Perth Festival Archives of Humanity review: Explores versions of truth through inter-generational experiences


What is truth?

This question seems to be at the core of Co3 Contemporary’s new work, Archives of Humanity.

And the answer, explored over a charged hour, appears to be that there can be myriad versions of the same truth.

Artistic director Raewyn Hill began developing the show three years ago as a rolling conversation about how generations respond to crises.

Are we strong? Are we fragile? How do we lean into one another when the going gets tough?

As we know, the going got very tough last year during the pandemic – particularly for the arts sector – so there is a poignancy to the piece that seems almost serendipitous.

The immersion begins in the corridor leading to Studio Underground, where a flock of black ravens are suspended from the ceiling accompanied by stories pinned to the wall of isolation, grief and growth.

These 1000-plus birds were dreamed up by Japanese sculptural artist Naoko Yoshimoto and made in collaboration with the community, and are a striking visual impact as backdrop to the main event.

The work plays out on a large square of sand, which becomes more disturbed as the company cover almost every inch in 60 minutes.

Underpinned by a pulsating score by New Zealand composer Eden Mulholland, the choreography moves in subtle cyclical patterns that play with ebb and flow, tension and release.

The company of 22 dancers is a mix of Co3 members and WAAPA secondees, an inter-generational mix that acts as a snapshot of society.

How they move together and separately is what makes the show.

They are at once a collective, constantly engaging and catching each other, but also individual performers who bring their own experience to every roll of shoulder or flicker of finger.

The same movement – the same truth – unfolds quite differently when expressed by a teenage girl versus a 50-year-old man.

Together the cast creates a repeated sense of building and crumbling, almost like a sandcastle being lashed by the elements.

There are moments where the choreography feels lingering or obtuse, but then a sudden jolt of movement breaks any momentary meditation and the pace picks up.

Much like life itself, Archives of Humanity is unpredictable and intriguing, reminding us that after a fall there is always an opportunity to transcend.

Runs until February 27