Saturday, 17 March 2018

Festival of Live Art – Rest Area, Kill Climate Deniers

Kill Climate Deniers by David Finnigan
Photo by Sarah Walker


The Festival of Live Art is back for the third year of nurturing and celebrating experimental, interactive and participatory artworks. You can learn to twerk, phone an artist, break things or push a button (True or False) in reaction to the statement “Capitalism Works For Me”.

I went to Arts House last night to experience a couple of the works.

Rest Area by S.J. Norman

A mattress and pillows in the back of a truck. Soft lighting. An intimate setting in an incongruous space. I climbed into the truck like I would approach any theatrical work of art – open to possibilities. But this space, while inviting, asks questions and put me on the back foot. How do I negotiate this moment with a stranger? Can I relax into this or will I be overthinking things?

Rest Area is a short, very intimate work that S.J. has performed on and off since 2007, when it first premiered in a truck outside Carriageworks in Sydney. We all bring our own baggage to any theatrical experience; this piece feels familiar and strange all at once.

I had a lot of thoughts running through my head, as I lay there – but after a while, I relaxed, stopped thinking and just breathed in time with the performer. And then it was all over. Hesitation, connection and release.

Kill Climate Deniers by David Finnigan & Reuben Ingall

How do you tell the story of climate catastrophe on stage without it feeling like a lecture? You run toward the science, challenge the media and make it a lecture. And combine it with a dance party.

David Finnigan’s play is provocatively titled and he’s still not sure if he made the right choice. It got him funding, but it also got him backlash. It got him attention, both good and bad. Finnigan’s work is always provocative and can be counted on to play with the theatrical form. Kill Climate Deniers was supposed to just be a play, but it’s become more than that.

It’s been an album, a film script, a walking tour of Parliament House and – most recently – it finally became a play at Griffin Theatre in Sydney. It’s still playing there. The lecture-cum-dance party version lit up Arts House in North Melbourne last night and plays again next Friday night; a hell of a way to end a week.

The story, such as it is, begins in 1988 – the year climate science and house music began. That’s not true, of course; both had precursors and predecessors that were as significant as the time global warming was first named in the US Congress and Black Box’s Ride On Time was released.

The show shifts and mutates in front of our eyes. It’s autobiographical and scientific; it elicits laughter and boos from the audience. And it tells the story of a fictional politician who must battle eco-terrorists at Parliament House in Canberra while Fleetwood Mac plays in the main hall.

But it’s really just agit prop with a sick beat.

Finnigan, writer and performer, is pitching you the show as he’s giving it to you. He’s prompting you to action while making sure he’s not inciting you to violence. And while Kill Climate Deniers has been script and music and live art, it’s also been hashed out by right-wing columnists and condemned by shock jocks – a strange performance art in itself.

The Festival of Live Art encourages participation, but it’s not just the dance party that brings this work alive: it’s the generosity of Finnigan as a presenter and performer, and it’s the fun of Ride On Time scoring a first-person shooter. And it’s the vital message to be engaged, but don’t literally kill climate deniers. Even though we know you want to.



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