photograph of Rebecca Youdell lying in the foreground by on rocks by a river, by Glen O'Malley 1998

Listening to Skin

site-specific collaboration in tropical Australia

Listening to Skin is an interdisciplinary art project that brought together creatives from different perspectives to produce a series of works about the unique human environments of tropical Australia. Each artist represented a creative discipline that would find a common language through the representation of dance. The mediums of film, photography, performance and music created the threads of Listening to Skin.

The artists attended fieldwork in small groups, and each field trip focused on specific kinds of content collection, activation and experience. The fieldwork sites elicited responses incorporating the dancing body amongst a landscape whose disposition invariably sought to dominate the subject. The ambiguity of figure and ground in Glen O'Malley's enigmatic black and white photography strongly represent the project's investigation of the dancer in the landscape.

Establishing non-indigenous identity in highly-charged environments is a slippery undertaking. The decay of exhausted enterprise and the residue of failed human ventures litter the country, whether wrecked on a reef or abandoned in the rainforest or savannah. Yet, where pioneering claims fail, the remaining evidence is reclaimed by the resilient forces inherent in nature and its place.

For tropical Australia, where the reef, rainforest and savannah interconnect to form a dominant biosphere, there appear seasons in two types, the Dry and the Wet. Harsh climates, captivating landscapes. Human refuse remains. Decay on a grand scale. Landscapes rich in traces of corrosion, rust and decaying ideals. A scattered pioneering colonial history of disused and abandoned values and objects.

This group of contemporary artists transposes captured moments of dance in the landscape. Listening to Skin is an interdisciplinary choreographic investigation into the environment of tropical Australia.

fieldwork locations:
Chillagoe: abandoned smelters, Cairns: abandoned WWII oil tank, Croydon: deserted gold mine, Dunk Island: shipwreck, Paronella Park: a ruined castle, Magnetic Island: vacated WWII Forts, and other locations.

Bonemap - Rebecca Youdell and Russell Milledge
audio commission: Silent Beat: Paul Lawrence and Michael Whiticker
filmmaker: Leah Grycewicz
Art Photography: Glen O'Malley

Russell Milledge, Rebecca Youdell with live sound Michael Whiticker and Paul Lawrence of Silent Beat.
Film footage courtesy of Distance Between Worlds.

film ‘Eden Flesh Against Earth’:
Leah Grycewicz, Rebecca Youdell and Randall Einhorn. Featuring the sound score of Rigel Best.

art photography:
choreographed exhibition: Glen O'Malley and Rebecca Youdell.

technical assistance:
Mainsail Productions, John Genge and Stephen Barton

Rondo Theatre, Cairns 2-4 Dec 1998
Kick Arts Gallery, Cairns 7-14 Dec 1998
Perc Tucker Gallery, Townsville 18 Dec 1998
Umbrella Studio, Townsville 18 Dec 1998

KickArts Collective, Australia Council for the Arts, Naringa Creek Ostrich Farm, Paronella Park, Rondo Theatre

review: Skin lines - Julie Goodall at the boundaries, Listening to Skin Realtime RT28 1998

Video documentation to come:

photograph of Rebecca Youdell dancing with a shipwreck in tropical Australia, by Glen O'Malley 1998