Jupiter Orbiting exists in the fuzzy space between mental and physical realities. It is a staging of spillage, with fantasy and corporeality colliding. An audio-visual spectacle, a raw exploration into trauma, Jupiter Orbiting is transfixing, awe inspiring, and devastating.
Jupiter Orbiting is obsessed with recreation and return. It opens with creator Joshua Pether dressed as the day after a kids party, building a tiny, colourful Duplo world. He fastidiously documents this tiny world, expanding it through live feed so it dominates the space, recreating the hope and purpose of a space fantasy with childish building blocks. This same fastidious attention is later turned upon himself, the camera’s closeness distorting Pether’s body, making strange the figure moving before us. These ideas of return and recreation are repeated and developed through the piece, with embryonic imagery and the reformulation of movement motifs conveying a complex looping back.
Jupiter Orbiting uses a primarily spatial language, with areas of visual focus positioned at the edges of a vast dark space. In this hollow chamber, ideas and imagery flicker between mediums, taking on new forms and expressing different renderings of reality. The sparse text moves from the soundscape to projection to embodied performance, the multisensory fixation on clinical questions aching the body. Set and costume dissolve into the piece, unravelling in their tangibility to become looming shapes in a mental landscape before regaining, again, an insistent physicality. Childhood nostalgia – Duplo, pool inflatables, projected cartoons – take on an immense, menacing quality at the edges of the dark space, their illumination further adding to their strangeness.
Pether as a performer is fearless and compulsively compelling, expressing the tonal and conceptual shifts of the piece through his body with astonishing commitment and strength. Daniel Jenatsch’s live sound is in intimate relation with Pether, bound in fibrous proximity to his movement and attention. It has masterful and sensitive emotional control over the space, expanding and receding, with motifs of sci-fi and rocket dreams collapsing into white noise with crashing intensity.
Pether positions himself at the centre of the work, but his relationship to the subjectivity of the piece is complex. Jupiter Orbiting involves an audience in the mental experience of dissociation and a reliving and reprocessing of trauma. This causes them to enter a mental landscape which is framed as Pether’s, but which the performer Pether does not always appear to be himself currently occupying. Pether as a performer in the space is thus rendered at once subject and object. Within the conceptual frame of what an audience projects as ‘his perspective’, his physical actions in the space are often seen through a dissociative lens. This dual positioning in the work also draws on Pether’s interest in aesthetic intersections of the colonised and the disabled body, as a creator of Kalkadoon heritage who identifies as having a disability. While an audience inhabits the intimacy of his mental experience, his physical actuality as an active subject in the space is viewed as distant, as object. This shifting boundary of positioning is negotiated through digital media, movement and costume until, as Pether, illuminated, shakes and contorts upon a platform, the audience is forced to viscerally confront the reality of his embodied experience.
Jupiter Orbiting is a stunning aesthetic and sensory investigation into rupture, subsuming an audience within the textural fragmentation of the piece. It engages the audience with an almost physical discomfort, immersing them within the shifting complexities and infinite looping of mental illness and trauma.