Poetic and enthralling: Deepspace by James Batchelor & collaborators

Saint Elisabeth-Kirche, Berlin

Veronica Posth

In 2016, Australian performer, choreographer and filmmaker James Batchelor accompanied a team of 60 scientists, students and artists on a two-month research expedition to the Antarctic McDonald Islands. Deepspace is the first show of a trilogy (completed by Redshift and Hyperspace) that he developed during and after the expedition.

Over two months Batchelor studied and researched movement and his body as it communicated with the ship and the environment around him. Having discovered that the one environment that he could meaningfully engage with physically was the ship itself, he began mapping the boat with his own body starting from the touch through the skin, largest organ of the body.

As he got in touch with his own body in relation to the ship, Batchelor started daily improvising and filming in different areas of the vessel. In a sort of experimental cartography, he began to interrogate forms and disembody imagination related to space and measures.

James Batchelor and Chloe Chignell in DeepspacePhoto Dajana Lothert
James Batchelor and Chloe Chignell in Deepspace
Photo Dajana Lothert

Boredom, interrogation, extreme patience and flexibility were part of the harsh experience, but one that led to encounters with surprise, wonder, acknowledgement and growth. As Batchelor says, the interesting part is not the conclusion or answer that could potentially be formed, but the search itself. Taking up that theme, he sees his mission to be about making works that transmit curiosity, expands awareness, shift expectations and creates possibilities.

Deepspace, profoundly and superbly performed by Batchelor, fellow dancer Chloe Chignell and musician Morgan Hickinbotham, is in fact a shared experience that brings the audience onboard that ship and beyond it. Doors of imagination and perception open up and allow us to travel, to be moved and feel displaced. A constant but diverse rhythm gives the sensation of being shifted by changeable and hauling waves. The work is serious, attentive, delicate, alert, multilayered, spatial; it’s representation deeply poetic and enthralling. Deepspace is a wonderful embodiment of something ungraspable and majestic.