Constantly Evolving: Matthew Day’s Intermission


The third in Matthew Day’s rigorous, sensuous TRILOGY – following the near-stillness of Thousands and the juddering Cannibal – is Intermission: a rumbling, magnetic exploration of a body, subject to its own imperfect inertia and mesmerising in its evolution of gesture from pedestrian to mythic.

Urszula Dawkins elicited Day’s thoughts about the ideas and impetus behind Intermission.


Minimalism… On the stage Day stands in low light, dressed in black from head to toe. Even his hands are gloved in black. The soundtrack vibrates, low and ominous. His body sways ever so slightly – and as time proceeds, his movements follow an internal logic, becoming gradually more pronounced. Increasing and shifting in space, over time. “Minimalism for me is about letting the work have its own intelligence”. This is the premise; this is what continues to take shape.

Waves… They are what happens, says Day, and how it happens. His body begins to rock, his arms gain subtle momentum as a result of the movement of his shoulders. Gestures begin to extend beyond two dimensions, gaining torque, torsion, curve. It’s hypnotic, dazing. “People generally float in and out of the work… These might be waves of consciousness. The lines of movement and association between consciousness and unconsciousness.”

Depth… “It is easy to follow the metaphor of depth.” It’s immersive, dark. “The subterranean ocean where movement is less pronounced: there is less light and a very different energetic space… Unconsciousness as a space ‘below’ consciousness is a very common way of structuring this relationship.”

Time… The intensity of Intermission builds. “I am interested in duration – not in the sense of doing a six-hour work, but in order to allow a kind of ‘becoming-space’ to emerge… At first sight my works may appear to be extreme, but this is only an edge of what I am working with – actually it’s a lot more nuanced and subtle than this.” His work is not about ‘endurance’, says Day; rather, it is a kind of microscopy.

Ripple… Day follows the movement, choreographically tracking the flow of waves, he says, across the surface. “It’s an expansive experience which requires being in many places at once, simultaneously moving in multiple directions – it’s about connecting and letting go, about fixing and unfixing. This is the kind of space I wish to inhabit with the spectator. This excites me a lot.”

Thousands… was the first work in Day’s TRILOGY series. It investigated stillness – the antithesis of dance, he says. In Thousands, Day moved at glacial pace through gestures and postures that referenced his own relationship to the past, “these ghosts in my body”. In gold sneakers. In front of a gold curtain. Perhaps a golden past.

Cannibal… is part 2 of TRILOGY. Everything is white: the background, Day’s costume, even Day’s hair and eyebrows. It’s a progression from Thousands, he says, “an extension of the vibrational qualities of stillness”. But Cannibal shakes and slavers and trembles at fever pitch, open-mouthed, possessed, sweaty.

Intermission… “inverts this whiteness, and inhabits a black space of darkness. The movement of Intermission again follows from Cannibal, in that the vibrations explored in this work result in a kind of wave pattern that I took as my starting point…”

“All the works invest in a durational approach to choreography. I am interested in the body as a site of infinite potential and perpetual becoming.”

Potential… “There is an image that was very strong for me whilst beginning the series. It was simply to imagine a theatre, any theatre – but I like to imagine the fancy State theatres because I like the drama of red carpet and gold-tinted mirrors. This image takes place during the intermission of a ballet or opera. The public is in the foyer drinking champagne; the dancers or performers are backstage changing costumes and retouching make up; and the technicians, once they have fulfilled their duties, will go to the bathroom or out for a cigarette on the street.”

“And so you have this empty space – an immense room full of potentiality, silently holding what has just been, anticipating what is coming – no one is there, but it exists. It’s the stillness of this image that I enjoy, and of time passing in an empty space. I guess this is like that tree falling in the forest.”

Sound… “The sound design is vital to the work. I have been working with Sydney-based artist James Brown for many years and he has made sound for all three works. The sound is mostly composed of sub-bass frequencies; it is a part of the environment and always establishes itself slowly and unconsciously in the space. In Intermission, this is pushed to extremes and becomes a dominant choreographic force in the work: it’s very visceral.”

Flow… “Time flows in many directions, and many time zones may co-exist; these kinds of ideas inspire each work and their relations… I will begin a new work later this year and this inevitably has the echoes of Intermission all over it. I guess it’s a way to avoid a neat ending and open up the spaces of my working processes – which are unconscious and outside of linear time, as much as they are progressive and chronologic.”

Urszula Dawkins