Dispatch Review respectfully acknowledges the Whadjuk people as the traditional owners and custodians of the lands upon which we live, work and enjoy. We pay deep respect to Elders past and present. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.

Reviews:

  1. Light Event by Sam Beard
  2. Rejoinder: Archival / Activism by Max Vickery
  3. Access and Denial in The Purple Shall Govern by Jess van Heerden
  4. 4Spells by Sam Beard
  5. Abstract art, DMT capitalism and the ugliness of David Attwood’s paintings
    by Darren Jorgensen
  6. Unearthing new epistemologies of extraction by Samuel Beilby
  7. Seek Wisdom by Max Vickery
  8. Something for Everyone by Sam Beard
  9. Violent Sludge by Aimee Dodds
  10. State of Abstraction by Francis Russell
  11. Double Histories: Special Issue, with texts by Ian McLean, Terry Smith, and Darren Jorgensen & Sam Beard
  12. Six Missing Shows by Sam Beard
  13. What We Memorialise by Max Vickery
  14. At the End of the Land by Amelia Birch
  15. The beautiful is useful by Sam Beard
  16. ām / ammā / mā maram by Zali Morgan
  17. Making Ground, Breaking Ground by Maraya Takoniatis
  18. Art as Asset by Sam Beard
  19. Cactus Malpractice by Aimee Dodds
  20. Sweet sweet pea by Sam Beard
  21. COBRA by Francis Russell
  22. PICA Barn by Sam Beard 
  23. Gallery Hotel Metro by Aimee Dodds
  24. A Stroll Through the Sacred, Profane, and Bizarre by Samuel Beilby
  25. Filling in the Gaps at Spacingout by Maraya Takoniatis
  26. Disneyland Cosmoplitanism by Sam Beard
  27. Discovering Revenue by Anonymous
  28. Uncomfortable Borrowing by Jess van Heerden
  29. It’s Not That Strange by Stirling Kain
  30. Hatched Dispatched by Sam Beard & Aimee Dodds
  31. Fuck the Class System by Jess van Heerden, Jacinta Posik, Darren Jorgensen, et al.
  32. Wild About Nothing by Sam Beard
  33. Paranoiac, Peripatetic: Pet Projects by Aimee Dodds
  34. An Odd Moment for Women’s Art by Maraya Takoniatis
  35. Transmutations by Sam Beard
  36. The Post-Vandal by Sam Beard
  37. Art Thugs and Humbugs by Max Vickery
  38. Disneyland, Paris, Ardross and the artworld by Darren Jorgensen
  39. Bizarrely, A Biennale by Aimee Dodds
  40. Venus in Tullamarine by Sam Beard
  41. Weird Rituals by Sam Beard
  42. Random Cube by Francis Russell
  43. Yeah, Nah, Rockpool by Aimee Dodds
  44. Towards a Blind Horizon by Kieron Broadhurst
  45. Being Realistic by Sam Beard




At the End of the Land is a piece devised by Too Close to the Sun, an interdisciplinary solo theatre company based out of Perth consisting of performance-makers Talya Rubin and Nick James. In development since 2018, PICA is currently playing host to the world premiere of the performance. Told in a non-linear fashion, the “encounter”, as it is described in marketing copy, is a series of scenes performed singularly by Rubin which broadly relate to dying, death, and the afterlife. 
        The most powerful moments of the piece are in instances of fragmented visuals. At the End of the Land is self-described as “Lynchian-esque” (two steps removed from Lynch, apparently) and aside from the documented over-saturation of such a phrase, I was curious to see how it would play out. Admittedly my exposure to Lynch is minimal, my sole experience being a viewing of Mulholland Drive with my brother when I was ten. I had concerns regarding whether any of these “Lynchian-esque” influences would go over my head. Interestingly for much of At the End of the Land I was reminded of the echoes of another film I watched around the same time as my only brush with Lynch, Peter Weir’s 1975 Picnic at Hanging Rock. The performance ostensibly centres around the death of eighteen schoolgirls. While the circumstances of these deaths are unclear, Rubin stages a series of fragmented tableaus which may or may not yield clues as to the conditions of the girls’ deaths, or where they are now. The performance borrows from the particulars of late Victorian spirit photography, with multiple visual evocations of ideas like vital fluid and ectoplasm spiderwebbing erratically across digital projections. In one moment, Rubin positions herself in various staccato configurations with a veil, appearing to recreate Albert von Schrenck-Notzing’s confrontational and controversial séance photographs of Eva Carrière. In another, Rubin speaks to us from behind a silkscreen, while multiples of the same photographic portrait drift around and across her, sometimes merging with her own face in a confusing yet pleasing doubling. To be dead is disorienting, Rubin reminds us, and At the End of the Land is strongest in these fragmented glimpses of the possible, multitudinous in-betweens.
        My concerns with not “getting” the Lynchness of it revealed themselves to be unfounded, as Rubin delivered a series of monologues as Lynch himself talking about transcendental meditation and the unified field. As someone who actively enjoys when art gets a bit insular and referential, this felt less like the adoption of “Lynchian-esque” tropes and more like an exercise in proselytism. Largely I could engage more generously with these Lynch-stanning segments than scenes featuring the purportedly evil sidekick character of the Red Monkey. The Red Monkey, a medium-sized puppet made by 2023 Lester Prize winner and Perthonality Tarryn Gill, is something resembling a mash-up of the late nineties Little Monkey Lost puppets and a demonic Furby. Rubin, speaking in a role as a teenage girl, tells us that Red Monkey is “insane”, that he is the devil’s pet, that he is listening to death metal on his wireless headphones. Perhaps Too Close to the Sun is taking a stab at something absurdist here, but there is an off-putting earnestness in this shot at nonsense that sounds less like a naive teenage girl talking, and more like how someone middle-aged thinks a naive teenage girl might talk. This is a recurring issue with At the End of the Land: attempts to inject levity or humour into the piece feel at once trite, hollow, and a little embarrassing, altogether too self-indulgent to land with any gravitas. When Rubin speaks directly to the viewers she is both charismatic and humble, a natural and generous storyteller as she breaks character to share her own experiences with the unknown. This authenticity makes every return to a Red Monkey monologue maddeningly tedious. The same goes for the recurring reference to the schoolgirls being flushed down the toilet, or a tangent on wormholes towards the end of the piece. Too much is happening in this 75-minute piece to ground any of these ideas and give them resonance. As an audience watching a nonlinear montage piece, we need not expect all the answers, but this format frequently felt like an excuse to leave a number of elements chronically underdeveloped.
        Throughout the piece there are genuine moments of pure brilliance. At one point Rubin delivers a monologue to the audience as gradually a pulsing blue light flickers over her, until only her silhouette remains. The strobe wipes all identifiable features from her face. With her features blurred she convincingly speaks as one of a whole, perhaps all at once, as a disembodied voice from somewhere unknowable. In another moment, white noise builds to the sound of a roaring train, imminently pressing down upon the audience. Interludes of Rubin’s hands, projected onto translucent screens, enacted slow, ritualistic patterns: the filling of petri dishes, the intricate maintenance of miniature dollhouse rooms. The integration of sound, light, and video design are stunningly transportive, and at her best Rubin, as sole performer, is compellingly enigmatic.
        Look. I am a big fan of making your audience work for it. Generally speaking, I wish Perth theatre would put more trust in their viewers and challenge them. What was most frustrating as a viewer was that I firmly believe that there is a better show in there, it just wasn’t necessarily what we were watching. The piece repeatedly offers water as a core visual theme, but other than a long-winded hypothetical of the girls being flushed down the toilet, this presence is never built on by the script. The opening scene features Rubin, cloaked in silver, rising from the green banks of a watery grave like a reverse Ophelia. Between this powerful imagery, constant reference to the sidelined, potentially avoidable deaths of teenage girls, and the utilisation of narrative confusion as in Ophelia’s final scene, I kept searching for some consolidation of this in the performance. Perhaps I am at fault here—hoping for the “Ophelian-esque” when instead we would endure another “Lynchian-esque” monologue of direct quotes from the big man himself. The potentiality of these dead girls—where they could be, what they could mean - was actually the most fascinating thing happening in At the End of the Land. Rubin and James seemed distracted by too many other ideas to properly back themselves on this, and the show devolves into a manifesto of vaguely connected but ultimately underdeveloped ideas about the beyond, occasionally punctuated by moments of clarity.


Too Close to the Sun, At the End of the Land, 28 Nov – 2 Dec 2024, PICA.



Images: Too Close to the Sun, ‘At the End of the Land’, photo: Samuel James.