Benjamin Skepper Multi Media Live Performance Headline MONA FOMA 2013

Video produced by Benjamin Skepper and contrapuntal 2013.
All Rights Reserved.



Benjamin is the ultimate MOFO man - a Japanese-Australian, multi-talented musician-composer-performance artist, sporting some amazing hair-dos. He's classically trained within an inch of his life, but utterly unique in execution. Come and see for yourself.


Much like the Tasmanian art scene, Benjamin Skepper was once much more conventional. The musician of the 1980s and early 1990s was a classically trained soprano, pianist and harpsichordist sponsored by Sir Sidney Baillieu Myer and hailed a child prodigy. At MOFO however was an act no less extraordinary, but immensely different.

Classical sounds and images were involved in Skepper's solo performance installation, but by looping harpsichord and cello and layering other organic sounds, the atmosphere felt more ethereal than elegant, more thought-provoking and emotional than dynamic. The eclectic video projections provided by VJ Tomoya Kishimoto added a third dimension to songs such as the hypnotising title track 'Inimitable' from Skepper's 2012 album. Whale vocalisations echoed from the venue's metal walls and visions of oceans bounced against the projected surface of the moon. Chants bellowed from hidden chambers as photos of European castles transformed into bright red Japanese torii and temples, evoking Skepper's European and Asian influences and years of intercontinental travel.

Some have said that the multi-talented Skepper has the charm of Johnny Depp and it's not hard to see why. Tall, handsome and draped all in black but for the fittingly fashionable millinery designed by Rachel Skepper, he became a dark and daunting force on stage. There was little in the way of audience interaction, with a slight nod and smirk instead of the wails of 'Hobart!' that other MONA FOMA artists forced into their routines. Regardless, the audience was still drawn to Skepper and immersed in his music. Minimal lighting ensured maximum attention, while the gradual layering of sounds and instruments further drew attention to the man on stage, his music and the projected images representing his connection to it.

Playing the title track from his 2010 solo album Parnassus, Skepper incorporated the buzz of a sewing machine into his looped recordings of other instruments, breaking down whatever preconceptions the audience had of what music can be. There were no vocals, no brass, no thumping bass and no other musicians on stage, ensuring every sound felt more pure and allowing the audience to connect with the music and the visual displays on stage in ways that are hardly usual at a standard gig. By the time Skepper shifted to his cello amidst loops of sewing machines and harpsichords, even the chatter of tipplers and children had died down.

Each song achieved more and more applause than the last, and by the end of the set, it was clear that Skepper had transfixed his audience and won new fans. Clear too was Skepper's strong relationship with his music and art; his sharing of that relationship in such a powerful performance definitely deserved its rapturous final applause.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Benjamin Skepper
PW1 - Princes Wharf, Hobart
18 January

16 -- 20 January

By Ryan Buhagiar | Friday January 25 2013

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