This September, Carriageworks, Erth and Studio A present Birdfoxmonster, an intimate, multi-sensory dining experience at the intersection of theatrical performance, food and visual art. Birdfoxmonster is a collaboration between Studio A represented artists, Meagan Pelham, Thom Roberts and Skye Saxon; Erth visual and physical director, Scott Wright; sound artist/composer, James Brown; and digital artist, Elias Nohra; with artist support by Gabrielle Mordy and Emma Johnston. Commissioned by Carriageworks as part of the New Normal National Arts and Disability Strategy, there will be eight immersive dinner performances of Birdfoxmonster at Carriageworks from 21–30 September 2017. A free installation, comprising a frozen tableau and video work featured in the performance, will also be open to the public at Carriageworks during the day over the eight-day performance period.
Audiences at Birdfoxmonster will sample bespoke dishes that exemplify the artists’ idiosyncratic attachments to food, ranging from romantic to exploratory and obsessive. Set against a backdrop of video projections, masked performers will interact with the audience seated at long tables, which double as a catwalk. Food will be served on bespoke MUD Australia ceramic crockery which has been hand-painted by the artists.
The work explores the artists’ heightened relationship to food alongside other themes present in their respective art practices. Visual artist and poet, Meagan Pelham has a weakness for romance. Brides, bridal parties, bridesmaid dresses and wedding cakes proliferate throughout her work. Meagan’s preference for passion and love has empowered her with an ability to infuse even the most banal items with a sense of romance. In her series inspired by homeware items, Meagan transforms domestic objects. Using delicate line-work she tenderly personifies cocktail glasses along with cups and saucers.
Thom Roberts is a skilled draftsman, quickly able to translate landscapes and portraits in a traditional and representational style. Yet, Thom’s primary interest is in his installation practice. From train stations to galleries, Thom arranges and positions his unique and distinct series of photocopied imagery to transform spaces, always creating entirely new environments and experiences for those who encounter his work.
Skye Saxon is a performance and visual artist drawn to dreams, memories and metaphysical worlds. Drawing has always functioned as a fundamental part of Skye’s life; as an identical twin, she and her sister communicated with pictures before words, sharing an invented ‘line language’ that expressed their experience of the world.
Birdfoxmonster is a devised work, informed by relationships between the artists, who have been meeting and working together weekly for a number of years as part of the Studio A program. Erth Visual and Physical Director Scott Wright said: “We have been working towards this point in our relationship with Studio A for the past five years. We have taken considerable time to find a non-physical space in which we could work together, where we could ‘remove the expert’. Birdfoxmonster is a beautiful meeting of minds inviting the public to share the love, wonder and perspective of three incredible artists: Meagan, Skye and Thom.”
Birdfoxmonster is one of 10 new works by artists with disability commissioned by Carriageworks over three years, as part of the organisation’s ‘New Normal’ National Strategy. Through these commissions, New Normalwill make a major investment into embedding disability arts into contemporary arts programming in NSW and remove barriers to inclusion in the arts for people with disability.
Carriageworks Artistic Director Lisa Havilah said: “We are thrilled to present Birdfoxmonster, another production that is the result of the New Normal strategy, further underlining Carriageworks’ ongoing commitment to commissioning and developing contemporary work that challenges and excites our audiences, and reflects the diversity of our communities.”
Birdfoxmonster is a decidedly smaller scale and more intimate work for Erth, a company renowned for works of scale that feature giant puppetry, aerials, stilt-walkers, inflatable environments and flying creatures, particularly their current internationally-touring shows, Dinosaur Zoo and Prehistoric Aquarium (both previously presented at Carriageworks).