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Freespace at Taikoo Place: Behind the lens at ON VIEW: HONG KONG with Sue Healey


By Amanda Sheppard

To most, attending a performance is a singular, uncomplicated action – the audience watches and engages with the act, but not vice versa. Choreographer, filmmaker and installation artist Sue Healey looks to challenge this during Freespace at Taikoo Place by exploring the dynamic relationship that exists between subject and audience in ON VIEW: HONG KONG

Healey’s portfolio includes works that span across several artistic mediums, with a main focus on film and dance. ON VIEW: HONG KONG combines the realms of film and live performance to challenge perceptions of culture, gender and identity. As a continuation of this exploration, Healey also recently adopted the role of mentor to Tsang Tsui-shan, Hugh Cho, Elysa Wendi, Chiu Chih-hua and Remu Iwai – five up-and-coming filmmakers who cumulatively produced 10 short films for the corresponding installation exhibition Look Two Ways. “I wanted to challenge and broaden ideas about the nature of portraiture, and these artists have done exactly this – the results are surprising, inventive and poetic,” she says.

“The results are surprising, inventive and poetic”

The focal point of Healey’s projects is the notion of perspective; of seeing and being seen. The question here is not only how the audience perceives the subject; Healey also prompts people to ask, “How does the subject (the dancers) allow themselves to be seen? In what ways do they reveal information to the audience?”

Healey’s ideas centre around human fascination with portraiture as a vehicle to understand identity throughout history. “ON VIEW can contain and reveal very different voices within it. To me, this work is like a vessel that reveals diversity,” she says. Healey uses her work as a launchpad to reveal the varied identities of dancers – from their roles as performers to their cultures, as complex individuals.

Instead of choreographing conventional dance sequences, Healey allowed the work to develop organically by posing a series of questions to her dancers. They, in turn, responded by creating a range of movements that is translated on to film. “The camera captures a detailed exploration of specific movement studies,” she says. “Film transports an audience to a space in the blink of an eye, in ways that are simply not possible in a live sense. This is a choreographer’s dream.”

The decision to bridge film and dance was not one Healey took lightly. It was only after exploring each field independently for several years that she felt ready to delve into the dialogue that exists between the two fields.

“Dance, by its very nature, is an organic and malleable process,” she shares. “Making a film is often less so, because of the demands of the technology and timelines.” In contrast, the camera captures details that are otherwise invisible to the naked eye; stepping behind the lens “enables an intimacy – a closeness to a subject that is difficult to achieve in a live context,” says Healey.

As with all innovative shows, Healey’s production has not been without challenges. But the results have proven to be complementary, with dance and film forming a harmonious partnership while also adopting a call-and-response rhythm. “Live dance disappears immediately; film proves it happened. Dance is fleshy; film is light, in flux, but both dance and film give structure to action,” Healey says of the dynamic.

ON VIEW: HONG KONG has been more than three years in the making, and serves as testament to the fact that perception varies not only between actor and spectator, but also across gender and cultural norms. While Healey assures that the basic framework of the project remains the same since its debut in Australia three years ago, the production continues to evolve. “The ideas must have the space to adapt and morph to a given context, or else the magic can disappear,” she says. “This is not a superficial investigation of cultural exchange, but a unique meeting between collaborators, from east and west, and is an enquiry into the culturally inflected voices that we possess.”

ON VIEW: HONG KONG by Sue Healey
2-3 November 2017

Look Two Ways Installation Exhibition
1-3 November 2017
Free admission

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