That familiar twist and turn of the road, pitted with holes and crumbling bitumen – I’d look up more at the arcing trees if the twists and turns and the potholes in the road didn’t keep my eyes wide, and darting about – Callan Park.

Callan Park. Previously a meeting site for the Eora Nation, looking over the harbour, now houses so many people, so much potential so many pursuits. Usually I find myself lost on this greenspace’n’ gravel headed to The NSW Writers Centre, or wandering into sandstone buildings with red wine and stained shoes looking at graduate art from Sydney College of the Arts, previously I had been helping a Canadian punk band find their way to The Laneway Festival. On this occasion, for Inner Garden, I was anticipating the new work by Bodyweather practitioner, aesthetic adventurer and performance maker Tess De Quincey.

Having a fifteen year relationship with an artist’s work really matters. For me at the opening of De Quincey Company’s Inner Garden, I felt like a rush of embodied experience finally settled and made sense – like the tetris game was now under control and I wasn’t just experiencing a stacking up or overloading. I’m not sure if it was this particular work, or if it was me – but I felt for the first time, completely spellbound. Previous experiences of De Quincey’s work I felt removed from the ideas – outside or inconsequential to the happenings around me. Inner Garden a completely new mode of engagement – welcoming adventure, an aesthetic treasure hunt of sorts – in a space which I had previously had cursory experiences in.

Elemental and elevated, a man wrapped in plastic sprays gentle spikes of water from the rooftop of the courtyard. Inside the front door a woman is hung up-side-down, carefully watched by a rigging assistant, a gardenbed smokes with a resting body within, other bodies – feathered or armored in leaves hide and shift. There is: cluttered furniture with deliberate graffiti, paper aeroplanes shuffling along a string whilst the evening Sydney sky is interrupted by the heavy exhalation of a aeroplane, a table full of curios and variations on clay and ink and sand themes, a web of cord holding up a boulder, a corset lit by a shard of light dusted with sand, a self perpetuated drum machnine made of bits of tin and drum and wire hidden under a franjipani tree.

Hidden adventures.

The hidden.

Interestingly the connection to land and place and history is probably what made so much sense to me. Callan Park is a beautiful place which sits above a series of tunnels. Earlier in its history as a sanitorium it was considered that the inmates were not to step on the queens land, and so travelled underground. An interesting architectural history too – The lunatic asylum was designed according to the ‘enlightened’ views of Dr Thomas Kirkbride – the idea that architecture (like all art) can help soothe and restore the mind has a long history. Interesting for me the feeling of being locked into a cloister was not as oppressive as I had assumed – perhaps due to the large stretch of night sky- which switched it’s colours from light blue of the day , through various shades of magenta into a dark blue night.

The shift in the work from solo struggles, acts of defiance, aggression, physical/vocal/emotional exertion – to group vignettes – a push or pull, a chasing interweaving – punctuated with timekeeping by a gong. The regimented obedience, the discipline within the chaos.

Beautiful, difficult, spellbinding Inner Garden is to date one of the most sophisticated, intricate and daring installation performances by De Quincey Company.

Dates: 6 – 8 February 2014
Location: Callan Park
Tickets :Full $35 / Concession $30 (plus $2 booking fee)
Concept & Direction: Tess de Quincey
Performers: Victoria Hunt, Linda Luke, Ellen Rijs, Kirsten Packham, Lian Loke & Garth Knight, Weizen Ho, Latai Taumoepeau, Yoka Jones and Dale Thorburn
Installation & Costumes: Tom Rivard & Katja Handt
Sound: Jim Denley, Kraig Grady and Robbie Avenaim
Lighting: Sian James-Holland

(A short note to apologize for the lateness of this post – a tumultous couple of months full of distraction and duty has lead me a way from celebrating this work – and my memory seems too soft to offer any grand sharp incisions into De Quincey’s practice – but I wanted to note an record this, regardless)