Gabriel Comerford and the beauty of idk

by | Aug 22, 2023

Force Majeure’s new work, idk, is a movement and narrative performance examining the nuances of navigating consent and the shifting nature of boundaries. Australian-Malaysian artist Gabriel Comerford is one of three performers in the work and says he has been a big fan of both Force Majeure and Artistic Director of the company, Danielle Micich, for a long time

“I got the opportunity to spend time in the studio with Danielle for Incite – Revive in March 2021 and we left that time knowing that we wanted to work together, on something, sometime soon,” says Comerford. “About a year later, that “something” revealed itself. Danielle invited me to join creative development for a new work exploring consent and boundaries.”

From his time in the room with Force Majeure, Comerford experienced a director putting into practice a genuine and authentic approach to best practice, to really supporting the artists, the humans in the room and prioritising a sense of care above all else.

“As a straight cis-man, as an Australian-Malaysian person, as a husband and a father to two young boys, consent and boundaries are so important to me. The opportunity to develop and present a new work exploring these themes and contribute in a meaningful way to conversations around them was incredibly exciting.”

As Comerford mentioned, the work centres around consent and boundaries. The challenge to know our boundaries with others without truly and deeply interrogating them for and within ourselves first.

“This is not a work about the black and white, clear cut lines of consent,” he says. “Our goal has been to move past the obvious, right and wrong, to dig into the grey areas. The complex and messy places where the edges blur.

Above all else, we have continually sought to bring it back to the body. Sonya Renee Taylor, in her book The Body Is Not An Apology, posits that as humans, there is not a lot that we can all agree on, perhaps one common place we can all start from is that we all have a body and that our bodies come in all shapes, sizes, colours, abilities, expressions.

We have attempted to capture a tiny snapshot of the diverse and complex ways we can explore and understand ourselves and our relationship to others and the world around us.”

An intimate cast in which three bodies interweave movement and vocal roulette, Comerford  really hopes that the audience feels and enjoys their deep and evolving connections as much as the artists feel them inside the work.

“Three is a crowd. I think this sentiment has been present in the work since its inception,” says Comerford. ” Creating work in a cast of three is inherently intimate and the dynamic play between us offers a lot of fun, tension and intrigue.

The vast majority of work I am involved in are fairly small cast shows. So I guess it is what I am most used to and I really enjoy the deep connections that develop through being in process with intimate casts.

In saying that, because it is such a rarity, I do also love the energy of working in a big cast.”

Comerford has over 10 years professional experience having worked and performed with a diverse range of companies and choreographers both Nationally and Internationally. Whilst his practice is rooted in dance, his experiences have allowed him to learn from and incorporate elements of physical theatre, object theatre, puppetry, visualarts, site-specific, Suzuki method, integrated practice, installation and durational performance.

In fact, in the earlier stages of his career, he was heavily attracted to and inspired by Stephen Page – Bangarra, Gavin Webber – both DanceNorth and The Farm, and Wim Vandekeybus – Ultimate Vez. Works that were really physical and guttural but with a deep connection to the human experience.

These days he is most inspired by many of the artists he is fortunate enough to call friends and colleagues. “Artists like Frankie Snowdon and Madeline Krenek of Guts Dance, independents like Ashleigh Musk, Jenni Large, Amber McCartney and Sinsa Mansell, for their unwavering commitment to challenging the way that great work can be made. Their ability to nurture the people and the sacred space of creative process, to create an environment of deep care and support. I believe that this way of working, pushing beyond and reimagining the possibilities of “best practice” are what we all need more of in order to make great art. I feel incredibly lucky to feel this same way about many of my work environments. From my work with Tasdance, to this show with Force Majeure.”

Further, Comerford trained in contemporary dance, but as language, his practice and art forms evolve, he thinks this label has become reductive and restrictive. “What I love is performance that blurs the lines between movement, theatre, visual art and a host of other elements,” he says. “The label or genre that seems to fit best at the moment is Contemporary Performance.

I love working from a place of authentic embodiment, where the human body can explore, transform and communicate a range of qualities, textures and emotions in all of their subtleties and complexities. Where the body, the visuals, the voice and the sound are all deeply connected.

I am inspired by the endless possibilities that come when different art forms and ideas intersect and interact. I love the way that deeply embodied movement and performance can make an audience think and feel things in their own way without being too prescriptive.”

idk invites audiences to discover the edges of their own boundaries, and provoke a new way to continue he conversation about multiple dimensions of consent.

Says Comerford, “This show is for anyone who loves live performance. It is funny, quirky and deeply engaging. Full of beautiful images, poignant words and powerful physicality.

It is not black and white or obvious, but a thought provoking starting point for conversations and questioning around your own boundaries and relationships to consent. We have had such an incredible time making it, it is a joy to perform and we hope you enjoy it too!”

Inspired by Director and Artistic Director of Force Majeure Danielle Micich’s experiences working as a stage and screen intimacy co-ordinator, idk opens in Sydney 23 to 26 August 2023 and then tours to Melbourne from 30 August to 2 September.

IDK — Force Majeure

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