Performance Space presents BARGAIN GARDEN with Theatre Katanka and Ensemble Offspring in Track 5, Carriageworks.
Carlos Gomes, the director and conceiver of this project tells us:
This performance installation seeks to examine the urge we all share 'to have it all', and to explore how we use 'stuff' to present our identities. We wanted to investigate the process by which objects transform us into fashion icons, experts, gods and goddesses, equipped for any eventuality. All this, despite the high environmental price. We sought to examine the techniques of marketing and product promotion in this consumer's paradise, and to reflect upon why we respond to these techniques and to what costs.We all entered a promenade space. Two white ramps, at either end of the space are set with live mannequins, with the heads covered in bags that declare a SALE is imminent. Another raised platform has the Ensemble Offspring (Claire Edwards and Jason Noble) armed with their instruments - a vital part of the experience. A third platform has a cube that can be lifted to reveal character and objects and also to act as a screen for projection of video/photographic support (Heidrun Lohr) - not always clear and or integrated to thematics.
This installation work reveals stunning visual costumes, wittily constructed by the artists from found objects. There is much changing and parading of many, many costumes, and accompanied with the live music of the ensemble it has a breathtaking absorption. The promenade aspect of the performance by the audience is not always useful or comfortable for the appreciation of the creativity of the costume design and probably needs to be further investigated in another life time of this installation. For, the costume artistry is the element that makes BARGAIN GARDEN special.
The political intentions, observations of the conception of BARGAIN GARDEN tends to become swamped and defused, lost, in all the busyness of the creations and our pursuit of a good position to see them well. This became a fashion parade of wit and beauty and the underlining intention of societal criticism, indicated in the program, is underplayed in focus and undermined in the experience. I remember the costume parade in Fellini's ROMA and the raised platform of the fashion runway with seated observers, allowed both the wit and the comment to exist together.
The actual text by Katia Molino and Carlos Gomez is fairly obvious, banal, and simply presents the "ideas'" without the verbal dazzling that the imagery has given us. It lacks rigour in content, style and edit. In a time when THE GRUEN TRANSFER and THE HAMSTER WHEEL dominate our satiric and critical views of contemporary society, there needs to be more effort to sustain the rhetorical/textual quality required to match the visual from Theatre Katanka. Language and its targeted usage is not their strong point.
In the program notes some quotations:
We are a species that is uniquely wired, compelled, hormonally drugged and scared into wanting things ...and we are surrounded by stuff. Perhaps we should just resign ourselves to riding a spiral of consumption until the day we get buried alive beneath it all."
- John Naish, ENOUGH.
...quite literally, 'we are what we buy'. We are the brands we consume. Shopping and consuming are not an aspect of behaviour but define the meaning of life."
- Benjamin R. Barber, CONSUMED.
Literally, the BARGAIN GARDEN intention was left to the program notes/essay. I read it in the bus home. "OH, I see..." Duh!... Often the sadness of attending the art gallery is that the work cannot be perceived or appreciated by looking. One has to read the post-modernist essay on a wall or program to begin to deconstruct and then untangle the offers. (Drives me crazy!)
The performance lacked any real depth of targeting and appeared to have decided to let the look do it all. Unfortunately, it couldn't. The costumes were too fantastically wonderful to take us into any of the above comment. The artistry of couture dominating all. The cultural battlements will have to wait.
Vivienne Westwood eat your heart out.