Review: Artwork (Carriageworks)

carriageworksVenue: Carriageworks (Eveleigh NSW), Aug 5 – 8, 2015
Artists: Branch Nebula

Theatre review
In Branch Nebula’s Artwork, eight members of the general public respond to a job advertisement and are put on stage at short notice. They follow prompts and instructions provided in a variety of ways, and become the performers of a theatrical piece before our eyes. The results are stunning. Our senses are skilfully engaged by a talented team that includes Mirabelle Wouters (set and lighting design) and Phil Downing (sound design), who create a highly sophisticated atmosphere wherein the cast carries out tasks that become the content of the show unfolding.

The range of activities is plotted shrewdly. Even though stories and narratives are never manufactured in a conventional sense, the audience is forced to establish meaning from personal perspectives based on the collection of symbols that arise from the work’s very articulate abstractions. In addition to machinations of the actual artwork occurring on stage, our attention is drawn to further themes about work and of art in general, which it explores at varying levels of subtlety. In the realm of work, ideas about the economy and capitalism relating to individual volition and the objectification of the disadvantaged, make for the show’s most pointed moments. Concepts about artistic intention also resonate with power, as we witness the “workers” carrying out mindless undertakings, as we formulate for ourselves, streams of meanings and consequences independent of their subjective processes and experiences.

Artwork is a gentle exploration into democracy and social equity. It looks at the state of our societies as they exist, and implicates its audiences and participants into the ways our world is allowed to function. The piece places us in the position of privilege, in order that we may achieve greater awareness about the failures of social and political systems, of which our involvement cannot be refused. In the stillness of Artwork, we are confronted with the fractures of our humanity, but we also discover its inherent and invulnerable strength, and a precarious hopefulness that we cannot help but embrace. |