One of the most powerful artistic statements we’ve borne witness to in the last few years, THAW sees a lone woman on 2.7 tonnes of sculpted ice suspended 20 metres over the waters of Sydney Harbour. Isolated on this frozen world, she scrambles to protect it from the elements and the industrial crane that seems to toy with them both… How long before the system collapses? Her future hangs in the balance. Just like ours.
The brainchild of Joshua Thomson, creative director at globally renowned inner-west physical theatre company Legs On The Wall, THAW is a reaction to the frustration and helplessness we feel in the face of the climate catastrophe the world is facing.
inSIGHT Lab spoke to Josh about the metamorphosis of this show-stopping work, and his ongoing inspiration:
“I come from a family who build and create incredible things, but after each show I create, well, nothing is left at the end. My artform, by default, is ephemeral, leaving nothing in its trace. I wanted to change this and add an element of longevity. This feeds into the very real powerlessness I feel in the climate conversation, too. As if I need to do more, but I am not sure how. The visual spectacle of THAW, with its overtones of activist rebellion, its powerful message and its physicality – ice and hanging from a giant crane high over one of the most iconic places in Sydney – provoked a tangible reaction in people and this created a new narrative, one that is now growing in its impact.”Josh Thomson
With a solitary performer suspended for hours atop a a giant piece of ice, and featuring a highly emotive score by Alaskan composer Matthew Burtner, THAW was an embrace of epic scale and iconic location that stopped viewers in their tracks. It resonated, garnering people’s imaginations, both here and overseas. For a country widely depicted as a ‘rogue coal nation’, it spoke loudly against a political narrative that disavows popular opinion. Described by Sydney Festival as “Part art installation, part slow-drip suspense thriller”, the impact of the show was monumental, and its impact is still being felt, a ripple of reaction that builds on itself like a tide gaining force.
“A risky ice-breaker”The Australian
“Thaw looks set to take go international…”Thomson
“Mona Foma announces THAW will be part of the 2022 program”The Examiner
The original over-water aerial conception that developed into this powerful piece was created in association with Inner West Council for EDGE Greenway in 2019. The Water’s Edge debuted above the entrance to the Hawthorne Canal in Lilyfield, just off the Parramatta River. Empowering us to do better, the work was described as a journey of powerful imagery set above water that explored the fragile balance between the natural and the man-made while reflecting on how we are both distanced from and trapped in a steady disrespect for our surroundings.
And it is this incredible scope of development, fuelled by EDGE funding, that Legs On The Wall will bring to EDGE Greenway 2022:
“The opportunities that EDGE create and the funding Inner West offers provides a great place for testing ideas: it is the incubator effect, a stepping stone from ideation to completion. In this case, The Water’s Edge allowed us to dream big, to come up with a show that operated in the air over water. From that, we were able to nut out the compliance that is required to do that, and – ultimately – understand how it might be possible to suspend almost three tonnes of ice over water without a cage!”Joshua Thomson
As part of this year’s Greenway EDGE program, Legs On The Wall will be exhibiting a series of images documenting the powerful impact of THAW and inviting people to listen to how it was done, what it took and what comes next. This brings the project full circle, back to where it began, back into the inner west community. Josh explains,
“People are always asking how we did it: the scale, the specs, and its intrinsic value to the the climate change narrative. So I thought it might be of interest to talk about the logistics of the project, the stories that eventuated and the incredible pride it has given everyone who worked on it.”Joshua Thomson