goat snake witch dance theatre blackness

The last couple of days I’ve been working on a side-project, cleaning up my dance/performance/choreography website, francesdath.info. I decided a while ago I wanted to move it into WordPress, change the font to Anonymous Pro, and try and make everything I would do by hand-coding possible through the WordPress browser editor.

Success! (Mostly). The design hasn’t changed, except it’s been cleaned up a bit, and a more structured layout used. The video took the longest and was a rather intense learning process, which is going to fall over into some other projects I’m working on at the moment. The words I edited a bit, but mostly left alone. Some time I’ll clean that up also.

As for ‘goat snake witch dance theatre blackness’, I couldn’t decide which word I liked the least and somehow they all sit together quite nicely, like an excess of baroque.


This week I made a decision I’ve been thinking about on and off for years, and always delayed because somehow I would be seduced back to what has been my love and life since I saw Ballett Frankfurt perform all those years ago. It has taken me all around the world and led me to meet some wonderful and beautiful people who are very dear friends, but in all of this there has been… but…

I decided with what savings I had to jump on a plane and come to Europe, to Berlin or Brussels and find somewhere that gave me something in life as well as in dance. I ended up here in Berlin, and yes, it is a city to fall in love with. But there remained that qualifier, and like running around in circles I could see no new way to continue.

So I decided to give up dance. I don’t want to insecurity, precariousness, lack of work, uncertainty, and most of all the bitterness trying to have a career in something I love very much has brought me. After eight years since graduating, I have nothing to show in terms of a career or progress, I’m largely where I was then, applying for the same funding, trying to make small projects happen, begging for work, and long periods of nothing. And perhaps most importantly, broke.

It seems pointless and futile, and for me personally a waste of my ability. Not just as a dancer or choreographer, but that I could be doing something else that maybe I don’t feel so passionately for but am actually able to do something worthwhile with.

What I wanted was a small group of like-minded people, in an old building made just habitable enough to enter, and to make art together, no touring, no festivals, nothing of this conveyorbelt that it seems is compulsory to run along, and this was far too much to ask for. Maybe then some chances to make work at other companies, or dance in some projects, or have enough regular funding to perhaps plan beyond the next month, but this also seems too much to ask. And the thing is now, I’ve lost interest. I don’t care for this and not sure if I was suddenly given this tomorrow I’d even want it.

I’ve done far too many projects for little or no money, or worse that have cost me both money and health to put on. I’ve spent weeks and months at a time writing and preparing funding applications, grants, residencies, all this, all without pay, or in fact paying to do it as the time spent doing this was time I could have been working and having an income. I’ve been and remain completely baffled by the whole industry of performing arts, the funding, festivals, producers, administrators… I still have no idea after all this time how I am supposed to proceed, what I should do to have some semblance of a career. I thought it was to do with talent, but far too much of what I’ve seen has to do with playing favourites, politics, obscure agendas that have nothing to do with art, and at worst something I can only think of as nepotism.

And I’m also bored with dance. With what I see, with the safety, conservatism, meaninglessness, vapidity, staggering lack of creativity or inspiration, lazy and mediocre ideas, their research and production, and seeing so many dancers completely underutilised. And seeing so many dancers treated as dispensable, as children, as problems that have to be dealt with, as the utter bottom of an industry that keeps everyone above them well-paid and secure in their careers even while they are leaving the dancers without work because ‘we didn’t get the funding’. The same dancers who are the entire reason for everyone having a purpose for being there at all, and who should be regarded as the centre of their universe.

Since I began training in Melbourne, and through all my travels I have seen these same things over and over, and also seem such little positive change, scant progression, and quite a bit of things getting worse or just stagnating. And so now here in Berlin, contemplating more years of struggle that maybe will also come to nothing, I no longer want to chase this across cities and continents and hemispheres. I don’t want to pay a couple of hundred euro to go to an audition in another city, I don’t want either to be constantly traveling around, I don’t want to be applying for things that if they even happen won’t be for another six months, I don’t want to live in a life that is for an imagined future that likely will never arrive.

These last mornings, going to ballet, I’ve enjoyed dancing more than I have in a long time. It’s no longer for this imagined future, staying in shape for some possible audition, or keeping myself around in the scene, doing it because I am a dancer. I am no longer a dancer. I am also no longer a choreographer. I do class because I love moving, I love the difficulty and exertion, the familiarity, I love the special world of dancers who do these incredible things with their bodies, it is truly a magical place.

But I don’t want to be poor. I don’t want to be insecure, to worry how I might pay rent or look after myself. I don’t want to compromise my life and myself and other dreams I might have for something that gives too little in return. I don’t want to be bitter either, and exhausted, worried, upset. I’ve tried to find different ways to do it, moving to Adelaide was certainly this, but it feels like it is just me without any support shouting into emptiness.

I would say to friends who were thinking of quitting it’s better to make that decision when you have work to find out if actually dancing is what you no longer care for or just the endless grind of lack of work and the daily exhaustion of trying to have a career in this. And also I would say that I didn’t want to give up and then when I am fifty or sixty regret this, to leave before I have seen out the possibilities. So perhaps now what I have reached is that I don’t want to stay and regret later not having explored all the other possibilities in my life, that there are certain tangible, real things that will not happen soon or at all for me if I stay in dance, and I know I will regret this if not more then at least as much as not trying to make real my desires in dance. And that perhaps giving up a career that does not exist is not so difficult.

I will miss playing in the studio with friends, making what we feel has worth, trying to imagine something new and then bring it into the world, and miss also the moment of inevitability, unavoidable like a train rushing at you standing on the tracks, just before going on stage. I have no idea what the next couple of months will bring, how to just survive for one, and then whether any of my ideas for what I might like to do next can be made possible. And while crying a bit at this ending, I also feel relief that it’s over.

emile zile mediakunst am berlin

Emile has been living in an old convent in Rotterdam for a while now, in residence at Het Wilde Weten, and yes I am experiencing envy and similar emotions over his being in Europe.

He has a solo exhibition at Spielraum in Berlin opening next week (yeah I know I blogged it before but here’s all the details, and anyway it’s my blog). You can watch the trailer for the show too, all fun planes crashing, protecting Australia from terrorism, Anton Enus and other famous news anchors, animated gifs, heavy metal. Bits of Apocalypse PRD 岭南启示录 too. Go to Berlin. Art.

Emile Zile: Die Kunst und die Veränderung der Massenmedien

Vom 16. März bis 1. April 2007

Eröffnung am 16. März 2007 um 20 Uhr
Performance Emile Zile um 22 Uhr

Eröffnung am 23. März 2007 um 20 Uhr
Pixel-Pirat II: Angriff des Astro Elvis Videoklon Die Abschirmung
Preview Trailer: www.sodajerk.com.au/sj/ppii.html

Dispose. contemporary in association with SpielRaum Berlin is pleased to present a pivotal guide to Australian artist Emile Zile and The Art of Mass Media Mutation. Zile’s critical relationship to the destruction and re-creation of the mass media for a spiritual renewal reinforces his potentiality to liberate minds from the notions of mass media culture.

Emile Zile is an Australian-Latvian artist working in single-channel video, live video, installation and performance. Using the mass-media as raw material to be sculpted, re-staged, mutated and shifted, Zile’s work attempts to locate the poetic in a barrage of popular culture. Embracing broadcast banalities and inhabiting the media to make comment upon it, he has appeared on Australian national television to up-stage a gameshow host, installed photographic portraits of Jerry Springer Show audience members in a gallery and performed live video for a hybrid performance work in Guangzhou, China; appropriating 15th century Chinese erotic illustrations, ‘Apocalypse Now’ the film and contemporary American death metal.

Zile’s socio-political stagings, interventions, video and installations have been receiving recognition both nationally and internationally in a diverse range of festivals and galleries including UrbanDrift Berlin, Rotterdam VHS Festival, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art and the Multimedia Art Asia Pacific Triennial. He is currently resident studio artist at Het Wilde Weten, Rotterdam.

More information: www.disposeonline.co.uk

— Speilraum Berlin

art, and the mutation of mass media

Emile says everything is grey, and “phishy weather”. That would be Glasgow, then. But, ART! He’s showing videos from Australian media artists and doing a performance at the Spielraum in Berlin in association with Dispose. All the details are on the flier. Click, etc…

两块一个走 – 2 kuai a zou

One afternoon in, I guess late April, I took Emile and Paul for a stroll through my favourite part of town, Guangzhou town that is, on the west side in Liwan. We stopped for noodles in a small outdoor shop in an alley off a busy main road and were serenaded by the Zou woman, busking one chord on her untuned guitar zou-zou-zou-zou-zou, 2 kuai a zou. Much later back in Melbourne, Emile handed me a cd full of his field recordings made on purchases from audio-kingdom city in Dashatou (old Gameboy cartridges and 1st generation iPods for quick sale by the bin-load).

I’ve been planning to podcast this for ages, but am a bit lazy and also … yeah, lazy. Here is is then Emile Zile’s Guangzhou Field Recordings, worthy of a place on Sublime Frequencies.

edit …

Since last night, I decided to apply myself a bit more to the underlying code that builds a podcast. Being all xml files I figured I could dispense with front-end GUIs and get down to a bit of handcoding. It’s actually all pretty simple, and the real joy has been discovering how to write Enhanced Podcasts (the ones with pictures, titles, links and other garish waste of bandwidth) and slapping it all together from the command line using Apple’s Chapter Tool. Still doing it all in QuickTime might be more um, computer for the rest of us.

Anyway, this means Emile’s field recordings which were one long 35 minute festival of Cantonese sound now have chapters for each section, photographs from his various jaunts around the city, and irrelevant links to my blog.

Field recordings from Guangzhou, 广州, 廣州 made by Emile Zile (www.emilezile.com) during his residency at Park19 Artists Studios (www.park19.com) with Frances d’Ath (www.francesdath.info) for the 岭南启示录 Apocalypse PRD project in April and May, 2006.


岭南启示录 apocalypse prd – eazy-z in g-town

Along with glad tidings of impending theatrical malfeasance from Emile yesterday, he also had a small package of love for me, photos and extra-special Guangzhou field recordings. As the witching hour arrived last night, I entertained myself and got wantonly sentimental while scanning the photos and listening to the sounds of Guangzhou. Here are some of my favourites, and some of my favourite people in Guangzhou, and I have an idea to podcast Emile’s sound recordings later this week. Anyone who has had the great pleasure of listening to the recordings from Sublime Frequencies will know what to expect in this Cantonese mix-tape.

again again flying …

Tomorrow I’m leaving Guangzhou again. This time flying from the new Baiyun Airport directly to Melbourne, the end of the world, the farthest point from the bright centre of the universe, where two of my most wonderful friends have plans to induce me to make dance.

I’m flying Thursday evening, and have a busy day tomorrow, so it’s unlikely I’ll be blogging until the weekend. There’s much I have been intending on writing, to fill in some blank spaces from the last four months of Guangzhou, in the meantime, I’m going to be missing some other wonderful friends in Canton. I’ll be back in October.


岭南启示录 Apocalypse PRD – Apocalypse 1626.666

Besides spelling mistakes and irregular comprehension of names, the DVD of 岭南启示录 Apocalypse PRD is nearly finished, in fact tomorrow it will get burnt. I hope. Feeling very much as though I have been living in a psychedelic other-world recently, I schlepped on over to Park19, and found the Guangzhou magazine 1626城中至潮杂志 has a full four pages on the performance.

the turmoil ended with his death

During 岭南启示录 Apocalypse PRD, China didn’t celebrate forty years since the start of the Cultural Revolution, and for various reasons I never got around to mentioning it either, though it was a very prominent concern during the rehearsals and performance. Last year the performance of bitches was ‘coincidentally’ arranged to land on June 4th, and the PSB had many questions about the colour red for me. This year while rehearsing, I had some quite grotesque thoughts about our immediate future had we all been making art forty years prior. The same thoughts lurked during the performance.

If being a victim of even the lesser insanities of those ten years was a checklist, repeatedly I found myself ticking every new box, and if in the highly unlikely case this didn’t hold true for the performers and artists and audience directly, then merely by association a room of some 300 people were certainly going to be on the receiving end of some revolutionary fervor.

If that’s not speaking plainly enough, then my overarching feeling during that time was that every last one of us would be cold, dead corpses. If not for the art itself, then for intellectual aspirations, for being educated and intelligent, for being bourgeois, or whatever asinine fucking excuse serves to turn one person against another, or as is so stultifyingly common amongst dictatorships, because some of us are gay or bi or trannys.

As much as we’d all like to think China has changed – the ceaseless coda to each and every article on the period inflicts the trope that the barbarity ended with Mao’s death in 1976, my pessimistic opinion is that nothing really has, that skyscrapers and elevated highways and boutique shops are not a valid substitute for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and that while a couple of million deaths and the destruction of entire cultures during the Cultural Revolution is recognised as a holocaust, half a million dying every year from the direct effects of rapacious capitalism has become somehow acceptable, because ‘they are trying to be like us’.

Some light reading:

The woman who sparked years of death and terror: Nie Yuanzi says the anniversary of the Cultural Revolution must not be ignored
The Fortieth Anniversary of the Cultural Revolution
Mao casts long shadow over China
Eyewitness: Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution memories fade
40 years on, the Cultural Revolution comes full circle
Negative images – Photographer risked all to document tyranny of China’s Cultural Revolution
The “textbook problem” – Ye Yonglie on Cultural Revolution education
Cultural Revolution? What revolution?
How “silent” were Chinese media on the fortieth anniversary of the Cultural Revolution? – China Media Project
How “silent” were Chinese media on the fortieth anniversary of the Cultural Revolution?
What China’s media minders had to say about the anniversary of the Cultural Revolution

The same cadres who starved more than thirty million farmers had stolen their land again. During the Mao Zedong reign, everything the peasants had to live on was taken by the state. Families had to visit collective kitchens with nothing to give. Anyone found cooking at home was beaten or worse. Cadres prowled through houses, searching for hidden grain or other essentials. An animal was a capital offense. Someone caught stealing resulted in the destruction of an entire family. Grain rotted in army storehouses or was shipped overseas as people dropped in the street. Some climbed hillsides and called to the heavens, begging their great helmsman to rescue them. Villages became collections of buildings with unburied bodies. During the Hu Jintao reign, the cadres took everything that remained. Not even houses were left. The land was sold for any proposal that could justify money. Loans were extracted from banks to build projects that were never expected to pay for themselves. When the loans did not perform, the banks were bailed out by the national government. In this manner, local officials stole both the land and the money that had once come from it. Villagers who knew better than to call from hilltops pooled their resources to avail themselves of the imperial petition system in Beijing. Once they got there, it was just as though they had gone nowhere. They had nowhere to go.

— fanfusuzi