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Thinking inside the sqaure

Sue Moss

Two days before the winter solstice a large black edged screen looms in front of a sandstone quarry. The trees are bare and a freezing wind buffets shoppers traversing Hobart’s Salamanca Square. Windows of a multi-storeyed apartment complex face a wall of shops and restaurants. In another time and context the square would be the site for political gatherings and revolution. Today it is the locale for is theatre’s U.T.E. 2.

Five artists arrive in a white 1977 HX ute: Scott Cotterell, Sarah Duffus, Cameron Deyell, Jen Cramer and Ryk Goddard. Their combined skills include dance, digital media art, performance, fashion design, installation, composition, sound, clowning and free form improvisation. For 5 days they sample and interact with the physical and social environment of Salamanca Square. In response to what is seen, heard, felt, discussed, dreamt, glimpsed or intuited, the U.T.E. group conceptualise and improvise a “Universal Theory of Everything.” Using diverse media, the artists process their materials in response to emergent themes. Ideas and insights combine and collide to create a free-form work which incorporates image, electro-sound-scores and sculptural installations leavened with excerpts of text. The result is passionate, unpredictable live art.

The back of the white ute, central to the production of U.T.E. 2, is a glorious installation in itself, carpeted and crammed with cameras, computers, sound and technical equipment and participating artists. Images of Salamanca Square are captured and projected from inside.

What fascinates about the U.T.E. 2 improvisation is the way unnoticed or unremarked upon elements of the Salamanca landscape are given back to the viewer. The intersecting mesh of the quarry’s perimeter fence provides an on-screen grid projection that is softened and hazy. Leafless trees backlit against the winter sky bring to mind a scene from a Paul Cox movie. Blue eyes on a female face dissolve to facelessness. The audience watch themselves watching.

Text developed in response to Salamanca Square is incorporated into the screened performance: Windows frame choices/ choices windows frame/ living vs lifestyle/ window frame choices. Performers assembling and reassembling white squares attached to a frame augment the inversion and double reading of the windows text.

The changing sculpture triggers fragments of questions: When do edges become a totality? What is the view between? Navigating the square, where does the line of vision fall? By rearranging the squares and clipping them to another part of the frame, the sculptors provide a shifting view of the square, echoing the projected text.

U.T.E. is a long term project, occurring twice a year for 3 years. It aims to thematically develop creative processes that can interact with artists or communities in diverse places and eventually become a tool for international collaborations.

is theatre ltd, U.T.E. (Universal Theory of Everything) 2, guest designer Greg Methé, technical support Ben Sibson; Salamanca Square, Hobart June 19

RealTime issue #62 Aug-Sept 2004 pg. 12

© Sue Moss; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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