A black screen.
WOMAN: There are two types of people in this world. Those who have murdered pot plants out of sheer neglect. And those who don't own pot plants. I don't own any plants because I don't see the point. Seems like a futile exercise, you know. It's like, why pretend to care for something, when you know eventually, you're the reason it's going to die.
Fading up from the blackness is a long rectangular painting, autographed by the artist in the bottom right corner, of a woman's dark-green, almond-shaped eyes in close-up, staring out from beneath curved, dark-brown eyebrows, with the edge of her hairline and the bridge of her nose just visible. Her skin is clear and shining. She's looking towards the right, the expression in her eyes alert, and a greenish shape that differs in colour from her irises is reflected in them.
Or maybe, I worry I'm too much like a pot plant. Put down roots not into the earth, but something entirely different. Contained, transportable, untethered.
There's a greenhouse in the abandoned lot at the end of my street. I walk past it every day on my way home from work. It's a shortcut from the tram stop, but really out of the way. You have to turn down a cobbled laneway to find it. Halves the length of the walk but I only ever use it during the day because, have you ever noticed? Cobbled laneways are completely different places at night. Sinister dark tunnels, lost all their bohemian charm.
Anyways, you get to the end of the laneway and there's this abandoned lot. Awkward shape, squished in by the houses on the other side of the block. Not enough to be any kind of proper property on its own. It's the kind of space left behind once all the other lots were carved down. My own little inside-out world.
And when I say abandoned, I mean really fucking desolate. Overgrown yellow grass, metal fence up, brick wall on one side, covered in graffiti. Dandelions sprouting up all over the place like HPV and in the middle of all that, a greenhouse, misted up so you can't see inside and pristine. No broken panes, no graffiti, no signs of age. A little oasis amidst an ocean of weeds. This is not your average inner-north suburbia.
I walk past this lot every day, but I never go into the greenhouse. And I don't know why. All I know is that it calms me. When I'm lost within myself and I can see that something's wrong with me on a cellular level, I can feel it. Like I'm searching for something, yearning for it, but I don't know what it is. When my whole body's burning, just being near this greenhouse calms me. And still I never enter.
But one day, it changes. Worked a double shift so it's getting dark as I'm walking home. But I'm tired as fuck and you better believe I'm taking the shortcut through the cobbled laneway, even though it's getting dark and shadows are lengthening and broken glass crunches under my feet. I pass the abandoned lot and stop in my tracks.
The painting of the woman's shining eyes fades into a different rectangular painting. It depicts a small glass greenhouse made up of square glass panes, glowing in the midst of a clump of shrubs, vines and flowering plants. It's between a tall fence with uneven wooden palings and a low chicken-wire fence with a gap torn in it. A dark building stands on the left and a red-brown building on the right. The sky between the buildings is a dark, dusky blue, but the greenhouse is glowing with golden light.
There's a light on in the greenhouse. Don't be scared. I'm not. It's not creepy. It's clarity, because I realise now the thing I've been searching for is inside that greenhouse.
But before I know it, my feet are taking me home and into my PJs and into bed and getting my laptop and watching Planet Earth.
That night I have fitful dreams I can't remember.
When I return to the abandoned lot the next morning, the greenhouse is gone.
The painting vanishes abruptly, leaving only blackness.
A black screen.
WOMAN 1: Do you need directions?
WOMAN 2: Huh? Oh, no. Thank you.
WOMAN 1: You will not find the location you seek on that device.
WOMAN 2: Excuse me?
WOMAN 1: It will not guide you where you need to go, sweaty.
WOMAN 2: Did you call me sweaty?
WOMAN 1: It is a term of endearment.
WOMAN 2: You mean sweetie?
WOMAN 1: I most certainly do not.
WOMAN 2: Who are you? How would you know where I need to go?
WOMAN 1: I am not of your world.
WOMAN 2: Oh. Okay.
WOMAN 1: Most people are more freaked out.
WOMAN 2: You seem cool.
WOMAN 1: As do you.
WOMAN 2: So where do I need to go then? What am I searching for?
WOMAN 1: You must listen to me very carefully. I will not say this twice.
WOMAN 2: Okay.
WOMAN 1: At exactly 7:23 pm tonight a bus will pull up outside the abandoned lot at the end of your street, you know the one, climb aboard. Avoid eye contact with the other beings on the bus. They won't pay a human any heed as long as you don't gawk. Take the bus to the last stop. This will be quite literally the end of the line, the edge of everything. Disembark, pay the driver by singing your first three notes of your favourite song.
On the cliff's edge you will see a small platform with a rope. Don't be afraid. The rappel is securely tethered. Put on the harness provided and attach yourself to the rope using the carabiner. There will be a laminated diagram attached to the platform if you are unsure of the correct procedure.
Abseil down the 'edge of everything'. The rope is infinite.
Slowly fading up from blackness is a painting of pink-flowering orchid growing out of a woman's bare chest. The woman is standing against a marbled blue and green backdrop, and only her chin, neck, shoulders and upper chest are within the frame of the picture, with her mouth at the very top, unsmiling and painted bright red.
The orchid's stem is bursting out of a red-rimmed hole like a wound over the woman's breastbone, and her faint, dark blue veins are snaking away from the hole beneath the skin, mirroring the snaky tendrils of roots branching out from the base of the orchid plant. Around the hole in the skin with the orchid growing out of it, there's a shimmering white and pink heart shape just visible.
There's only a single orchid bloom, pink at the edges and dark magenta at its heart, but two sprays of pale buds are branching out on either side of the stem.
The orchid stem and flower are leaning to the right, while the woman's head is craning to the left, the taut muscles and tendons sharply delineated in her extended neck.
WOMAN 1: You will have to descend for days. You will have no spotter, no one watching over you. Your arms will start to shake and turn to putty. Your muscles will start to burn. The rope will rip your hands, tear the flesh to shreds. Every cell in your body will revolt, will scream to you that you can go no further. Keep going down! Down!
Just as exhaustion overcomes you and you think you will fall off the cliff face into oblivion - and not a moment prior, mind - you will come across a crag in the rock where an orchid grows.
This flower can change things, a person's heart, which is after all, the only thing that's ever needed to change. Yes, it can change things, though not as an octopus shifts its skin, but as a drop of ink blooms in a cup of water. It is this which you seek.
Remove the orchid gently by the roots and hold it in your shredded hand. It will fill you with renewed vigour. Smell its perfume if you must. Then climb back up the cliff the way you came, taking care not to damage it in any way.
The bus will be waiting when you return to the clifftop. Once you have the orchid, nothing will be the same. You will experience things, accomplish things, the likes of which one cannot begin to describe. From its seed, light will grow.
But you must be ready for the bus at the abandoned lot at 7:23 pm tonight. That is very important. Do you understand?
WOMAN 2: I can't.
WOMAN 1: I beg your pardon?
WOMAN 2: I can't. I'm afraid of heights, borderline vertigo.
WOMAN 1: Close your eyes then. You must find the orchid or else. Well?
WOMAN 2: Oh. Okay.
WOMAN 1: 7:23.
WOMAN 2: 7:23.
WOMAN 1: You'll be there?
WOMAN 2: Of course.
Fading up from blackness, an old tin boat with a railing around its prow is resting on a wooden floor in a room painted white. A reflection of water ripples on the wall behind it.
Submerged in the water that fills the boat are two figures with dark, curly hair, wearing grey suits, white collared shirts and ties.
The one in the front of the boat begins to stir under the cloudy water, and slowly reaches up a hand to grasp the railing around the prow.
He grips the front of the boat with his other hand and hauls himself up into a sitting position.
At the back of the boat, the other figure stirs and sits up, water dripping from the knot of hair at the back of her head. She grips the edge of the boat.
Their heads are just protruding over the rim of the boat.
Moving together, they haul themselves bit by bit up and over the edge of the boat, their movements slow and agonised.
They dangle feebly over the edge of the boat before collapsing onto the wooden floor below. Their suits are drenched and their feet are bare.
He lies panting on his back, and she on her front, then they both attempt to push themselves up off the ground. They appear to be too weak, and keep collapsing onto the floorboards again.
They drag themselves painfully in tiny increments away from the boat, across the floor. The effort appears to be too much for them and they both slump face-down and lie unmoving.
After a while, he slides up onto all fours and pushes himself slowly into a standing position. She spasms on the floor, arching her back and flailing her limbs as though they're being pulled upwards on strings.
He raises his dripping, quivering head, and his expression is harrowed. She keeps contorting in spasms on the floor.
Lifting his right foot carefully, he pumps his leg around and around as though cycling slowly. His haunted face is still quivering.
Between flashbacks to their emergence from the water in the boat, she manages to get to her feet too, and facing away from him she raises one leg like she's running in slow motion.
He drops face-down to the floor again, then spasms with his limbs held up in the air, as she did before him. She stops her slow motion running and drops face-down to do the same.
As soon as she's down he's up again, cycling his right leg slowly through more rotations.
Again they trade places, their movements intercut with rapid glimpses of their emergence from the boat.
The flashbacks end, their motion ceases, and another figure appears at the back of the room, only this one is emerging from behind the boat, not from within it. It's a person in a white decontamination suit and respirator mask, with a chemical tank strapped to their back and a watering can in one hand.
The suited figure emerges from behind the boat and pads barefoot over to the prone figure of the man on the left, then holds out the watering can as if to pour its contents over him. Nothing comes out.
The figure tilts the can upright again and carries it over to the woman, who's standing frozen with her back to him, a sad expression on her face. Again he lifts the can as if to water her, and nothing comes out.
He walks back over to the boat, still carrying the watering can, which he holds out over the water in the boat. He tilts it forward but nothing comes out.
Leaning over the boat, he grips the handrail and lowers the watering can into the watery boat, then lowers himself in after it. He sinks down out of sight, his legs the last part of him to disappear.
From the shadows in the corner of the room, a young woman in a white singlet, dark red shorts and suede work boots emerges. Her straight dark hair is tied back at the nape of her neck, and she's carrying an orchid plant with pink-and-magenta blooms.
She walks tentatively past the prone figure of the man, then stops behind the woman standing motionless.
After looking at the frozen woman in the suit for a moment, the woman with the orchid carries it towards the front of the room and gently holds it out like an offering. Water drips from its trailing roots.
Bowing her head, she slowly and carefully crouches down to place the orchid plant on the wooden floor, cradling the root ball in both hands to support the plant.
She lifts her head to look directly into the camera, her face solemn and her gaze intense.
Fade to black.
A black screen.
MAN: Each cell inside our bodies is different, unique.
Fading up from blackness is a marbled blue-green pattern on a pale background, like a cluster of soap bubbles on water or magnified cells in pale tissue.
Cells form communities which function as tissues. Tissues gather together and function as systems. All together, the cells cooperate for the common good of the whole person.
The inner layer of the cell looks to the inside. The outer layer looks to the outside. Communication between the inner and the outer connects self to the other and other to self.
As the marbled image is further illuminated, patches of mauve appear in the cell-like segments, and a blur of pinkish-purple beside a dense cluster of green cells in the top right.
The brain informs the cells and the cells inform the brain, each being peripheral to the centrality of the other. The nervous system records present experience, integrates it with previously stored experience, interprets it within the context of its history, holds it in memory and projects the coordination of the whole into expectation.
Yellow and orange patches glow inside the larger cells, and light from behind the image slowly pulses, making the vein-like network of lines between the cells sharpen and fade by turns.
Cells can learn new experiences, tap potential. Cells resonate in relation to each other. As more cells within us become aware of themselves and are responsive, there is a fuller resonance between them.
Cellular breathing focuses on the cellular fluid passing in and out of the boundaries of the cells.
The fading and darkening of the image with the pulsating light becomes more pronounced.
Cellular breathing is simply breathing in and out. Opening your awareness to the expanding and condensing occurring within you and within the other person. We feel our whole body expanding and condensing as one cell.
Rising uses magical realism to grapple with themes of power, oppression, privilege, paralysis and sacrifice. It is inspired by kishōtenketsu, a ‘conflict-less’ East Asian story structure whereby dramatic pleasure derives not from the resolution of conflict, but through a coming-together of four disparate elements. Rising abstracts the brief into four parts, each with a central image; a greenhouse aglow; a magic orchid; figures rising from a boat filled with water; cells as communities – all distilled from the devising process. The work employs a variety of media in an attempt to translate the feeling and power of live performance (as durational, surprising, ephemeral) into a digital gallery.
Lucy Ansell, co-devisor and performer, Bachelor of Fine Arts (Acting), 2018
Cara Dinley, co-devisor and director, Masters of Directing for Performance, 2018
Sarah Fitzgerald, co-devisor and performer, Bachelor of Fine Arts (Acting), 2018
Kim Ho, co-devisor, writer and performer, Masters of Writing for Performance, 2018
Karl Richmond, co-devisor, composer and performer, Bachelor of Fine Arts (Acting), 2018
Lief Chan, visual artist, Bachelor of Arts 2018
The text on cellular consciousness in part four of the work was adapted from Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen’s Sensing, Feeling, and Action.