Environmental Encounters: experiment with your ‘ecosexuality’ at Liveworks 2016
BY JAMIE APPS
We only need to look around us at the volatile weather that has encapsulated Sydney over the past 12 months to realise that something drastic is happening to our planet. For the curators of Liveworks Festival of Experimental Arts, it was imperative that they included a selection of artists who were exploring issues of environmental upheaval with their artworks.
“Even from the initial research and programming stages it was clear that there were a number of these works that dealt with environmental themes, so it organically became quite a strong theme which is now running through the festival,” explained Artistic Director Jeff Khan.
This year’s Liveworks program brings giant kinetic installations, sonic sculptures, participatory performances, sexy encounters, experimental choreography, captivating Indigenous stories and much more.
Rather than having a set theme or topic for submissions, Liveworks simply attempts to focus on artists from across Australia and the Asia Pacific region who “push boundaries with their works by blending or mixing disciplines in order to find new ways to engage with the audiences”. With this mantra in mind, two main works with environmental themes came to the forefront, Ecosexual Bathhouse by Pony Express and Thunderhead by Tina Havelock Stevens.
According to Khan, both of these works engage with the topic of climate change and the environment from a “very poetic and different perspective from how we usually hear about it in the news or media”.
Ecosexual Bathhouse has been created by Perth artist collective Pony Express, consisting of Loren Kronemyer and Ian Sinclair, following a nearly year-long research and development phase.
The artwork itself is an immersive experience containing six different spaces that implement organic materials, scents and performance artists in a bathhouse inspired setting. Participants are invited to participate in a variety of “eco-erotic experiences” which cater to everyone from “the mildly bio-curious to the environmentally experienced”.
Kronemyer notes that the initial inspiration for the work came about after both she and Ian stumbled upon a text by two Californian performance art theorists, Annie Sprinkle and Dr Elizabeth Stevens, titled The Ecosex Manifesto.
“This ten year old document outlines a sexual orientation and activist position that describes an eco-sexual as someone who has an affinity towards the environment that goes beyond the norm into a more emotional relationship,” Kronemyer reflected.
Bearing that in mind, the pair set about researching these principles and the science behind them before creating their fully immersive world, which also draws upon influences from the queer identity frameworks. Ecosexual Bathhouse is thus the epitome of an experimental work and something that Khan’s Programming Manager Talia Piece implored him to include in Liveworks.
“Ecosexual Bathhouse is such an unusual work in the way that audiences are asked to interact with it, and as such it has a very provocative, well researched take on environmental issues from an very different perspective to the norm,” Khan enthused.
The other major work, which actually only fell into place quite late, is Tina Havelock Stevens’ piece Thunderhead, which is an audio-visual installation that also blends in live musical performance aspects.
Thunderhead was a piece which presented itself to Tina accidentally after taking a wrong turn on a road trip through Texas.
“Eventually we righted ourselves when suddenly, as we turned onto Highway 54, I looked out and saw this magnificent supercell storm which I started filming on a small camera I always have on me,” recalled Tina.
With this footage Tina, who has previously produced documentaries for the ABC and SBS, edited together a rather “meditative, trance-inducing piece” which in previous showings has prompted a multitude of different responses.
“Some people were really moved by it emotionally, one woman told me she felt really safe in there, and others have said they could visualize things within the footage,” said Tina.
Upon reflection Khan, Kronemyer and Havelock Stevens all agreed that the environment has always been a key element in their lives.
One aspect they didn’t come to a consensus on however was the idea that this wave of environmentally charged artworks is a new occurrence. Loren in particular believes that these works have “always been there, but it’s nice that people outside of the field are now taking notice and paying attention because audiences are hungry for these works”.
The overwhelming sentiment these three individuals shared however was that they all genuinely hope that their work brings the issues of climate change and the environment to light, and can help fashion a tangible change within society. As Khan so bluntly put it: “There has been so much frustration and disappointment around political inaction on climate change that it’s fallen on the artists to pick it up as a mantle that might wake us up.”
LIVEWORKS FESTIVAL OF EXPERIMENTAL ARTS
Until Nov 6. Carriageworks – Performance Space, 245 Wilson St, Eveleigh. Various events, FREE to $63.39.
Nov 2–5, 6:30-9:30pm. $26.99-$37.39.
Exhibition: Nov 2–5, 10am-11pm + Nov 6, 10am-6pm. FREE.
Performances: Nov 2–5, 8:30pm-11pm. FREE.
All tickets & info: www.performancespace.com.au