Absolutely Everybody Judges
Aha Ensemble and the recipients of the 2022 Jeremy Hynes Award. Since 2009, the IMA has had the honour of presenting the Jeremy Hynes Award to an experimental Queensland artist or collective in the earlier stages of their career, from a bequest made by Jeremy Hynes‘s family in his name. This is the seventh year of this biennial award.
About the Work
Absolutely Everybody Judges is a performance installation that was developed by Aha Ensemble and collaborating artists through an extended residency process at the IMA. The work is centered around an improvised performance, where an invited participant is ‘judged’ by members of Aha Ensemble. Using the outward appearance of their subject, the Ensemble use a series of generative prompts to perform a one-way dialogue that paints a portrait of the imagined and perceived behaviors, hopes, secrets, desires, successes, and failings embodied by each participant. These descriptions are all formed on the spot by the performers in response to the person before them. Some of these observations cut close to the bone, some are lighthearted, some are serious, and some miss the mark completely.
The performance experience is shared through a one-way mirror; the performers can see the participant, but the participant can only see themselves in reflection. The clean and minimal space of the ‘audience side’ of the gallery provides little distraction or respite, and participants must sit and face themselves throughout the exchange. These interactions have been recorded and form a multi-channel video installation, which is exhibited in the space. The care for the participant from the Ensemble is evident in their process – the camera dwells on the nervous smiles, fidgety fingers, revelatory tears, or amused chuckles – but it feels intimate, not extractive. You feel empathically for the participant and can imagine yourself in their position. In fact, as you explore the work - feel free to take a seat!
Aha Ensemble is made up of a collective of artists, with diverse bodies and minds. Often the world has radically different expectations of each individual and consequently each member experiences the world differently. In this installation, some of these experiences are captured in the wallpaper designs that are hung in the ‘performer side’ of the bisected gallery. These reflections from Aha Ensemble were generated during the development process, when they were collectively creating their prompts and structure for the performance work. The wallpaper records moments when the world’s expectations of them fell short, depicts the judging eyes that follow us around, and reveals the potency of the expectations we place on ourselves.
As people who have felt the sting of presumption, the Ensemble didn’t want to needlessly wound or offend – and instead aimed for an honest rigor that would disarm and reveal. You learn a great deal about someone through how they engage with the world. Aha Ensemble’s dialogue allows their participants (and via the video, us) to see themselves in new ways, to better understand the limits we place on ourselves, and discover that the things they thought were deeply buried are visible for the world to see. This methodology for ‘judging’ is as follows:
How to See People
- Watch the person as they enter
- Let them arrive within themselves and in the space
- Absorb the obvious
- Spend time with the less obvious
- Seeing sometimes involves listening
- Look for the clues
- The places where life has left a mark
- The places the person wants to share with you
- Then places the person wants to hold back
- Look deeper. Repeat
This list is pinned next to the mirror on the ‘performer side’ of the gallery, scattered around it are other prompts, instructions, and relics that shape the live performance process. It’s a handy reminder for the Ensemble but also forms a generous set of guidelines for us all to carry through life. Seeing sometimes involves listening. Look deeper. Process. This honesty is a gift.
Absolutely Everybody Judges is an installation that highlights the power that our words have, the enduring presumptions we carry around with us, and most importantly our responsibilities to one another. Through listening to the performance portraits unfold one after another and reading the remarks scattered over the wallpaper and notes we slowly begin to learn more about the Ensemble members themselves (No burping in microphone, Remember sometimes tears are not a bad sign). Critique is ultimately revealing, and this is the kernel of the work; absolutely everybody judges, but as the Ensemble perceptively note the mirror is eventually two ways.
Contributing Aha Ensemble Members:
Videography and Editing:
Sound and Audio:
Dilsah De Rham
Nicholas 'Prince' Milverton
Aha Ensemble is a disability-led, independent collective of diverse performance artists; who value authentic, immersive, participatory and contemporary movement practices. Working across Southeast Queensland and driven by an ethos of connection, curiosity, and care, Aha Ensemble use their bodies to explore representation, question value, and challenge assumptions about ways of being in the world.
Since the collective formed in 2015, Aha Ensemble have presented original and devised contemporary performance works at: La Boite Theatre Company HWY (2021), Supercell Dance Festival (Brisbane Powerhouse, 2019), Metro Arts (2019), Undercover Artist Festival Online (Film, shown online 2020), Anywhere Theatre Festival (Metro Arts, 2016), Undercover Artist Festival (Queensland Theatre Company, 2015); artistic residencies supported by Institute of Modern Art (2022), La Boite Theatre Company (2021, 2022), Judith Wright Arts Centre of Contemporary Art (2021, 2022), Metro Arts in collaboration with Phluxus2 Dance Collective (2018, 2019).
Aha Ensemble is built upon the belief that integration and inclusive practices comes with collaboration from a diverse range of artists, is disability-led; and employs collaborative practices. Together, we as diverse artists delve into a rigorous collaborative and artistic process to re-contextualise the boundaries of performance practice. Aha performers’ individual practices include training and creating work across Brisbane, Queensland, nationally; and internationally in New York and Korea.
Aha Ensemble are recipients of the 2022 Jeremy Hynes Award.
Since 2009, the IMA has had the honour of presenting the Jeremy Hynes Award to an experimental Queensland artist in the earlier stages of their career, from a bequest made by Jeremy Hynes‘s family in his name. This is the seventh year of this biennial award.
This project is supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.
Space Furniture generously loaned the Arflex Botolo Chair used in the performance and installation.
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