FRINGE REVIEW | POSE BAND

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By Jennifer Stokes

 

It helps that you can take your cider into the starkly lit Northcote Town Hall studio to watch Rebecca Jensen’s ‘investigation into mimesis, embodiment, and democratising copies that create new narratives’. You see, if at first Pose Band’s squirming, material-draped human chrysalis doesn’t add up, a little alcoholic lubrication opens the old neural pathways to this rather strange and fleshy introduction.

 

The small Wednesday night audience sets in to analyse the symbolic representation of an arm movement here, and a closed eye there. This is performance art after all and we know we’ll have to work for tonight’s entertainment. It’s not until after the half naked chrysalis has finished throwing brightly coloured material scraps into the air, however, and that second cider has kicked in, that Pose Band gets going.

 

Clones in black sweats are steadily duplicating themselves, joining in a dance sequence that they continually fracture and distort. There’s a deliberate labouring clumsiness that clones and cloned clones make as their DNA is transferred, reproduced, and embodied. Then there’s the smoke, the hand held strip lights, the bewigged Frankenpeople, and the bodies and screens which collide in a mutual attempt to see and be seen. It seems that what Jensen is trying to say is that we have lost our individuality in a self-induced cycle of pastiche, where newness is so diluted that it can only exist in interpretation.

 

What you get instead is a challenging artistic narrative, a demonstration of the mimetic, democratising nature of performance art through performance art.”

 

It’s all very tautological and postmodern. And it’s hard graft entertainment. No easy thrills or fancy acrobatics. No poetic frills or traditional Hellenic aesthetics. No. What you get instead is a challenging artistic narrative, a demonstration of the mimetic, democratising nature of performance art through performance art. It’s clever. Too clever perhaps, because self-referential dance-mime sequences, punctuated by random verbal outbursts and weird incidental sound-bytes, are not conducive to entertainment.

 

But confining performance art to the avant garde is no great challenge. It’s happy wallowing in its own inaccessibility, titillating the abject and obscure for intellectual sport. Jensen, however, is breaking this barrier and taking her work to a broader audience. Since graduating from Melbourne’s VCA in 2009, she has already collaborated internationally, as well as with Melbourne powerhouses, Chunky Move and the MSO. Her demanding and provocative choreography doesn’t subscribe to the facile performance art famed for intellectualising nudity, urination, and ‘plop egging’ and she is a testament to Melbourne’s continuing push to embody all artistic pursuits.

 

As part of Melbourne’s 2015 Fringe Festival, Pose Band is an obvious inclusion. Its questioning  and provocative nature challenges how art asks to be consumed. And while this might be too exhausting for some, at least we can be safe in the knowledge that new artistic narratives and interpretations are still there to be had, and that we haven’t, at least not yet, wrung dry the conceptual barrel.

 

 

Jennifer is a freelance arts and opinion writer living in Coburg. Originally from the UK, she enjoys reading and travel, and believes you can never drink too many cups of tea.

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