In his show Mon, Ma, Mes (Revisite), you are in the hands of a highly experienced performer who explores identity intimately. Jack Ferver graces our Antipodean shores with his inimitable confessional. Under the banner of the Australia’s progressive dance company, Phillip Adam’s balletlab, newly housed in a Temperance Hall, this sure was a cool way to christen a beautiful venue!
New York performance artist Ferver is a darling of the contemporary art scene. Seeing him live is akin to a love-in, so highly respected is his work. It’s an exemplar of the fine New York tradition of performance art where offence is de rigeur and full self’-revelation is central. It shows its inheritance from feminist forebears Karen Finley and Annie Sprinkle, who place taboos centrestage — namely about sexuality, the body, and gendered roles in a heterosexist universe. Theatrically, his work also has an inheritance from German Expressionism and all underground performance.
In this performance art event, Ferver deconstructs his ‘self’ (which we’re never quite sure is fictive or ‘real’) amidst audience engagement, movement excerpts, mirrored-posturing, and laughs, leading to darkness, trauma, tears, and an intimacy with the performer’s personal life story. Ferver inhabits the performance space with finesse, starting his piece via a Q&A (traditionally held post-performance) with ready-made cue cards to get the intrigue going!
This show veers from camp self-deprecation, plea for endorsement, and private life biographical reportage, to the dark landscape of the interior via spoken word, dance and torchsong. Ferver gives you a unique B-side to sunny blockbusters! He interrogates his history, the performance scene, collaborations, relationships, and, even, the impulse to exist. Included are nods to the gay male dating scene and porn objectification of the male body. The nature of this show is that we are nebulously along for the ride, and like Persephone, progress into an underworld. As with all performance art, simulated realism offers the audience catharsis via the confessional. There is humour in here but it bleeds black.
Ferver’s script is clever, inventive and doesn’t miss a beat. Nimble, charismatic, beautiful, and with exemplary dancer’s physique, Fever knows how to hold our attention. His unique dance vernacular intersects his text and, with delicate hand flourishes, a love of parallels and diagonal lines, Ferver changes dance’s orientation, descending his movement design down to the floor, and with arrhythmic syncopated beats. To adorn your own life with your own dance style is the message. His delicate dance interludes are as beautiful as the forms produced in nature, and that is his costume, as well as his deft verbosity. There is a divine movement moment where he walks along the mirrors ‘with himself’, back and forth, smiling along at his reflection as a comment on man’s narcissism.
This show queries ‘performance’ itself. His set is four oversized mirrors which face the audience, reflecting us back at ourselves. We ‘perform’ supplication and engagement for him, as well. His performance mode is codified and we respond appropriately to cues. There is so much going on in the layers of this show.
A profound minute of silence after a painful confession, sees the audience’s attention suspended, post-trauma. Minutes tick as we wait till he/we can release the memory and return us to the ‘now’. This is a comment on all forms of abuse and violence, whether transpersonal or at a national level, and the collective scars we all bear when even one person is harmed. Brutalism shows up in all aspects of life.
Though it sounds dark, it is a brave persona who walks us through these places and we bask in his revelation. The artist here is healer, the traditional role of all shaman. Fever has to be seen to be known. Performance at its best.
Sarah W. is a dance-trained theatre lover with a flair for the bold and non-traditional performance platforms. On the street or in the box seat, she looks for quality works that push the envelope.
Mon, Ma, Mes runs 4 – 7 May, 7pm Thursday – Saturday, 5pm Sunday (60 minutes) at Temperance Hall. Purchase tickets now. The venue is accessible.