extermination 4

Here are some of the almost 300 photographs from the filming of extermination, from ace of spades and goya – disatsers of war sections. All the images were taken by Paul Williams, who is currently editing the 16mm film of extermination.

extermination 3

Besides some beligerent contact with the Australian Family Association extermination didn’t get many inches in the dead-tree press. Hillary Crampton wrote this (unpublished) piece though, which I think is pretty cool.

Frances d’Ath’s extermination is probably the most interesting dance work seen so far this year. From the beginning the audience finds itself in a quandary. A brief glance at the program note before entering the auditorium leads to expectations of violence and horror. It is, states d’Ath, a meditation on Jean Baudrillard’s book, Symbolic Exchange and Death. Reference is made to heavy metal, Goya, beauty, decadence, the death of God and the end of civilisation, all those confusing catastrophes of uncertainty let loose upon us by the Pandora’s box of post modernity.

Ironically d’Ath almost succeeds in simulating Baudrillard’s thesis of the destruction of “the real”, because every aspect of this production can be read in a variety of ways. What seems beautiful, could also be seen as degrading, what seems ugly could also be seen as fascinating, intriguing. Nothing, it seems, is for real!

The audience enters a bright space, a candy-cane coloured set, with five beautiful bikini-clad young women jumping persistently, incessantly on the spot. As they continue jumping we become uncomfortable, this seems like exploitation, physical torture, sexist exposure. We avert our gaze, it is too troubling.

Eventually they stop. A vinyl record is activated rending the air with heavy metal growls and shrieks and the dancers thrash and gyrate frenetically as if charged with electric current. This ceases and they move casually to disrobe, quietly but not coyly. The manner defuses the shock potential of nudity. One, completely naked, takes various items and arranges them fastidiously at the front of the performance area, then joins the others in donning formal finery, elegant ball gowns, jewellery, gloves, hair ornaments.

What follows is a stately, highly formalised series of tableaux that simulate grotesque violence, each woman is escorted to her place, then manipulated into fearsome distortions, eyes bulging, arms raised, rapiers placed in their hands so that we see Goya’s Disasters of War coming to life, an almost real replica of an artistic interpretation of an imagined real violence. d’Ath has captured that frustrating circularity that permeates the arguments of the post modern French cultural critics.

The performance manner is fastidiously clinical, the dancers maintain a solemn composure and go about their tasks with idiosyncratic attention to detail. The action finally results in a “real” death and two pick over the denuded body, accruing samples- a lock of hair, some skin scrapings. Are they grave robbers, vultures or forensic scientists? Your guess!

Simulated blood also features, the corpse is daubed, the others drink, it could be satanic, or it could be the biblical Last Supper. d’Ath cleverly refers obliquely and indeterminately to many iconic events. Eventually music rends the air again -more heavy metal, and the dancers thrash violently. Chaos reigns it seems. Then all return decorously, though still semi-nude to take their bows.

In fact the weakest element in the whole event is the brief explosion of what most would consider to be dance. It is the non-dance material that carries the show. The heavy-metal driven thrashing serves only to provide bookends for the task oriented narrative, and looks rather too much like a poor take on the frenetic style of another well-known choreographer.

This is a work that disobeys all the conventional rules, it maintains a slow steady pace, avoids overt theatricality, yet is highly theatrical, drawing the audiences into complicity, by staying we condone what verges on the pornographic, but is it really, or is it art?

And another picture from the delightful end of civilisation (Danielle Harrison clicking again)

extermination 2

For the last two weeks I’ve been locked in Dancehouse for extermination. We performed 8 shows over that time and spent two days filming. So now that I have time to eat and sit in front of my computer, it’s time to start putting stuff here again. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be putting up photos from the performance here, and eventually getting the video up on my other site zero|ballet. In the meantime, for those who missed it, want to know what I do when I make dance, couldn’t get enough and want more, here is the incomparable Jo Lloyd celebrating the early demise of Emily Kerr, photographed by Danielle Harrison. Or in other words, Goya’s Disasters of War


I’ve been rehearsing my new work for the last two weeks, extermination, which opens on August 5th at Dancehouse

extermination is a meditation on Jean Baudrillard’s book Symbolic Exchange and Death; on bodies that are models, robots, animals, corpses; on heavy metal, Motorhead and Slayer; on clothes, costumes, makeup, underwear, and shoes, and every kind of bad behaviour; On Goya and Disasters of War, the death of God, the end of civilisation; on bodies beyond morality, betray, seduce, kill, undress; The collective insanity of delinquent groups filled with indescribable euphoria, an out-of-control blindness, completely certain of what they do.

For people in Melbourne, here are the details, for people outside Melbourne, the work will be on zero|ballet, my website for my performances sometime mid-August.

choreographed by Frances d’Ath
danced by Jo Lloyd, Emily Kerr, Gypsy Luke-Wood, Lou Hartman, Gala Moody
lit by John Dutton
set by Hamish Bartle
dressed by Danielle Harrison
filmed by Paul WIlliams

aug 5 thurs – preview 8pm
aug 6 fri – opening 8pm
aug 7 sat – 8pm
aug 8 sun – 6:30pm
aug 12 thurs – 8pm
aug 13 fri – late show 9:30pm
aug 14 sat – late show 9:30pm
aug 15 sun – 6:30pm

150 Princes St
North Carlton
VIC 3054

Bookings + info: (03) 9347 2860

supported by:
Arts Victoria
Besen Family Foundation
The Space

besen funds extermination

I just found out today that the Besen Family Foundation have funded in part my performance and 16mm film extermination which is happening in July/August. This means I now can actually afford to have the film developed, as well as being able to have a slightly more realistic budget for the production, which means more baroque horror, fake blood, real meat, dirt, and other fun things. Without people like the Besens and other philanthropic families the art scene in Australia would be far more bleak.