OPINION | Vitalstatistix' Adhocracy triumph

Didn't make it to this year's Adhocracy program at Port Adelaide's Vitalstatistix? We've got you covered - Thom Smyth gives us a rundown of the program and some of the works that made it extra special.

The old Trades Hall nestled near the water’s edge in Port Adelaide is an impressive old building. The home of Adelaide’s contemporary artist crucible Vitalstatistix, the old hall is transformed once a year with Adhocracy, an artist lab with a fascinating and important difference – it’s open to the public.

Over three nights in September, programmed artists opened up their investigations to audiences interested to see how work is made and to offer feedback during the making process. Performance makers from around Australia were offered a fee to go towards their time, travel and accommodation, and given a designated space somewhere in the sprawling ramshackle old building. The main hall was divided in four, the old offices and shopfronts were taken over, the subterranean kitchen was used, and a massive nearby warehouse converted into a ‘roost’.

As an audience member, it’s an amazing privilege to experience eight works at varying stages in their development from initial inquiry to near-ready to premiere.

Aeon | Lz Dunn, Lawrence English, Shian Law + Lara Thoms
Performing Lines was in residence with the development of Mobile States commissioned work Aeon, a large participatory sound experience led by Melbourne artist Lz Dunn. Drawing on the guiding principles of bird flocking behaviour – separation, alignment, cohesion – the development showing armed participants with hand-held speakers and let them wander into the Port Adelaide twilight to find their way back to roost.

Raft of the Medusa | PONY EXPRESS
Perth was represented by WA performance duo Pony Express (Loren Kronemyer and Ian Sinclair) developing a new show called Raft of the Medusa. Set up in the shopfront, they filled their space with a kayak, life vests, loudhailers, knots, life buoys and any other nautical nonsense they could lay their hands on to test how “water tight” their artistic practice was.

Celebrating the concept of a “queen tide” as our sea levels rise and oceans are militarised, they consoled us with sea shanties, L. Ron Hubbard and sobbing Celine Dion (“take two people at a time…take a KAYAK, go into those walls!!”). Their exploration led a funereal procession to the harbour, where we filled a kayak with hot chips and turned the Ponies over to the winged masses above. Their showing culminated in a celebratory acknowledgement that even though the world may be doomed, we can raft-up and party while awaiting our inevitable watery demise.

Uncanny Valley, Girl | Angela Goh
Heading down into the kitchen beneath the stage, Sydney dance maker Angela Goh hosted a femmebot movie marathon before a showing of her work-in-development Uncanny Valley, Girl. Unashamedly channeling Scarlett Johansson as a personal hero, Goh’s exploration of the female form as object, machine and monster was fascinating and disturbing.

As a piano cover of Bjork’s “All Is Full of Love“ ran on a loop, Goh slowly and deliberately peeled stick-on latex cups from their wrapping and placed them on an undulating neck massager; the lofi and slightly daggy appliance turned into a disturbing pulsating piece of flesh. A movement section to Rihanna’s Needed Me was followed by Goh’s unaccompanied singing the Bjork song that had been playing looped throughout the work, surrounded by massage equipment in various stages of human transformation that pulsated and whirred around her.

Never Trust A Creative City | TOO RUDE
It seemed all-too-fitting that an old trade union hall turned contemporary art space would play host to performance duo TOO RUDE’s exploration of all things gentrification Never Trust A Creative City.

A new collaboration between Emma McManus (of Canberra’s Applespiel) and Maria White (from Sydney’s Mumford, Wallin and White, and co-curator of Tiny Stadiums), the showing began with a harmonious choral rendition of DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” (complete with period costume and Juliet-style balcony) before a whistlestop tour of the history of gentrification from the primordial swamp to Casino Mike.

Eschewing the costume drama for Grecian grapes and superfluous movement (creating an effect not dissimilar to Nicola Gunn’s recent Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster), McManus and White discussed at length their confusion and anxiety over how to deal with rising rents, social dislocation, income inequality and how artists might be to blame for it all (if only they would stop moving in to cheap places and making them cool). The showings were funny, engaging and insightful and the show will feature at Sydney’s Festival Fatale this weekend.

Hats off to Emma Webb and the amazing team at Vitalstatistix – Adhocracy is a wonderfully open and generous program, and a joy to be a part of. Check out the full program here>>

TOO RUDE’s Never Trust A Creative City | 4:30pm, Sun 30 October | Eternity Playhouse | More info>>

PONY EXPRESSEcosexual Bathhouse | Wed 2 – Sat 5 November | Performance Space’s LiveWorks at Carriageworks | More info>>