Monday, February 3, 2014

A Body Residing - Wendy Morrow

This review was published with the kind permission of Sawtooth Ari, Launceston, Tasmania.
I hear the word and think of closeness. I think of exclusiveness and privilege, of trust and of understanding. I think of a moment when one body is released from self-consciousness and surrendered to a moment of mind and heart to be given to another. The unseen energies of emotional complexity overwhelm the fickleness of physicality in favour of desire. Nothing matters in this space but mutual alignment. Intimacy is meant to extend beyond our self - it involves an other. Intimacy is harmony, and can be as temporal as a song.
I think of intimacy particularly as I seat myself barefooted on the floor with others who have gathered in the final hours of the first residency that Morrow will undertake this year at Sawtooth ARI. A second will follow in the winter months, but that seems as distant as consequence. Morrow has requested that we remove our shoes and let the soles of our feet touch the surface beneath us. It is strangely unifying.
Morrow prompts us to position ourselves at the fringe of the Sawtooth Front Gallery. We have been invited here as observers and potential collaborators. We are as in the present as Morrow is. What is happening is happening now void of choreography and rehearsal. With A Body Residing the artist is precariously negotiating the place between the activation of a space and being activated by it. Morrow’s residency in the empty Sawtooth gallery is an exploration into self, place and external collaboration conjoined with movement and dance. In this space, she has listened, conversed, and reacted to the undercurrent of essence that a building possesses yet is seldom exposed.
I think about destination. I think about journey.
As Morrow moves in exquisite silence, the building itself compliments her. It buckles under the heat and rattles at the intervening afternoon winds. The soundscape of the street below creeps in, as does the flight path of the skies above. All the while, Morrow is moving and exposing us to a beautiful kind-of synergy offered by the walls she is performing between. Nothing is fixed. Everything is fluid.
When the artist has exhausted her improvisational interaction with the space, she comes back to us and we are ushered backwards through a second space to take seat again for the second observation. The time Morrow introduces the space of objects, where introduced items are there for use or non-use. A directional lamp faces a corner with its core function redundant, instead becoming a listening device rather than a light. A thin strip of paper has begun to fall away from the wall. The layers, the skin, of both person and place are evident. On the floor, large sheets of tissue paper and stacked into a neat pile. Even here, the layers can be seen. Some sheets are crinkled by a previous interaction, others are untouched. Morrow moves around the space and then onto the paper. Intently she steps one foot first and then the other allowing time to absorb the sensations and sounds being produced by her movement. Eventually she lays herself down and begins a slow writhe ultimately wrapping her body with the paper in a mesmerising display of connectedness.

To complete the trilogy of spaces Morrow has worked with during her residency, she retreats beyond the wall to explore the window into Sawtooth’s heart – the office. Short but beautiful, Morrow exposes the window, a thing of practicality that offers both a view in and a view out, and if nothing else is an unsightly blot that most gloss over perhaps more out of etiquette than any other reason. The glass creates a division between public and private, for but Morrow it acts as a device that heightens the presence of reflection. We can see her, but her dance is competing with the view from above us and behind. She weaves herself seamlessly into the frame, and then all too quickly recedes.  
Afterwards, all who are present talk and discuss the happenings within the space over the last few days and of Wendy’s collaborations with artists who she worked with to investigate creative play. We are reminded that this residency is but one of two, and just like intimacy we have been tantalised enough to want to be in this position again.
Bring on the winter.
 - Patrick Sutczak (January 2014)
Sawtooth ARI Artist-in-Residence.25-27 January 2014