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So long; and thanx for all the fish

I am writing these words with the finality of betrayal that one usually feels when switching soccer teams - or whatever Australians do instead. After years on this address, the time has come to abandon Livejournal for something swankier, more manageable and, ultimately, more transparent.

We LJ-ers were always a bit more tribal than the other blogging communities. We could befriend one another, filter our posts so that only our friends could read them; it was, in one word, all very high school. I've had Mono no Aware since 2001, and it has been many things. For a few years, while I was moving countries and cities more erratically than I change music taste these days, Mono was literally my most permanent address, the best place to find me. I made friends on LJ, not to mention partners.

To cut the sentimentality short, that's the end of that. Livejournal has been changing hands since, roughly, 200...5?, and every change has been for the worse. It wasn't so much the lack of perks, but failure after failure of LJ to provide the minimum acceptable working conditions for a self-respecting blogger, from search and archiving options to design freedom. And then came the advertising... The moment I looked at this URL from a public computer, and found it smothered with advertising I had never asked for nor approved, I was going to leave.

I will continue writing on theatre and dance on Guerrilla Semiotics, an infinitely more pronounceable URL (if you have ever seen me trying to explain the spelling of 'misonou' and 'aware', you will be as relieved as I am), and a much more disciplined design commitment.

At GS, you can find my last articles: reviews of Shaun Tan and Jason Lutes's graphic novels, and an article on Woyzeck, currently playing at the Malthouse.

So long,


The secret of success

The secret of the success of any fool and criminal is that they are likeable. They don't succeed otherwise. Oh, they can have a hold of people or they can be immensely rich but, for the most part, the contradiction of the success of rotten people is that they are beguiling.

- David Marr


last personal note

At the beginning of last year, I still believed in many things. I believed that all people were good; just weak. There is no way to underestimate this weakness, which I thought infinitely bigger than human capacity for good. Yet I believed that, as long as this weakness was cotton-woolled, sheltered from the elements, the good would have nothing standing in its way. I believed in some other things (trip-hop, good food), but they were marginal by comparison.

Now, on the 23rd of January 2009, I believe only that there is Hell. And I believe that, once you've ticked your boxes, you can meet Esmé every single day until you die, you will not be saved.


End-of-year notes.

Snatched the best haircut in Carlton; near-religious as always. A good pair of hairdresser scissors costs a near $1,000. Steel from Japan, from Germany. Parallels between theatre and fashion photography. Long smile exchange with a man with a straw hat [od smijeha pravim saksofon; od sunca pravim put]. For a second there, contemplated saying hello, just-to-see. Insulation from the elements with conspicuous consumption: the long-sought Chatwin's In Patagonia and Rosenblatt's On Photography. Then bass. Sunshine. Footpath dancing. Fragori nella mente/ rumori dolori/ lampi tuoni e saette schianti di latte fragori e albori di guerre universali scontri letali/ SONICA/ SONICA. Perfect would be oldschool Marlene Kuntz for New Year. Which of course


2008 for Jana

Despite all my intentions to retire early, the dance season procrastinated, and it's only today that I am closing my year. It was an eventful one, and I am vaguely looking forward to a month of being a gentleman farmer: cooking, reading, watching films, and undertaking urban expeditions. Or something like that.

2008 was mostly a miserable year here, so beyond bearable that I refused to announce it, preferring to live in a never-ending 2007, until the clouds started dispersing - by which time the 2009 diaries were already on sale. This is one of the reasons why my theatre year is not entirely representative of Melbourne, Australia. Combined with a three-month return to Europe, I only got back to regularly attending local theatre events properly in September. Inevitably, I missed many unusually good-sounding productions, among which, in no particular order: Back to Back's Food Court, Schlusser's Life is a Dream, BalletLab's Axeman Lullaby, MTC(!)'s Blackbird and Simon Stone's direction of pool (no water) for Red Stitch. In Sydney, there were: Stoning Mary at Griffin Stablemates, Wharf2LOUD's Frankenstein, Hayloft Project's remount of their 2007 Melbourne show Spring Awakening at Belvoir Downstairs, The Rabble's Salome in Cogito Volume III and The Fondue Set's No Success Like Failure (which also had a short run in Melbourne).

Another reason is that the highlights of my year were uniformly European theatre products, and many of them on film. Purists will say aaaah!, but I have discovered that dance on film is the most beautiful thing in the world. Among my discoveries were the gorgeous films of Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker. I urge you to have a look at Rosas danst Rosas and Achterland, at least. The shows I loved were covered, laconically, for Real Time, and included: in Zagreb, The Wooster Group's Poor Theatre, Nature Theater of Oklahoma's NO DICE, and some mind-blowing student work. In Vienna, Mathilde Monnier and La Ribot's gustavia, Dalija Aćin's Handle with great care, and Hans Van den Broeck's Settlement. In London, Anthony Neilson's Relocated. In Venice, Random Dance/Wayne McGregor's Entity. While some of this was mainstage glitz, the amount of experimentation, passion, and sheer intelligence I found back home was a good reminder that, most of the time, unchallenged we just don't try hard enough.

Nonetheless, there was some exquisite local theatre, mostly clustered in the last few weeks (despite my dire need for rest). My personal, local Best Of would include: UHT's Attempts on Her Life; OpticNerve's YES; Elbow Room's There; Liminal's Oedipus - A Poetic Requiem; Black Lung's diptych of Avast I & II, and Phillip Adams's two shorts for VCA's Transmutations season. In Sydney, I saw the extraordinary Triptych, by De Quincey Co, and Hans Van den Broeck's Nomads, both at Performance Space. I also remember reacting very strongly to STC's The Season at Sarsaparilla and Hayloft's Chekhov Re-Cut: Platonov, but I wouldn't vouch for those reactions anymore. Things were unusual, back then. It was a strange year for MIAF too, in which the best productions were a poetry recital, a film and a piece of formally near-hermetic dance.

Of the things to look forward to in the next year, there will be a full season of Hayloft, the Malthouse program looks unusually strong, I may finally catch a Schlusser production, and I'll be keeping an eye on Black Lung and Phillip Adams, solo or with BalletLab.

Altogether, I have seen staggering 145 shows, a huge leap from 65 last year. Even discounting the occasional gallery visit from this number, I have spent almost half (three-sevenths, more precisely) of my nights this year in theatre. I have written on 31 of them, although some of my notes are still around, scattered in notebooks, diaries, on the margins of program notes, and should be revisited and pulled together.

The unintended benefit of all the above-mentioned misery is that I have become something rather unusual: a person that doesn't worry anymore. I've started working full-time in research, at Melbourne University, won a scholarship to fund the rest of my interrupted studies, next year, and have been writing at a pace unseen since I was a glorious multi-tasking teenager. I have discovered to possess, among other strange loves, a passion for dance in all forms, visual dramaturgy, and deconstructive theatre. I have remembered wanderlust. I have given myself time until the end of 2008 to decide about the rest of my life, and I'm now extending that period. It's a transitional time. Now that the dust has settled, all is peaceful and quiet for the first time... ever. I can't remember the last year I had where I didn't have any worrying to look forward to. Not the past five, at least, and I don't remember those immediately preceding as rosy either. It's good. Needed.
1. Almost by accident, I came across the following story:
In [the Serbo-Croatian war in the early 1990s], for the first time in history, the tactic of rape became a strategy. Soldiers took women from their homes, from UN or Red Cross or refugee convoys, and put them in the so called "rape camps." Young girls, daughters taken from mothers, mothers taken with their daughters. They were systematically raped until they got pregnant; then they were released from the camps, but in a late stage of pregnancy when it is too late for legal abortion. These women came to Zagreb, the Croatian capital and second refugee stop. Newspapers were filled with their stories: what to do with the unborn conceived in such terrible circumstances. The word "children" was avoided. –Sanja Nikčević. Rape as War Strategy: A Drama from Croatia

I am not sure what a good artistic response to a story of this kind would consist of, but I am not convinced it would of a woman raped in a locker, vomiting on the floor, as in The Women of Troy, a field trip into abjection. Rape camps are a different story to the holocaust, and neither is the digital photography of Abu Ghraib an instance of banal evil: both, instead, are illustrations of the primordial excess, the glee of violence. Barbaric, sweet and sticky and ecstatic, just like the pre-historic wars were, but not mechanical, not absent-minded, not jogging suits, not plastic bags. In confusing the two, I am increasingly convinced the Kosky/Wright production misunderstood its role, and took part in the creation of gore, in titillation. It was competing with the images, trying to find a new angle, perhaps (although I doubt) re-sensitize us: in that respect, it was all about the internal audience equilibrium of emotion and revulsion. If there was any genuine banality there, it was the guilty banality of spectatorship, banality the audience may have been attempting to exorcise through submission to ever more disturbing images. And the point at which these images we are creating to ourselves become more excessive, more disturbing than anything likely to occur in real life, we are making a form of very simple, primary-coloured pornography: images for emotional masturbation.

To try to reduce the pain of others to the interchangeable familiar images, Baudrillard’s circular simulacra, is to deny them their particularity, to reduce them to symbols pointing at our own, limited experience that they sit squarely outside of. Far from being an exercise in sympathy, observing extreme suffering, arising from extreme consequences, is a deeply alienating experience. There is no more distant other than the person undergoing a pain we cannot even imagine, in circumstances profoundly distant from ours. By drawing on our bank of images, The Women of Troy gets implicated in another, more complex story.

2. The political in the theatreCollapse )

3. The Work of WonderCollapse )

The Work of Wonder.

4. Anatomy Titus Fall of RomeCollapse )

Anatomy Titus. Christopher Sommers and Steve Rooke.

5. The radical in the mainstreamCollapse )

The Work of Wonder. By Christian Lollike. English translation by Greg Hanscomb. With Dion Mills, Meredith Penman, Tim Potter & Chris Saxton. Director: André Bastian. Choreographer: Peta Coy. Set Design: Peter Mumford. Lighting Design: Stelios Karagiannis. Red Stitch Actors Theatre, 19 Nov – 20 Dec.

Anatomy Titus: Fall of Rome, A Shakespeare Commentary. By Heiner Müller. Translated by Julian Hammond. Director: Michael Gow. Design: Robert Kemp. Lighting design: Matt Scott. Composition and sound design: Brett Collery. With John Bell, Robert Alexander, Thomas Campbell, Peter Cook, Scott Johnson, Nathan Lovejoy, Steven Rooke, Christopher Sommers and Timothy Walter. Bell Shakespeare and Queensland Theatre Company. Malthouse Theatre, Nov 26 - Dec 6.

Vianne; outsmarted.

1. Shelley Lasica is a choreographer like a bird like a butterfly, someone I do not understand, not even love. Someone who runs away from me, rather. The first time I saw her work, last year, you may remember I wrote: "Dance, for me, is the sea, is falling, is motion sickness." I didn't know, I didn't understand, I had thought, but not the right thoughts, just thoughts.

2. Shelley's mother Margaret Lasica was a pivotal figure in the development of contemporary dance in Australia, a member of the Modern Ballet Group in the 1950s, and the founder of the Modern Dance Ensemble in 1967. She was also an influential teacher: one of her students was Lloyd Newson, who later established DV8. And of course, Shelley, who has been making dance for 25 years, here and everywhere.

3. From Anna Schwartz Gallery press release:
Lasica has always demonstrated a rigorous commitment to the choreographic development of her work. Compositions are interrogated and the informed critical responses of others become part of the working process. For the same reasons Lasica's work is grounded in a discourse that seeks to engage dance with other visual and temporal art forms. To this end she has worked with Artists Tony Clark, Callum Morton, Kathy Temin and Gail Hastings; Architect Roger Wood; Composer François Tétaz; Video-makers Margie Medlin and Ben Speth and Designers Martin Grant, Kara Baker and Richard Nylon.

For Vianne, Lasica has brought together American-born Ben Speth, innovative and internationally acclaimed film maker and creator of theatrical environments; Robyn McKenzie, writer, visual arts curator and Art Historian; Milo Kossowski, musician and composer and band member of The Emergency; Anne-Marie May, Melbourne-based visual artist, and Ben Cobham, production designer/director for visually based companies. Together they will devise the set, sound score, lighting, costume design, projection and text. Vianne's dancers are Deanne Butterworth, Joanna Lloyd, Tim Harvey, Bonnie Paskas and Lee Serle.

4. This is all true. Vianne, currently playing at fortyfivedownstairs, is indescribable, and as review-proof as all of the above suggests.


Bonnie Paskas, Timothy Harvey, Jo Lloyd, Deanne Butterworth and Lee Serle. Photo credits: Rohan Young.

6. Ah that's a cop-out, you'll say! And you'll be right. Isn't that why a person writes on dance?

Colleague Boyd has confided that Lasica is known for commissioning librettos for her dances. And damn, does one not wish that the dancers spoke! There is so much in Vianne, just like there was so much in Play in a Room, but it's buried so deep within that for once, just for once, you wish the dancers explained themselves verbally.

...Collapse )

Vianne. Choreographer and director: Shelley Lasica. Music: Milo Kossowski and Morgan McWaters for PEACE OUT!. Set and objects: Anne-Marie May. Costumes: Shelley Lasica and Kara Baker for PROJECT. Light and Design Consultant: Bluebottle / Ben Cobham. Dancers: Deanne Butterworth, Timothy Harvey, Jo Lloyd, Bonnie Paskas, Lee Serle. Curatorium: Ben Cobham, Milo Kossowski, Robyn McKenzie, Anne-Marie May, Ben Speth. At fortyfivedownstairs, December 3 - 14 2008.

Preparing my exit...

...from the theatre territory into the holiday season, I've purchased two graphic novels that will, hopefully, close my collection of American indy. A scene that blossomed in the 1990s and will, hopefully again, finally die or evolve, it has been characterized by a very narrow range of writing and drawing, as befits an insular little community. All simple, understated vignettes on dysfunctional post-adolescents, but there is undeniable quality to a lot of this work. It just cannot go on forever.

In any case, the holy trinity of the American indy that I have finally put together comprises Daniel Clowes's Ghost World, Jessica Abel's Mirror, World (collecting most of her Artbabe series), and the two collections of Adrian Tomine's Optic Nerve series, Summer Blonde and Sleepwalk. Together, this would make a four-volume library of pure, if uncomfortable, splendour.

With graphic novels becoming an acceptable middlebrow read in the US, American indy, up to now limited to self-published short zines, has seemingly been pushed into the longer format, mostly to the detriment of whichever quality their style had. Abel's La Perdida and Tomine's Shortcomings, both recently published, are pleasant enough reads, and highly praised by literary critics (whose greatest praise for a comic book is that it's as good as a novel, and most of whom couldn't tell a graphic novel from an illustrated text). At the same time, they are infinitely inferior to the short story collections that preceded them. La Perdida is a sort of Bildungsroman travel narrative, one long journey towards a simple punchline, and Shortcomings the sort of unpleasant-young-man-coming-of-age story that American indy has been coming up with in bucketfuls, with none of the astonishing, minutely observed narrative composure.

Save yourself money, and get the short stories instead.

Adrian Tomine is probably the most talented of this bunch. Often compared to Raymond Carver (justifiably), he brings a touch of lightweight Japanese minimalism to stories of urban estrangement. While all of the authors in this big family (not least Clowes, whose other work I greatly dislike), have a painful fascination with the unpleasant, absolutely unpalatable side of humanity (the geek, the anti-social, the uncomfortable), they often seem to dwell on the details without the ability to spruce up an intelligent conclusion. Graphic novelists being a strange, geeky and anti-social bunch themselves, this is more often than not narcissistic, if forensic, solipsism. Todd Solonz without the sardonic touch. Tomine, by contrast, is a master of form without a hint of misanthropic self-pity. Some of the stories in these collections are a mere panel long, but so tight and chiseled one is left gasping for air.

Both volumes are best read slowly, on a sunny day, with a glass of gin and tonic, and long pauses for contemplation and recovery.
I first encountered the Black Lung boys in Rubeville, in a Westgarth garage in 2006. As it often happens on the occasion of Fringe, the original venue had to be abandoned soon after the programs went to print, and I could be seen running up Smith St, having just read the handwritten notice on the ex-venue door, trying to get to a completely different suburb in five minutes. And it was worth every drop of sweat and every curse and kick of the tram door. Rubeville, I remember, was a ramble on the pursuit of money and fame. Some of it was obviously improvised, some of it probably wasn't. Most of the time, one just couldn't be sure. Eloise Mignon overdosed, vomited, and stepped out of character to complain about the gender politics behind her one-woman prostitution and drug abuse, surrounded with male heroes. Gareth Davies plotted to steal the Black Lung till and fly out of the country. Dylan Young offered his body to just about everyone in view. It was unpredictable, self-indulgent, plotless, but it was brilliantly written, fizzing with energy, and incredibly funny. It was brilliant theatre.

Having since missed all sorts of small-format Black Lung, including an intriguing-sounding Short + Sweet 10-minuter, 9 of which Davies spends raping Sacha Bryning (I hear), and Pimms in Fringe 2007, due to another venue catastrophe, it's been a relief to find Black Lung stable, intransient, programmed, unable to escape or collapse or disband or disappear, in the Malthouse Tower, presenting a revival of an old work, Avast, and an original sequel/prequel to it, Avast II. And they are still gorgeous, gorgeous boys.

Avast is grand and great. As we enter the Tower, completely transformed into a sort of magic shed of early manhood, all vintage porn magazines, rows upon rows of black umbrellas in the ceiling, graffiti on black walls ('Albert Tucker Mother Fucker'), animal skulls on wood panelling, damp Persian rugs on the ground and dead nannas in the corners, my companion smiles like only girls smile, and exclaims excitedly: "It smells like men!" Music is blaring, semi-naked dirty men with bushranger beards are jumping, dancing, and running through the space, and this chaos will seamlessly turn into theatre. Until it seamlessly turns out of theatre again, it will do the same as always: half of it, you will know, must be improvised, but you'll never be sure which half. Props will collapse, actors will seriously injure one another, bad stories will be told and audience members will try to leave only to get shouted at, and I quote: "Sit the fuck down or I'll punch your girlfriend in the face! That's rude!" (finding out that they were planted in the audience almost broke my heart). Among all this, the flimsiest narrative line emerges: two brothers reunited, for one to kill the other.

Avast II - The Welshman Cometh, the Malthouse-generated prequel/sequel, is a more coherent, more narrative-friendly performance. It has some semblance of plot, and is less of a meta-meander than Avast the First. It explains it, however, serving almost like an annotated commentary on the influences: an array of pop artefacts, from graphic novels (Preacher), films (Kill Bill), to cartoons (the Dragonball series). It is a western informed by the samurai Japan, by the gothic, by dungeons & dragons, a loose theme park of duty, family bounds, heroism, frontier mythology, resilience in the face of natural disasters, sword fights. It is a world devoid of women, where all the conflicts are between friends, fathers and sons. The story, if we should bestow such an honour on the ramble, follows an outlaw coming into the city, dragging an outcast, roped by the neck. The found man, nameless, with a hook instead of one hand, is baptised Diego because no-one can die without a name, and their arrival wrecks havoc upon the township, stirring shit in relationships between fathers, sons, friends (as already mentioned), and God. The narrative shifts left to right, following a logic of something other than plot, and music is employed like Melbourne doesn't get enough of it.

Read more...Collapse )

Avast and Avast II - The Welshman Cometh, a Malthouse / Black Lung co-presentation. The Black Lung Theatre Company: Sacha Bryning, Gareth Davies, Thomas Henning, Mark Winter, Thomas Wright, Dylan Young. Sound designer / musician: Liam Barton. Lighting designer: Govin Ruben. Stage manager: Eva Tandy. Malthouse Theatre, 12 November - 6 December 2008.


being a gentleman farmer
guerrilla semiotics


My name is Jana P and Mono no aware is my soul HQ.

I've lived in Croatia, Venice (Italy) and am now stationed in Melbourne, Australia; I blog in many languages, to many people.

I'm a web-designer; translator; journalist; good cook; light traveller; free thinker; street make-up artist; hitch-hiker; amateur photographer; prolific kisser; fighter of bureaucracy; theatre-goer; writer of love letters; failed japanologist and a prospective urbanist.

I'm interested in the relationship between words and images, between mind and space.

These days, I write mostly on spatial theory and theatre.

I can be contacted at relatively [at] gmail [dot] com.
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