Furry Freud

IF you thought the recent Hollywood adaptation of Cats was slightly weird, wait until you see the wacky feline critter in Unheimlich.

Featuring a house cat that acts as a mischievous guide, the audience is taken on a darkly-comic voyage through the dreams and memories of a suburban couple, touching on their subconscious fears and hopes.

The theatrical mix of visual arts and performance includes dance, music and lighting, but at the heart of the show are the big disturbing masks created by Perth artist Tarryn Gill.

She initially created the strange soft-sculptures in 2013 for the exhibition Guardians, “a cast of glittering, monstrous characters inspired by ancient funerary art, who guarded my own (hand-stitched) fragmented body in an imagined mausoleum,” Gill says.

“I started making soft sculptures using foam and my old dance school fabrics.

“These works were solemn yet humorous and had lights and speakers which uncannily animated the sculptures.

“Director Katt Osborne saw the live performance potential in these and asked me if I’d be interested in working with her to make a theatre work that was inspired by the Guardians.

“We’ve been slowly developing a way of working with our incredibly accomplished team since 2017 and Unheimlich has become a story about our inner worlds and how our relationships can act as a mirror to the parts of us we don’t always want to see.”

Gill is a bit of a Sigmund Freud buff and in 2013 was invited by Perth artist Andrew Nicholls to undertake a residency at the Freud Museum in London.

“ I was inspired by Freud’s collection of antiquities and how for him, these sculptures unearthed from the ground were analogous to the process of psychoanalysis – unearthing memories from the unconscious,” Gill says.

“Freud’s essay on the aesthetics of The Uncanny is influential and the word “unheimlich” is taken from here – it’s fitting as the show is set in a domestic space and we aim to reveal the inner worlds of our characters. 

“It is uncanny in that this home space in a moment flips from homely to unhomely, familiar and safe to strange and horrific.”

Despite all the outre masks and dense imagery, at the heart of the performance is the universal theme of love between two individuals.

“Whilst Unheimlich is a very visual work which aims to evoke the unconscious, it does have a strong narrative structure that centres around a couple and their house cat in a domestic space,” Gill says. “A relationship is a mirror and to be in in a relationship is to be confronted byyourself and parts of yourself you don’t know exist.”

Unheimlich is at PICA in Northbridge from September 22 to October 2 at 7.30pm, with an extra 2pm matinee on Saturday October 2. Tix at pica.org.au/show/unheimlich

by STEPHEN POLLOCK

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