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30 October 2019

bloodpaths: a search for home

Alex Raineri and Katina Olsen Image: Alex Raineri and Katina Olsen  
© Tangible Media

Pianist and composer Alex Raineri writes about the forthcoming premiere of bloodpaths on 29 November and 1 December as part of the Brisbane Music Festival (22 November - 18 December). In its second year, the annual festival - of which Raineri is artistic director - will feature ten performances, including the premiere of 28 new Australian works.

Home (verb): return (of an animal) by instinct to its territory after leaving it.

Are instinct and territory intrinsically linked, or can they be mutually exclusive? In contrast to the animals of the above description, there is a greater complexity to the dimensions by which we as humans relate to the notion of 'home'. In today's fast-paced ever-evolving world where travel becomes more and more efficient, is 'home' a fixed place, or is it an internal feeling of harmonious resonance?

Ruminating on the notion of Australian identity, bloodpaths is a new collaborative project featuring contemporary music and contemporary dance. Curated by Alex Raineri in collaboration with dancer & choreographer Katina Olsen, this major new cycle includes the commissioning of twenty-five of Australia's most vibrant and aesthetically diverse composers: Lachlan Skipworth, Kate Moore, Gerard Brophy, Lyle Chan, Elliott Gyger, Cat Hope, David Chisholm, Damien Rickeston, Connor D'Netto, Yitzhak Yedid, Paul Dean, Austin Buckett, Pedro Alvarez, Jasmin Leung, Jakob Bragg, Heidi Chan, Michael Bakrnčev, Lisa Cheney, Peter de Jager, Benjamin Marks, Alex Pozniak, John Rotar, Jodie Rottle, Elaine Seeto and Alex Raineri.

A collection of stories musing on belonging and the resonant meaning of 'home', the creative aim of this ambitious project is to celebrate the multiculturalism that pervades the Australian arts scene. It seeks to pose an abstract answer to the unanswerable question of what it sounds like, what it looks like, and what it means to be Australian in contemporary society.

What is 'home' - is it a place, a feeling, a history, is it about stories past or present, or does it perhaps relate to future possibilities? This question is of course totally unanswerable as its truth pertains to each of our subjective narratives.

In today's world, a constant dialogue is propelling us into a future of greater positivity and equality. The notion of what it means to be an Australian artist is therefore fundamentally multicultural in nature.

Something that really excites me about performing and curation in this country is the curiosity and willingness by which Australian audiences seem to engage with art, whether it is familiar content or challenging new work. I love the openness of spirit. Australian audiences are able to invest greater energies in raw listening, consuming art with open minds, open ears, open eyes…

My initial concept for bloodpaths was borne from a desire to create a collection of brief works from various composers (like a collection of short stories) that comment upon the essence of what causes music-making in this country to be so uniquely special. The addition of dance to a solo piano cycle seemed a natural progression. Both mediums are abstract in nature and therefore enjoy the benefits of suggestive commentary, provoking thoughts without implying overt answers or agendas of a political or a personal nature.

How do you tell stories of 'home' through the mediums of instrumental music and dance? These are two abstract art forms that are comprised of limitless creative potential that can only be encouraged and stimulated by collaborative provocation.

It is very interesting to consider the cultural inflections that seem to be unavoidable in our artistic practices. In some cases, these inflections define our artistic identities, whether it be consciously incorporated into our work or simply implied by context.

Contemporary dance is perhaps more intrinsically narrative-based than contemporary music. As my colleague Katina Olsen comments; 'My practice in choreographing works is mostly focused on drawing from my family stories, through Wakka Wakka and Kombumerri dreaming stories. To work on bloodpaths is really special in that I'm able to translate stories from composers through movement and create connections with choreographic narratives. That's been a really special journey.'

Each composer has contributed a work of one to four minutes in duration, and it has been fascinating to see how each of the 25 composers have approached the theme of bloodpaths. Some works overtly reference the cultural idiosyncrasies that are inherent in the music of their ethnic backgrounds. Other works pay reference to experiences of Australian culture that have played a role in defining their artistic identities in Australia.

To give a snapshot of some thematic content;

Cat Hope's We Have Become Kin sees dancer and pianist merged as one. Both roles are represented in a graphically notated score, sound and movement are carefully aligned through a slowly morphing trajectory.

Connor D'Netto's Glenro incorporates sounds of wind chimes, traffic noises, bird calls, all carefully documented from his childhood home in Brisbane and woven into the tapestry of his enchanting work.

David Chisholm's Lombard utilises a traditional 'scotch-snap', paying homage to the composers Scottish heritage. This dotted rhythmic figure that permeates the work both aurally and visually is embedded within a rhythmically complex tapestry, decorated with energetic flourishes and quirky figures that seem to trip over themselves in a desire to move forward.

• Elaine Seeto's Lion Spirit Dance musically reimagines the traditional Chinese 'Lion Dance'. This is infused choreographically with similarly movement-based motives from traditional Indigenous culture - a meeting point of two distinct cultures, creatively co-existing in harmony.

Many more incredible stories have been woven into the 90 minutes of show that is bloodpaths. I am in awe of the craftsmanship and dedication of each and every composer on this project and applaud their integration of culturally representative ideas and concepts that never in any way seek to appropriate or misrepresent their sources.

Katina Olsen (dancer / choreographer) and Ben Hughes (lighting designer), the two key collaborators on the bloodpaths team, are both leaders in their respective fields. I'm so thrilled and humbled that they have invested in the fascinating and wonderful journey that has been bloodpaths thus far.

This show cannot represent the endless dimensions of the Australian arts scene, but I hope and believe that it provides a fascinating snapshot into the diversity that comprises Australian art-making now, celebrating both its differences and commonalities.

bloodpaths has received funding from the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts.

Event details

29 November and 1 December at 7:30pm, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Fortitude Valley, QLD (AMC Calendar)

Further links

2019 Brisbane Music Festival (https://brismusicfestival.com)


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