On Tuesday I spent the whole day in the city doing things I hadn’t planned on doing. I was supposed to meet someone at 11am for a fieldwork interview (yay! Back on the horse with fieldwork, finally.) But ze called at five to eleven to cancel. Later, A. and I fronted up to the National Gallery to see a Juan Davila retrospective, only to discover that the gallery is closed on Tuesdays. Who knew.
To make up for this, we wandered into “Eyes, Lies and Illusions” at ACMI. It’s awesome. The exhibit that makes it great, though, is “The Sound Before You Make It” by Jaki Middleton and David Lawrie. In the centre of a small white room is a large disc at chest height, covered around the perimeter by three rows of figurines. It whirs and spins faster. Then the strobe starts, with music, and if you can let your eyes unfocus (like for a 3d image) you’re suddenly watching a line of dancers performing this unbelievably fast, unbelievably funky routine. Or you can watch the shadows of the dancers on the wall, performing in perfect synchronicity (more perfect than real dancers could).
I couldn’t make head nor tail of the title — the sound before you make it — but later in the afternoon, in a retro clothing shop above Swanston St, Michael Jackson’s Thriller was playing. The whole album.
Of course, the strobe routine mimics the zombie dance routine from ‘Thriller’, and the title is a snatch of lyric:
You try to scream but terror takes the sound before you make it
You start to freeze as horror looks you right between the eyes,
If the city is sending messages, I interpret them as saying, “Dance now.”