Before Supernature, There Was Colony

Tuesday 9 March, 2021

A message from Art Gallery of South Australia’s Curator of Contemporary Art and Curator of the 2020 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, Leigh Robb.
A precursor to Supernature, Colony was first commissioned as a new work for the 2020 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Monster Theatres at AGSA. Colony drew in all disciplines, from dance and choreography to contemporary art, design, fashion, science and philosophy.

Always ahead of his time, Garry Stewart conceived of the central set design element (with input from the RMIT Industrial Design team) to be an enormous, breathing, inflatable organism – based on a medical illustration of the microscopic coronavirus – months before the word pandemic had ever been mentioned and before this image became one of the most circulated in the world. Rather presciently, Colony took its first note from the toll of a bell – a warning bell that would become louder as the premier of this evocative new work approached. The dress rehearsal took place on the eve of the South Australian lockdown in March 2020, and the performance in full was sadly unable to be debuted.

With Colony, Garry Stewart proposed a new live work which references mutations found in nature and biology – and through extreme choreography, sound, masks and quite a lot of slime, he wanted to visualise “a new mythology of the future of the species”. Little did we all know what a portend this work would be, and how much it captured the zeitgeist and history in the making – fundamentally changing the relationship we all have with our bodies and each other, and with live performance. The morphing of iconic scenes from Colony into Supernature is another example of the creative agility of Garry Stewart and the whole company of ADT, easily shape-shifting to take centre stage at Her Majesty’s Theatre as part of the 2021 Adelaide Festival.

Read more about the 2020 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Monster Theatres here.


Still from the lone dress rehearsal performance of Colony, 2020 (c) Sam Roberts Photography.