Melbourne Festival Review: The Complexity of Belonging

Image provided by Miranda Brown Publicity
Image provided by Miranda Brown Publicity

Very rarely do I connect so deeply with a choreographic theatre performance. 90 minutes of stunning movements, witty dialogues and, heart-wrenching emotions that gave me goosebumps. 

In some ways it was the title that grabbed my attention, after spending some years exploring, well, the complexities of belonging through visual arts. In fact, many artists in Australia have been asking similar questions about identities, only rarely would they be put on the central stage of Melbourne Festival. 

But perhaps it’s time.

What does it mean to be here, in Australia, now? Do we belong only within the sphere of our relations, our networks? An international collaboration between German writer-director Falk Richter, Chunky Move’s Artistic Director Anouk van Dijk, Melbourne Theatre Company, Melbourne Festival and Brisbane Festival, The Complexity of Belonging is a bold, new and hybrid production that tackles the politics of identity.

Following the story of a French artist making a project in Australia, or ‘the new territory’ as she called it, her journey unveils the identity complexes of this land, and the historical, social, and cultural relations between all of us.

Image provided by Miranda Brown Publicity
Image provided by Miranda Brown Publicity

A grand topic unpacked with fluidity, The Complexity of Belonging is a candid composition of doubts, anxieties, love and hope. Nine interconnected narratives are woven together through a combination of choreography, dialogues and live-stream video projections, forming a fragmented story that is emotionally similar to our experiences when we connect digitally. Richter and van Dijk pose multiple questions of belonging by creating diverse characters, who each has his or her own sense of self. Each character longs for a sense of belonging, only to find such notion often contradicts with societal expectations. When we connect with each other beyond our bodily experience, how do we make sense of the image we produce of ourselves being represented digitally, and what does it mean to our relationships?

Richter and van Dijk’s abstract approach to the politics of identity is beyond the concept of ‘inclusion’ or ‘diversity’. It takes us back to the roots of the complex dichotomy of belongingness, to the emotions that we feel when we do not fit in. Against an Australian landscape, the production more than subtly reminds its audience the political implications of these issues. Dive into the dark sea of Australian cultural conflicts between the past and the present, the show leads its audience through the deepest water onto the other shore.

An intimate journey that explores migration, diaspora and connected-disconnections in the digital age, The Complexity of Belonging is not only a provocation to what it means to be Australian, but a timely investigation of the fundamental notion of self, of the kind of belonging that is inevitably in-between.

The Complexity of Belonging is on now until 25th October at Southbank Theatre as part of Melbourne Festival. Tickets via Melbourne Theatre Company.

Nikki Lam

Author: Nikki Lam

Nikki Lam is a visual artist, curator and producer based in Narrm/Birraranga (Melbourne, Australia). Working primarily with moving images, performance and installation, her work explores hybrid identities often through studies of rituals, language and representations, as well as the ephemeral medium of video. Born in Hong Kong, Nikki’s work has been shown across Australia and internationally. She is currently Co-Director of Hyphenated Projects and associate producer at Next Wave. She has been the Artistic Director of Channels Festival (2014-2017) and visual arts editor for Peril Magazine (2014-2016), as well as programming and production roles at Australian Centre for Moving Image (ACMI), Footscray Community Arts Centre and Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (UK). She has a Bachelor of Visual Arts in Photomedia (2009, Monash University) and Executive Master of Arts (2014, University of Melbourne). / @curiousother — Tweeting at @curiousother