Multimedia review: Conditions of Growth, Holmes à Court Gallery, WA

This collaborative project brought together light, choreography, animation and music to celebrate nature.
Conditions of Growth. Image show a backdrop of nature with four silhouettes in the foreground and a grand piano behind.

Conditions of Growth by Thea Rossen and Sohan Ariel Hayes was a meditative multimedia and multidisciplinary show that combined chamber music with generative animations and reflective choreography. The music from composer and percussionist Rossen was mesmerising and contemplative. In this work, she moved between the xylophone and percussion instruments to create a serene musical score that evoked immersion in nature, carefully incorporating sounds made by earthenware and glassware into the bigger piece.

She played expertly with sounds and silence to generate a meditative symphony. Pianist Alex Raineri’s virtuosic performance was captivating and he handled transitions between movements with élan. The piano lifted the work and carried the audience along. 

Sohan Ariel Hayes’ generative animations transported viewers deep into bush landscapes while being absorbed by the music. Hayes’ multifarious forest vistas took us through the changing seasons and embedded us in beautiful landscapes that seemed familiar yet somewhat otherworldly. The visuals were reminders of the transience of the seasons and the relentless march of time as nature transformed itself repeatedly.

Colourised slow-moving aerial shots of forests suffused with mist were juxtaposed with more abstract and hypnotic visuals. The overall effect was to boldly accentuate the experience of the music. The lighting design included inventive sensor-based elements that linked sound and light. The visuals and music combined created an ethereal atmosphere that enveloped the audience fully and reinvigorated a love of immersion in nature. 

The linked concepts of growth in nature and the growth of nature seemed to be critical to the thought process behind the show. The use of earthenware as musical instruments and the contrasting use of darkness and light lent themselves to a feeling of being subsumed into nature. There was a simplicity to the meditative immersion in this elemental experience. Yet it was a carefully thought out performance and there was clear deliberation in every step of the composition and presentation. 

There is a kind of quiet determination that drives the pursuit of this kind of contemplative and immersive auditory experience amid an urban soundscape. And it’s a pursuit that’s worth sharing with younger generations. The show involved the participation of a group of local schoolchildren who contributed percussion and were integral to the choreography. Their proficiency and reflexivity in the show belied their youth.  

Read: Theatre review: Betsy and I (Undercover Artist Festival), Queensland Theatre

The venue, the Holmes à Court Gallery in West Perth, provided a large and impressive space. At the time of the performance, it was also hosting a stunning exhibition of nature paintings, primarily featuring native Australian flora, which augmented the immersive experience for the audience. The exquisite paintings of native flowers and trees served as a fitting testament to the beauty of nature and as the perfect backdrop for this show.  

Conditions of Growth
Holmes à Court Gallery, 10 Douglas Street, Perth
Creators: Thea Rossen and Sohan Ariel Hayes
Piano: Alex Raineri
Electronics design: Nick Stark
Producer: Holly Norman
Lighting Design: Alex Spartalis GSD

Videography: Andrew Clarke

Conditions of Growth was performed 22-23 September 2023.

Arjun Rajkhowa lives in Perth and enjoys writing about local arts and culture.