RISING-NGV-Pendulum-photo-by-Gregory-LorenzuttiPendulum places its audience in a dimly lit room on an upper level of the NGV. Reflective metal domes hang, arranged in a regular grid, all at the same height above a black floor. The stationary setup creates anticipation around what will happen next.

The work, co-created by percussive artist Matthias Schack-Arnott and Australian choreographer Lucy Guerin, is described in the Rising guide as “immersive and hypnotic”. This description is accurate, some of the time.

Guerin co-created the choreography with the work’s dancers (Deanne Butterworth, Tra Mi Dinh, Alice Dixon, Stephanie Halyburton, Helen Herbertson, Amber McCartney and Lilian Steiner). Schack-Arnott is credited with Composition and Sound Design.

The suspended domes housed circular lights, which could shine or flicker at various times. Sometimes the ensemble would perform particular – but not especially interesting – choreography in repetitive sequences.

As we watched, the performers seem at pains to avoid a swinging pendulum on one pass, yet keen to grasp it on its next approach, we could find their relationship to the light unclear.

At other times the movement, illumination, and choreography worked well together. The variation in tempo of sound as a light approached, and then receded from a performer could recall a Geiger counter sweeping across a radiation source, or jungle drums reaching a crescendo.

A meditative sequence featured seated performers pushing away and receiving their swinging light. Accompanied by the sound of synchronised bell ringing, the scene could make us wonder if this is what a Buddhist ritual might look like in 100 years. However, these more affecting sequences could highlight how unedifying others were.

A series of pendula can create a range of surprising effects. The tech on offer here was impressive and shows clear potential. Yet, at present, Pendulum looks like a work with a nice gimmick, lacking a focus.

NGV International, 180 St Kilda Raod, Melbourne
Performance: Wednesday 26 May 2021 – 7.30pm
Season: paused due to Covid-19

Image: Pendulum – photo by GregoryLorenzutti

Review: Jason Whyte