Melanie Jame Walsh is one third of triage live art collective who are presently inviting you to make An Appointment With J Dark.
There is no doubt that the concept and realization of this show is unique. Based on the groups doctrine of creating intimate and social live art events that allow strangers to encounter one another in disarming, playful and sometimes confronting ways. Says Walsh: “We wanted to work together on a project that extended us as artists and that would allow us to build on our respective strengths and our commitment to intimate performance.”
And intimate performance is the key to understating the concept of J Dark. TLAC believe that live art is an opportunity for dialogue between people from all walks of life. Their projects allow participants to think and speak about the things that matter to them; the things they may not usually talk about. They like to reveal the beauty in people's faces, the ordinary and the everyday.
An Appointment with J Dark is an intimate site-specific work and a solo show for one audience member led through the labyrinthine of the Arts House buildings at the North Melbourne Town Hall, including spaces usually closed to the public. And audiences should expect “a sense of having had a unique experience within a memorable performance, of intimacy, of exchange and play – as well as an opportunity for introspection during and after experiencing the work,” says Walsh.
But who or what is the enigmatic stranger named J Dark? Walsh explains: “The persona of J Dark was initially inspired by an interest in exploring theatrically or performatively an abstraction of Joan of Arc. A Joan of Arc in exile from history. J Dark may or may not be an incarnation of Joan of Arc, or a Freudian analyst inviting audiences to one on one appointments. The character was inspired by the idea of the personas or masks we wear in our daily lives – our perpetual becoming/s and shifts in terms of who we are.”
While this type of work may seem a little too confronting for some it has certainly sprouted within the UK and EU over recent times. However, to even be able to bring the work to the public, there is a certain open-mindedness that has to come from performance spaces etc. as Walsh acknowledges: “Finding presenters brave enough, and with the foresight to support this kind of work is the challenge that comes to mind. Because of its very nature as a performance with just one audience member at a time, the format can obviously never be a box office blockbuster. The scale and form is intimate. That’s why we’re so very happy to be working with Angharad Wynne-Jones & Jackie Johnson at Arts House on this incarnation of the project. We deeply appreciate their support, their vision and sensitivity to the delicacy of the work.”
While most live theatre patrons are happy to enjoy a more voyeuristic relationship with the actor or performer on the stage, the same may be said for that actor or performer. There is a certain bravery that comes with actually interacting with your watcher – something about the watcher becoming the watched and visa versa that can create loads of anxiety for some. Walsh relishes this “because it challenges me greatly as a performer and requires me to meet each audience member in a demanding, potentised and intimate way. I have to be fully present – and if I fail to give my full attention and responsiveness to the audience member the whole thing can come undone. It is a durational work in that J Dark holds up to five 30 – 50 minute back to back appointments each evening; it requires great discipline to meet that commitment. Most importantly, it requires me to share my vulnerability with the audience. I consider this shared intimacy the core of the show … When it happens and it’s real, not ‘performed’, and by that I mean manufactured – I consider my work a real achievement. This very much appeals to me as a performer – its what I love about this style of performance.”
triage live art collective think of art as good medicine and ,perhaps, once all extraneous bits have been stripped away, all that remains (and perhaps should remain) is the self.
An Appointment with J Dark at Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall, 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne From Wednesday, 18 April – Sunday, 6 May 2012 Bookings artshouse.com.au or 03 9322 3713