plexus: noun, plural plexuses, plexus.
1. a network, as of nerves or blood vessels.
2. any complex structure containing an intricate network of parts
Perth International Arts Festival has outdone itself. Wendy Martin and team have brought one of the most stunning works I have ever witnessed to this year’s festival: Plexus by Aurelien Bory.
Bory, along with performer Kaori Ito, have developed something utterly astounding, terrifying and stunning in Plexus. Describing the piece in words is a daunting task, as I suspect its particular magic works on different people in different ways. It’s pure spectacle, and so much of it puts us at odds with what we perceive to be true or possible in a stage setting.
Ito begins the piece in front of a footlight with a highly sensitive mic in her hand. She uses it like a stethoscope and places the mic against her chest, amplifying the sound of her beating heart. The sound rattles the auditorium. This must be a surreal feeling for Ito, to hear her own heartbeat reverberating to the rafters like an evenly-paced thunder. She begins to move wildly and her heartbeat quickens; she breathes and makes guttural noises, and the effect is monstrous.
She disappears into the black silk curtain behind her, consumed by a vertical opening like a birth in reverse. Suddenly the curtain is released from suspension point by point, beautifully rippling and cascading to the floor; then a beam of light makes its way across the stage, revealing nothing about what it’s casting its light on. Everything about this piece is still a mystery.
The light changes and Ito is revealed, in a different costume, standing frozen in the middle of a kind of cage. She begins to lean forward, to the side, backwards, defying the laws of gravity. Soon our eyes and perception adjust to understand that she is standing amongst a “forest” of cords. She proceeds to move through this corded field in the most unexpected, unpredictable ways.
Long sequences of repetitive motion become a visual tease until suddenly a shift takes place and we are dropped into new spatial territory. The amplification of sound that was introduced in the prologue is continued throughout, as we hear songs from the cords and the platform itself as it rocks in the stage space. The stagecraft and execution of Bory’s ideas are exquisite, and the impact is awesome and unforgettable.
This is a work of art in motion, alive, groaning, heaving and shimmering in a suspended space. The entire team of artists, technicians, builders and machinists who gathered forces to put Plexus together have created something entirely unique that works deftly and uncannily on the subconscious. Hair-raising moments of perceptual subversiveness left me with my mouth agape, my heart fluttering in my chest, and rendered me mostly speechless for an hour afterwards.
Perth International Arts Festival presents
Venue: Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of WA
Dates: 17 – 20 Feb 2016
Tickets: $25 – $59