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“One can experience loneliness in two ways: by feeling lonely in the world or by feeling the loneliness of the world.”
Emil M. Cioran

For some time, over fragmented conversations, Clare Dyson and I discussed the possibility of writing about ALONE TOGETHER, her collaborative interactive dance and sound installation with performer and regular collaborator Brian Lucas. The prospect made me nervous. There's that moment of knowing it would be a positive thing to do entangled with all the anxiety of returning to writing.

A return to writing is like a homecoming after an absence. The relationships are so familiar but the interactions are nevertheless slightly awkward, even strained. After initial awkwardness, the pattern of the relationship renews. ‘Oh, it used to be like this’ or ‘I had forgotten about that’. I am strangely self-conscious as if watching myself, remembering myself. As in loneliness, I feel too much me. As the process of writing unfolds, this awareness shifts into other registers, other ways of being and doing, like a productive and conscious aloneness. The more I write, the more I am writing ...

I am alone with and in this writing, and in that aloneness, intimacy and belonging seem unlikely. I am alone in and with this writing.

This knowing aloneness unfolds a space to reflect on ALONE TOGETHER, in which participants (audience) are immersed in stories of aloneness and loneliness. Audio recordings of 20 interviewee stories are triggered by the movements of audience members as they navigate the liminality of light and dark in the installation space, leaning in to hear often poignant stories. The first is that of a 90 year old woman who lives in a nursing home; she talks not just about her loneliness but her loss of agency in that often impersonal and disciplining environment. As one of the interviewees, my own presence in the work rises as a voice recounting deeply personal periods of loneliness and aloneness, reflecting on what it is and does, asking “is it really loneliness?” Voices express loneliness as longing, emptiness, desire or wanting something more, stressing that human are social beings. Others recount the pleasures of solitary moments and living where reconnecting is always possible. So many vignettes and accounts of loss and longing, despair and sorrow, acceptance and learning, empathy and fear, and so much more.

As a solitary performer, Lucas is poetic, evocative and gentle as he seems somehow remote from the audience. His movements and monologues are sites of intimacy and reflexivity, yet dissonant and disconnected from the audience. Like loneliness, there is a sense of being and not being here, in this room, with these people, hearing these stories, in this light that cuts into dark. Lucas traces ontologies of lonely and alone. At times, his gestures suggest exhausting futility. He teeters on the edge of shadows, reaching across the dark void and collapses back into himself. As the audience sits, he runs around the room, as if seeking, until he is out of breath.

ALONE TOGETHER unfolds through these planes, and coalesces in intensities of feeling. In such a sparse folding environment - with its minimal repetitive sound track, murmuring voices, solitary performer and stark lighting - the experience of Alone Together is liminal and immanent. Dyson extends an invitation - it is safe to be here, to feel, to sense, to contemplate - everything is exposed, except what is hidden. As audience members move around the curtained space and across fields of light and dark, they walk contours of aloneness and loneliness.

Like me in and with my writing, Lucas seems alone in and with his performance. He seems cloaked in and by this performance, carefully crafting separateness. He keeps the audience at bay and uncertain despite sharing this space, despite our being together. We are together but this togetherness is wounded. Closing the rift is not as simple as reaching out. Although, there is something elusive and almost playful in this sense of keeping the audience at bay - a simultaneous holding and distance. Lucas is holding the distance between us in ways that elicit an internal monologue about our own knowing of aloneness and loneliness, or connection and disconnection, in the moment. That distance between us is a force, like the tearing of this heart and this earth itself. In the moments turned inward, other utterances are missed like Lucas' spoken words or those of interviews. At times he open up, letting the audience into his personal worlds, fragments of growing up in the bush, of travelling and of reflection. He also challenges some of those accounts with self-conscious retorts, admonishing himself for being trite or indulgent. The audience's immersion is not so much a letting go, but folding deep within. The engagement is quiet and careful, turning towards an inner world with its own light and dark.

Uncertainty seems to pull at the emotions of the audience questioning whether to recoil from Lucas' aloneness or loneliness and to reach out in empathy and understanding. If only it was as easy as human or social contact being a remedy for loneliness, pathologised as if it is an illness to be cured. Perhaps loneliness is a symptom of a more serious social malaise in which social ties and bonds are cannibalised, tribalised and corroded. In sharing such touching stories and creating a shared space, ALONE TOGETHER enlivens the emotional and temporal vicissitudes of loneliness and aloneness and how we endure or resist them. And here is another tension - an open space that closes around us. Yes, us, not just me or you, we have to be in this together.

Linda Carroli



Linda is an internationally published journalist and award winning writer and has worked across print, broadcast and digital media. With an extensive publishing record, she writes for a range of media and contexts both nationally and internationally including a regular feature for Arts Hub focused on urban innovation and creativity.

Linda has served on the Boards of several organisations including Deputy Chair of Regional Development Australia Brisbane and Chair of Australian Network for Art and Technology. She is presently serving as a member of the Dementia Friendly Communities Advisory Group to support an Alzheimers Australia initiative. She received a Centenary Medal for ‘long and distinguished service to the arts’ awarded by the Federal Government.







arts qld

This project was funded by the Queenslad Government through Arts Qld Additional support from QUT Creative LAB, Swinburne University & Arts Qld