Shuffle is a surreal drama of the appropriation, conflation, and international movement of art forms, and their places within colonial histories.
The history of tap dancing lies in American colonial history. There are many accounts of how West African slaves were brought up from ship holds and forced to dance on deck for the amusement of the slavers. These dances most likely came from traditional religious and cultural celebration, and had meant something more than just physical movement in their original context
Tap, born with this burden of humiliation and grief, was developed further when slaves arrived at their destinations, and later through jazz music and a melding with Irish step dancing. Whitewashed and built upon again through ballet in Broadway shows, and then Hollywood films, it traveled to Australia.
In Shuffle, the character of the Dancer navigates through this historically layered dance and arrives at a clinically white museum, under bright lights. Sculptures made from sallow porcelain – also a material with a complicated history of violence and appropriation – sit on red earth, compacted to hold the shape of museum plinths. The porcelain pieces sit, pale pink burnt as if exposed to a blazing sun, salt encrusted, peeling, grazed, flaking and bruised, wilted and precariously perched on their unstable hosts. The Dancer, wearing black tails encrusted with shells, salt, lace, and pearls, and donning a laced mask over their face, pirouettes through the unfamiliar space.
The film hinges on the tension created between the porcelain pieces, earth plinths, and Dancer; the precarious balance between the percussion of the tap steps and the tenuous structures. The dance begins cautiously, but becomes confident and dangerous in the Dancer’s efforts to engage with the structures – the objects move and shake, and the earth plinths begin to crumble.
When they collapse, ceramics shatter, and together they create a new landscape, seemingly broken, but in fact a new arrangement made from the same material. Through the Dancer’s vain attempts to create they have unsettled the space they perform in, and created something that is everything it was before, but in a newly appropriated form.
- Director and Writer: Pilar Mata Dupont
- Producers: Pilar Mata Dupont, Ella Wright
- The Dancer: Claudia Alessi
- Director of Photography: Mahmudul Raz
- Production Designer: Helen Fitzgerald
- Ceramic artist: Andrea Vinkovic
- Sculptor, earth plinths: Matthew McAlpine
- Choreographer: Claudia Alessi
- First Assistant Director: Brett Dowson
- Editor and Colourist: Joel Taylor at Boogiemonster
- First Assistant Camera: James Barker
- Second Assistant Camera: Jason Liu
- Gaffer: Luke Corbett
- Grip: Ben Howden
- Costume Supervisor/Maker: Amy Rae-Bennett
- Costume Assistants: Stefan Shortt, Charlie Rae-Bennett
- Art Director: Elizabeth Mary Wratten
- Art Department: Ella Hemsley, Matthew McAlpine, Lewis Russell
- Practical Effects: Matthew McAlpine, Alejandro, Mata Pilar Mata Dupont
- Makeup: Elizabeth Mary Wratten
- Makeup Assistant: Amy Rae-Bennett
- Technical Advisor: Hai Tran
- Studio Facilitators: Steve Gardiner, Mahmudul Raz
- Safety Report: John Fairhead
- Catering/Unit: Cecilia Mata
- Stills photography - Susie Blatchford
We acknowledge the Badimia people who are the traditional custodians of the land where the red earth used in this artwork was sourced. We also pay our respects to the Elders past and present of the Badimia nation.
Special thanks: Ella Wright and Bright Yellow Productions; Steve Vojkovic and Boogiemonster; Leanne and Stuart McAlpine; Carly Lynch; Lewis Russell, Jason Liu; Cecilia and Alejandro Mata; Thomas Drenth; Mahmudul Raz; Steve Gardiner and Edith Cowan University.
Shot on location at Edith Cowan University TV Studio, Perth.
Copyright © Pilar Mata Dupont 2017
Pilar Mata Dupont is a multi-award winning Argentinean-Australian artist based between Perth and Rotterdam. Her practice spans video, installation, performance, and photography. Using highly theatrical and cinematic methods, she uses allegory and narrative to reimagine/rework histories and classical texts, and aims to create alternative readings that question the conditions of the construction of dominant narratives that shape history.
In 2015 she won the Plymouth Contemporary Open in the United Kingdom, and a residency prize at the 19th Contemporary Art Festival Sesc Videobrasil in São Paulo, Brazil. She has shown work internationally in museums and galleries, including the Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul; Secession, Vienna; Pori Art Museum, Pori, Finland; Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart; and, as part of Rencontres Internationales film festival, the Gaîté Lyrique, Paris. In 2012, she was a recipient of a Mid-Career Fellowship from the Government of Western Australia.
In collaboration with Tarryn Gill, she participated in the Biennale of Sydney and won the Basil Sellers Art Prize in 2010. As part of multi-artform collective Hold Your Horses, she made work commissioned by the Akademie der Künste in Berlin in 2012.