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Festival review: Freeze!

Adelaide Festival

On face value, watching someone balance rocks doesn’t sound like a particularly enticing way to spend an hour, but within minutes Dutch performance artist Nick Steur will have you absolutely spellbound.

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The show begins just outside the Grainger Studio performance space, with the artist explaining that he has collected stones during his travels through various regions in southern Australia and if you wish to bring your own rock to be incorporated into a sculpture you are welcome to add it to his collection.

We file in to sit or stand quietly around the central performance space as Steur walks among the rocks arranged at the perimeter. It is a beautiful assortment of stones, all oddly shaped and of various colours and textures. South Australia, being so geologically diverse, has provided him with a gorgeous array with which to work.

Quietly, Steur begins, selecting a couple of large stones that seem to have no natural points of correspondence. He then rests them on one another, balancing them atop lengths of square steel tubing.

This is no mere cairn construction, like you would find stacked haphazardly by hikers on a mountain top. Steur balances stones in the most precarious positions imaginable, creating impossible sculptures in which the stones appear to float in columns that defy the laws of physics.

Steur concentrates with the focus of a zen master, moving and shifting the stones with serene persistence until he finds the perfect point of balance.

Audience members can add their own rocks to Nick Steur’s collection. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

It is absolutely mesmerising. The audience waits with bated breath, the only sounds in the room the gentle grating of the tiny points of contact between the stones as he shifts them against each other, searching for the seemingly microscopic balance point.

The tension builds. We hardly dare to breathe. Then we see it, the stillness that radiates from Steur’s body as the stones balance and he cautiously steps away, leaving rocks in positions that appear to defy gravity.

The atmosphere Steur creates is meditative, hypnotic and totally compelling. I was so riveted by his focus and the sheer beauty of his creations that by the end of the performance my feet had gone to sleep but I didn’t want to move in case I broke the spell.

This was, without question, the most powerful and compelling piece of performance art I have ever witnessed. Do not miss this unforgettable experience.

Freeze! will be performed again in the Grainger Studio on Hindley Street today (March 16) at 2pm, 6pm and 9pm, in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens on March 17 and 18, and at Pelican Lagoon, Kangaroo Island on March 20, 21 and 22. Read more InDaily Adelaide Festival stories and reviews here.

Read InDaily’s interview with Nick Steur here.

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