The Dead End


Unnamed laneway, Brisbane, April 2016

A large white box stands in a narrow graffiti covered back alley. The alley is a dead end. The box is sealed on all sides except for a small aperture at the front, a peep hole. The audience can view the action in the box through this opening only. Set into the box are two viewing chutes. Each is a different viewing device playing looped films. One shows two skeletons working manically in a laboratory, the other (viewed through a large lens) shows a seated skeleton with petals falling upwards all over it. A pair of ear buds hanging from the box near by plays an audio recording of multiple layers of dialogue; two skeletons discussing the nature of death from a personal, existential perspective. From another small tube protruding from the box at knee height, grains of rice tumble into a bowl.

Inside the box the two skeletons are engaged in a series of manic, repetitive tasks; writing on the walls; pulling on an endless rope; passing notes and garbage through slots cut into the box to the outside world; observing the things around them through various viewing devices – microscopes, binoculars, telescopes; taking photos. An objectionable warning siren sounds every two minutes.

After half an hour, as chaos gradually overtakes the action in the box, the skeletons cut their way out of the box with knives and break through. When they emerge into the light, they are dressed as ghosts, covered in white sheets with eye holes. They walk away without comment.

The performance concludes.

The work addresses the various thresholds that exist between us and the things around us in the world; thresholds that connect us to that which we can sense but cannot directly perceive. There is the principal motif – life and death, but there is also the separation of audience from performer, the subjective self and the non-subjective world of matter, the slippages that occur between time and space, approximations of the real – the original, the copy and the almost-the-same, the gaps between the original and its trace – digital media, memory, experience.

The skeletons perform their manic rituals beyond the immediate gaze of the audience, so that only one viewer can ever witness the hidden actions (in the box) at a time. Audience members necessarily have a different experience of the same performance, something that alludes to a fundamental, existential experience of the world.