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Freespace at Taikoo Place: When Man Meets Machine with Antony Hamilton


By Amanda Sheppard

Few would strive to replicate the precision and infallibility of electronic machines with nothing more than the human body. Yet Antony Hamilton and Alisdair Macindoe take on the challenge by exploring just how closely man can mirror machine in MEETING, which takes stage at the new ArtisTree during Freespace at Taikoo Place. 

MEETING premiered in Melbourne in March 2015 as the brainchild of classically trained dancers and choreographers Hamilton and Macindoe. Macindoe is accomplished at popping – an urban dance movement with its roots in hip hop, identifiable through trademark contractions and movements performed to a song’s rhythm. Popping rose to the foreground of contemporary dance at a time when technology was developing at breakneck speed, with its advancement leaving many questions unanswered, and its limitations unknown. It is precisely this unchartered territory that MEETING looks to explore.

“We present an alternative to notions of a duality between the 'artificial' and the 'natural'”

Inspired by 21st century philosopher John Gray (whose works explore the history of ideas, and man’s relationship with the surrounding environment ), MEETING began as Hamilton’s formal study of choreography and language. The production presents encounters between man and technology to explore the complexity of dynamic movement and to test the human body’s limits. The show also serves as an examination of the relationship between man and the environment by deconstructing the way we perceive things to exist in a hierarchy (with humans at the top). “We present an alternative to notions of a duality between the 'artificial' and the 'natural' by decentralising humans and democratising them with technological objects,” says Hamilton. 

The performance begins with the two dancers encircled by 64 “bots” – small yet perfunctory robots that create the sound and composition that score the performance. The devices are designed and custom made by electronic hobbyist Macindoe, whose capabilities bring an entirely new dimension to the production. 

At first glance, the staging and composition for MEETING appear to be complex and unpredictable. However, as the performance unfolds, it is evident that the planning and structure are tightly executed: as the robots occupy a space on stage, the dancers draw upon their mechanised movements for their own choreographed “pops”. Hamilton and Macindoe mirror the precision of the bots, moving in rhythm to replicate their militaristic precision. The audience, of course, can expect to be captivated by these collaborative movements.

Hamilton asserts that there are no guarantees with the human body, and when the human body is seen alongside infallible machinery, this point becomes even clearer. “There is a dystopian nature lurking in this piece that looks at the slow demise of human importance on a cosmic scale,” he says. Hamilton deliberately constructs a situation on stage where humans no longer appear superior to machines. Rather, they are seen in conjunction with them.

Initially, MEETING was intended to be a silent performance. However, as choreography and programme design progressed, the importance of music became increasingly clear to Hamilton and Macindoe. With choreography developing around the notion of counting, sound became a focal point; the simple drumming from the bots providing a metronomic purpose with an unexpectedly dynamic range. “The counting relentlessly pursues the body's inherent rhythms, timing, driving beats and dynamic tensions,” says Hamilton. “The primary interest lies in the exploration of complex rhythmical structures using the body.”

MEETING sits under many a genre – performing arts, contemporary dance, sound installation. Thematically, it is an easily identifiable concept, and one which provokes the audience to contemplate the role of the human body in today’s continually developing world, the growing separation between man and nature, and just exactly what happens when man meets robot…

4-5 November at ArtisTree, Taikoo Place
See the programme schedule for more details; tickets available at Ticketflap

Follow @artistreehk on Instagram for all the #FreespaceatTaikooPlace action 

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