-by Isabella Edquist
(Photo credit: Angela Goh)
Canberra Museum and Gallery, Gallery 4
Sat-Sun March 14-15
The dedicated group that assembled on Saturday evening in Canberra Museum and Gallery’s Gallery 4 to experience The Exorcism of Megan Clune and Angela Goh resembled a party of young mourners passing into an airy modern chapel. In fact, they were about to bear witness to what promised to be an arcane rite: watching clarinettist Clune and dancer Goh performing all of the music they have ever learned. Below the annual fireworks of Skyfire, pristine white printed cards, resembling funeral keepsakes, were waiting on stools for an eager audience, many of whom were friends of the artists.
It was clear that no live performance would take place; the most ‘live’ thing about what followed was the waves of fidgeting that travelled through the audience over time, seemingly an intentional side-effect. Instead, a video projection split into quarters dominated the rear wall of the Gallery, depicting four nondescript rehearsal rooms. To its left, a smaller projection of the artists behind the scenes suggested that the filming of the main installation was recent. One by one, the glitchy, skype-quality videos cued in each of the panels were brought to life via a not-so-magical click of the mouse, and the exorcism began.
As one, two, three, then four iterations of Clune cycled through the same falling clarinet phrase in a kind of demonic round, four Gohs repeated endless pirouetting movements. Again. And again. Forty minutes of four sets of repetitions. It was clearly too much for some audience members, who left before seeing the exorcism through. At the purposefully anticlimactic conclusion of the piece, the phrase ‘test of endurance’ was on everyone’s tight lips. However, as in the practice of any skill, repetition and endurance yield surprising wisdom. What initially were insignificant details crystallised into startling and fascinating obviousness. It became apparent that each sequence had been filmed at different times of day in the very space the audience now inhabited. With each recurrence in each panel, Clune and Goh’s exhaustion at having filmed the same few movements four times in a row was made increasingly transparent by their sighs, stretches and stumbles, all caught on unforgiving digital video.
The program’s name-check of Malcom Gladwell’s 10,000 hours was key to my understanding. Having spent not quite that long within the torture chambers of school music rooms in the pursuit of so-called perfection, the humour was at once evident. All of the music and dance ever learned? I almost laughed maniacally. Why, that would be the same eight basic building blocks of a scale repeated ad nauseam! The Exorcism of Megan Clune and Angela Goh didn’t constitute a frenzied catharsis, but it did succeed in its stated aim to probe notions of perfection and authenticity by challenging its audience to endure and appreciate the hours of practice that are sacrificed each time it is created.
Isabella Edquist has been writing and dreaming in Canberra for a long time now, and is just waking up. In a past life she was an editor of Block Creative Journal and wrote her honours thesis on mess theory and the novels of Angela Carter. She now works with pictorial and moving image collections at AIATSIS and is completing her Master of Anthropology at ANU. After eating up so much Canberra goodness for so long, she decided it was time to give something back and share the You Are Here love around, and a little Papercuts reviewer was born.