LungSong

Brown for Carol Brown Dances, Lopdell Precinct Rooftop, Auckland, Apr/2019


Carol Brown and her fellow artists sing the body (bio)electric in LungSong.

I can only offer the briefest of responses here, albeit one tuned by reflection since I saw this interdisciplinary work of ecological activism on April 13th.

As we looked out onto the dusk of Manukau Harbour from the roof of Titirangi’s Lopdell Precinct, Brown and company wove a nebulous vein of dance, voice, music, and materiality. The dancers would breathe, cry out, and thump their booted heels like Pussy Riot we should be giving more of a shit. As if, like Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has said, “[We] did not act in time.” 

One dancer pulls an impossible net of plastic across the space. She then disrobes her clinical, chess-piece-like costume to reveal a vulvesque red. Has this dancer dragged a placenta of sorts across the landscape only to be reborn herself? Is birth located in opposition to structure in LungSong, or is humanness bound to a continual birthing process of ‘being’ a responsibility then ‘becoming’ responsible—or, might the inverse be true? Are we foremost predetermined or, less Calvinistically, charged with ‘the task’ before traipsing the ritual threshold of completion?

The subtext that underscores my questions above arguably needs no spelling out. I am being heavy-handed wherein LungSong was considerably more poignant.

Brown herself maneuvers through and around the crowd as the piece proceeds. Instructing the audience to move back and forth, she shuttles them into effective positions for viewing and being viewed alike. As she directs, Brown wields two camera tripods like shepherds crooks or long, ungainly fingers.

Whether this is the consequence of a need for documentation or some Brechtian device is deliciously unclear, but I am tempted to read more into the latter. As an intervention, there is a definite sense throughout LungSong that this work is contingent on the audience’s desire to be held accountable. It is a work that excels in defining the ‘receptacle’ that the audience plays—a work that sets out to be received; to incorporate (incriminate?) the viewer into its protest.

With masterful sound design by Russell Scoones also in mind, LungSong is a difficult piece to describe. I hesitate from calling it a site-specific performance as I am aware that this work is not tied to one site, but rather roams like the wind across myriad biomes. What I hope to convey is that this piece is an ‘instant’—a moment only made possible or observable through an extemporary interaction between the performers and audience: an anacrusis to breath as yet uncaught given our task ahead.

That is, we are charged by LungSong in every sense of the word.

In short an extraordinary performance. I was moved to tears, as were many others alongside me, by the profundity of the piece—this moment that was crafted so finely between the audience, nature, sound, and movement. As each moment dispersed my eyes continued to scan the contours of Manukau Harbour. Will this elegant sky be there for our children and grandchildren? Will they too dance with curious bees as the crescent moon rings? Will the clouds that draped these artists’ shoulders glide across the sky or be gone, too, like this dancing instant?

Is the horizon really so far away? ∎