When Humans Compete With Television, Yung Lung Proves Bodies’ Liveliness Wins
Review: Yung Lung, choreographed by Antony Hamilton, Chunky Move
The word “yung”, according to the dictionary of urban languages, variously means “dope” or “cool” as popularized in the Chico area of California, a “legend” or (my favorite) a “tiny god”.
The lung is of course a vital organ, but also a metonym of a open space in the city where people can breathe fresh air.
In turn, the term “yung lung” could refer to a rebel’s breath – or his sanctuary.
A large orchestral overture heralds figures standing like action figures atop a rock in the shape of a grotesque monster head. Oozing with anarchy, the group is styled in bleached, shaved or braided hair and tight-fitting clothes flashing fluorescent yellow.
A virtual sunrise on a dozen television screens, displayed outward in a panopticon-like circle surrounding the rock, accompanies the stringed instruments and the provocative looks on the performers’ faces.
As the bodies begin to travel around the rock, we surround it too, as if two packs of wolves – cautiously wary, slightly hesitant but mostly curious.
The music becomes lyrical and the image of the Colosseum gladiators appears as a woman at the zenith of the rock gloriously raises her arm. Other arms extend outward and the figures climb, hang, swing and pose, physically authoritative. Ferocious facial expressions scare away an absent foe, and posed bodies exaggerate their musculature.
Chunky Move’s radically immersive experience, choreographed and directed by Antony Hamilton, is a dance manifesto that borrows from black and queer clubbing to expose – and poke fun at – today’s existential crises.
The visceral effort of the work reaffirms a shared liveliness in the here and now.
The most remarkable element is Chiara Kickdrum’s driving soundscape, inviting the audience to enter into a trance. Lighting by Bosco Shaw, video by Kris Moyes, Hamilton and Nickolas Moloney, costumes by PAM and scenography by Callum Morton work solidly together to produce surreal scenes that take place in the heart of space.
The mood changes slightly when a young woman hugs her. Another hangs upside down like a baby from monkey bars in a park playground. I now see a Mardi Gras float rolling down Oxford Street in Sydney in late summer as a slender man with a ponytail rests a hand on his hip gazing at the crowd, his mouth slightly parted, sexually arousing.
The repeated virtual sun on the monitors is almost set and I notice a rainbow light show behind it.
A woman smashes her face in a scowl and sticks her tongue out like she’s the star of a death metal band. We are his fans, but also the system that accuses him of glorifying violence.
Clearly, the group wants to captivate us.
My attention returns to the images flickering on the screen. Burn cigarettes. An urban landscape. Volcanic lava. The title of the book Devolution of Mankind. The solar system. Japanese anime. military activities. Green palm trees against the blue sky. A dead dog on a beach stared at by young boys. Later, on every other screen, Ned Kelly filmed full body in the bush. Unfamiliar but quintessential pop-art depictions of the Kremlin by Andy Warhol. A blackout.
On the screen, human heads mutate. On the rock, the bodies accelerate, glued to the sculpture like insects in formation. A percussive beat cuts through the air in crisp bursts, quickening the tempo and movement. Bodies bounce with hip-hop gestures. In sync, two women explicitly sign “eat my cock”.
The video recalls my gaze. The furious onslaught of footage reveals otherwise unmemorable scenes from cult pop culture. A pair of flashes back and forth, however, sting: a kind of duet between a heavily pixelated quadruped robot Spot and a portrait of a black man – is that Martin Luther King? Images flicker back and forth, passing too quickly to tell. I am acutely aware of the attraction of the screen, accentuating the liveliness of bodies in space. And the aggressive drums that storm the space now sound like gunfire.
Read more: Is ‘Spot’ a good dog? Why We’re Right to Worry About Unleashing Quadruped Robots
The presence of living artists is reinforced by the media spectacle; the relationship between both are key to the concept, integrity and rigor of this work. And this despite their in competition for dominance from moment to moment.
The tilted text disappearing into the universe at the start of every Star Wars film, “From the beginning…” gives way to the thought of science fiction creating reality. Are the dancers trying to sell us this violent world? These spoiled images, decomposed like fruit? The dancers hold poles of neon, baby blue, just like Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber. “Jupiter” reads the tag graffitied on a dancer’s pant leg. The poles now burn red like Darth Vader’s lightsaber, a lift under the eyes of a dancer like a child with a torch telling a ghost story in a circle of friends.
The dancers come out like robots going through the crowd. And one last question runs through my head: “where was the Black facing George Floyd?
Yung Lung is at Carriageworks for the Sydney Festival until January 23, then at Melbourne’s Substation from February 1-12.