– by Shu-Ling Chua

City West Car Park

Thursday March 19

Set against the backdrop of Black Mountain on a rooftop car park, Excavate is full of promise even before it begins. We are invited to remove our shoes and take a place on a strip of cool, soft dirt. Performer and choreographer Gareth Hart is curled up on a small mound of earth with his back turned to us. iPads flicker with black and white images. We see Indigenous people, children playing cowboys, production lines and military marches. They form an anchor to the past and remind us of how far we have (or haven’t) come.

More machine than human, Hart’s limbs form mysterious angles as he looks into the distance, never quite seeing us. Even when twitching, there is an intuitive gracefulness to the way he moves. At one point, Hart cowers and shrinks to the ground, distraught. We don’t need to see his face to feel a sense of loss. Hart is momentarily human then turns mechanical once more.

Edward Willoughby’s minimalistic, futuristic compositions add to the unassuming nature of this performance. The electronic gurgles of the music gently complement Hart’s movements, creating an immersive bubble that is soothing and ominous in turn. We never quite forget that we’re in a car park but that is not the point.

In the closing scene, Hart makes his way around the audience and down a car park ramp, eyes closed. A quote appears on the iPads and on looking up again, we see Hart, stationary, beneath a lamp post, arms raised high as if in prayer. The music fades. Transfixed in a respectful silence, the audience claps appreciatively.

To the side of the stage, we “excavate” a little scroll tied up with string. Inside is a quote by Joses Gosper:

We have the most valuable of treasures: ‘the knowledge of who we are’. The whole world has crumbled and been rebuilt many times, and we remain; we have survived; and when the darkness has been washed away from our lands by the torrential rains, we will still remain.

There is a refreshing lack of pretentiousness and unspoken acceptance in the fact that we are open to interpret Excavate however we wish. For this reviewer at least, it explores what makes us human. Who hasn’t, at some point, mechanically gone through the motions of life?

Nature also plays a starring role, from the dirt beneath our feet to a swirl of black birds (real) joining us in the twilight sky. Dance, music and setting work brilliantly together and the performance successfully avoids feeling orchestrated. Instead, it has a raw earthiness which is made all the more impressive by the fact that the choreography is improvised. Hart’s work possesses a quiet humility which does not presume to give answers to the questions it asks.

(Photo credit: Adam Thomas)

bio (Shu-Ling)Canberran of two years (but Melbournian at heart), Shu-Ling Chua spends her free time reading and enjoying music, travel, food and photography. She blogs about life and her favourite things at hello pollyanna while dreaming of living overseas (and making pretty things).

She has a deep appreciation for the ‘creative process’, having dabbled in origami, cross-stitch, knitting, crochet, making soft toys and most recently, pottery. This is her first You Are Here / Noted outing.

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