Flaunt Version 1.0 (2014)

Flaunt (version 1.0):  September 2014 – November 2014

After finishing my film Ward of State, and opening Mill Street Studios, in 2014 I was keen to make a new live work for the stage. The opportunity came with a call out from The Brisbane Powerhouse through an initiative called “Sweet”.

“SWEET! is Brisbane Powerhouse’s season for new contemporary performance. Quite simply, it is an artist-led program focused on assisting local performance makers to create and manage their own work, supported heavily by the infrastructure and resources of a major multi-arts venue”

https://brisbanepowerhouse.org/events/2015/05/15/sweet/

Funding from the Australia Council was behind Sweet. I applied, as did 80 others. I was thrilled to be one of the 3 projects selected.

Brisbane Powerhouse Press release:

SWEET #2 | Flaunt by Claire Marshall Projects | Visy Theatre, 10 – 23 Nov 2014 Flaunt uses reflections and refraction of light scaffold and clear Perspex and occurs in the round and above the audience. The dancers move in and out of entanglements as they flaunt contemporary bold gutsy dance movements onto clear Perspex surfaces (visible to the audience below) exploring the sexualised representation of the human body against a humanless backdrop.

Being selected meant developing a new work at the Visy Theatre, Brisbane Powerhouse and with some financial and technical support from the Brisbane Powerhouse.

For Flaunt, I had a vision of a giant Perspex stage and the audience being able to see the action from above or below. The Visy is where I created Hey Scenester, (2010) SlowDive (2010), and shot Pulse (2012). It’s one of my favourite theatres. However,  to make this space look so different again was going to be a challenge, so the first step was a visit back to my favourite little Visy Theatre and to imagine Flaunt in the space.

On the stairs of the pit, there’s still fake blood stains from Hey Scenester in 2010. We like to leave our mark.

INSPITATION:
The inspiration for Flaunt came about when I was researching women in my family for my film Ward of State. I found a newspaper article about a distant relative who was a singer in the late 1880s. The advert was for her performance. It made me think about how women today advertise themselves on social media. I had the idea of examining women under a microscope on a giant slab or screen, and investigating how they publish and promote themselves today. Instagram, Facebook, selfie photos and researching the psychology behind how viewing other’s photos can impact on other young women.

The first thing required was a hero image. I worked with Mark Greenmantle on this, explaining the concept of what I envisaged, and as always, Mark outdid himself. We chose the above image for the hero image for Flaunt (featuring dancer Kirri Webb, and hair and make-up by Stephanie Patterson). The hero/ poster photo was taken at Mill Street Studios late one night in August with the smoke machine cranking and with a test piece of Perspex.

Below: Make-up artist under the Perspex for a cheeky photo.

CREATIVE TEAM:
My first point of call was budding set designer Frances Hannaway, who had helped with some earlier creative developments and with some of the renovations at Mill St. With Fran’s design background as well as dance background, I knew that Fran would be up for the challeges of Flaunt. It would become a massive learning curve for us both.

One night in August 2014 after classes at Mill Street Studios, we sat down and discussed the work. I showed Frances my rushed drawing for how I saw the space and set and Frances whipped up some drawings in CAD.

This is the Perxpex (plexiglass) sitting in the custom built frame. Each piece weighted 100kg. 
Assembly of the set in the rehearsal space at the Brisbane Powerhouse:

REHEARSALS/ DEVELOPMENT:
Rehearsals commenced in October 2014 with a few rehearsals at Mill Street Studios before moving to the residency at the Brisbane Powerhouse in October (at the Turbine Rehearsal space). Rehearsals we over 4.5 weeks and quite intense due to the amount of work I needed to create.

From the rehearsal space the set was bumped into the theatre for the performance season. As always, the powerhouse staff were exceptional and we had help from their production team: Simon, Matt, Minty, & Kev.

I had engaged 4 dancers who I had worked with before: Miranda Zeller, Mariana Paraizo, Kirri Webb, and Amelia Stokes (who I had not worked with since youth dance company Urban Ignition and before Amelia had gone to train at WAAPA. I knew that these dancers understood my movement vocabulary and that as a team, we would work quickly. We did. The rehearsal times were such a highlight of the development time.

Much of the movement material was developed without the main set due to hold ups in the confstruction. They were keen to work with the set once it arrived despite some inintal fear of the height and not being able to see below them.


METRO ARTS:
I had a clear idea of what I wanted the work to look like, but making a new work in 4 weeks is a massive task. Just creating dance in the studio is time consuming enough, but to factor in the other roles I usually take on when creating a work, I definitely found myself stretched for time, and it’s often the work that suffers. For example, I would normally also produce the work, look after all aspects of the sound and audio, promote the work, costume the work, and take time for press and interviews.
Fortunately, a call from Metro Arts provided what was needed. https://www.metroarts.com.au

The back-story of Metro Arts (formerly Maps for Artists) is that they offer creative producing services to artists making work in Queensland. For many years I had been trying to have my work on their radar, however, there was no opening for any more artists. The phone call from Jo Thomas at Metro Arts in September 2014 was exactly what the work needed: a creative producer. The win didn’t stop there. Jo also suggested I work with a dramaturg and lined up the talented David Fenton. Working with David Fenton changed the way I create a work, and how I think about the structure of the work. It was possibly the greatest outcome for me as an artist in terms of my development. Touring the work would come in a close 2nd, but at the time in 2014 I could not have imagined that would be a possibility.

BUMPING INTO THE VISY THEATRE:

To dismantle the set and move it just a few metres into the theatre saw a lot of problem solving, but it was good to work all this out before touring the work. Flaunt assembly video:
https://vimeo.com/116275386
We had a week in the Visy to finish developing the work in the space as well as rig, focus, and plot liting.

Below: photo of dress rehearsal (by Mark Greenmantle)

We even built a crypt for one of the mannequins in the floor (seen further below with dancer Mariana Paraizo)

In the first incarnation of Flaunt we also used projection and photographer Mark Greenmantle took some “Selfie-inspired” photos of the dancers that were projected in the piece. I think the dancers all felt a bit ridiculous doing these photos, but looking back, they are pretty tame in comparison to what we see on social media. Below: Dancer Amelia Stokes. Photo by Mark Greenmantle

The projections occurred during the performance too

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The projections occurred on a large Perspex cube we filled with haze.

For a few creative reasons, I had mannequins included in the work and the “girls” also became a part of our publicity campaign. They had an Instagram account and made a few posts. Flaunt being about women and power, the mannequins were brilliant for posing as life examples of young women today. This actually generated interest in the piece among the non-contemporary dance audiences. No mannequins attended the show however.

This is Madaleine.Madaleine embraced life at the Brisbane Powerhouse, but not so much in rehearsal.
Madaleine also crashed some parties (and our instagram campaign)

Lighting designer Michal Richardson and Stage Manager Mitch Cooley were an integral part of the team too. Lighting is always so important and Michael Richardson was a brilliant young lighting designer to work with.
Here’s a few more photos of Flaunt 1.0 by Mark Greenmantle/ Mark Greenmantle Photography.

Working in the performance space is always the most exciting part of making a work. Things all start coming together. There’s late nights finishing decorative elements. There’s even sometimes the time to stop and think and enjoy it all coming together.

We also had some press in the Sunday Mail and a photo shoot with the dancers.

The18th to the 22nd of November was the performance season for Flaunt with 5 shows. Flaunt came close to a sell-out season with 4 of the 5 performances selling out.

OUTCOME:
This was the final outcome of Flaunt (in terms of what was created in 2014):
Flaunt is about women and power and how it can be ‘socially inscribed’ on the body – like a magnetic inscription on a tape, which repeats and repeats and then eventually runs out.
We are examining what women project about themselves, and how women are socially conditioned to police each other’s ‘acceptable’ images.
We are investigating well established tropes of women under glass, in the glass and the objectified and deconstructed body.
Some young people I knew were beginning to use social media to post photos of their bodies in various states of undress. I questioned the virtual identities that young women project and how they are often extreme and paradoxical. “Who is this for, to publish yourself in this manner? Do we post for ourselves or to compete with other women? Do we progressively become ‘monstrous ‘versions of ourselves online?” I wondered what people in the future might think of these images and what they say about women today. I wondered what the women of the past might also think. I thought about the concept of a body frozen in time, brought back to life and dissected for investigation throughout history. I wondered, “What might the body say?”

This was a rough edit,  just with a few sections loosely pieced together – as a snapshot of the aesthetic show, rather than in linear order or showing any story, humour, or the work in context.

 

 

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