Adelaide Festival. Grainger Studio. 16 Mar 2018
Art comes in many forms. This, our history of festivals has shown us. And no “show” emphasises this more than Freeze! - an event whereby a young Dutchman does nothing but balance rocks one upon the other.
Rock balancing has been emerging as a rather elegant phenomenon by creeks and rivers around the USA.
There was and may be still be a rock artist one could watch at Sausalito. And, amid the rushing currents of the Chattahoochee River in the Appalachians, there are little islands adorned with miraculous towers of perfectly balanced rocks, simply left there for the beauty of it.
Hence, the arrival of Nick Steur delivering rock balancing as performance art in Adelaide is just a lovely, lovely thing.
At the Grainger Studio, he greets his audience before their admission, requesting that they turn their phones off and not only silent. A vibrating phone is not good for the rocks. He asks that everyone be utterly silent, also. But, he recommends that they walk around a bit to see the works from different angles.
No chairs are supplied in the studio. People sit on the floor around a stage which is lined with rocks of various shapes, sizes and mineral composition. There is a lot of granite, quartz and serpentine. There are metamorphic rocks and feldspar.
What there aren’t are smooth water-worn rocks. Steur likes rough, angular rocks. The more acute, the better.
A series of posts are arranged upon his stage area and, one by one, he adorns them with perilous balances of rocks.
He dispels any suspicions the audience may have about prepared rocks by silently indicating that audience members choose and hand him a rock. Sometimes he requests three rocks at once. He rests one on his shoulder, puts one in his pocket and then concentrates on settling the other one atop the hollow pole. This is very slow, considered, patient.
It may take many attempts until the rock rests comfortably. Then he introduces the next rock, turning it in all directions, fondling its peaks and corners before choosing which challenging angle to balance. He seems to choose the most unlikely point and then hold the rock in place, gently, gently resettling it, holding it, focusing intently on it, meditating upon it, willing it to stay.
Gently, gently, he removes one hand, watching the rock carefully. Then, the other hand, withdrawn softly, softly, softly. And he steps back and scrutinises the balance. Once satisfied, he moves on to the next pole and the next rocks.
He walks around his square of stage with one hand extended awaiting the gift of a rock.
The audience is mesmerised. Respectful. Silent. Some are keen to choose rocks. Some have brought rocks. Some are happy just to sit and gaze. Some tiptoe steadily around the room smiling at the wonder of it all.
After about 45 minutes, when all the rock poles are occupied by a wonderment of perilous rockery, Steur stands back and bows.
No photos, please. And don’t go near the rocks. They are simply balanced there and could fall at any time.
Respect is paid.
The audience is well pleased with the gentleness of this experience.
When: 15 to 22 Mar
Where: Grainger Studio 15, 16 Mar;
Botanic Gardens 17, 18 Mar;
Kangaroo Island 20 to 22 Mar