Architect Dr Matthew Bird and choreographer Phillip Adams’ collaborative projects are informed through a mutual cross disciplinary and esoteric narrative of unorthodox human movement and built forms. Since 2010 Bird and Adams have presented their unsolicited, live performance and photographic works at international festivals, galleries and museums and often travel to exotic locations to inspire and stage including Mojave Desert, Luxembourg and recently Brazil.
Adams’ creative vision comes with a broadening contextual relationship to the arts industry, aligning projects with major public arts spaces such as museums and galleries in tandem with performance venues, Australian festivals and international residencies and programming. His career in dance and live performance spans over 25 years, contributing to the richness of the performing arts as one of Australia’s most stimulating experimental choreographers, artists, and educators. Having spent a decade performing and working in the USA and Europe, he returned to Australia in 1997 and established Phillip Adams BalletLab. Adams takes great pride in supporting collaborative practices and extending the parameters beyond traditional art forms through rigorous choreographic experimentation, refining and developing hybrid arts practices.
Bird is principal of Studiobird, an architectural atelier producing a range of architectural new build, interior design, installation and performance design projects that have individually and as a compilation advanced a nontraditional and experimental model of architectural practice. Bird is known for his unsolicited projects notably Alphaomega Apartment where he developed his material technique of the ‘elaborative ready-made’ and theatrically transformed a tiny rental apartment unbeknown to the owners. Studiobird project outcomes and practice methodologies fuel Bird’s teaching and research as an Interior Architecture Lecturer within the Department of Architecture at MADA, Monash University, Melbourne.
Exhibited at Dancehouse, Melbourne, Australia 2010
In 2010 the Tracey Thredbo project introduced and informed a new cross disciplinary narrative between Bird and Adams by experimenting with human movement, built form and the trajectory of designing interactive liberating spaces. A suspended ceiling structure was crafted from 318 cardboard archive boxes and distorted in a performative manner via a series of abstract climatic energy simulations. Audience members were invited to participate by resting underneath while the contracting and tessellating ceiling structure reconfigured above through a complex design system of ropes and pulleys. Each contraction simulated the presence of an ominous disaster; a cyclone, earthquake or landslide, and simultaneously alluded to spiritual assertions, confinement and ‘other’.
Melbourne Festival, Arts House 2011
MONA FOMA, Theatre Royal Hobart 2012
Teo Otto Theater, Remscheid, Germany 2014
Aviary: A Suite for the Bird is a romantic, exotic and visual art-based contemporary dance performance that pays homage to the spectacle of the bird. It is a suite of experimental articulations based on French composer Olivier Messiaen’s Catalogue d’oiseaux, written in the 1950s. These musical scores for the bird are interpreted through classical, modern and contemporary idioms, staged in a flamboyant rethink of paradise. Bird and Adams research for the third act, Pardis, included the bowerbird’s extraordinarily complex courtship and mating behaviour, where males build a bower to attract mates, often festooned with a variety of brightly coloured, artificial and natural objects. The handcrafting creation of the two bower nests replicated the behaviour of the bowerbird by gathering urban materials and reimagining them into alluring spatial and immersive worlds via precise articulation of intuitive pecks, wefts and warps.
Scavenged materials such as nylon bird netting, hydraulic hose, trailer reflectors and cable ties were hand woven physically by Bird and Adams into black netting via an intuitive if not hypnotic state of mind over a period of three months. A variety of references informed the anachronistic form and pattern of the bower nests and environment, including organic modernist architect Bruce Goff’s Joe Price House, Gio Ponti’s seashell patterns within hotel Parco Dei Principi, temples and tepees and the weaving habits of New Guinean tribes. The jungle paradise was reinforced with a perforated silver reflective backdrop and green foliage clippings collected from local gardens and erratically dispersed throughout the duration of the finale.
The Landing Series
Mojave Landing: Mojave Desert, California, USA 2012
Tomorrow: Premiere Southbank Theatre, Melbourne 2012
Roof Top Landing: Melbourne CBD, Melbourne 2012
Mojave Landing, Roof Top Landing and Tomorrow grew from Bird and Adams’ esoteric research into alien abduction and a revelatory experience at The Integratron in the Mojave Desert, USA. This became the entry point for an imagined abduction, an architectural installation and spatial oddity. Sonic and design interactions between the artists created a ‘tomorrow’ utopia; an unsettled universe desperate to gather, confirm and sexualise a superlative energy united by a utopian impulse to liberate the mind.
Bird and Adams developed The Landing Series through an extensive design and research process including an excursion to the Mojave Desert in California to experience and document The Integratron and surrounding desert context, and visits to utopian communities across the American Southwest. Intrigued by the participatory event of constructing these environments in nature’s extremities, they discovered that their underlying interest in utopian edifices does not lie in the built results but in the cult that collectively supports the vision and construction phase.
The Integratron is a small and curious building in desert no-man’s land built in the 1950s by George Van Tassel, a metaphysics and aviation enthusiast, essentially to communicate with aliens. Van Tassel had an encounter with an ‘advanced entity’ who telepathically communicated blueprints to construct a perfectly composed dome, both acoustically and aesthetically with a central oculus and sixteen radial apertures. For Bird and Adams the experience of The Integratron was at once a utopian oddity and revelation of supernatural desire thus becoming the catalyst to construct and make physical an architectural-performative interpretation.
Mojave Landing installation was inspired by the design of The Integratron on the desert floor just 5 miles from the site. Armed with ‘marking’ materials of pegs, reflectors and builders line sourced from a local Home Depot a radial landing site was assembled in an attempt to communicate with the supposed aliens. And the aliens did arrive in the form of a ‘desert-rat’ – a menacing alien appearing from nowhere on a trail bike with tattoos and rifle. The surreal experience was amplified with the desert-rat circumnavigating the landing site with doughnuts and burnouts. This important and dubious moment was at once conceptually compelling for the project and near-death terrifying.
Then came Tomorrow. This radical reworking on the Mojave Landing installation began by reducing any notion of excess and desire, questioning the absolute in everything, making it necessary to work naked. The cultish journey from desert encounters with a trailer trash biker through to sound recordings and environmental installation brought us into a live black box theatre performance mode. Audience members were incorporated into the performance to complete an ecology between participatory workshopping of sexual and spiritual cleansing, pleasure and the transportation of energies that guide the experience closer towards a central point in the room.
Working with the experiences and outcomes of the Mojave Landing and Tomorrow performances this third instalment offered a new urban aerial location atop a Melbourne CBD high-rise building. Elevated 100 m above street level Roof Top Landing tested geometries and materials within the context of the built city environment. Armed with materials of rocks, reflectors, blankets, cement mixers and builders line, a rooftop radial landing site was crafted in an attempt to create an immersive abduction experience. An anonymous figure (Adams in unidentifiable motorbike attire) performed instinctual neo-dada movement within the installation experimenting with an alien ‘unknown’ existence.
Performance, Caulfield South, Vic Australia, 2013
Exhibited in Melbourne Now as ‘Future Wagon Taxidermy’, Sampling The City: Architecture In Melbourne Now, The Ian Potter Centre,
Future Wagon envisions a nomadic home of tomorrow. This is not a high-tech caravan project for a family of four rather the pursuit of an anachronistic and unidentifiable symbol on wheels. The project speculates upon our future inhabitant’s roaming street address and on the value of material decor. Where will we live, and what will our homes look like? The outcome is constructed from ‘do-it-yourself’ materials and amalgamates numerous wandering references including stagecoaches of the wild west, gypsy caravans, regal carriages, Buckminster Fuller’s dymaxion car, homemade billycarts and shopping trolleys of the homeless.
Exhibited at Pin-Up Architecture and Design Project Space, Collingwood, Australia, 2014
Embassy is inspired by the notion of the architectural object itself and how it can be deposited outside its usual static context. Researching the oddity of extraterritorial spaces and experiences, the installation Embassy results as a choreographed quartet of moving panel garage doors held in unison by a robust, workmanlike timber frame yet lifted out of the ordinary via its glossy ‘skin’ of stark white paint. The installation appeared as a set of contradictions: a pure, modernist form and, at the same time, a commentary of the Australian suburb and a celebration of the banal. The viewer encountered the structure with the instinctual knowledge that the doors would move – spreading and reaching, the multiple layers and openings create an intriguing interstitial space. The entrance and exit sequence alluded to an experience of liminality- a threshold to be crossed into an ambiguous space.
Performance, Brasilia Federal District, Brazil 2015
The unsolicited performance project Brasilia explores the architectural doctrines and exotic cultures of mid twentieth century city state utopia and Brazilian modernism. An investigation of architect Oscar Niemeyer’s iconic buildings, various international embassies and architect Lúcio Costa’s urban infrastructures in Brasilia (the federal capital of Brazil) serve as a utopian backdrop of architectural and performative encounters. The unexpected alien figure is juxtaposed within Brasilia’s futuristic architectural vision whilst being culturally symbolic of its worker inhabitants. The characterisation of Mickey Mouse oddity and the materials worn; white Brazilian swimsuit, black brief case and business shoes, are photographic statements against the starkness of Brasilia’s governmental modernist architecture, and are representational of the city’s workers, planning, optimism, construction and progress in the 1960s. Brazilian exotica is further exploited by drawing on legendary entertainer Carman Miranda’s costumes, made manifest as readymade wheel ears. A photographic essay captures the performance and is due for exhibition late 2015 in Melbourne and Brazil in 2016.