Melbourne Fringe 2016

Between Two Lines, Melbourne Fringe 2016

0 Comments 19 September 2016

Words by Brianna Bullen

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us … every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” (Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot)

So reads ethereal performer Elizabeth Brennan in our fifteen minute ‘biblio-therapy’ session, pointing to a suspended paper wreath. We are here. In this singular moment. The now. There are coiled pages decorating the floor, pretend explorers seeing each other through telescopes. She hands me a page. An exquisite branch installation above us sprouts glass bottles (each containing rolled-up pages) like leaves. The set-up is stunning, sectioned off from Embiggens Books behind a fabric wall draped from the ceiling. The soundscape twinkles. An intricate forest pattern weaves up the window, white marker sketched onto glass.

Occasionally someone walks past, looks in, and smiles at the bizarre scene—two young women in bathrobes surrounded by pages, sitting in a golden bathtub under a tulle blanket—a bit of reality breaking through, enhancing the awareness of the moment. Brennan offers a jar containing a rolled up Kundera quote on dreams which I eagerly extract, and a glass of Globe Amaranth tea which I am more apprehensive about, but which ends up tasting as soothing as it smells.

Between Two Lines is almost unnerving in its intimacy. In the waiting room, each participant fills a questionnaire catering to the reading and experience. I remember choosing between jumping in leaves and planting a tree, watching the world from a rooftop and being alone with my thoughts, and being rather upset there was no ‘Heart’ in the elements question (thanks, Captain Planet). Signs on jars invite you to read rolled up extracts from texts about reading—from Matilda, to Mrs Dalloway.

Brennan then appears, absolutely silent, communicating with gestures, silence and smiles about which steps to take. In this world—so obscured by loudness—the silence disorientates. The irony, perhaps, is the words of the books are less remembered than everything that wasn’t said: a deeper understanding into communication not dependent on language, and the feeling of being present in the moment, embodied in reactions and gestures (however performed) causes reconsideration of the relationship we have with language, and how deliberately crafted speech acts can be.

I found the mindfulness required surprisingly difficult—the one-on-one attention and presence might confront similarly introverted people. But afterwards, invited to leave a message and read messages from others, walking among the bookstores shelves listening to differently-catered experiences and going outside to watch the experience from different angles, I felt a therapeutic calmness and awareness of myself in the world. As I was about to leave, I read a quote from Camus that encapsulated the experience: “Find meaning or don’t find meaning but ‘steal’ some time and give it freely and exclusively to your own self … you need to breathe. And you need to be.”

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