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While the visual arts thrive on spontaneity and often foreground the creative process, theatre more often functions in an environment of controlled focus, extensive fine-tuning, and eventually a sense of transparent continuity. The challenge confronting the organisers of Pseudo, the opening event of Brisbane's 1995 Fringe Festival was to successfully balance an obvious creative process with a degree of transparent continuity.
Billed as a "tedium free multimedia, 'interactive', performance, art, video event", Pseudo presented collaborative performance and offered some fascinating glimpses into the use of interactive multimedia as an artist's tool.
Occupying the centre of the theatre was Pseudo's "nerve centre", a four-metre scaffold carrying video projectors, banks of video recorders, computer monitors, cameras, and communication equipment. Around the theatre space hung six projection screens. However, the dominant (virtual) object of attention was a huge two-metre disembodied head suspended high in the theatre space, the sculptural work of Craig Walsh and Jeremy Hynes. Onto The Head was projected the face of Dave Parry, the evening's MC and virtual compare. Parry ("Zardoc") strapped to a seat in the control tower so the video projection image could be aligned, guided the audience through the night's performances.
Keith Armstrong and John Tonkin offered the main "interactive" highlights. Although their individual performances were very different in concept and presentation, they harnessed similar technologies. Both employed a Mandala system, a complex array of "real-time" video projections layered over computer-generated animations with embedded switches capable of being triggered by the performer. Keith Armstrong, Pseudo's coordinator and its driving force, performed Uncertain Circle, combining virtual performance with live interaction. Using the Mandala, Armstrong explored the notion of the virtual self, the interactivity of humanity and technology, and the relationship of biological and technological data manipulation. By interacting with his "virtual self", Armstrong guided the audience through a journey of future possibilities. The artist contends that soon everyone could have a similar intuitive "entity" gathering data and making decisions on their behalf. Uncertain Circle, asked the audience to imagine what this would be like- how we will interact with this "other'' self and where it will take us?
With Inhabit the Meat of Your Body, Tonkin, dressed in a loud floral shirt, with camera round his neck and wearing a cardboard parody of a virtual reality helmet, "toured" the concept of artificial self and medical intervention. The work raised questions about who maintains control in the brave new world of virtual medical intervention-the actual self, the virtual self, or the virtual agent of the medical institution? As Tonkin sees it, the individual will be forced to sustain a complex and difficult balancing act, one he/she is ill-equipped to handle.
Live performances were also given by Komninos, Geoffrey Schmidt, Jeremy Hynes, Georgie Pinn, and the Nalder-Milani-Benner collaboration. Komninos presented his cyberpoetry, a number of projected "concrete poems". Some pieces were self-contained, while others were enhanced by his readings. These poems, effectively bought to life, add another dimension to the notion of poetry, one that breathes a new life and means of conceptualising the structure of language.
In her performance, X-cess, Georgie Pinn poured a white cream-like liquid over a slowly inflating white two-metre balloon. Projected on the balloon were close-ups of the human body, navel, breast, mouth, nose, torso. As the balloon strained to reach its maximum size Pinn stabbed it repeatedly until it exploded, spraying the audience. In The Man Who Fell to Earth Jeremy Hynes was slowly lowered, arms spread, forming an inverted cross, from the apex of the stage roof. As if diving, the bare-chested Hynes dropped through a vertically -projected "vortexing fractal image". Within centimetres of contact with the projector Hynes stalled and was drawn back to the roof, spinning violently and releasing a shower of white "snow". Geoffrey Schmidt, wearing black leather g-string and feather boa, performed Dancing Queen. The live performance was accompanied by a video animation of a syringe inserted in a chrome phallus and falling through clouds (courtesy of the Ray Boys). Dripping "blood" and, accompanied by a hospital stand, Schmidt danced to the strains of ABBA's Dancing Queen, effectively foregrounding the pathetic and tragic side of sexual freedom, so often suppressed by its perceived 'gaiety'. Ssssh a collaborative work by Lyndall Milani, Glenda Nalder, and Sue Benner involved three imposing video projections accompanied by the sound of a hushed, suppressed argument. Ssssh explored women's stifled voice.