Are your Elephants Amplified?

For 3 weeks, 9 days and over 100 hours, dancers and sound artists from ArtLife took over the clear box and surrounds of Testing Grounds – an architecturally designed, temporary creative space in the heart of the city. Awash new sounds like fire alarms and busy traffic only metres away, glare from the sun on stark metal and the inner city dust, the artists’ first impressions of Testing Grounds was a sensory overload and an invitation to explore the site through creative risk and discovery.

The Amplified Elephants, FCAC’s resident sound art ensemble, have produced and toured work for over 7 years. The residency was the first time The Amplified Elephants collaborated with dancers.

Amplified Elephant Robyn McGrath said she liked the new collaboration as she saw photos of the work that was made.

“We look good! Look at what they are doing”, Robyn said in reference to a group of dancers working with long metal benches and tables at Testing Grounds.

Testing Grounds has been a great opportunity for collaborators to experiment and take their work to new heights. Artists found unusual materials to work with in the residency space, from dog bowls and stones made for musical interpretation to schoolyard-type furniture – which was sturdy enough for artists to dance on, drag and manipulate.

Dancers tied themselves to metal frames, weaved among the obstacles and curled under chairs. Musicians observed, listened, and found objects to incorporate into compositions. They made phrase material that resembled the hustle and bustle of the city, which was a quiet awakening from each musician as they transitioned from percussion, to keys to iPads.

Working as a large ensemble across 9 days and 3 nights, many of the performers recalled that they had a good time and made great progress with their creative work.

“We got stuff done”, said Dancer, Wade Cameron.

“Everyone was focused and it was awesome!” said Musician and Dancer, Sarah Ellis.

James Hullick, Ensemble Manager for the Amplified Elephants said, “in the kernel of this work is a very good show”.

Jonathan Sinatra, Choreographer, and Pamela Debrincat, Associate Producer for the Testing Grounds Residency, both commented that the residency involved a level of compromise, but was an interesting crossing of disciplines.

So far artists have found the residency to be productive and have enjoyed collaborating with a group of different artists. Only time will tell what work will come from this unique collaboration in a space embedded in the heart of the city centre

2017-ArtLife Testing Grounds-01Amplified Elephants work with dancers during ‘the Frames‘ section. Dancers weave through the frames and improvise with extending and tightening ropes as Chelsea Michelle and Megan Hunter play.

2017-ArtLife Testing Grounds-02Diego Munoz, Steven Tran and Jonathan Sinatra exploring the effect of hand held lights on the clear residency and musicians respond to the light cues.

2017-ArtLife Testing Grounds-03Finding an ending – musicians Daniel Doherty, Jay Euesden and Daniel Munnery bring the dancers to a close as the music drone plays and bodies come to the floor.

2017-ArtLife Testing Grounds-04Dancers Wade Cameron (centre), Esther Tuddenham, Kathryn Sutherland and Diego Munoz have looked at ways the benches can be used as extensions of the movement. Making room for the space ‘underneath’, dancers carry the weight.

2017-ArtLife Testing Grounds-05Visual artist Louise Hunter works everyday on obscuring and collaging objects, making use of everyday materials including wool, metal hooks, paper and tape.

2017-ArtLife Testing Grounds-06James Hullick works with musicians Megan Hunter, Chelsea Michelle and Helen Kruljac on the opening piece.


Written by Susan Doel.
Photography and video by Rachel Main.

©2021 Footscray Community Arts Centre