Mutual A-Gender
1835 Creative Inc. @ Channel 9 Kevin Crease Studios
4:00pm, Sat 1 Mar 2014
The problem with seeing something almost life-alteringly good is that the next show is almost certain to be a let-down. There’s something to be said for being prepared to bail on the following performance, allowing yourself to bask in the afterglow of brilliance… but that’s not how I work.
Besides, Mutual A-Gender was a bugger to schedule. Despite being attracted by the promise of double-headed crotch-throbbing hyper-sexualised dance solos, the show was listed at a robust ninety minutes, with timeslots tending to be real Schedule-breakers… as a result, I took the opportunity to use its North Adelaide appearance as an excuse to walk out to Holden Street for the rest of the Clipsal-avoiding evening. Clever planning, I thought.
But there’s only a handful of people who’ve made the trek out to North Adelaide for this matinée, and we look terribly antisocial – and lonely – as we spread out across the wide expanses of the Kevin Crease Studio. There’s a screen somewhat awkwardly placed in the centre of the stage, and as the house lights drop it serves as the projection surface for the first piece on this double-bill, Sarah Ling’s Milkshake.
Ling’s short movie is a mishmash of images interspersed with videos of contemporary dance – albeit wrapped in curious threads. There’s some interesting juxtaposition between the heightened sexuality of nightclubbing and more staid forms of dance, but the frequent cuts make it abrasive to watch; it’s reminiscent of Rage’s interstitials (without the quality music – Simple Minds’ Speed Your Love To Me, anyone?). With a visual quality that evoked the idea that it had been shot on VHS, and subsequently suffered many generational degradations before being uploaded to YouTube, it’s almost as if Ling was doing everything in her power to keep the audience at arm’s length.
But then comes the second piece: Nick Walters’ Gay By Nature.
Walters takes to the stage in a tacky Batman suit, muscles enhanced by balloons. He lays on a weights bench and pumps iron to the beat of the tunes being played… but either his strength or timing was way off, because his rhythm wavers terribly. Exaggerated poses lead to the balloons being popped; some take more than one attempt. The Batman suit is removed.
At this stage, I’m equally bemused and curious; I can’t quite figure out what Walters is trying to get across. Or why.
Gay porn is projected on the screen, the rude bits blacked out. Walters – this time clad in casual dance wear – uses balletic poses to mimic the actions onscreen… his movements are smooth and elegant, and it’s obvious that he’s had some ballet training. But again, I found myself wondering what the connection between his movements and the porn was… Some statement about ballet being the bastion of gay men, perhaps?
And then the barrage of images that I like to think of as a “Torrent of WTF” started.
Walters literally asks “what is masculine?” He hangs himself with a chain. He dribbles honey(?) on himself, sprinkles glitter on top, then wankspunks a party-popper tube.
He then emerged from the darkness to take an unexpected bow. At least, the audience wasn’t expecting it.
I’m still flummoxed by Gay By Nature. Even if looked at as pure performance art, it still leaves me scratching my head as to what the point of it was. Was there discussion of sexuality? Maybe. Was a mirror held up to society and its pressure on gender normalcy? Could’ve been. But all I really saw was a young man (who, once again, really can dance when he allows himself the opportunity) who threw himself into a variety of costumed scenarios with little cohesion. And the hanging sequence… that was really quite disturbing, but not in a making-me-think kind of way; I wondered whether it was a genuine cry for help.
I escaped from the Channel 9 studios after forty-five minutes had elapsed… not the ninety that had been suggested. After basing much of the day around Mutual A-Gender, I started to really resent the scheduling shitshow this day had become… had I known the true length of the performance, I’m sure it would have worked much better in the city. Then again, if I’d known the content, I wouldn’t have seen it at all – because this felt like over-wrought, under-thought performance art.
But at least the extra time in North Adelaide afforded me the opportunity to grab some delightful pork belly for dinner, and contemplate – once more – the incredible Am I. So it wasn’t all bad.
(72) Mutual A-Gender: Performance art that leaves you wondering how the artist's mind is wired. A planning black hole. #ff2014 #ADLfringe
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) March 1, 2014