The Babel Project by G.R.I. 2007

09 Sep 2007 : Performance Space at Carriageworks, Sydney

I directed this work based on the topic of diaspora, loss of language and homeland and on the continual flight of refugees leaving everything behind, trying to carry with them memories, loved ones, books, possessions. Crossing unfriendly borders. The set comprised a huge wire wall covered in jackets, intended to be a mobile tower. This was reached by long poles and ladders. Jackets rained down. This project employed a mobile lighting boom arm and huge full backdrop video projections by Sean Bacon. Fantastic performances from all the collaborating artists. A powerful and evocative soundtrack by Rik Rue was unfortunately to be our last collaboration, as Rik has developed MS. The central element of the set is a representation of a tower covered in men’s jackets. Taking Babel’s archetype as a failed architecture, we pursue its contemporary outcomes in the fiscal and administrative power-structures of business and industry, memorials and places of worship. The task of cataloguing humanity has been used as a central motif, the attempt to overcome memory-failure, inspired by artworks, memorials and labyrinthine libraries, where loss is memorialised by methods of multiplication and repetition. We offer a monument to the collapse of language and the origins of diaspora, an ode to sinister architectures, mass human movement and communication failure. The analysis is that these effects in combination create a global diasporic condition that is the norm in today’s contemporary world. Diasporas remain un-mapped territories which overlap and intersect in many ways. “Diaspora as homeland” is proposed as a traumatic situation of lack, where communities fight over territory, persecution arises and peoples are forced into flight. Examining the babelic collapse of language we have worked with Amanda Stewart in vocal workshops to explore the sounds that might emanate in communication failure. In the video design a mixture of live and pre-recorded performance, combined with archival documents has been pursued and the projections aim to strike a balance where large-scale imagery contributes to an overall landscape and a site of the drama portrayed, whilst never overwhelming the eye at the expense of live enactment. In a real life family drama, our son Zvi was born the morning after bump-out.

Project Details
Dates 09 Sep 2007
Duration 1 hour
Collaborators Project initiator & director : Alan Schacher; Concept development & set design : Joey Ruigrok van der Werven & Alan Schacher; Production managers : Joey Ruigrok van der Werven & Sydney Bouhaniche; Devising & choreography : a group collaboration ; Performers: Ari Ehrlich, Victoria Hunt, Ruark Lewis, Phillip Mills, Katia Molino, Lee Wilson Video artist : Sean Bacon ;Lighting design : Sydney Bouhaniche ; Sound design : Rik Rue ; Set fabrication : Joey Ruigrok van der Werven & Jiggajigga
Producer Gravity Research Institute and Performance Space
Category ensemble
Credits Supported by Australia Council for the Arts, Arts NSW, Performance Space, Marrickville Council, Performing Lines ; Video documentation : Michelle Mahrer & Samuel James ; Photo documentation : Heidrun Lohr