Submitted Review

Michelle Nikou ‘The National 2021’

  • Carriageworks • New South Wales

  • 25 March—19 June 2021

  • Donald Holt • Published 12 April 2021


There it was, a slightly withdrawn presence, almost brooding. Its many parts distributed but cohesive in its moodiness. Tables and tableaus knitted together with neon. A background, a large rug hung on a rack ready to be beaten. The fallen scenography or the chain to domesticity, this had it all, even the plug to the kitchen sink. The work is titled ‘no sound of water. Behind him the hot dogs, split and drizzled’.

A third spoke in The National, at Carriageworks, is littered with the residue of performance.  The sets, props, installations and artefacts provide that greedy spark of Fomo (or Jomo depending on your adhesion to performance) combined with the dreamy serenity of a haiku. Did the tree fall?

The carefully littered spaces (yes chaos can be careful) are not all the abandoned properties of theatre. Despite an associative proximity, some of the works have no performative aspect except to insulate you into their psychologies. So, the work with voice, rattle and dance either recorded or now absent leave a pursuant idea that you must summon a libretto of your own to complete them.

The familiar, similar and unfamiliar are displaced for your enquiry. Lorraine Connelly-Northey’s surplus of baskets, Darren Sylvester’s flashbacks of nocturnal strolls, Sarah Rodigari’s splendid evidence of work, are all ripe & aching to be scores for your investigation.

Back to the work by Michelle Nikou, it has a frosty stylishness among its own cohesive jumble. It all looks profoundly serious, but it is full of humour and familiarity. The tonal palette of black, blacked steel and castings are given additional agitation by the grey-ish neon that laces the mini-dramas together.

Dishes, Eggs, Cans, Shoes and Chocolate ingots are rendered through various casting methods pushing them slightly out of reality. Wordplay and wit abound with a ‘family assortment’ of alloys ordered on the lower shelf. Shoes lay on cables preempting a tripping hazard. Organizations of remade crockery and brass plates evoke dish rack, antenna and record selector. Leaden tin cans and unbreakable eggs crackling against neon. Visual puns become auditory triggers.

There is an ordinary set of daily processes here hardened by the distance of replacement, while the onomatopoeia of the title enfolds you in the daily drama of domestic life. The title seems to start mid-sentence, and this is where you might want to enter this world.