It was a huge treat to be part of the opening for Martin Del Amo’s Mirage at Campbelltown Arts Centre (CAC) during this festival season. Despite the work being withdrawn from the Sydney Festival in solidarity with other artists supporting pro-Palestinian groups against controversial funding from the Israeli Embassy and Israel’s ‘art washing’ of crimes, the show continues its full season at CAC (closing Saturday 15 January).
As a concept, Mirage invites a variety of meanings in the choreographic space. For Del Amo, it operates metaphorically as a means to explore the nature of memory – the illusory, fragmentary formation of one’s reality. In remembering, we retrace the past with a loose impression of it. Our memories change the contents of the past and this discontinuity of lived experience can make us feel like someone else. When dancer Miranda Wheen enters, she seems to search for remnants of Del Amo, who has just traversed the same space. She is also dressed in brown chinos and a long sleeve skivvy only a shade lighter.
Del Amo explains that he has not created a duet but a ‘shared solo’. A piece with parts that can be performed by either dancer on any one night. The quality, pace and measured movements of Del Amo’s in the first section are rearticulated with the same precision by Wheen in the second, but with embodied differences demonstrating the patchiness of memory. She emphasises only certain gestures: a palm glides laterally from the body hinged squarely on all joints, frame held, readmitting us to the original event.
The elongated white space (reminiscent of Le Roy’s Self Unfinished) is bordered by a translucent scrim where pianist Sonya Lifschitz and the Enigma Quartet (Marianne Edwards, Kerry Martin, Elizabeth Woolnough, Rowena Mcneish) disappear and reappear within a haze. The composition Piano and String Quartet by Morton Feldman (1926-1987) immerses us without direction or a sense of musical culmination for 80 minutes. You can hear piano tinkling softly over a staccato pulse emanating from the violins, viola and cello. There are subtle structural changes, its progression almost imperceptible.
The structural collusion of music and movement forms brings forth another dimension. While the phenomenon of a mirage can be explained through refracted light on objects at a certain distance, there is still the subjective experience of believing we encounter a fully formed object – just as our memories are relied upon for truth of our past. Mirages provoke a promise of their materiality, followed only by perceptual disappointment: an arm snaps back before its journey’s end; isolated shapes disconnect us from flow and the music recoils upon itself.
The production has a sparseness and bears no slack. Every note, breath, stillness, shift of weight and positioning of limb transfixes, and in this bold simplicity conjures (for me at least) images with mirage effect: Del Amo tumbling beneath the Great Wave of Kanagawa. The work’s intense repetition and durational quality is a curt reminder of how scattered a screen life can make one, a potential antidote to our TikTok attentions.
Mirage feels like a strong return to earlier solos for Del Amo. A movement away from spoken word and explicit humour redolent of his group work and duets suggests the work to be the apogee of his choreographic and collaborative style. Del Amo, Wheen and the musicians are a captivating triumvirate with touring potential. A glowing success in making live stage work of this calibre during these times is certainly no mirage.
Campbelltown Arts Centre
Choreographer: Martin Del Amo
Performers: Martin Del Amo and Miranda Wheen
Musicians: Sonya Lifschitz (Piano), Marianne Edwards (Violin), Kerry Martin (Violin), Elizabeth Woolnough (Viola), Rowena Macneish (Cello)
Mirage will be performed until 15 January 2021