåra och sura.

Original Link: http://www.svd.se/kultur/scen/haftigt-blandgodis-utan-salt-och-surt_6415870.svd

Mothlight - Indaily

Posted: March 10, 2011 | Author: indaily | Filed under: News | Leave a comment »

FRINGE CIRCUS
JO VABOLIS

ezipark, Wakefield Street

ON THE tenth floor of a breezy city carpark, shredded webs of translucent plastic criss-cross the space. Audience members pick their path through the strips and chat quietly about the best place to stand. A wrapped human figure stretches against the clingwrap rope tethering it to a pole. A little distance away, a chrysalis hangs suspended from a ceiling beam. Something moves inside. Something is trying to get out.

Mothlight, performed by Skye Gellmann and Naomi Francis, is a piece of physical theatre completely suited to its bleak location. The almost meditative work blends extreme strength and balance with the austere beauty of a cobwebbed, concrete cave. Two bodies explore each other, and the environment, in silence broken only by the flapping of the plastic and faint traffic sounds rising from the street below. This is slow-motion acrobatics with a creepy heart and ritualistic composure. Even the chatty teens in the crowd are mesmerised.

Control and release, advance and retreat. The two creatures engage with each other and the boundaries of their world with precision and angular delicacy. The taut rhythm of the work is maintained throughout, with several moments of intensity and suspense that are truly impressive. It’s “don’t try this at home” stuff – hopefully, there’s a first-aid kit nearby because if something goes wrong they’re going to need it.

– Until March 13

Original Link: http://indaily.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/mothlight/

Mothlight - RIPITUP Magazine

Mothlight EziPark Wakefield St, Tue Mar 8 Mention of the art-form of circus usually conjures up images of big-tops, clowns, acrobats and other such carnivalesqe pleasures. Mothlight is certainly not that kind of show! While it’s listed as being circus, and it certainly does have circus elements, this is far more surreal and theatrical. Entering the glad-wrap, plastic laden world at the top of a city carpark, you enter the enchanted world of Mothlight, where the audience finds itself standing and fluid throughout the performance, really becoming engrossed in the surroundings. Emerging from plastic cocoons, the two performers begin a journey of discovery, of their world, surroundings and each other, throwing in some impressive feats, including a bout of moth-like walking on the ceiling! With violent interludes and very good use of the space, the performers continuously leave you wondering what’s next, as you’re led through the lamp-lit world. Definitely innovative and very entertaining. Final Word: Glad-Wrapped! Luke Balzan Mothlight continues at EziPark Wakefield St until Sun Mar 13.

Original LInk: http://www.ripitup.com.au/article/2899

Mothlight - Kryztoff Raw

FRINGE: Mothlight – Ezipark – 4.5K

This is a performance that contains absolutely no words, so it is fitting that this show is utterly indescribable for the purposes of a review. Arriving at the top level of the Ezipark on Wakefield Street at 8.30 in the evening, I couldn’t help but feel like I was embarking on some sort of nefarious enterprise, which impression was only increased by the mirroring sheepish looks on the faces of the other audience members as we were led into a lair comprising thousands of strands of… well, Gladwrap.

I am also extremely claustrophobic. Therefore I will admit that the opening ten minutes of Mothlight, which involved what can best be described as a birthing, were among the most uncomfortable in my life.

Mothlight is certainly unnerving in any event, even for those of us who don’t hyperventilate at the concept of confined spaces. Taking place in substantial darkness, this is a mesmerising display of physical exertion and acrobatics, and the breathtakingly raw intimacy of two primal characters.

While Naomi Francis’ every movement was perfectly controlled, Skye Gellman, the creator of Mothlight appeared to struggle more with the physical demands of the performance. However it is impossible to say whether his audible grunts and sighs were accidental, or an intentional enhancement of the difficulties of human physicality.

Without destroying the magic of the performance, it is difficult to describe Mothlight any further.

It is sufficient to say that this was one of the most original events I have ever been witness to, and that Mothlight is one of those Fringe gambles which can pay off or drastically disappoint you. The most unusual stage set, the mastery of the human body and the sheer originality of ‘Mothlight’ means that for most people this is likely to be a gamble which pays off.

Kryztoff Rating  4.5K

Original Link: http://www.kryztoff.com/RAW/?p=2556

Mothlight - Adelaide Advertiser

 

The mystique of Mothlight begins as soon as you take the lift to the ninth floor of a city car park, then the stairs to the tenth, and are greeted with a spider web of plastic wrap

The mystique of Mothlight begins as soon as you take the lift to the ninth floor of a city car park, then the stairs to the tenth, and are greeted with a spider web of plastic wrap in which the two performers are cocooned.

It’s an inspired venue and setting. The performance is intense and compelling, even at the times when there’s not a great deal happening.

After a slowish but theatrical start - and a moment when the performance literally goes in circles - it suddenly breaks into a fascinating display of circus including walking on walls and the ceiling.

The venue allows the audience to roam freely and interact with the performers (or moths).

Circus

* * * *

Ezipark, until March 13

Original Link: http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/entertainment/festivals/mothlight/story-fn7k3q2d-1226018934577

Mothlight - Courier Mail

Web of mystery fails to deliver

mothlight

Mothlight featuring Skye Gellmann and Naomi Francis Source: The Courier-Mail

THE shopfront area of the Judith Wright Centre has been transformed into a dark and surreal space, criss-crossed by glistening strands of what look like clingwrap for Mothlight.

It could be a web spun by a manic, incompetent spider. The audience enters the space and explores it. One feels a part of the event.

In one corner is a man wrapped in the same clear plastic material.  Suspended above our heads is a cocoon. The cocoon pulsates and crackles as a female figure emerges. She finds the man and slowly releases his bonds.

Then, as if she were blind, she feels him with her hands. It is a dramatic start to what is advertised as an innovative circus piece using “the symbolism of moths and their relationship with the light to explore the human mind and body”.

Sadly, the performances by Skye Gellman and his partner Naomi Francis never quite lived up to my expectations. Nor did they deliver on the stated theme.

A bit of fumbled funambulism (tightrope walking) and spider-like walking along walls by Gellman seemed overwhelmed by a lot of purposeless walking about hand in hand.

I kept waiting for some crescendo of physical accomplishment that never arrived, and nothing remotely moth-like emerged.

Darlings of fringe festivals they may be (Gellman won an award for a “feat of physical astonishment” for Retinal Damage), but this offering needs better choreography to take it beyond dour pretentiousness.

MOTHLIGHT

The Brink, Judith Wright Centre

Last night and tonight

Reviewed: February 2

Original Link: http://www.couriermail.com.au/ipad/web-of-mystery-fails-to-deliver/story-fn6ck8la-1225999711308

Realtime Arts Magazine Asks for 101 words

ex·cerpt/ˈeksərpt/

Skye Gellmann Skye Gellmann

This year I’m moving to a far away island to pursue love. I thought that Melbourne and its relationship with depression was on the cards but I was stolen. I effortlessly think about somebody all day and every moment boils down to seeing them again. For example, I write grants and they all read like dodgy schemes to go overseas! Still, I do have a couple of new art projects (both computer-game/performance hybrids) but the real challenges in my life are: selling all my belongings, re-starting my life and shedding hang-ups. In 2011 I encourage readers to feel 18 again. Skye Gellmann, physical theatre artist

Full article here: http://www.realtimearts.net/article/101/10147

Timeoff Magazine - Mothlight

Sunday Age - M Magazine

Mothlight - Rave Magazine

INFORMER ARTS: Mothlight - Skye Gellmann Interview


Tuesday, 11 January 2011

ImageIf we go by his name, SKYE GELLMANN seems to have been destined for flight. He speaks with ZENOBIA FROST about his new circus work, MOTHLIGHT.

Enter the land of the moths: a “dimly-lit space carved out by the stretched strands of a spiderweb,” says Gellmann, in which both performers and audience can get caught. The show was first inspired by “the symbolism of moths and their relationship with light;” I imagine acrobats drifting and fluttering around a swinging light bulb. But Gellmann explains that this source idea has been “extruded, twisted, abstracted, burnt, resurrected, tangled in cling wrap, rearranged, deranged – and evolved to the point where we are no longer dealing with a show about moths and their features, but a creative exploration of the body.”

What Gellmann and fellow performer Naomi Francis have created for Mothlight is a strange, sombre world where “pindrops cause tidal waves” – a world of “physical extremes and dangerous intimacy,” where fleeting ideas might come to rise into light or to die with dusty wings outstretched. Gellmann describes Mothlight as a “circus installation” that the audience can explore. They may not directly change the path of the story, “but their experience is forefront in discovering what this world has to offer.”

Brisbane theatre-goers might remember Skye Gellmann from last year’s production of Daniel Santangeli’s physical theatre piece Room 328. For Gellmann, promenade theatre “adds an element of danger,” which motivates him to create new work. Of course, there are risks involved “when bodies are pushed in strange trajectories around people, but it also opens new possibilities for interplay between the performer and the audience. “Still, safety was an important concern in what Gellmann describes as a “reflective and vicarious experience in an unconventional space.”

If you’ve been to the circus in Brisbane lately, you’d know that the artform is shifting away from big tops and lion tamers. Gellmann describes this new kind of circus as a “movement where people create new thoughts around what circus can be and can communicate.” In Mothlight, tricks that could be pure spectacle become tools for “perspective change, raising questions, unravelling our identities and telling stories.”

John Bailey of The Age called Gellmann’s work “at the razor’s edge” of new circus. The Melbourne-based performer has won festival awards (for both production and individual performance) every year since 2007. Mothlight sold out its 2010 season at the Melbourne Fringe Festival, and has already secured a run at the Adelaide Fringe later this year.

Gellmann describes circus with all the passion of a poet, giving us a few clues as to the success of his career: “I’m struck by the thought that you cannot actually solidly define circus. It’s like art, love or life. You can describe its features, but you can’t say what it is. Circus is elusive. You can never put your thumb on it. Once you think you have it, it bends in the opposite direction,” he says. “For me, circus is an unsolvable puzzle that will keep me free-thinking forever.”

Skye Gellmann and Naomi Francis are drawn to the MOTHLIGHT at The Judith Wright Centre from February 2 to 4. Ph: 3872 9000 / www.judithwrightcentre.com

Original Link: http://www.ravemagazine.com.au/content/view/24713/192/

Mothlight - Beat Magazine

 

Illuminated by a mere light bulb and buried within a labyrinth of strained plastic reeds lies Skye Gellmann’s Mothlight world: a constructed space within which physical prowess is tested and the inner psyche investigated. Despite beginning on fairly conventional grounds—a monologue about a dream concerning house mates, marriage and the beach—Mothlight quickly descends into an intense and captivating performance, made up of just the right amount of elusiveness and directness so that the end result is a piece that encourages discussion rather than denies it.

Having been generally classified as a circus performance, it is surprising that Mothlight is actually an extremely sombre and experimental affair, filled with long periods of silence and flashing periods of absolute darkness. A show consisting of a mere two people, performers Gellmann and Francis display their ability to defy gravity and meld their bodies into fascinating shapes. But really, that is not the driving force of Mothlight: at its heart, it is a revealing performance, rather than one aimed a showing and telling.

Another strength of Mothlight is the world in which it is presented, a place reminiscent of that spider cave—Shelob’s lair in The Lord of the Rings. Gellmann’s creative atmosphere drives Mothlight’s manipulation of space and ultimately proves to be a fine example of why the Melbourne Fringe Festival exists. Claustrophobics beware;  it is a crowded and unseated world, but enduring forty-five minutes of squatting and scampering in the dark will be well worthwhile. Gellmann’s questionable, intentional dry humour adds a surprising lightness to the space and is highly entertaining.

Sold out in its opening night, the already popular Mothlight does not need this review to attract an audience. However, as an aside it is a truly compelling, interesting experience. Let that compel you.

  By Yvonne Woo Posted on October 7th
Original Link: http://www.beat.com.au/arts/2010/10/7/mothlight/mothlight-theatre


Review of the Age Review of Mothlight

Review of the Review

This review in today’s Age is of a circus show (image above). I know this because the word CIRCUS is written just above the one and a half stars the reviewer has awarded to the show. The show is performed by Skye Gellmann and Naomi Francis. I know this because their names are written beneath the one and a half stars the reviewer has awarded to the show.

The review itself tells us that the performers hyperventilate and break things. For some reason this engenders a response in the reviewer that touches on cling-film, pupae, colonoscopies, panic, Stan Brakhage, pretentious cinema, and Nepalese toilets.

In other words, one thing is clear: the reviewer did not enjoy the show. Nothing about the rest of the review, except maybe the font, is clear, constructive, informative, or helpful. No stars.

Original Link: http://thereviewerreviewer.posterous.com/a-review-of-a-review-of-a-circus-show

Under the Radar // Mothlight

http://criticalmassblog.net/?p=872

21st september 2010

Under the Radar // Mothlight

By: Lara / Category: Theatre / Tag: UTRD / Add Comment

So after reading the blurb in the program I was expecting to see another showcase of talented people (Skye Gelmann and Naomi Francis) do amazing and un-natural things with their body. While waiting around for the show at Metro Arts I further read on the notice board that Naomi was a rock climber who Skye like as they were- quote “normal”. So I came into the show with mixed expectations and when I was told to put my bag to the side and that I could either sit or stand, I was furthered confused.

Located up stairs, as soon as you step into the room – you are part of the show. The room is the stage and I mean – including the ceiling. I don’t want to go into too much detail of the show but what I can tell you is that to not expect the cookie cut show experience where the audience is sitting in comfort and are exclusively passive. It is intense, confusing and amazing in a way which you would and would not expect.

Mothlight is an abstract and conceptual experience and it is for anyone looking for something a little different. After watching this show I think Under the Rader shows are going to be way underrated. Mothlight has three more shows this week- more info and show times at Brisbane Festival.com

Realtime Arts Magazine - Retinal Damage

Skye Gellmann, Retinal Damage Skye Gellmann, Retinal Damage
photo Niki Bodle

skye gellmann: retinal damage


Skye Gellmann, of Scattered Tacks fame (RT97), likewise induces an altered state in his audience. Two small rows of us face each other across a narrow performance space, plunged into darkness save for the flickerings of a slide projector that enable the artist to undo our perception of space. We see Gellman appear and disappear; we feel the rush of air and the too-near proximity of his body as he somersaults between us in the dark; we watch with the scary luxury of a close-up as, inches away, hands on wooden blocks, he walks upside down. As with Matthew Day, the proximity of the performance, the artist’s control, focus and inventive visual play, and a sense of risk, make for a very special experience of the body.

RealTime issue #100 Dec-Jan 2010 pg. 37

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to link or reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

Original Link: http://www.realtimearts.net/article/100/10122

 

Retinal Damage - Unfringed Review

Negative Circus

Filed Under: Other by Julian Orbach — 3 Comments September 14, 2010

If you started with a circus, and took away the circus, you’d be left with nothing. If you started with nothing, and took away the circus, you’d be left with Retinal Damage, the physical theatre show by Skye Gellmann, which I attended on Saturday night. The resulting “negative circus” has much the same shape as a circus show, but in completely the opposite direction. Skye hasn’t merely stripped back the caked layers of circus, but turned it around and presented the result from the other side.

Skye Gellmann Production Shot
A circus show contains bright and colourful lights. Retinal Damage contained no lighting, apart from a solitary slide projector, managed by Mish Colla. Most of the slides were blank, leaving just a stark white rectangle outlining the plain white backdrop. Other slides provided simple hand-painted washes of colour to soften the contrast between stillness and movement on stage.

A circus show contains booming music and cheering crowds. Retinal Damage contained no music – no sound at all, except the hum of the slide projector fan, and the occasional rumble from the train-tracks near the theatre. The audience sat silently, breath held, for the entire show. I had a camera in my hand, but took no pictures for fear that the slight click of the shutter would break the trance.

A circus show contains over-the-top characters and costumes. Skye’s character remained silent and impassive throughout. His costume was simple street clothes – sometimes shirtless, sometimes with no clothes at all. (The nudity wasn’t played for shock nor for sexuality, but as a nature extension to the minimalism of the piece.)

Most importantly of all, a circus show highlights the skills and stunts of the performers, making it appear easy and painless, and hiding the real effort involved. Skye reverses that trope. He performs many difficult stunts, but hides them in pitch blackness. We hear him do dozens of backflips, but don’t see a single one. We do see the effect of the exertion on his body, as he gradually becomes exhausted. We see the pain as he throws himself around the stage.

Other circus skills are revealed, perhaps reluctantly – often his own eyes are closed. We see rigid handstands and difficult balances. He explores an intriguing and innovative variation of tight-rope walking with two short planks. He attempts a handstand on an oversize bowling ball; an astonishingly difficult skill, and – unlike normal circus – he does not try to hide or play-down his repeated attempts, how challenging the skill is or the physical toll the effort is taking.

With an intimate seating arrangement, up close to the action, this is a challenging and thought-provoking piece. If you find circus too shallow and don’t believe it is a true artform, you should see this performance. It will both confirm your views and blow them out of the water.


Retinal Damage
Directed by Terri Cat Silvertree.

12 Sep, 8:00pm
16 Sep, 9:30pm
17 Sep, 8:00pm

$22/$18

PACT Theatre, 107 Railway Parade, Erskineville

Original Link: http://unfringed.theaureview.com/tag/skye-gellmann/

Realtime Arts Magazine - Scattered Tacks

we made this: scattered tacks

profile: skye gellmann, terri cat silvertree & aelx gellmann

Silvertree & Gellman, Scattered Tacks Silvertree & Gellman, Scattered Tacks
photo Alicia Ardern

The creators of Scattered Tacks, Skye Gellmann, Terri Cat Silvertree and Aelx Gellmann are fast building a reputation as physical theatre innovators with a performance language all of their own. In this edition Jana Perkovic reviews the recent Art House showing of Scattered Tacks.

The trio variously trained in circus and physical theatre as children working with Cirkidz, Kneehigh Puppeteers and then Urban Myth Theatre of Youth in Adelaide and in later years in corporeal mime and traditional and contemporary Japanese theatre forms.

Aelx Gellman describes himself as “a creative masochist, unusualist and escape artist, specialising in random feats of dexterity and prestidigitation.” To this we might add the human spelling error! The Gellmanns studied at NICA and all were involved in co-founding companies (Rambutan, Shuttlecock) along the way. The three went on to gather a string of Best Emerging and Most Promising awards including for Skye Gellman in 2007 Most Promising Male Actor at Melbourne’s Short and Sweet festival.

In 2008 their signature work, Scattered Tacks won the Melbourne Fringe Award for Most Outstanding Production and in 2009 was programmed by Yaron Lifschitz at CIRCA for their showcase of new works at Brisbane Powerhouse. This is where our reviewer Douglas Leonard was taken by the work: “No extraneous effects. Fragments of a life obscurely shared were dimly recreated. The light distorted, flattened and sculpted identifiable shapes into pure, foreboding forms.” (See full review.) Lifschitz described Scattered Tacks as “one of the most challenging and significant pieces of New Circus to emerge in years.” In the same year, the work toured to Noorderzon Performing Arts Festival in the Netherlands.

Skye Gellmann is currently developing a solo performance for the 2010 Sydney Fringe Festival called Eyes Fight, Projector Light, “a minimalist circus experiment involving an acrobatic body and the cutting light of a slide projector.” It will be is directed by Terri Cat Silvertree who is also developing her own solo performance. RT


www.scatteredtacks.skyebalance.com

RealTime issue #97 June-July 2010 pg. 34

Original Link: http://www.realtimearts.net/article/97/9875

Retinal Damage (fka. Asleep in a Secret) Review by Richard Watts

ASLEEP IN A SECRET

A solo performance by Skye Gellmann, which like his co-devised 2008 show Scattered Tacks takes the traditional tropes of circus and refines them down into a marvellous minimalism. With only a slide projector, a bowling ball and a couple of wooden blocks to assist him, Gellmann focuses the audience’s to focus on the human body and contemplate what it is capable of. There’s a cold purity to Asleep in a Secret that some may find offputting, but which I found enthralling; it’s like Skye has boiled away all the extraneous elements of physical performance to focus on the heart of circus, with an entertaining game of Chinese Whispers added to the mix.

Rating: Three and a half stars

Original Link: http://richard_watts.blogspot.com/2009_09_01_archive.html

Retinal Damage (fka. Asleep in a Secret) Review by John Bailey

Reviews: Asleep in a Secret

 
I don’t think that I can write succinctly about Skye Gellman’s work in a short review. It would take at least 1000 words to really begin to unpack what I think about it, and I also think that a lot of what it makes me think isn’t necessarily the result of what he’s consciously intending when he creates his stuff. But that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Most of all it puts me into a Buddhist state of mind (or no mind, actually). It’s about absence, the impossibility of holding onto the moment, as well as the illusory nature of all appearances. It’s a bit like a koan, wherein the contemplation of a question is more important than its answer.

Gellman comes from a circus background but he’s absolutely at the very razor’s edge of a particular movement towards a new kind of circus. Rather than the successful execution ‘trick’ being the point, his work is more about the things that surround the trick: the preparation, the failure, the meaninglessness of “tricks” themselves, and most of all about silence. A lot of Asleep in a Secret occurs in darkness or half-light; Gellman’s eyes are closed during most of his routines (which you don’t think of, but imagine how hard it must be to do a dozen consecutive backflips with your eyes shut).

At later points in the show he seems dangerously out of control. You watch as his body sustains some very obvious punishment, and when he attempts to balance on a block of wood the room is filled with a palpable tension, even fear, emanating from the audience. Just a few feet away and barefoot, you can see how it’s going to feel if the block topples and his toes are caught beneath. But, as I realised afterwards, it’s far less terrifying when you watch someone doing a handstand atop a two-storey high pile of chairs in another Fringe show. Gellman’s skill in is showing just how hard even the most typical of circus acts actually are, and making you feel that danger. Even if he’s just standing on a block a foot off the ground.

At the start of the year, Gellman wrote on his blog: “The world is overwhelming and confusing sometimes. My friends and I create very topical and good work. There is nothing the world can do to destroy us, because we destroy ourselves everyday. I like circus because it cannot be defined. People think they know what circus is, but they don’t. It’s not swinging a trapeze or doing a back flip, or juggling. It’s not big-tops, traveling europe or street theatre in a tree. Circus is nothing. It’s undefinable. It’s freedom so fuck you all.”

Asleep in a Secret is less satisfying than last year’s Scattered Tacks because it seems less confronting and original, extending that show’s ideas rather than taking off in a different direction. But I think this new work is actually more complex and provocative, even if there seems to be less going on. There’s less “circus,” sure, but if that’s all you’re looking for then you’re looking in the wrong place. I think Gellman would do well exchanging ideas with people in other fields who are working with the same concepts he’s introduced to the world of circus; I can only imagine what would result if he found himself in the same room as Deborah Hay or Jerome Bel or Ariane Mnouchkine or Tim Etchells.

Until October 10, upstairs at Errol’s Café, North Melbourne.

Original Link: http://apentimento.blogspot.com/2009/10/reviews-asleep-in-secret-donna-and-damo.html

Asleep in a Secret: MFF By Alex Schleibs

ArtsHub | Monday, October 05, 2009

If you are the sort of person who enjoys a thoroughly entertaining and carefully planned circus production with all the trimmings of bright lights and ambient music, then Asleep in a Secret is most definitely NOT the show to see. Calling this show circus themed is a stretch of the imagination.

The show consisted of a poor attempt of storytelling through moving slides, which consisted of the performer standing in front of a slide projector for unspecified amounts of time and then taking a position as if to perform a back flip. Exhilarating? No. This occurred several times with the scene being re-set the same as before by the performer either attempting to execute or then executing the flip, or at least I assume this action took place as it was always missed by the turning off of the projector and the actual flip was performed in darkness, or so I assume. A myriad of less than amusing “tricks”, and I use the term loosely, accompanied this such as several hundred failed attempts to stand and twirl on bowling ball and a balancing act on two planks of wood, which while somewhat impressive lasted an exhausting 20 minutes.

Highlights of the show were a failed game of Chinese whispers which resulted in laughs all round as I attempted to whisper to an elderly gentleman who was partially deaf who giggled along as he asked me to repeat myself time and time again and a guest appearance by the biggest blow fly I have ever seen in my life who managed to steal the spotlight as it made its way across the room. After the incessant twirling, the show was capped off with a brief and out of focus slide show. There are far too many bad things to say about this show, and working with a word limit it would be hard to accurately describe how much of a disappointment Asleep in a Secret is, but I will say one thing: as the show was running over time the performer mentioned that if needed audience members could leave without offending him and the twitch among patrons and nervous shifting of weight in seats was a clear indicator that many people shared my contempt for the show. Forced to stay by a trusty cohort with a false sense of camaraderie for those brave enough to be on stage, I sat in disbelief awaiting the grand spectacle that would be an exciting finale, which never came. Asleep in a Secret is showing as part of the Melbourne fringe festival upstairs at Errol’s cafe every night except Monday until the 10th of October. It is safe to say that somewhere in this city there would be a niche audience, who could appreciate a monotonous production such as Asleep in a Secret, but I really am unsure who they would be and so to be on the safe side I cannot in good conscience recommend anyone go and see it.

Asleep in a Secret: MFF Venue: Fringe Hub - Errol’s Cafe Upstairs 69 - 71 Errol St North Melbourne Transport: Tram: 57, Stop: 12 Melways: 2A J10 Time: 9.00pm, Sun 8.00pm (45min) Tickets: Full Price: $ 16.00 Concession: $ 13.00 Tuesday: $ 8.00 Group: $ 13.00 (per person for 5 people) Website: www.skyebalance.com MELBOURNE FRINGE FESTIVAL 23 September - 11 October Alex Schleibs Alex Schleibs is a reviewer for Arts Hub. E: editor@artshub.com.au

Click title to download pdf with all the best Scattered Tacks Reviews!

Yaron Lifschitz (Circa), describes Scattered Tacks as “one of the most challenging and significant pieces of New Circus to emerge in years.”

The Village Award for ‘Most Outstanding Production’ 2008 Melbourne Fringe

The Sunday Age By John Bailey 12 October 2008
A truly astonishing experience renders it’s witnesses unable to act, transfixed to the spot. That’s certainly the cast with this, a word‐of‐mouth sensation of this year’s fringe. Most of the show occurs in near‐total darkness, lit by head‐mounted torches. There’s no music or effects: the silence is deepened by the held breath of every audience member. While Scattered Tacks comes from the discipline of circus, this isn’t the kind of hoopla that draws whooping cheers after each act. It’s taut, deceptively simple performance that arrests the attention throughout. Performers Terri Cat Silvertree and Skye and Aelx Gellmann strip circus back to it’s essence ‐ balancing, juggling and the like without showiness or even emotion ‐ and reinvent the form. Silvertree blankly peels and eats an onion; Skye supports himself atop a column of teetering cylinders wearing nothing but a moth‐eaten jumper; Aelx, stripped to the waist, spreads sharp tacks across the floor for a terrifying final number. It’s not sideshow shock or big‐top spectacle. But it is, frankly, brilliant.

Scattered Tacks By Richard Watts
Oh. My. God. This show was amazing ‐ definitely my pick as the best show I’ve seen in the Fringe so far. To call it ‘just circus’ would be like saying J.R.R Tolkien was 'just’ a fantasy writer. A complex and intense show that played with ambient sound, lighting, comedy, fragility and one’s sense of smell, as well as providing moments of tension, awe and sheer joy, and which I wholeheartedly recommend you see before it closes this Sunday. Promise me you will? Four and a half gasps of awed delight out of five.

Realtime doug leonard: circa’s new circus now; sofia woods’ blurred lines
(Extracted from Circa’s New Circus Now review)
Scattered Tacks, from Melbourne trio Skye Gellmann, Aelx Gellman and Terry Cat Silvertree was created in a squat and the absence of electricity caused this three person ensemble to improvise their own lighting with torches strapped to their heads. No extraneous effects. Fragments of a life obscurely shared were dimly recreated. The light distorted, flattened and sculpted identifiable shapes into pure, foreboding forms. A woman is dissected by light. She is shaken, bent, turned into a mower, energetically fucked. A man lies on the ground with a heaving stomach. Another man tenderly puts a tea bag in his mouth and a tea cup on his forehead. He rises and hops to a teapot balancing a juggling ball on his foot. He puts the teabag in the cup and pours water from the teapot. He performs an exquisite three ball juggling act, ultimately balancing balls along his spine. The woman picks up an onion, peels it and tosses skins like petals. She eats the onion with sensuous gusto, breathing deeply and exhaling fumes until she begins to convulsively sob as if for release from the cycle of increasingly pungent desire. Yaron Lifschitz described Scattered Tacks as “one of the most challenging and significant pieces of New Circus to emerge in years.” I would like to suggest another contender for such high stakes, not to be contrary, but to underscore what he clearly sees as the direction New Circus should be going. Sofia Woods’ Blurred Lines was a standout in the line‐up at the Brisbane Powerhouse last year. Scouting the possibilities for transformation, Blurred Lines was itself transforming. It encompassed circus and dance, utilising the trapeze as a poignant and risky vehicle for an inner balancing act while affectionately trying on for size self‐parodying lesbian roles—butch, femme, drag king—setting them up for an hilarious and bawdy contest for dominance within her own psyche. But she took us to a deeper level through a series of morphing projections of her own ‘bisexuality’, akin to what Virginia Woolf called “the androgynous mind.” Woods’ scenario of reflecting mirrors was eventually stripped away, arriving at the liberating moment of a return to and a rediscovery of the body, representing the kindling of the kind of desire that, as Hélène Cixous puts it, “wouldn’t be in collusion with the old story of death.” By wholly eschewing ‘routines’, Woods was able to create a complex movement vocabulary unto itself, at times suffused by a vertiginous, melancholic poetry revealed in momentary glimpses of other (discarded?) selves—a spasmodically dying swan on point, a shadow boxer or, most strangely, a lupine beast loping with forefeet of high‐fashion shoes. Like Scattered Tacks, Woods’ journey took on the risk of the other, of difference she was content to leave alone in the territory of the unknown, adding to, not subtracting from, the world’s possibilities. This kindred metamorphosis of an art form seems to be the one Lifschitz endorses.

Buzzcuts
Tessa Leon Thursday Mar 5th, 2009
With its creation in an abandoned warehouse last year, Scattered Tacks owes much of its urban squat ambiance to the fringey depths of Melbourne’s city outskirts. Each of the young Adelaide born trio has individually achieved extensive acclaim within the circus and drama industries, and their new collaboration has already received The Village Award for ‘Most Outstanding Production’ at the Melbourne Fringe. Though their show is listed in the circus program of the fringe guide it is safe to say it shares margins equally with dance, theatre and the absurd. Essentially a collection of short acts, the immediate feature of the show is its darkness, that’s literally, not metaphorically by the way. The meager light is controlled by head mounted and hand held torches from the performers, illuminating only what they want you to see. Is this because their Melbourne squat never had any electricity? Perhaps. Is it intriguing to watch an entire production lit like this? Absolutely. The second and equally unusual factor is the absence of amplified sound, in fact, make that the lack of any sound whatsoever. The energy and action is structured around a backdrop of absolute silence, broken only by the thud of landing feet, panting breath, or a noise‐inducing prop (such as a bowling ball, a teapot, an onion, tacks and a toothbrush, to name a few). This mute and shadowy scene could, conceivably, be intensely engaging, yet at 11pm, The Garden of Unearthly Delights does not include ’quiet’ in its vocabulary. Just as actors pause, gazing poignantly towards an increasingly captivated audience, the space is interrupted by burlesque tunes, boozing punters and all manner of obscure late‐night sounds flooding in through the thin tent walls. The viewers too easily become distracted, and what would be the most mesmerizing element of the show becomes a major hindrance to its essential framework. Containing three such versatile performers, acts include skillful acrobatics and stunning movement sequences, all with a twist in their end. There are plenty of other surprises throughout the 45 minutes and yes, by surprises, I do mean nudity. Call it nu‐circus, experimental or neo‐contemporary‐interpretative‐art, perhaps Scattered Tacks is not everyone’s cup of tea, but doubtlesay it will be unlike anything you’ve seebefore, ever.

 

‘Inherently Scattered’ – Scattered Tacks - Article by Urszula Dawkins

Urszula Dawkins spoke with Skye Gellmann about stripping back the genre to its bare bones, squatting in South Yarra, and conversing with the audience…



‘Inherently scattered’ is how Silvertree and Gellmann’s Skye Gellman describes the three creators of Scattered Tacks . But you can’t afford to be scattered as you spin on a bowling ball or do a handstand on it, or balance three juggling balls on your spine. Or perform complex acrobatics on a darkened stage with just a high-powered torch strapped onto your head. It’s long way from traditional circus – for the audience, the oohs, aahs and squeals of delight are replaced by silence on stage, held breath and a straining of all the senses. By focusing on exploring objects – on the performers’ relationships to ‘things’ – Silvertree and Gellmann have created a tense, tender and compelling vision: in Skye Gellmann’s words, “a twisted, weird circus”.

Terri Cat Silvertree, Alex Gellmann and Skye Gellmann go back a long way – Alex and Skye are brothers and all three began their circus training as children at Adelaide’s Cirkidz. Between them they’ve collected a swag of fringe festival and other awards: Skye’s Asleep in a Secret won the Best Circus (2009) and Village (2009) awards at the Melbourne Fringe; while Shuttlecock! by The Rambutan Circus Collective, of which Alex and Terri are both founders, won the Best Dance/Circus/Physical Theatre award at Adelaide Fringe 2007. Scattered Tacks , created when the three found themselves all living and working in Melbourne, won the Melbourne Fringe’s 2008 Village award, and in 2009 has toured to the Adelaide Fringe, Brisbane’s Powerhouse and the Noorderzon Performing Arts Festival in the Netherlands.

Circus it may be, but there’s no glitz and glam, no spangles or sequins – indeed, no lighting or artificial sound whatsoever. The whole point, says Skye Gellmann, is to take the form back to its essential elements: the bodies; the people performing.

“First idea,” says Gellmann: “The reality of what’s happening. Second idea: to create something that had the least amount of gratuitous elements; that was really refined back.”

“We don’t try to entertain…instead we draw attention to things other than presenting tricks as a spectacle. We’re presenting them as realities, and trying to break them down.”

Watching Scattered Tacks is less a narrative journey than an ‘experience’; a heightening of the senses that takes place often in near-total darkness. The tension that builds around the group’s ‘tricks as realities’, illuminated and fragmented by harsh beams of light, is matched by an ethereal beauty at times as the same harsh light renders skin almost translucent, glowing beneath the performers’ simple costumes.

“Scattered Tacks is about the audience’s experience more than trying to communicate a story,” says Gellmann. “It’s about the senses, it’s about sight and it’s about hearing all the little sounds and drawing attention to the tiny details, and finding the joy in those little things. It’s a very minimal show – I guess to shift perspectives is important… You have to use different senses that you don’t use in everyday life, but also your sense of what a show should be.”

This fierce reduction of theatre to bodies, objects and an intently focused audience grew out of a reaction to the ‘performing monkey’ syndrome experienced at times by individual members of the group – Skye in particular has a ‘second life’ as a corporate circus performer.

“We have things to say about the world other than ‘look at my handstand’,” he says. “So we started pulling apart circus and seeing what else it could mean, other than ‘I’m going to show you this trick’.”

The high-powered flashlights and bare staging also reflect the location in which Scattered Tacks was created: a squatted apartment block in South Yarra where the group lived, worked and rehearsed for several months – initially with no electricity, and developing a necessary affinity to “sneaking around in the dark”. Surrounded by wealthy neighbours and squeezed between a high-rise parking station and a luxury car dealer, Skye says squatting was both liberating and alienating, and bred a sense of isolation that inevitably found its way into the show.

“I see it as a kind of blessing more than anything, because we actually had a lot of space… We had a whole apartment we were using as a workshop, so we could make stuff there; we had multiple rooms that were studios.”

“It’s hard to make a show in a room though, because a room is still a room, it’s small and restricting. But because we had restrictions as well as new freedoms, it just gave us new options, and it brought new discoveries.”

Even in a traditional theatre space, there’s a strongly intimate feel to Scattered Tacks, and although ‘audience involvement’ is not an overt intention, for Skye especially, it’s a crucial, if indefinable, relationship.

“I feel like I’m having a conversation with the audience sometimes about what I think, instead of trying to just impose how the audience feels… I let them feel things…”

Silvertree and Gellmann’s manipulations of teapots, bowling balls and an onion, among other things, reflect life in the darkened apartment block, but more tellingly, the curiosity of three humans about the objects they encounter. Their relationship with the viewer is a focused and absorbing collaboration that ranges from breathtaking tension to a shared understanding of human fragility, to joy and delight. As one reviewer has commented – it will be unlike anything you’ve seen before.

Scattered Tacks
by Silvertree and Gellmann
Arts House, Meat Market
Tue 16 to Sun 21 March

Skye Gellmann’s circus show grew from life in a squat house

Scattered Tacks

FREESTYLE: Scattered Tacks’ Terri Cat Silvertree (front), with Skye and Aelx Gellmann.

LIVING in a squat is a lifestyle choice for circus performer Skye Gellmann.

It was while squatting in an abandoned apartment block in an upmarket suburb of Melbourne that Skye, his younger brother, Aelx, and their childhood friend, Terri Cat Silvertree, found the freedom and time to create a unique circus show attracting critical and audience acclaim.

“It was a really beautiful place in a rich part of town,” Skye, 24, says. “We had a circus space in the squat where we worked on the show and the influence of having very little came into it.”

Named Scattered Tacks, the 45-minute production premiered at the Melbourne Fringe Festival last year and won the Village Award for Most Outstanding Production.

The trio, originally from Adelaide, lived in the squat for a year and went without electricity for about two months while developing the piece.

In this darkened environment they put their creativity to work using headlamps and handheld torches to light the room. “We wanted to make a show that didn’t need any power that we could put into any space. We reduced everything to a minimalist state,” says Skye, a National Institute of Circus Arts graduate. As well as no technical lighting, the show has no sound.

The stark set brings the action into focus, with bowling balls, teabags, cups and juggling balls manipulated in mysterious ways. “There’s kind of a cold reality that comes through our work,” he says. “It can be cold and off-putting but at the same time enthralling and highly engaging. We just want to get to the bones of things.”
In one scene, Silvertree takes a bite into an onion and doesn’t stop until it is devoured.

 "She’s crying but she keeps on going. It’s part of that thing where if you just take a bite out of an onion, it could be a trick and you could present it like a trick, but because we want to present the reality, we take it past the point of being a trick and that can be confronting,“ he says. In another scene he gets creative with a bowling ball, getting dizzier and dizzier as the act progresses.

 "It brings to the surface it’s not actually about the trick but the exhaustion and relationship,” he says. “It’s actually happening, someone is getting dizzy and could hurt themselves.” On stage and in life, danger plays a big role in Skye’s world.“You get used to the element of danger living in a squat and it’s great,” he says.

“It can be a bit nerve-racking knowing you might be caught living in a space you’re not supposed to be, so at first you can have some uneasy nights where you hear every sound but you kind of get used to it. "You don’t need to be a renter to be able to live, which is pretty empowering in a lot of ways.” He was drawn to the squatter’s life after a particular gig got the better of him. “At the time me and Terri were having this big reaction against stuff,” he says.
“I’d just finished a really horrible stint at the tennis as a mascot and I was feeling pretty down on the world of performing and life. "I was a character called The Super Ball Kid and it inspired me to want to make a show. It was a reaction against that kind of instant gratification in entertainment.

"I felt like such an object being this character. I wanted to be a person on stage and to try and communicate what it is to be human.”

Since its premiere in Melbourne, Scattered Tacks has played the Adelaide Fringe Festival and, with the help of Brisbane contemporary circus company Circa, the Noorderzon Performing Arts Festival in the Netherlands.

Although Skye also does more cash-friendly corporate work as a circus entertainer, he has no plans to quit squatting just yet. “I personally just like different ways and experiences of living,” he says.

“A lot of people think squatters have no respect for property but I think squatters actually have a bigger sense of home and a lot more respect for the environment around them, because they might not be there the next day. It makes you appreciate the friendships and the spaces around you a lot more.”

Scattered Tacks by Silvertree and Gellmann, Visy Theatre, Brisbane Powerhouse, November 26-28. Tickets $22-$26. Info 3358 8600 or brisbanepowerhouse.org
 
 
     
     
  aboutworks — articlesagendacontact