Review by Rosie Niven
A cozy pocket in the bustling Redfern precinct, 107 Projects is a haven for up and coming artists to experiment, develop and showcase their bold and unique works. Taking over the creative hub at the moment is a festival of new works - Artslab: Drifters, a collaboration between arts co-op Shopfront and Penrith’s Q Theatre, which partnered four Western Sydney-based emerging artists with local mentors as they developed striking original works. Artslab: Drifters features a well-rounded catalogue of the arts, from theatre and dance to a durational performance that spans the entire length of the season - each interrogating in their own way the experience of forming a communal or personal identity.
First up is Red Soup, written and directed by Anna Krywyj Moore, a short play that explores the lasting effects of trauma as it is passed down through generations. Krywyj Moore crafts a story of two timelines told in tandem; Oma, a young Ukranian woman grappling with the German invasion and occupation of her home in 1941 and Jade (Oma’s descendant), a discontented Australian woman juggling her personal aspirations and the worries of her ethnic homeland in modern day. The 40 min work tackles generational trauma and the unfortunate cycles that family trees often face. Gabrielle Bowen brings Oma to life with a fierce tenacity of a woman fighting for not just her own survival, but for the survival of what her family could one day become, while Emily Smith embodies Jade with a motivated, yet troubled introspection. Inherited trauma is something we can never feel as personally or intensely as those who have come before us, yet the weight of those experiences linger on in an often elusive manner in the younger generation, as if encoded in the DNA. In a poignant way, connection to our ancestors may come to us in the violent throws of political turmoil or in a peaceful preparation of a longstanding family meal.
The second narrative to burst into the 107 space is Irelish Barker’s CURBSQUATTERS, a vibrant and dynamic ensemble piece that examines party culture and the dynamics of young people, interweaving moments of genuine human connection with harrowing pain. We’re primarily set on the curb out the front of a local club - a prime position for any random drunk chats, heartfelt encounters and tactical voms that may take place throughout the night as we slowly piece together the stories of six early 20s clubbers. The cast, composed of Breanna Boyd, Casey Cleary, Clementine De La Hunty, Thomas Harper, Natasha Pontoh Supit and Jack Taylor, dance expertly through each storyline, showcasing strong ensemble work and a great use of space. Guided by Barker’s engaging writing with clear storylines that interlock smoothly, the ensemble explores the collective identity of youth as well as young women’s sense of belonging, highlighting the challenging ways we respond when we feel like we’re left out of the pack. Dom Hort, the resident lighting designer for the whole festival, shines particularly in CURBSQUATTERS, drenching the space with vivid, warping colours that captures both the ethereal vibe of a fun night out, and the emotional cacophany of a night gone wrong.
Ending the evening of engaging explorations is Adam Yoon’s Sensations of Maintenance, an experimental movement work about how we relate to others and how these relations impact our sense of self. Performed as a solo work by the captivating Millie Hing, we bear witness to an individual in the process of developing their own identity - drawing on memories, familial connections and the power of voice. Awash in a sparse, neutral toned set and blank canvas props, Hing slowly experiments with forms of expression and the basic forms of interaction as she crafts a more concrete sense of self. Her seemingly hesitant movements become more and more certain as the work progresses, reflecting a more universal journey of social and personal growth. The piece hits a uniquely high point when shadows are highlighted, particularly in a sequence where Hing (faced with three angled lights) casts three distinct silhouettes onto the back wall that move and dance along with her, seemingly symbolising the fragments of her identity working together in unison. Through striking movements and Daniel Bailen’s enigmatic sound design, an examination begins of how our past and our connections impact who we truly are. When faced with the opportunity to changeand grow, can we make the right choice?
Performing alongside this evening of new works is Divya Lotliker, a visual and performance artist whose living installation One Self Over the Crimson Nest transforms throughout the season at 107. Separated from the audience by a wall of red mesh, Lotliker spends six to eight hours a day in a space reminiscent of her childhood bedroom, taking refuge from the world and inviting visitors to find their own refuge there too. The room develops and grows over the course of the festival as Lotliker explores the space and her own forms of expression; finding new nooks and crannies to seek creative outlets (or even just simple ways to pass one's time in their room). The work examines the non-linear nature of growing up, acknowledging each iteration of oneself that has existed before now, cramming childhood, adolescence and adulthood into a single time and place.
While you can grab yourself a ticket to a single show, a pass to catch the entire program in one evening is the best way to get a taste of what Western Sydney emerging artists have to offer. You’re guaranteed a night full of powerful stories, thoughtful explorations, and a bucketload of talent. If you can’t make it to 107 this week, you haven’t missed out - you can catch ArtsLab: Drifters at The Joan in Penrith early November as they bring their stories even closer to home.