Fringe Talk Day Five

Dark Times Gallery and Unreal - Tuesday 5th September 

Dad texted me today. He’s been sorting through 60 years’ worth of hoarded tools, wires, springs, old telephones – paraphernalia – in his father’s house and workshop. He sent me a photo of a home-made mechanism for running an automatic skylight, its parts undoubtedly cannibalised from a World War Two aircraft.

“I looked long and hard at the two goofy indicator lights and the clock spring switches and I could see a robotic form of grandad’s face in the design,” he wrote. A self-portrait, a perfect legacy for a ‘mad’ inventor.


Pareidolia: n. The tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern.

The neighbours nicknamed grandad Gyro Gearloose. It felt timely that I arrived at Dark Times Gallery after reading this.


Newtown artists Blunt Pacers have tucked Dark Times Gallery into a rectangular demountable shed inside the HPG Festival Hub. Described as a presentation of a “bleak, yet conceivable future”, it is an installation of paintings played out in front of you as you follow the light – a moving, live comic about a dystopian Australia in which a bureaucrat stumbles into corruption of apocalyptic proportions. It’s a cautionary tale for the complacent, a warning for cat-got-yer-tongue, lump-in-the-throat, would-be whistleblowers.

There in the paintings I saw Gyro, my grandfather, also a bureaucrat.

Apophenia: n. The tendency to perceive a connection or meaningful pattern between unrelated or random things.

The figures in the tale present as at once bleak and yearning. Mounted on cages and illuminated with an ad hoc collection of desk and bed lamps stuffed into this eerie space, they reach out at you with an arm or an eye. Sometimes figures sit cramped within the canvas, as though they’ve outgrown their own frames.

High rise buildings in this futuristic Sydney sport robotic faces, forming a disturbing panopticon.

At that point I caught a familiar tune, one that I couldn’t recall the name of, drifting across from another part of the warehouse. Pied Piper’d, I followed the sound and left those forlorn figures behind.

Austinmer Dance Theatre’s Unreal showcases a stunning triptych that plays with grounded stances, smooth arcs, and shapes cut short by gunfire-esque shifts in focus. Wave-like motions played hard against time-sensitive shifts in pace.

Exhales were vocalised – short, sharp, sudden – adding a texture you don’t often have the privilege of experiencing as in this 6X6, intimate black cube.

I was at once earthed and elevated; pulled joyously in two directions.

I drove home and searched for that familiar song. Max Richter. A string orchestra. Gearloose – inventor, grandfather, bureaucrat – had also been a sucker for the strings. My self-diagnosed apophenia may have just reared its head again.

[More dancing is still to come tomorrow, when Rebecca reports back from Cultural Renegades]


Written by Eleni Schumacher