It’s 9.55pm on the Friday night of You Are Here Festival, and I’m moving in choreographed sync with microwave cooking guru/internet sensation Amelia de Frost on a stage littered with popcorn and backlit by LED-laden microwaves. Amelia and I are listless in our movements, three hours of literally non-stop Wellness-themed activity has left us shattered. The crowd have been watching us, transfixed by our agony and growing steadily that whole time. The crowd knows that in mere moments the participatory section that they have joined in on 9 times already will occur one final time. Their joy and support sweeps over us and our energy crests one more time as we lead them into a New Wellness Tomorrow. In that moment, as for the whole night, I am Babyfreeze.
I am a precious flower as far as the projects I agree to do. Claire Granata is one of my best friends and also one of the most skilled performers I know, but when she first floated the idea of combining her brilliant Amelia de Frost character with my Babyfreeze persona in an aerobics-themed show I was meh on it. I LOVE dancing (and Claire and I share a certain aggressively athletic approach to doing so) but ‘aerobics’ as a premise seemed thin and I didn’t want to do anything that was just a joke.
Luckily I am as pretentious as I am precious and I have a couple of simple buttons that any potential collaborator can push. The first button was pushed when Claire suggested a celebrity infomercial-type format, and I realised that I could use this piece as a vehicle to dump all of the venom I’ve built up from 7 years of working in the fitness industry. That’s when it became Aerobicide: Feel Better, a vaguely-defined Wellness System through which we could throw shade on basically anything that’s ever price-tagged the idea of better health.
The final trap was sprung when You Are Here producer Rochelle White pointed out that this obviously had to be a 3-hour-long durational performance. I am an absolute sucker for the idea of physical and logistical ordeal as the heart of an artwork, and Claire is similarly fucked in the head, so in a moment we were excitedly committed to what became a three-month campaign of past-midnight rehearsals and teaser video shoots.
Claire brought most of the actual necessary skills to the table, choreographing a full 20 -minute routine (with me interjecting the odd goofy gym move) set to a sublimely-poptacular music mix by go-to sound genius Reuben Ingall. This mix provided the structure of the Aerobicide presentation, a punishing demonstration of the extreme wellness of (celebrity spokespeople) Amelia de Frost and Babyfreeze that was repeated 9 times back to back in the final performance. Rather than speaking live we had ourselves spouting dozens of fitness-based non-sequitur slogans as part of the recorded track. Our past selves therefore stayed immortally sunny and smug as our Live Selves slowly realised that they were trapped in a never-ending loop of Activeness.
The other vital components of the show were Adam Thomas’ incredible set design (comprising 9 separate microwaves all with their own individual lighting effects) and the tireless efforts of Holly Tranter and Matt Lustri as our Coach/Assistants, whose multifarious duties included changing our costumes live on stage 9 times across the night.
The whole thing happened at You Are Here’s Electric Avenues, a great big night-festival in Haig park. We were set up on a stage near the food trucks and I was sure people were going to interact with us like a telethon-type thing, checking in with us every now and then across the night. I was wrong. A huge amount of people camped out to see us repeat the same sequence again and again, descending further into madness each time. The bludgeoning nature of the central gag, where every time we think we’ve finally finished and then the music starts up again, got a louder cheer every time. Frankly I’ve never been involved in an artwork that the audience took to as ideally and perfectly as this one. As Claire and I finally shuffled off the stage at 10pm, taking care to walk in a shell-shocked slow motion, the crowd took up a chant of ‘THREE MORE HOURS! THREE MORE HOURS! THREE MORE HOURS!’
Photos by the wonderful Sarah Walker.