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NIGHT WALK
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NIGHT WALK

COMPANION CURATOR > Mick Douglas

RESPONDENT > Sven Mehzoud

A black sphere travelling environments and temporarily lodged at gallery spaces.

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Night Walk is a performance work and process conducted as a blind navigation with the landscape, as part of an ongoing study into nomadic states. A large sphere of inflated black plastic is inhabited by a walker. As a journey takes its course, the sphere’s movement across various surfaces perforates the thin plastic, creating a constellation of pinpricks that afford the invisible walker within a mapping system to navigate by.

The clandestine-like movements of the black sphere reveal a hidden interior motive, for these acts of blind navigation produce a milieu in correspondence with each terrain encountered. Surfaces, materials, spatial qualities, rhythms, and other movement systems are gently intruded upon: a dark intrusion creating alternative, non-linear, nomadic narratives in relation to landscapes. A condition of blindness reveals tensions between the body and the geological, geographic, cultural, technological, and architectural terrains encountered.

In the specifically Australian context, walking country has particular significance as a mode of culturally-located knowing, resonant with the ‘songlines’ of Aboriginal tradition. Arriving in this ‘storied terrain’ of the Australian continent, this work by Sam Trubridge – whose formative childhood was spent under stars living on his parents’ sailing boat – performs as an autopoetic register of intersections between mobile spatial practices, non-linear narratives, and the organisational fixity of the state polis and urban architecture.

Following an experimental journey in the Murray Riverland, Night Walk journeyed through city spaces at irregular times over two periods of 48 hours in relation to the two Performing Mobilities gallery sites. Temporarily lodging at the entrance thresholds of the galleries and their spaces within, this nomadic object unsettles the architectural loci of the gallery with a provisional spatiality; inviting entry into its own interior; opening out the potential for multi-dimensional re-inscriptions of moving with and knowing the environment.

1 M. Bal & M. A. Hernandez-Navarro, eds., Art and visibility in migratory culture: conflict, resistance, and agency, Rodopi, Amsterdam, 2011, p. 11.
2 K. Lindsey, ‘Creative cartographies: Notes on an Interview with Paul Carter’, Australian Humanities Review [online journal], no. 1, April  1996, <http://australianhumanitiesreview.org>, accessed 18 May 2016.
3 E. Fischer-Lichte, The transformative power of performance: a new aesthetics, Routledge, New York, 2008, p. 17.
4 S.P. Moslund, A. R. Petersen & M. Schramm, eds., The culture of migration: politics, aesthetics and histories , I.B. Tauris, London, 2015, p. 15.

  • Night Walk, RMIT Gallery, 2015.

  • Night Walk, RMIT Gallery, 2015.

  • Night Walk, RMIT Gallery, 2015.

  • Night Walk, Margaret Lawrence Gallery VCA, 2015. Photography: Kay Abode.

  • Night Walk, RMIT Gallery, 2015.

  • Night Walk, 2015.

  • Night Walk, Margaret Lawrence Gallery VCA, 2015.

Night Walk – Migratory grounding

Respondent > Sven Mehzoud

A large black sphere moving slowly and laboriously through the landscape – a vast deserted beach in New Zealand; on a former grazing and cropping station by the Murray River; on a crowded footpath in the centre of an Australian metropolis – that is the performance of Night Walk. Each instance of its performance generates a set of connections with the local, with the site-specific circumstance of time, nature, body and culture. The audience as witness partakes at a distance in the unfolding of this event. The artist, inside the sphere, remains invisible to the eye. And yet, a strange attachment is felt with the seemingly absent artist body – its labouring to drive this sphere forward is viscerally tangible.

Night Walk reveals migratory operations at work through performative acts of grounding, traversing and transgressing. Mieke Bal offers the notion of ‘migratory aesthetics’ through which she invites us to explore the interrelationship between the migratory condition and the aesthetic dimension of a work of art.1 ‘Migratory’ for Bal is characteristic of mobility, the formational, the connective, and expresses ‘the state of the world’ – and migratory aesthetics seek to explore how art in relation to this dynamic notion of formation can have agency and be political.

Night Walk performs this mobility and formational condition through the act of traversing ground, of traversing country. The sphere and artist, joined in tandem, intrude into the site as a foreign body. The migratory in the local tells us something about difference, otherness and the peculiar. Difference is made tangibly present as borders are transgressed and the demarcations between the conditions of the site and the other are mapped, measured and comprehended. The performance’s labouring action is the ongoing process of locating, of establishing connections, and of uncovering the relationship between things, people, endeavours, conflicts and politics.

Paul Carter speaks of the migrant’s condition as being in the constant process of footing, of finding ground, of an act of settling.2 It suggests a personal relating to the conditions of a place through the operations of the migratory, the momentary and ongoing connections that are being made – actions that bring forth the personal dimensions of the complexity of ‘grounding oneself’. This draws attention to our own actions as witnesses and co-authors to the aesthetic event. An aesthetics of performance proposes a shift from understanding ‘art as object’ to ‘art as event’, which collapses the binaries of subject and object and, in the case of Night Walk, collapses the performance, witness, artist and environment.3 It involves a role-reversal, an oscillating relationship and feedback loop between witness and artist, resulting in a shared experience of grounding. These are reality generating, self-referential, constitutive acts of the performance event.

Moslund, Petersen and Schramm describe such artworks producing a recognition of the world.4 They transgress and reconfigure reality as a process of an ongoing moving forward. Therein also lies the agency of Night Walk: it encompasses migratory processes or operations that uncover existing narratives, express instability, and a potential for change through which new narratives can be generated.

1 M. Bal & M. A. Hernandez-Navarro, eds., Art and visibility in migratory culture: conflict, resistance, and agency, Rodopi, Amsterdam, 2011, p. 11.
2 K. Lindsey, ‘Creative cartographies: Notes on an Interview with Paul Carter’, Australian Humanities Review [online journal], no. 1, April  1996, <http://australianhumanitiesreview.org>, accessed 18 May 2016.
3 E. Fischer-Lichte, The transformative power of performance: a new aesthetics, Routledge, New York, 2008, p. 17.
4 S.P. Moslund, A. R. Petersen & M. Schramm, eds., The culture of migration: politics, aesthetics and histories , I.B. Tauris, London, 2015, p. 15.


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