From the moment you walk into Gradient you are immersed into a meditative state. This work is immersive inviting you to do nothing but get invaginated into the world that is being created in front of you.
Within the walls of the old Liberty Theatre, there is no optimal space to experience this work. There is ample space to sit, or wander, or stand as you see fit. Sitting in the middle, my beanbag was originally facing one wall where projections of pixelated distortions of your surroundings roll like movie credits. I soon realised there were projections on both sides of the wall and shuffled my bean bag for another view. The room for movement gives this multi-sensory experience a beautiful tactile element, with vast air and space around you from the high ceilings.
Callum G’Froerer plays a double-bell trumpet and roams around the room improvising. The trumpet controls the video projections, matching the sights to these sounds with synaesthesia-like accuracy. As someone who experiences audio-tactile synaesthesia, this show seemed to be what seeing sounds would be like. I could feel my eyeballs gently working in unison with my ears as I absorbed the unravellings around me. Gradient does not demand your attention, yet you are somehow immersed. The gently rumbling cyclic sounds from the trumpet resembling om softly envelop you.
The peeling paint on the Liberty’s walls and its unpolished and industrial aesthetic gave character to the visuals; almost interacting with them. A piece like this wouldn’t be out of place in the clean, polished walls of a modern art gallery, but it hits different in this old building.
The show runs for 1 hour and 20 minutes, and you can come and go as you please. I recommend going at the beginning of one of the cycles, there are several in a night. At the end of the performance, it felt archaic to clap, the format of the performance didn’t feel suited to such a response; it would have broken the peace. After you leave, you walk outside and perhaps it’s light outside still; much like walking out of the cinema after watching a movie to find that there is a whole other world out there operating at a different time to what you’ve just witnessed. The whole experience felt like an invitation to be transported to another world.
As a sensory note, I was grateful to have earplugs handy for some of the high-pitched notes. If the visuals are overwhelming, there are dark corners and other areas in the space where you could divert your eyes if it gets too intense. Strobe-like effects may not be suitable if they trigger seizures for you. The freedom to walk around is a tactile sensory delight, so if the aircon or proximity to people is uncomfortable to you then you’re not stuck there for the entire performance and can seek out a more comfortable spot. The smells of kitchens in neighbouring venues will start to pour in closer to the evening, so if you go in early you may be able to avoid those smells. The ability to come and go from the room as you please makes it easy to step out for a breather if your senses are overwhelmed. There is also an option for re-entry on the same day if you get a wristband on your way out.
Gradient is presented by Tura.