Last weekend saw the Newcastle Art Gallery come alive with an exciting new multi-disciplinary collaboration. Under the auspices of gallery director Lauretta Morton and Catapult Choreographic hub director Cadi McCarthy, an artistic conversation was facilitated between the gallery exhibition VOID and emerging Wiradjuri choreographer Jesse Murray.
The collaboration aimed to provide an opportunity for Murray to explore a complex exhibition concept through unique physicality and embodied research, supported by Catapult's Propel residency program.
The exhibition in question is a visual consideration of an intentionally elusive notion: "a place that exists between distinct world views." In short, a VOID. Exhibition curator Emily McDaniel reconceptualised the notion of the VOID, presenting it as a formless space that "is occupied by meaning, is imbued with historical and ancestral significance."
Interestingly, it was Murray's very real visibility in the gallery space that brought the intangible form explored in the exhibition to life.
"There is a beautiful synergy when performers create interpretations in response to an exhibition. It provides a three-dimensional layer that enhances an audience's engagement and understanding with works of art," gallery director Lauretta Morton says. "The partnership project with Catapult has been a highly successful model for this kind of exchange between performers and artists."
After weeks of physical research in the Catapult studios, Jesse's final creation evoked a contemplation of the liminal space. Taking place in the open floors of the gallery surrounded by VOID artworks, Murray's choreographic journey moved between the vitrines and canvases, engaging with them directly, and melting into designs of the space. His choreography played with relationships between his own movement and the gallery objects, prompting awareness of the fleeting nature of his artistic practice. The ephemerality of dance makes it the perfect medium with which to explore the grey area between the defined, and the ambiguous.
The project residency provided the emerging artist with two mentors to guide him. Daniel Riley, also a Wiradjuri man, acted as a creative mentor. Craig Bary, Catapult creative producer, guided Jesse through the production side of the performance.
"My role allowed me to support Jesse and Daniel through the residency and into the gallery, while providing creative feedback along the way," Bary says.
"Jesse worked so hard, and the end result was exceptional. His sensitivity to the exhibition was beautiful and his response physically was extraordinary."
This creative opportunity is only the tip of the iceberg for Murray's developing body of work. He has been engaged by Catapult for a dance-film series commissioned and presented at the Lock Up in August.
Pictures courtesy Newcastle Art Gallery