Before Freeze! begins, Nick Steur meets us in the lobby of the Grainger Studio to go over a few rules. The softly spoken Dutchman instructs us to turn our phones off and be silent, though we can move around the performance.
We are also welcome to add our own rocks to those he has collected from around Southern Australia, which come in a range of shapes, colours and types. “I’ve really fallen in love with them, I hope you do too,” he says, and with that he ushers us in.
And then, the next hour is spent watching him balance rocks. There is no attempt to cast this as an elegant metaphor and he doesn’t insist that there is a greater meaning, merely asks us to observe. His touch is intuitive, and at times he works improbably quickly, balancing rocks in seeming defiance of gravity.
A slab of olive green silststone contrasts pleasantly with the hunk of glittering quartz balanced atop it, but it’s the tiny point of contact that is astonishing. Steur stares intensely at the rocks as he attempts to find the point of balance. He holds his breath and so do we, unconsciously in sync with his rhythms. The room is completely silent until he slowly steps away, satisfied that balance has been achieved, and we collectively exhale.
He proceeds at a slow, even pace and there is a meditative quality to the performance, especially when contrasted with the work desk I’ve just come from. As I emerge from the soundless cell of Grainger Studio, I can’t say I’ve fallen in love with the rocks, but I’m deeply impressed by Steur’s ability and decidedly more relaxed than when I walked in.
Freeze! was performed at Grainger Studio on Friday 16 March at 2pm, continuing in multiple venues until March 20.