Stifters Dinge, a magical, mechanised AV theatre performance

Art Press Release from Australia. Published by Rebecca Gabrielle Cannon on Thursday 14 October 2010.

Stifters Dinge, a magical, mechanised AV theatre performance image

If there’s one thing Melbourne doesn’t have a shortage of, it’s festivals. There’s so many you’d be hard pressed to find a week in the annual calendar that doesn’t have a festival. However, there are two which stand out as the major festivals to keep an eye on: the Melbourne International Film Festival, and the Melbourne Festival, the latter of which is on now.

I was lucky enough to catch the last performance of Stifters Dinge at this year’s Melb Fest, held at the CUB Malthouse’s Merlyn Theatre, and what a mesmerizing show it was.

The closest way to describe this is as a live Video Art piece; with a magical spectacle of mechanised audio-video performance unfolding before the audience.

The key ‘performers’ in the work are a collection of antique musical artefacts, including a large rack of old organs and other sound-making sculptures modified by the German composer Heiner Goebbels.

A few stage-hands assist the setup of the work, distributing some chemical compounds across the stage’s three water-filled ponds at the beginning of the show, and returning only to turn taps on and off at the three water-bins glowing ethereally to stage right.

Apart from these interactions, the entire 1 hour performance happens through pre-programmed computers which control robotics moving screens, speakers, lights, video projectors, smoke machines, rain (yes, rain!) and various sound sources throughout the show. It was a strange feeling to want to applaud a bank of instruments at the finale, as they came forward to accept their acclaim, however having seen them play a brooding baroque climax with more speed than a human performer could muster, it only seemed deserving.

Stifters Dinge, which translates as Stifter’s Things, was inspired by the 19th Century romantic writer Aldabert Stifter, who is best known for his intricately detailed and mystical descriptions of nature. The nature being explored here was that of the aesthetics of different materialities. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a live performance artwork with so many varied media in it before, and their various interactions between one another were deftly crafted, providing a unique and unforgettable aesthetic experience.

If you can imagine a ‘solo’ consisting of the night sky filled with glittering stars, each bursting in and out of your vision, and these ‘stars’ not being performed by far-distant planets, but rather by ‘actors’ consisting of water droplets splashing in to a dark, night-time lake, then you’ve captured in your imagination just one moment of this enthralling installation.

Stifters Dinge has traveled internationally in the past, and those with a chance to see it in the future should ensure they do so.

For the rest of us in Melbourne, a multitude of other artistic treats are still to be found in the Melb Arts festival, which continues until October 23rd.

More pics at Stifters Dinge on Artabase