– by Georgia Kartas
A woman sits in the middle of CMAG Gallery 4 with a stare that penetrates you from light years away. Wearing a black silk robe over shorts and tee, she pulls out snowglobes, animal figurines, and plastic lavender from her bag, arranging them on the floor with meticulous tenderness. Normally she is Angela Goh, choreographer and dancer of Out There Deep, but right now she’s an intergalactic being saying hello to us humans by imitating things she’s noticed we like to do.
She plays dress-ups, adorning herself with multi-coloured bangles, costume-changing into a black sequin dress. She twirls like a doll in a music box. When Peter Gabriel’s ‘The Book of Love’ plays, she makes direct eye contact with us while singing along. Then, hypnotically, she waves about a pair of golden flags to Beyoncé’s ‘Halo’. For the concluding track she dances on the spot like we do at gigs with our friends, growing more confident in her movements with our encouragement. As for the audience, we’re foot-tapping and head-bopping along, wordlessly engaging with her. Having overcome the extra-terrestrial communication barrier, she wears a soft, knowing smile, as if to say, “Hey. Nice planet. How’s it going?”
Next up is James Batchelor’s Ersatz, an installation-meets-dance piece following three dystopian protagonists as they rediscover the natural world. The first narrative is of a robotic creature breaking out from underground and struggling to achieve self-awareness. When she finds a pot plant on a pedestal she shoves her head into its fronds, producers scissors, and proceeds to snip them like hair, until there’s nothing left.
Among giant beakers and syringes, to the sounds of heavy spacesuit-breathing and distortion, an industrial worker dances as though she’s taking and processing instructions. Her motions become inquisitive and organic when a faceless, body-suited figure emerges from inside a boundary of poured paint, shuffling out slowly like an emerging seedling. A film clip of a man aligning bleached white rocks on a beach plays. The seedling juts and contracts like stop-motion film as a voiceover speaks: “I am 80% water; I am atoms and molecules.” In a post-apocalyptic future where humanity has been eradicated, what does it mean to be human, to be alive?
Finally, our mute Seedling uncovers her face to reveal a flaming redhead. I can’t help thinking of Leeloo Dallas – not exactly human, but supremely capable of humanness. That’s the wonderful imagery of Ersatz – vivid, haunting, but hopeful.
Georgia Kartas has been published in Spun, Burley and Us Folk, and blogs about fashion and shiny things at www.red-magpie.com.