Happy Thursday! KS kicked off tonight with a comment about the difference between the Singapore and Myanmar contexts for presentations: how we’ve moved from addressing specific, local concerns to a more generalized view of art practice.

And maybe this was planned, but Rachael and Tadasu’s presentations reflected just that: instead of being focused on a single theme or a single set of artworks, they took us on a loosely linked journeys through their portfolios. 
Rachael: I hope you don’t think I’m completely schizophrenic by the time you get through this.
On the one hand, brilliant: this is the macrocosm versus the microcosmic view of their earlier talks. On the other hand, more work for me (and I’m still woozy from that fever I had last night).

Rachael started off with some work from Stalker Theatre, the company she co-founded when she was 19 years old, just out of Lecoq School: crazy combinations of circus, dance and physical theatre, also with a political agenda: trying to find a genuine voice in Australia as a postcolonial country.

First clip she showed us was from Incognita, inspired by a comment from an Aboriginal colleague: 
You white fellas, you’ve got your own story too. You’ve just forgotten it. You’ve got to tell it too.
Trapeze work, tightropes, cross-dressing, physical wrestling and quaking, performed in this wake of bush fires, the conservative government of John Howard and the racism of Pauline Hanson. Beautiful angst.
Rachael: I decided to show you Incognito here in Singapore, because I was thinking of the flipside of oppression.
Maybe she didn’t mean it like that, but has a work been done looking at Chinese Singaporeans as oppressors? Probably (Alfian Sa’at’s “Fugitives” comes to mind, as does DramaBox’s version of “Cloud Nine”), but not with this degree of athleticism.

Also Shanghai Lady Killer, created in collaboration with Chinese-Australian director Tony Ayrs, playing with the fear and fetishization of all things Chinese. At first they wanted to play with the 1860s riots against the Chinese (still Australia’s biggest case of race-based violence), but then they decided to be more politically and culturally subversive; to seduce non-initiate audiences into coming in by creating a Kill Bill-style musical about a squad of Chinese women assassins sent to murder a popular Chinese mayor of Sydney. 
Then some coverage of Marrugeku, which she explains was set up as a separate company only because they wanted it to have the freedom to move in a different direction from Stalker. This was meant to be a temporary foray – they’d never have foreseen that it would last this long.

No footage of productions, this time round – what she looked at was their Indigenous Choreographic Labs, trying to broaden the scope of Aboriginal performance into something truly contemporary. How they brought in indigenous choreographers from all over the Earth: Serge Aime Colibaly from Burkina Faso, Jecko Siompo from Papua, others from the Congo and New Zealand. This struggle with the idea of Australian aboriginal dance as something sacred, fighting for survival, as compared to the playful, strongly community-based practices of the visiting artists.
Rachael: Jecko got a bit obsessed that in Papua they also have a kangaroo. He comes from quite a tribal dance background, so he developed a kangaroo choreography which he taught to the original group.
Also of note was the sense that Rachael really felt freed by the lack of a translation process: how she could let loose with theory and sesquipedalianisms when addressing a thoroughly English-speaking audience.
Rachael: This is a dramaturgy that is incomplete, polysemic and which stirs ghosts.

Brett: (during Q&As) Sorry, what did you mean by incomplete and polysemic theatre?

Rachael: Polysemic means that there are different narratives going to different sections of the audience. It’s a big part of our work, because one thing about indigenous knowledge structures is that there’s inside and outside knowledge. There’s some knowledge that’s not allowed to be known.
Turns out that Dalisa Pigram, co-director of Marrageku, is often regarded as a young woman, and therefore isn’t granted the privilege of full knowledge of these customs.
Rachael: On incompleteness:  I’m interested in gaps In knowledge. Because you see things between the gaps.

I’ve stopped wanting to tell just one story.
KS, of course, has his own perspective on this: the idea of polyculturalism (the coming together of cultures based on shared principles) rather than multiculturalism (a buzzword of the state, about strengthening nations against diversity). 

This is of course what the international space of the Flying Circus Project has always been about: different flows from different cultures. But it’s not just about skin colour and passports: it’s about different disciplines, flowing together, cross-infecting, cross-inspiring, crossbreeding.
 


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