Next Wave Festival: microLandscapes

microLandscapes‘ is not your average art show. It is intense. Gripping. Entertaining.

Playing as part of the Next Wave Festival, ‘microLandscapes’ is a unique collaborative exhibit that features original video and sound design, sculpture, and performance art. It features Perth-based dance and media artist Emma Fishwick, Sydney artist Kynan Tan, and dancers Niharika Senapati (Chunky Move) and Ella-Rose Trew (Co3).

I was greeted by an intense static humming and saw two screens displaying horizontal skinny black and white stripes – the kind you see when your television is on the fritz. Two dancers, both clad in white were in the room. One laid near the entrance facedown on the floor, another stood under an umbrella facing the wall. Before me lay an eerie lunar-looking landscape of small crumpled geodesic domes and an archipelago of white sculptures bathed in shadows and pale strobe lights. My plus one and I glanced at each other and raised our eyebrows. Initially, I was skeptical. This was light years away from the mundane gallery exhibit that had I expected.

I passed two small sculptures that resembled pointed stalagmites. Suddenly, the static sounds changed to a pulsing dial tone. Black and white images on the two projector screens morphed from the broken TV to a snowy mountain. A few minutes later the image fluctuated again. Snowy peaks flowed into a deconstructed reflection before dematerialising into a pastel-hued sandstorm. It was reminiscent of the aurora borealis/australis.

There was no barrier between audience and performer. You felt like you were in the performance. In the middle was a large square tarp, aka the dance stage, surrounded by screens and its namesake: micro landscapes. At opposite corners stood two large twin projector screens; in another hug a hemispheric dome umbrella projecting a different set of images.

Forget boring ambient elevator music. The music was as original as it was dramatic. You could feel it in your chest. This is partly due to the volume, but also because of the sounds being played. The background sounds held your attention to the point of hyper-vigilance. In the course of 50 minutes I heard the sounds of static, rushing wind, sticks hitting each other, train horns, and heartbeats. At first I thought the sounds were odd, but as the night progressed I found they matched the exhibit. When the dance portion began the sound selection was on point.

The dancing was amazing and superbly executed. As a novice to contemporary dance, I was impressed with how in sync the two dancers were and the timing of their moves. The choreography was beautiful and surprisingly athletic. Even my plus one, a seasoned artist, was impressed.

My favourite part of the show was the hemispheric umbrella in the corner. You could walk underneath it or watch the exterior from a distance. The display resembled thousands of tiny hair-like neurons connecting and firing. It reminded me of hundreds of little sea urchin spines wiggling. You could describe the image as being akin to a background landscape of Star Trek. The image resembled stars turning into tiny little pricks of light as Captain Picard orders the Enterprise into Warp Drive.

‘microLandscapes’ exceeded all expectations and was highly entertaining. It is definitely worth investigating if you like art and performance art. A great show for novices and dedicated art fans alike.

Vanessa is recent Melbourne transplant from California and a great aficionada of all of Melbourne’s fun and interesting cultural events.

microLandscapes’ runs May 4-8 at the Northcote Town Hall (189 High Street, Northcote, VIC 3070). Buy tickets now. The venue is accessible.  

View our top picks of the Next Wave festival in our guide.

Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited guest of Purple Media.