Title:
Sinkhole, Arini Byng, Jesse Gall and Rebecca Jensen
Author:
Suzanne Claridge
Date:
28.04.22

I witness your bodies
sinking, sinking, sinking
under the weight of cellular devices.
I witness your kisses, lipstick stains
pressing, pressing, pressing
against a white wall.

Muffled voices
hypnotic whispers
intriguing mutterings:
I am stuck in a web of tremors”.

I am stuck in orbit
spinning, spinning, spinning.
Would rubbing your fingertips
across my flesh
leave behind lesions of
plum-toned and wine-coloured bruises?

_

It’s a Friday night and I’m sitting at my desk agonising over thesis revisions. My phone, resting amidst the clutter of books and stale coffee sprawled across my desk, lights up with an Instagram notification. It’s a message from Anador Walsh, inviting me to write a piece in response to a performance happening tomorrow. A mutual friend put us in touch. I cannot remember the last time I attended an art opening, especially post lockdown. Looking at the pile of stale history books on my desk, I revel in the opportunity to step into another world. The next day, I met with an old friend from high school. We also recently reconnected over Instagram and after catching up over coffee, they accompanied me to the exhibition opening.

Combining video and live performance, Sinkhole is the ongoing collaborative project of artists Arini Byng, Jesse Gall and Rebecca Jensen. Sinkhole deals with improvised scenarios and bodily agency and responds to a text-based score.1 In the artists’ words, each iteration of Sinkhole deals with “a state of determinacy that is contingent upon the navigation within unknown territories”, stretching the “potential limits posed within temporal and spatial thresholds”.2

For its tenth iteration, Sinkhole is the opening performance for Gathering Geographies, curated by Mara Schwerdtfeger at Darren Knight Gallery. Performed by Eugene Choi, David Huggins, Anny Mokotow, Alice Weber, Tammy Bouman and Chantel Jurcevic, in this performance we encounter the ways that human activity and interaction respond to the (in)visible urban environment as a spatially physical and digital domain.

Arini Byng, Jesse Gall and Rebecca Jensen, Sinkhole, 2022, for Gathering Geographies at Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney. Performed by Eugene Choi, David Huggins, Anny Mokotow, Alice Weber, Tammy Bourman and Chantel Jurcevic. Photo by Zoe Baumgartner. Courtesy of Darren Knight Gallery.

A series of ringtones pierce the silence of the room. Phones attach themselves like velcro to ears. Answering the call, quiet and cautious ‘hellos’ whisper between lips. A hidden message infiltrates ear canals, triggering neurological impulses that determine movement. A web of invisible communication made visible through the mobility of bodies. I witness these bodies, moving towards the gallery wall, stealing kisses and writing names with fingertips and smudged lipstick; left behind are traces of affection. Soulja Boy’s Kiss Me Thru the Phone comes to my mind. I want to laugh as the lyrics, baby, you know that I miss you… I just wanna kiss you, but I can’t right now so, baby, kiss me through the phone, run through my head, but galleries are serious places. Gallery etiquette requires us to check our frivolity at the door (sorry, Soulja).

Previous iterations of Sinkhole I-IX are contained within a TV screen, accompanying the performance playing out before me, in real time with real bodies. The performance is self-reflexive and a continuum, looking back through a portal to a previous state, while looking towards the addition of a new layer.

Arini Byng, Jesse Gall and Rebecca Jensen, Sinkhole, 2022, for Gathering Geographies at Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney. Performed by Eugene Choi, David Huggins, Anny Mokotow, Alice Weber, Tammy Bourman and Chantel Jurcevic. Photo by Zoe Baumgartner. Courtesy of Darren Knight Gallery.

Bodies sway and step in motion with and against an invisible current. Pushing and pulling across walls, they creep towards the gallery entrance and outside onto the street. The space is small, the walkway is narrow. I cannot follow them, I’m stuck inside.

Arini Byng, Jesse Gall and Rebecca Jensen, Sinkhole, 2022, for Gathering Geographies at Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney. Performed by Eugene Choi, David Huggins, Anny Mokotow, Alice Weber, Tammy Bourman and Chantel Jurcevic. Photo by Zoe Baumgartner. Courtesy of Darren Knight Gallery.

I manage to catch a glimpse outside the window, I witness hands pressed against glass and bodies colliding with pavement. Urban infrastructure – its walls, foundations, enclosures, concrete – are arbitrary. The urban environment may offer us shelter, protection and convenience. However, sinkholes do not differentiate between such barriers. These urban things carry a false promise of invincibility.

Arini Byng, Jesse Gall and Rebecca Jensen, Sinkhole, 2022, for Gathering Geographies at Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney. Performed by Eugene Choi, David Huggins, Anny Mokotow, Alice Weber, Tammy Bourman and Chantel Jurcevic. Photo by Zoe Baumgartner. Courtesy of Darren Knight Gallery.

As the performers return inside, I expect the caller to hang up. Tell them they’ll see them when they get home, baby, you know that I miss you. But the caller stays on the line. On the receiving end, movement becomes distorted, text me, call me, I need you in my life, yeah. Squirming underneath phones pressed to faces, falling slowly to the ground, bodies begin to convulse. The online environment presents itself as an intangible sphere, contained within devices the online seems benign and weightless. As bodies squirm with/against/under these devices, I hear their muffled words filter through facemasks: “I am stuck in a web of tremors”.

(Did you watch Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse keynote? Did you notice that he wasn’t wearing a virtual headset while marketing an ‘embodied internet’ and its virtual 4D world? Snoop Dogg’s Sandbox party looks cool, though, I guess).

The inter-net-webs may offer us shelter, protection, convenience, hyperconnectivity, instant communication and instant gratification. But can these things keep their promises of/for human connection? What if the ground crumbled beneath all this pressure? Concrete cracking, tectonic plates shifting. Webs of tremors disseminating through the air, producing a fog, thick with static, similar to when that kid on Willy Wonka gets zapped into a million pieces and is transferred into a TV box via WonkaVision. Is that how The Cloud™ works? Forgive my technological ignorance.

Arini Byng, Jesse Gall and Rebecca Jensen, Sinkhole, 2022, for Gathering Geographies at Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney. Performed by Eugene Choi, David Huggins, Anny Mokotow, Alice Weber, Tammy Bourman and Chantel Jurcevic. Photo by Zoe Baumgartner. Courtesy of Darren Knight Gallery.

I imagine these sinkholes, digital and physical, suspended in the air as a vertical column. We’re falling through their dimensions, breaking through each portal, breaking through each iteration. A multiplicity of incarnations. A cycle of birth and re-birth. Sinkholes collapsing in and on themselves. Shattering like panels of glass, one on top of another. The pressure is immense. I wonder, is this what reincarnation feels like? Travelling through a myriad of portals. Perpetually sinking, sinking, sinking.

Arini Byng, Jesse Gall and Rebecca Jensen, Sinkhole, 2022, for Gathering Geographies at Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney. Performed by Eugene Choi, David Huggins, Anny Mokotow, Alice Weber, Tammy Bourman and Chantel Jurcevic. Photo by Zoe Baumgartner. Courtesy of Darren Knight Gallery.

Towards the corner of the room is a roll of black paper. Supported on shoulders, the paper is escorted outside like a coffin during a funeral procession. I watch from the sidelines as the procession leads outside. I’m stuck inside, again, longing for their return.

Arini Byng, Jesse Gall and Rebecca Jensen, Sinkhole, 2022, for Gathering Geographies at Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney. Performed by Eugene Choi, David Huggins, Anny Mokotow, Alice Weber, Tammy Bourman and Chantel Jurcevic. Photo by Zoe Baumgartner. Courtesy of Darren Knight Gallery.

The paper is stretched out. Limbs and hands puncture, protrude and rip through its surface. Arms break through the portal; we bear witness to a re-birth(ing).

Birth is a pre-requisite for death.

Or is death a pre-requisite for birth?

Are we crossing over to the other side?

Arini Byng, Jesse Gall and Rebecca Jensen, Sinkhole, 2022, for Gathering Geographies at Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney. Performed by Eugene Choi, David Huggins, Anny Mokotow, Alice Weber, Tammy Bourman and Chantel Jurcevic. Photo by Zoe Baumgartner. Courtesy of Darren Knight Gallery.

The caller hangs up. Masked bodies return to the gallery with a paper corpse. The procession ends. The maimed paper rests against and kisses the lipstick-bruised wall.

Aren’t funerals meant to have flowers?

Will flowers grow in the Metaverse?

Arini Byng, Jesse Gall and Rebecca Jensen, Sinkhole, 2022, for Gathering Geographies at Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney. Performed by Eugene Choi, David Huggins, Anny Mokotow, Alice Weber, Tammy Bourman and Chantel Jurcevic. Photo by Zoe Baumgartner. Courtesy of Darren Knight Gallery.

My phone vibrates in my pocket. Push notifications press against its glass screen, pushing, pushing, pushing. Someone, or something, is reaching for me. If only my phone screen was made of paper, they could puncture this portal too. Instead, I’m attached to a faux sinkhole, a boundless mirror. Through the screen, beneath the surface tension, the reflections that look back become unrecognisable.

I cradle my phone in my palms.

- clear all notifications -

I want to hold your hands, instead.

  1. Arini Byng, Jess Gall and Rebecca Jensen, “Sinkhole,” 2022, Artist Statement for Urban Geographies at Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney.

  2. Byng, Gall and Jensen, “Sinkhole.”

Suzanne Claridge is a writer and artist based on Gadigal land (Sydney, Australia). She recently completed a Master of Research in History. Her writing has appeared in Cordite Poetry Review and Running Dog.

Performance Review acknowledges the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation as the traditional custodians of the land on which we operate. We pay our respects to their Elders; past, present and emerging and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.