Australia’s ‘high priestess of Butoh’ invokes ancient feminine power with epic new show

—Buried TeaBowl – OKUNI opens Friday 6 May 2022, BLACKCAT Gallery, Fitzroy

*** TICKETS SELLING FAST *** only five shows to go

“… an intimate and stirring passage through time, ritual, the past and the present… a profoundly moving awakening.”

Myron My, mymelbournearts.com

Melbourne performance legend and Australia’s high priestess of Japanese Butoh dance, Yumi Umiumare, returns with a new solo performance and gallery installation featuring her signature juxtaposing of tradition and counter-culture.
Opening Friday 6 May at Fitzroy’s BLACKCAT Gallery, Buried TeaBowl – OKUNI is an intimate and epic solo performance installation bringing together dance, text, song and tea ceremony with stunning film footage. The work is inspired by radical Japanese female dancer and shaman Okuni, who initiated Kabuki theatre in the early 1600s.
Undisputedly at the height of her creative powers, Umiumare pays homage to Okuni through this work, using the tea bowl as a metaphor for long-buried sacred female power. Through the 450-years-old ritual of Japanese tea ceremony, she excavates ancient stories and channels the multi-faceted character of the complex, powerful yet fragile Okuni, to reawaken her spirit.
In addition to the nine performances, Buried TeaBowl – OKUNI will involve an immersive gallery experience. The performance space will be open during the Gallery’s opening hours of 11am to 5pm Wednesday through Sunday, and include installations, a contemporary Japanese tearoom, digital works, and soundscapes. Umiumare will also create pop-up tea ceremony spaces.
Buried TeaBowl – OKUNI marks Umiumare’s long-awaited return to solo performance. Since moving to Australia in 1993, she has emerged as a leading force in the avant-garde dance world, spearheading the iconoclastic ButohOUT! festival as well as being in demand as a director and performance artist nationally and internationally. In 2018 the Green Room Awards Association awarded Umiumare the Geoffrey Milne Award for Contemporary and Experimental Performance, in recognition of her significant contribution to Melbourne performance.


Buried TeaBowl – Okuni
Who : Yumi Umiumare, solo performance, installation, and tea ceremony
Where : BLACKCAT Gallery, 420 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
When : Thursday 5 May through Sunday 15 May (Sundays 6:00pm, Wed—Sat nights 8:00pm) (see below for full details); show duration approx. 65 minutes
Cost : $35 / $25 / Superiori-TEA $50 including a drink on arrival.
Booking URL: https://www.trybooking.com/BYPCB

Coming up this week in May:
11 Wed 8pm
12 Thur 8pm
13 Fri 8pm
14 Sat 8pm
15 Sun 6pm

During the performance season, the installation is open daily from 11am-5pm. Tea ceremonies and other events will be held during gallery hours.

Creator/Performer: Yumi Umiumare
Cinematographer/ Editor: Takeshi Kondo 
Composer/ Sound Designer: Dan West 
Lighting designer: Emma Lockhart-Wilson 
Dramaturg/ Maude: Davey
Provocateur: Moira Finucane 
Producer: Kath Papas Productions
Photographer: Vikk Shayen 
Graphic design: Mariko Naito 
Calligraphy: Hisako Tsuchiya 
Publicity: Diana Wolfe, Wolfe Words

This season is supported by Besen Family Foundation and BLACKCAT Gallery. The creative development (2021) of the work was supported by the Australia Council for the Arts, City of Darebin and Abbotsford Convent Foundation.


REVIEWS

“The final image is of a tea bowl mended with traditional gold joinery: a neat symbol for the way that ritual can restore a broken soul. The many fragments of this show do not adhere with the same smoothness… but there’s much here that glisters all the same.”—Andrew Fuhrmann, The Age

“Umiumare’s homage to Okuni, the power of ritual and female strength is a captivating work. It is fitting that this performance takes place in a gallery as what we witness often feel like art coming to life. She may be attempting to awaken the spirit of Okuni in Buried TeaBowl – Okuni, but through her generous guidance, Umiumare helps free the spirit inside all of us and provide us with a profoundly moving awakening.”—Myron My, mymelbournearts.com

Acknowledgement of Country

I am a visitor living and working on Wurundjeri Woiwurrung lands, eastern Kulin Nation. I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of Country and recognise their continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. I pay my respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past, present and emerging. I recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

Our ecosystems are in decline, and this matters

This is my submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Ecosystem Decline in Victoria. Submissions close on 31 August 2020.

“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone…”—Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to this inquiry, and I applaud the government’s attention to this pressing issue.

Australia’s unique plants and critters, and their myriad complex relationships, are both endlessly fascinating and critically important to our world. One tiny example is the Nodding Greenhood Orchid (Pterostylis nutans), endemic to our southeastern coast. Its only known pollinator is a particular species of fungus gnat, which it entices by emitting a kairomone. When the orchid flower senses the right sort of gnat landing near its labellum, it tips the insect into the flower. Wriggling around to escape, the gnat contacts the flowers’ sexual organs and stimulates pollination. It is not known how valuable this entrancing interaction may be to humans, but a similar example from across the world, the Vanilla Orchid (Vanilla planifolia), gives us a glimpse of its culinary and medicinal possibilities. Native to Central America, the Vanilla Orchid is thought to be (i.e. it remains a mystery to science) pollinated in the wild only by a species of stingless bee and/or hummingbird, and requires laborious hand-pollination in cultivation. Originally cultivated by Aztec peoples in the 15th Century, vanilla is now used worldwide in commercial and domestic baking, perfume production, and aromatherapy, and is the second-most expensive spice after saffron. We can’t imagine life without vanilla.

Please bear with me; this seemingly random little story underscores the premise of my submission, which is that our richly biodiverse ecosystems are crucial to us in ways we may never know. And, further, that ecosystem health is critical to humankind’s very existence. However, it is apparent that our increasingly individual-focused and city-based society is blinding us to the importance of the natural world. If we care at all, it’s usually because of an emergency (such as the 2020 Southeastern Australian bushfires), and because we focus on individual and charismatic plants and animals (not that this has protected them from destruction) to the exclusion of the habitats needed to sustain them. We’re oblivious to the consequences of our own destructive actions (e.g. throwing a cigarette butt into a gutter, bulldozing a patch of grassland to make way for a new housing development, waving through approval for a new mine or dam or feedlot), seeing them as somehow separate from the unfolding environmental devastation we see on the news.

I believe what’s needed to arrest the catastrophic decline in our ecosystems is a quantum shift in thinking, from seeing ourselves as individuals operating in our own bubble separate from nature, to seeing ourselves as fundamentally and inextricably connected with all living things and reliant on biodiverse ecosystems to breathe, live, and survive. An example of a need for a shift in thinking is this inquiry itself: holding a state-based ecosystem inquiry is almost an oxymoron. I mean no disrespect when I say that it seems bizarre to me to investigate ecosystems as if they start and stop at our arbitrarily/politically-drawn borders. However, the best chance we have to coordinate and protect biodiversity efforts across state borders, the national Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, is failing dismally. It’s currently under review as well, but any national law that allows states to determine their own logging, water allocation, wildlife protections and the like, is problematic.

To complicate things further, Australians appear to possess a collective cognitive dissonance when it comes to our environment: we live on the driest inhabitable continent on earth and yet we squander potable water on an unfathomable scale. We have one of the greatest levels of solar coverage per square metre in the world, and yet we have no coherent national solar power policy. We’re blessed as one of the top 10 biodiverse countries in the world, with the majority of our flora and fauna species found nowhere else, and yet we continue to drive these unique species to extinction at a depressingly inexorable rate. In the face of rising salinity, soil erosion, catastrophic bushfires, dieback, and other dire indicators of ecosystem decline, we stubbornly keep growing the wrong crops, raising the wrong livestock, wasting water, clearing bushland, over-developing and over-building land, fragmenting ecosystems, allowing entire species to go extinct, and bulldozing, burning, clear-felling and culling.

However, I believe that we ignore the interconnectedness of all things, at our peril.

Here’s what I offer:

  • We need to stop seeing wildlife as pests and native vegetation as unproductive, ugly, or an infinite resource to be plundered.
  • We need to look at our environment and all that dwells therein as inherently valuable, precious, connected, and irreplaceable.
  • We must instil a reverence for our flora and fauna that begins at birth, is taught at schools and universities, and is fundamental to every choice we make as citizens, workers, governments, businesses, and custodians of this incredibly country.
  • Respect, awe and love for our unique environment must be reflected in robust, coordinated and powerful national, state, local government legislation. The rights of individuals and vested interests can no longer take priority over our environment.
  • Embrace and integrate Indigenous knowledge into all aspects of our environmental policies, approaches and activities.


Thank you for your consideration,
Kind regards,

Diana Wolfe

Impermanence with without Band Photo by WILK

Impermanence trio—new music launch, listening parties

Preview and Q&A with Bianca Gannon
By Sue Barrett

From time to time, music emerges that touches souls and captures hearts with its atmosphere, improvisation and unexpected and/or improbable sound combinations.
Australian trio Impermanence has just launched a double album, with // without. The trio consists of Bianca Gannon (piano, mixed Indonesian gamelan); Josh Holt (double bass, bass guitar); and Elliott Hughes (trumpet, augmented trumpet).
Described as a “fusion of neo-classical, experimental art music, and freeform jazz”, Impermanence’s music brings to mind the rural isolation of a country like Ireland – sometimes ethereal; sometimes stormy; sometimes uncomplicated; sometimes complex.
Bianca Gannon grew up in Ireland and studied in Wales.


In what ways has living in Ireland and in Wales influenced your music?
In this trio, I’m not sure that my Irish heritage comes through in an obvious way, though the ubiquity of music in Ireland – diverse music – has certainly left its mark. I did my music degree in Wales and learnt a lot about various forms of music, particularly art music, and music from around the world, such as gamelan from Indonesia. I was deeply drawn to the otherworldly resonances and syncopated interlocking rhythms of the gamelan pitched percussion orchestras. A few years later, living in Ireland again, I had the opportunity to join a gamelan. An Irish woman had been studying in Indonesia and brought back a full gamelan set – which was the one we were using at University College, Dublin. Later the Sultan of Yogyakarta gifted a gamelan to An Ceoláras Náisiúnta (National Concert Hall). From there, I embarked on the Indonesian Arts and Culture Scholarship – intensive cultural study in West Java, followed by many more study trips and collaborations across the archipelago.

What brought you to Australia?
My partner – Josh Holt – is from Australia and he’s also the bass player in our trio.

Tell us about Impermanence’s album, with // without
It’s an improvised, double album. Disc 1 (with) includes electronic components. And Disc 2 (without) is without electronics. You’ll hear a lot of different sounds and emotions. Our music is quite organic – it moves in and out of groove, in and out of time. It can be free and floating – ethereal. And, at other times, it has a pulse and time signature – it can get quite rhythmic. I think overall the music creates a feeling of space and expanse. We first improvised the music and afterwards christened the tracks.

How did Impermanence come about? And did you set out to have a trio with this combination of instruments or was it just an happy coincidence?
Elliott [Hughes], our trumpet player, and I met at the Australian Art Orchestra’s Creative Music Intensive residency in Tasmania, where we were put in an ensemble with a bunch of musicians from Sydney. When we got back to Melbourne, we continued to play together. Then we became participants in the Lebowski’s Development Residency in Melbourne – a six month residency. One day, Elliott was rehearsing at my house and Josh joined us on bass, which was another piece of the puzzle, another layer of unity.Elliott invented the augmented trumpet – he uses a trumpet with a device he 3D printed that attaches to the valves and tracks finger movement. It’s extraordinary the sounds that he’s making in real time – at times like an orchestra of the future and at other times quite an electronic sound – with beautiful, unique timbres.

What does it take for musicians to successfully improvise? How does Impermanence approach this?
A deep knowledge of your craft and of your instrument, as well as a healthy dose of reckless abandon. Curiosity. Really, really listening to your band mates. Letting go of your ego a little bit, at times. And a bit of risk taking. But certainly we do prepare for gigs, we do rehearse. We try to approach performances as a stream of consciousness, playing in the moment. In a performance, we might play for 45 minutes straight, continuously. But in our rehearsals, we typically play for five or ten minutes at a time, then discuss and then try new exercises (for example, duos, flipping the roles of the instruments). Each piece of music is a once-off. So for the album, like our performances, the music was totally improvised on the spot, with no preconceptions. The start of a piece is always a surprise – whoever is feeling ready jumps in and starts. Often a set is one continuous work. And sometimes themes from the beginning return later, re-orchestrated with a different instrument or in a different key. We all try to centre ourselves a bit before performing. Elliott and Josh both close their eyes a lot – I think they really like to go within. Personally, I like to watch them quite a bit – I feel it gives me more of a sense of what they are going to do and allows me to better synchronise movements and synchronise rhythms. We play together as an ensemble, but at times there’s a soloist or just two people playing or two people playing accompaniment and one person playing a melody.

What were some of the challenges in recording the album?
We recorded it in different booths, thinking we could manage the sound better. But in the end, that didn’t fully work – some sound still bled through. Being in different booths made it really hard to hear each other. We’re also used to being very close together when playing, but I think we could really draw on that connection and intuition despite our physical distance in the studio.

Tell us about your upcoming listening parties
For the listening parties, we are going to be playing music based on the album. The first night is Disc 1 – with. And the second night is Disc 2 – without. BUT…we play improvised music, so the listening parties, and then the live launch in August, will probably be the only times we play with // without to an audience.

COVID-19 has had a catastrophic impact on live music. How have you spent the last three months during the lockdown?
Asides from moving my piano teaching online, I’ve written a lot of grant applications and a lot of job applications. I’ve also been working on the art for the successful applications. It’s been busy, but also quite tough – mourning the loss of our industry and the unknowns of what the future holds. It was very natural for me to go to the piano and improvise and process my emotions. I didn’t necessarily feel compelled to make new works and polished compositions ready to share with the world, but by necessity that’s what I’ve ended up having to do. It was great to create work, but it felt like an enormous amount of pressure – having to be creative, to be innovative and to use this challenge as something positive, when it’s actually really a difficult time.

What’s coming up for you over the next 18 months?
There’s the launch of Impermanence’s album, with // without. And we are hoping to be able to do more gigs. In December, we are due to play at the International Society for Improvised Music conference at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, University of Melbourne. I also have a couple of commissions. At the end of 2019, I won the Pythia Prize for composition – which means I’m writing a piece inspired by the bushfire crisis for Rubiks Collective. I’m also writing a piece for myself as Artist in Residence at the City of Greater Dandenong. The piece is based around the Irish word for hug – Croí Isteach – which literally means to get into the heart or to bring your hearts close – so it’s a sonic hug for the pandemic times.


MEDIA RELEASE
Redefining the idiom: Impermanence trio premieres new music
June 2020
with // without is the mesmerising new offering from Australia’s rising stars of improvised music, Impermanence.
The Melbourne trio launched with // without, a double album, with two live-streamed Listening Parties.
Described as “one of Australia’s rising stars”, “where jazz meets sound art”, Impermanence are a Melbourne-based improvising music trio who traverse form and genre. with // without captures their cinematic and evocative sound, coalescing ancient and futuristic with tradition and invention through their unique instrumentation:

  • simultaneous piano + mixed Indonesian gamelan (Bianca Gannon)
  • double bass + bass guitar (Josh Holt)
  • trumpet + augmented trumpet (Elliott Hughes)

Their seemingly through-composed long-form free improvisations incorporate neo-classical and jazz references with ritualistic rhythms and a glitchy new music edge. Ethereal lyricism layered with pulsating difference tones, unique timbres, orchestral textures and extended harmonies resonate in an expansive timelessness.
Elliott Hughes’ invention, the Augmented Trumpet, incorporates a 3D-printed motion-sensor that uses the normal movement of the trumpet’s valves to control and synchronise the electronics with the acoustic sound. The resulting sounds are captivating.
Gamelan specialist Gannon performs simultaneous piano with gamelan (Balinese pitched percussion instruments with beating difference-tones that create an otherworldly warbling effect).
with // without is supported by the City of Melbourne COVID-19 Arts Grants.


Impermanence ‘With // without’ Album Launch
WHO: Bianca Gannon simultaneous piano + mixed Indonesian gamelan
Josh Holt double bass + bass guitar
Elliott Hughes trumpet + augmented trumpet
Impermanence website
WHAT: with // without double CD, improvised and recorded at Newmarket Studios, February 2019. Disc 1 includes electronic components (Augmented trumpet and bass guitar) and Disc 2 is acoustic.
Cost: Digital $12, CD $25
with // without is available for purchase and streaming on Bandcamp and spotify.

Award-winning talent Jack Gow dismantles masculinity, failure, and Nelson Mandela at Melbourne Fringe

Sydney-based comedian Jack Gow will showcase his unique coming-of-age story over eight nights at the Melbourne Fringe Festival this year, from Saturday 21 to Sunday 29 September.

Just A Small Town Boy is a hilarious, yet bittersweet, coming-of-age story exploring the idiosyncrasies of growing up as an outsider in small-town country NSW. This is a show about masculinity, failure and Nelson Mandela. It’s about slam poetry, the Year 12 formal, and patriarchal power structures. It’s about teen love, internalized homophobia, and drunkenly kissing your best friend at a house party to the sound of Timbaland. Inspired by the likes of Hannah Gadsby, David Sedaris, and Daniel Kitson, it’s a show for anyone who has ever been rejected by society, questioned their sexuality, or felt that they needed to compromise their true self in order to fit in.

Jack, described as “a growing force in Australian comedy” (Broadsheet), enjoyed a sold-out debut season last year at the MFF and earned high praise from reviewers and audiences alike. The talented wordsmith’s “wry, gentle storytelling” (Sydney Morning Herald) is characterised by hilarious personal anecdotes imbued with dark pathos.

Exploring the idiosyncrasies of growing up as an outsider in small-town country Australia, Jack’s show touches on identity politics, notions of traditional masculinity and the extreme lengths individuals go to try to belong.

His style has been described as “an anxious, apologetic eloquence that takes the everyday and makes it quietly marvellous” (★★★★ The Music), and he has been lauded as “one of the finest emerging comedians in the country” (Sydney Comedy Festival).

A multiple The Moth StorySLAM winner and two-time The Moth Sydney GrandSLAM runner-up, Jack writes regular comedic pieces for ABC News Digital and his stories have appeared on Radio National, the Story Club podcast, and he is a former contributing writer and performer on The Checkout (ABC TV).

____________________________________________________________

SHOW DETAILS

Who: Jack Gow presents Just A Small Town Boy, Melbourne Fringe

Times: Saturday 21 to Sunday 29 Sept (6:30pm daily, 5:30pm Sun); no show Mon 23 Sept

Venue: Fringe Hub at Trades Hall, Cnr. Victoria & Lygon Streets, Carlton South, VIC 3053

Tickets: Adult: $24 / Concession: $20 

Bookings: https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/just-a-small-town-boy/

Media release written by Diana Wolfe and Gianna Huesch

Gelareh Pour and Garden Quartet

Gelareh Pour’s Garden Quartet album launch and national tour 2019

Talented Australian-Iranian musician Gelareh Pour is launching Garden Quartet, her band’s self-titled debut album, with a national tour beginning in July.

Gelareh formed Garden Quartet in 2016 in collaboration with Brian O’Dwyer, Arman Habibi and Mike Gallichio, creating and performing music which Gelareh describes as Iranian-Australian contemporary music fusing elements of world music, avant garde, alternative/indie post-rock, dark ambient and romantic, sung in Farsi.

Having studied in Iran and then obtained her Masters of Ethnomusicology at the University of Melbourne, she is a respected composer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist master of Persian/Iranian instruments including Kamancheh (spiked fiddle) and Qeychak Alto (Iranian bowed lute). She has previously released three albums to widespread acclaim, and is a contributing member of Boite World Music Café and Victoria’s Iranian House of Music. Gelareh is now based in Melbourne where she regularly performs with some of Australia’s most innovative experimental musicians.

The theme of the album Garden Quartet is “more than one place”, drawing on Gelareh’s experiences and stories about living and creating music in two very different cultures, together with her bandmates’ differing cultural backgrounds and the stories they’ve carried along their personal journeys.

Gelareh also incorporates the stories of women who have had to flee from war-torn countries inspired by Gelareh’s academic research work on The Lives of Iranian Women Singers in Diaspora.

Celebrated as a vocalist of rare and ethereal skill, the 34-year-old has nonetheless experienced hardship as a female singer in Iran. There, she was only able to perform covertly in underground venues, as women are forbidden to sing solo in public under Islamic law. Women’s voices are viewed as “too provocative” and their hand movements when playing instruments deemed “too erotic”. As a result, Iranian women can only play instruments in male-led bands, or perform to all-female audiences, who must also obtain permits for all performances via an arduous bureaucratic process. By contrast, singing as a woman solo singer with no restrictions on the stage and in recordings is very special to her. In Australia, for the first time in her life, Gelareh feels she has true musical and creative freedom—a feeling of exhilaration that is beautifully expressed in the compositions on Garden Quartet.

Media release written by Diana Wolfe and Gianna Huesch