Gestures of Care, Salamanca Arts Centre (TAS)

Sofie Burgoyne and Tess Campbell’s cross-disciplinary work creates choreographic structures out of the embodied labour of care.

Gestures of Care involves a combination of video installation, live performance, conversation, and participation. This work is a collaboration between choreographer Sofie Burgoyne, media artist Tess Campbell and several women who have volunteered their stories and bodies to be the material of the exhibition. The first stage of the creative development of this piece was supported by Tasdance, and here it is presented by Constance ARI as part of their residency at Salamanca Arts Centre.

The exhibition of three videos is presented in two ways: as a personal 1:1 interaction via a headset, or shared as a group MC’d by Burgoyne. Each of the vignettes is a verbal description of particular tasks in the daily practice that women’s bodies engage with in their working lives. These are accompanied by footage focusing on the speaker’s gestures; the level and angle of their torsos and the actions of their arms and legs. There is a particular emphasis on the position of the hands; the duration of touch, the angle and weight. 

Both in Burgoyne’s commentary and through the images themselves, the women’s stories shine a light on the degree of physical effort of women in the industries of care. Teaching, aged care and midwifery are presented through the lens of physical labour, strain and repetition, regularly leading to exhaustion.

Driving the group experience by gathering the audience around her, Burgoyne sets a frame for the shift to a live performance, and as a dance artist Burgoyne now demonstrates the outcomes of this ongoing research project. With focus and total commitment, she addresses a series of positions reminiscent of the gestures of care we have just witnessed. In the flesh, and on the gravel surface of the courtyard, they magnify quiet determination, patience and repetition. The transitions between them are as integral and interesting as the positions themselves, creating choreographic structures that transcend any one particular task.

In the final segment, the audience is invited to participate in an experience of caring and being cared for. Simple, yet poignant, these activities bring the audience into the same sphere of care as those previously observed, linking strangers and friends alike in a heightened moment of reassessment, and recalibration of care for self and care for others. 

4.5 stars out of 5 ★★★★☆

Gestures of Care
Project conception: Sofie Burgoyne
Made in collaboration with, and films made by: Tess Campbell
With the generous participation of: Alison Jales, Geraldine Beaubien and Rosemarie Campbell.

10-11 December 2019
Presented by Constance ARI at Kelly’s Garden, Salamanca Arts Centre, Hobart TAS
Free admission

Lesley Graham
About the Author
Lesley Graham has been active in dance and dance education for over 30 years, and has previously written for The Mercury and Dance Australia.