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Review | DROWNING is an intense and delicate exploration of grief

DROWNING | Paper Mountain | til Feb 22nd | ★ ★ ★ ★ 

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Grief is a strange beast. It is both quiet and loud, ferocious and soft. It coils around the soul with such an intensity that at times it feels like you are growing a diamond inside your chest. At other times, it feels as though you are hollow. Irrespective of the feeling, grief changes you.

Grief is explored in Marijke Loosjes’ touching and thoughtful performance art installation DROWNING. It’s really good to see some performance art on the Fringe schedule, and DROWNING is right up there: it is both intense and delicate.

Remember though that yes, this is performance art, and performance art isn’t for everybody. With a subtlety of layers, this work moves through four stages of grief: acceptance, working through, adjustment and endurance. Each stage has a different station within Paper Mountain’s Common Room. Loosjes, who holds the audience with her movement and intent, moves through each station, each stage of grief, with an assuredness that is beguiling to behold.

Shrouds feature heavily in this work, as do bandages. Both are used to convey a multiplicity of meanings and emotions, from loss of self within grief to empowerment from having experienced grief. The section with the asemic embroidery hoops holds particular poignancy, as messages anonymously submitted are translated into a fractured embodiment of pain via cross-stitch.

The final segment, endurance, is also pretty damn incredible. The use of roses manifests a duplicity of being, simultaneously inflicting pain on the artist and augmenting her body with beauty. The stillness in this section is particularly amazing.

One does wonder about the use of lights. Essentially, there are none in this performance. The question then becomes: could they help in directing attention or would they detract from the art and lead it more into a performance, a production? After all, grief is not a production. It is a performance. It is something we have to perform ourselves in order to comprehend its impact. But still, I watched DROWNING with the thought that lighting may have evoked deeper moods and thus deeper connections.

On leaving DROWNING, my friends and I were struck at how suddenly quiet the world was. This is testament to Loosjes’ focused performance, the lack of a word uttered, the beautiful atmosphere created by musician Shaun Ferraloro. Drowning is for those who want to see an honest and raw portrayal of an emotion that, often, is ushered to the sides of our conversations, is something we tell others to ‘get over’. And of course, Fringe needs more performance art, so Loosjes’ addition is a beautiful reminder that such a festival is a platform to explore topics like grief in a way that will quieten and empower the audience.

DROWNING has one more performance in Paper Mountain’s Common Room tonight. Tickets and more info available from fringeworld.com.au

Scott-Patrick Mitchell

Image credit:- Shaun Ferraloro


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