Proximity: How Close Will You Get?

Proximity Festival is taking over Cathedral Square to host one-on-one performances.

Holly Ferguson, ECU Daily Reporter

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With the arrival of spring and expectance of summer, festival season is in full swing!

Among the abundance of music and food festivals lies a unique set of experimental works at Proximity Festival.

Proximity is a festival held from 26 September to 7 October, at a number of locations around Perth City.

It’s made up of 9 one-on-one performances split via three programs, A, B and C.

Each program runs for 70 minutes, so audience members can see just one or opt to see all three performances running over four hours.

Each work shown at Proximity explores different issues and themes.

Co-curator, founder and festival director, Sarah Rowbottam, said Proximity will include an array of thought-provoking performances.

“I think the works that we’ve programmed this year have a lot of things to say about the environment, indigenous rights, social politics and intimacy between people,” she said.

Performing in Program C is Mike Bianco, a US artist and researcher who currently resides and works in Perth; doing a PhD at UWA’s SymbioticA, a biological arts lab. He is studying the relationship between humans and honey bees.

Bianco’s piece at Proximity, The Trees of St. George Square, is held outdoors and explores botanical rights.

The inspiration for the piece came a year ago when Bianco was doing a site visit of the performance’s location for the first time.

“During the workshop session, we were engaging the grounds and I was quickly struck by these jacaranda trees which are installed throughout the square,” he said.

Looking at the gardening techniques used to secure them in place, these plants looked like they were in bondage.

“I began to ask well what are the rights of plants and as I have continued to ask this question and research the different species on the site, the history of that site, it’s become very clear to me that there is a long and contested history to how humans have manipulated not only the environment on that site but specifically plants and specifically trees.”

Also performing in Program C is Tyrone Robinson with his piece, Consent.

During the performance Robinson will be placing himself in a vulnerable position, where the audience will have control over his naked and bound body; as they partake in adorning him with, oils and spices to create, “a sacred image or something that is sacred to them.”

He is looking for the audience to make an emotional connection with the piece whilst they hold power over a rather passive, animalistic being.

“I’m hoping that the audience will walk away with this idea of having experienced an intimate connection with a life, in which I am quite abstract,” he said.

“I try to blur the lines between animal and human through movement and visuals to hopefully create a sense of empathy over all life.

“And also, to be able to see something in a vulnerable position and feel like you’re not able to do anything or question if you wanted to do anything to save that life.”

It’s evident that both these works share similar themes regarding a human’s agency over non-human beings like plants and animals.

Bianco’s piece covers the rights of plant’s, which he said are non-existent.

”There are some rights for plants based on if they’re endangered or native but most rights surrounding plants aren’t for the plants themselves, they’re for the owners of the plants.”

While Robinson will examine animal the use of animals, particularly in sacrifice.

“This idea of putting a whole lot of meaning on an animal that barely knows its own existence yet seems to serve this greater purpose within man’s image of himself, his religion and his life.”

For the first time in the festival’s five-year history, the performances will happen in different locations across private and public spaces in the Perth Town Hall, The State Buildings, St Georges Cathedral and surrounds.

“One of the key things about proximity is that we have a philosophy that anywhere can be a performance space,” said Rowbottam

“So, it’s not restricted to traditional spaces. It can happen in all the in-between spaces, hidden spaces and spaces that are sometimes not activated in anyway.”

According to Rowbottam, since its inception in 2012, Proximity has grown to receive national and international attention.

“There are a lot people internationally who are aware of the platform, it’s putting Perth on the map as a place where experimental practices are being fostered which is really great.”

Initially beginning as a season of performances during Fringe World, Proximity is now an entity of its own with workshops and talks that accompany the performances to expand conversation.

The process of creating the 2017 Proximity began last September when Rowbottam, and fellow co-curator Kelli Mccluskey, started communications with Cathedral Square.

Rowbottam and Mccluskey then initiated conversations with artists about Proximity, leading to a lab last December for artists and artist mentors to explore the theory and process of making one-on-one work.

“The lab is a melting pot of ideas and possibilities that really explode,” said Rowbottam.

The festival is one of great endurance for the artists as they perform their pieces 90 times to 90 people over ten days.

Tickets are $45 per program or $135 for all three, plus booking fees.

Tickets are limited so if you’re interested in Proximity head here.

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Proximity: How Close Will You Get?