Review: GAUGE at Arts House

Talking about the weather has never been so fascinating

By Kate Boston Smith

Having initially misread the blurb about Gauge (created by five artists – Madeleine Flynn, Tim Humphrey, Graeme Leak, Rosemary Joy and Cameron Robbins, and two scientists: Dr Michael Roderick and Dr Adrian Pearce) as a more conventional theatre performance, I entered the ghostly Meat Market with expectations that were quickly shattered.  Eerily quiet, except for a strange knocking of wood blocks, I teetered across the Victorian cobblestone floor, following the sound and dim light to the far end of the historic market stall.


What I walked into were two performers drumming beats from a mysterious score that made little melodic sense.  It was mesmerizing to watch and to try and work out what was happening. One performer beat with his hands a large wooden “draw”, while the other held a tiny wooden vessel beating it with a small wooden block.  Once the piece was over it was explained that the larger wooden “draw” represented Melbourne’s water storage capacity, and smaller vessel London’s.  The score they followed was reading of rainfall in each city and was fascinating to look at once the performance had finished.

Around the mobile audience was an array of beautiful sculpture pieces that exuded an aura of a post-apocalyptic scientific dream space. The other pieces in the space included a baby grand piano stripped of its lid.  There was an air of abandonment to the decrepit instrument that now stood left to decay under a dripping roof.  Fat water drops would periodical strike a note adding surprise moments to the soundtrack of this collaborative art piece.

Notable also was the blowup pool that had a simulated weather system created by dry ice and huge vacuum like funnel hanging above it.  A flutist, with a long pipe attached to the end of his flute, circled the pool playing a piece of music that could send shivers down your spine.  To the delight of all, his breath and movement encouraged the beginnings of a small tornado in the centre of the pool that was swept up through the funnel.

It is a wonderful thing when art and science come together.  Both worlds, and their practitioners, are filled with passion and the desire to explore, inquire and unveil.   All the pieces in the exhibition were based around water and weather.  There was a tactility nature to each piece and playing with the pieces was encouraged.  Once the formal performances had finished it was exciting to watch the audience take the place of the performers and recreate the sounds and the mini-storms themselves.

Though I walked in expecting something else I thoroughly enjoyed the strange world of the visual and performance art installation I was transported into.  I would’ve loved more details of the science behind each piece, but it was also interesting to put my imagination to the test to analyze and wonder.

The world premiere of Gauge took place at the Arts House Meat Market Nov 15-21, 2012