Justin Shoulder Carrion
Image: Liz Ham

Is there such thing as vertebrate privilege? Who here has a metamorphic urge to return to the primordial soup? Would our species benefit from a molecular refresh button?

The CARRION team massage us into mesmeric space where sound, sculpture, light and body converge in a sublime bio-sensuality. We are both outside and inside, internal and external to the Carrion concept, generously we are invited into a constant becoming and the artist’s ongoing speculative fiction.

Justin Shoulder is famous for promises of mythic beings and he delivers here. His history of haunting and humorous creations (my favourites being Glut Glut & Pinky) are part of a canon of work invested in examining the relations between human, animal, machine and spirit. CARRION is another chapter in an ongoing interrogation of humanness-ness. For those viewing it as a stand alone experience it asks you to truly drop into time. For us invested in the ongoing research we position Carrion in a family of beings.

The sensibility of the work has an air of the supernatural as we witness the hypnotic birth of Carrion. The music coo’s and throbs synthesising the emerging figure and their self discovery. Meeting Carrion, a ‘post-human spectre’ has a sense of voyeurism, when limb by limb Shoulder peels and unfurls himself as languid larvae, humanoid ghost and post-historic jurassic. There is pleasure in this slow exploration, and, in slowing time down Shoulder helps us remember what it is to be creature.

The expansiveness of Carriageworks Bay 20 might highlight the expansiveness of what we are up against as a species, and what Shoulder is confronting in his research. The Carrion body is both gigantically and microscopically expressed. I felt like a scientist peering down a lens, twisting and magnifying the subject. This kind of experience in performance is consciousness moving and the sculptural design of both costume and set heave us into a reality shaped by histories of sci-fi and queer performance. It is dreamy.

Gorgeousness in giant puppetry, where Carrion again changes shape is breathtaking, here, the object breathes for us. The affect of a monstrous fabric being both forming, revealing and extending Carrion has deconstructive hallucinogenic effect forcing our hyperactive souls to contemplate our cellular past and futures. There were many moments like when you dig in sand to get to the wetness below for the joy of the water pouring in. We became the reef and Carrion’s journey accelerated us, an oozing of fabric, of coral, of viscera as its undulating womb-ness asks us to bear witness to its industry.

Shoulder skilfully fuses the absurd and scientific in a punk-tech landscape of elements and playthings, creating the natural out of the ‘un-natural’ and inviting both tragedy and beauty into a conversation with mechanical birds. ‘I can see you‘ they chirp as he zoomorphically clowns.  

Carrion’s gaze reminds us of the pure stare of a wild thing, even with its shiny ‘i-face’ and headphone hairs, Carrion has empathy, and proves it by retreating to make peace with their chrysalis only to shift once more into a final impressive new beast. Across the work the lighting and sound design absorb us into both the muscularity of the performer and the objects they collect and  interact with.

Shoulder takes aim at the anthropocentric dominating energy of our time by evolving and de-evolving live on-stage. He asks us to re-assess time with aching slowness punctuated by raptures of playful natural frolic. His masking extends from skull to limb in a sophisticated display of bodily manipulation and exploration. Carrion, we learn, is a yearning, curious being. They navigate springy moments of jestering and gentle attentive dressing, and Shoulder’s quality of movement is simultaneously gracious and tense.

The experience may inspire us to ask how we save our epoch? What can we do now in our own bodies to be the best beings we can be? Is there something deep within evolutionary memory that might remedy current fatalism?

CARRION is a transcendental experience. It induces a healthy watchful gaze in the viewer – via Shoulder’s body we become self reflective. The piece provokes waves of both joy and melancholy. When we are looking at Carrion we are seeing our past and future selves in conversation, Carrion looks back at us, they beckon us back into fluidity and it is for us to decide what shape we might take next. All is not lost, we can transform.

Lead Artist: Justin Shoulder
Composer: Corin Ileto
Lighting and Visual Design: Benjamin Cisterne
Dramaturg: Victoria Hunt
Costume Design: Matthew Stegh & Justin Shoulder

CARRION runs from Wednesday 25th – Saturday 28th October 9pm in Performance Space’s 2017 LIVEWORKS program.

Emma Maye Gibson (HONS, MFA Performance Studies) (AKA Betty Grumble) is a Sydney based performance artist. Through performance both in Australia and internationally she engages with the woman body as a political site. Emma Maye’s performative landscape straddles both nightclub/cabaret and theatre/gallery spaces. Notable performances and training include: Day for Night (Performance Space); Siti Company (New York); Block 9 (Glastonbury); The Box (London) Melbourne, Alice Springs, Adelaide, Edinburgh & Perth Fringes; Brisbane Festival; Mardi Gras (Sydney) ArtBar (MCA); Blanc de Blanc (Sydney Opera House); La Traviata (Belvoir St Theatre). She is working towards an ecosexual feminism and wants to save the world.


Brown Council: Critical Comedy


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