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Review: Artslab: Behind Closed Doors at 107 Projects Redfern

Review By Naomi Hamer

Artslab: Behind Closed Doors is the annual emerging artists festival for Shopfront Arts Co-op’s flagship emerging artist development program. Empowering emerging artists with a 6 month residency, an industry mentor, masterclasses and a week long season to showcase their artworks. Of the 2019 artists, this showcase includes 3 performances and 2 installation and video works.

Toilet humour and poo jokes have been around for as long as anyone can remember. Usually told from the perspectives of men, Stalls by Lily Hensby and Lana Filies lifts the lid on women's public bathrooms. Farcical, silly and fun it’s hard not to enjoy the laugh out loud performances of Lana Filies, Olivia Harris, Lily Hensby and Cara Severino. From serious conversations about pooping in public bathrooms and hiding your farts from your boyfriend to the poo uprisings of 2020 and envisioning a dystopian world where women are only allowed to purge themselves one day of the year. Mentored by Lally Katz, Stalls follows in the footsteps of a slew of recent independent performances that put a magnifying glass to the power of women's public bathrooms but with a touch of the absurd.

Garnering a standing ovation Little Jokes in Times of War by Charlotte Salusinszky was not afraid to make the personal political or overshare in the best ways possible. From beginning to end we were on the edge of our seats as Salusinszky revealed her paternal grandmother’s story from Holocaust survivor to escaping Hungary during the Hungarian revolution of 1956. Stand out moments included Salusinszky’s Hungarian slap dancing, her endurance a feat unto itself, and the heartfelt I love my daddy because… revealing a personal ode to her own father. Lighting, sound, costumes and props combined including original archival footage from the National Film and Sound Archive creating a scene in search of a nostalgia that we can only yearn for. Mentored by Deb Pollard, Salusinszky’s first solo performance pieces together the hidden personal and family histories that shape who we are in ways that we can’t imagine. From reenactments of her father’s family’s arrival in Sydney, to a historical lecture about the Hungarian revolution of 1956, Little Jokes in Times of War was a revealing and stand out performance.

The final performance of the evening, Stripped by Luke Standish was an ode to the art of stripping and the exotic male dancing industry. As we walked in, we were asked to wear a paper penis crown which was coloured in with pencil and looked like children coloured it in or potentially like a traditional hens party. Stripped was part strip show, part endurance and part confessional performance to a soundtrack of Ginuwine’s Pony which played on repeat. Standish’s monologue became more revealing and questioning of its own masculinity and bravado as it went on. Mentored by David Wiliams, the performance was at times confronting, particularly as Standish who wearing little more than a g string at times, pushed himself to his physical limits...Although watching one man squirm as a sweaty shirt was thrown at him may have been worth it.

On loop in 107 Project’s gallery space, Amplifier by Tall Jan uses audio from self conducted interviews to reveal queer and marginalised voices. The otherwise private pre-recorded world of the video, bleeds into the exhibition space with draped yellow cloth on the gallery walls along with blue tulle and stars reminiscent of the worlds Tall Jan describes. Created and performed by Brendan Donnellan aka Tall Jan, with cinematography and editing by Cyma Hibri, voicing by Samuel Luke and mentored by Bhenji Ra; Amplifier shines like Tall Jan’s exquisitely sculpted makeup.

Lastly, Bill Chau’s Plastic Slippers, is a nuanced exploration of his Chinese-Australian culture and migrant experience. The bright red architectural assemblage standing in the centre of the 107 Projects gallery space was reminiscent of Vietnamese-Australian artist Phuong Ngo’s reframing of Vietnam war memorabilia and Keg D’Souza’s architectural installation Changing Courses (2017). From the collection of ziplocked spices and foods, to home furnishings and even a hanging chair, the stage is set. With headphones hanging by a thread that reveal the mundanities of sweeping, birds chirping and families talking, the headphone tail leads to haphazardly tied shut pots and pans. Mentored by David Capra, Chau’s Plastic Slippers is beautifully messy, revealing the personal often left behind closed doors.

The power of Artslab: Behind Closed Doors lies in how each artist reveals themselves. From the personal stories that allow women and girls to talk openly about the bodily functions society deems too disgusting to share in Stalls, to the whispered personal histories of Charlotte Salusinszky’s grandmother passed down in Little Jokes in Times of War, or, the Questioning masculinity in Stripped, to recognising the marginalised voices revealed in Amplifier, or openly exploring Bill Chau’s Chinese-Australian migrant experience in Plastic Slippers. With lighting design by Thomas Doyle and production management by Tyler Fitzpatrick, Natalie Rose has curated a diverse program of exciting emerging artists whose work underscore the personal.

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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