• Kalkadoon dancer & performance artist Joshua Pether explores mental health, perceptions of reality in new show 'Jupiter Orbiting' (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Artist Joshua Pether brings his latest creation, 'Jupiter Orbiting' an exploration of trauma, empathy and mental health to the Next Wave Festival.
Emily Nicol

11 May 2018 - 11:31 AM  UPDATED 11 May 2018 - 11:31 AM

In artist Joshua Pether’s second solo work — a follow up to Monster which made its debut in 2017 at the Yirramboi First Nations Art Festival  — the audience is invited along on a journey as the artist explores a traumatic period in his life through story, video sound and movement. 

Through performative dance, the artist creates a world on stage where disassociation and the seemingly nonsensical are addressed through diary entries to Jupiter, a curious identity who helps navigate both physical and psychological trauma.

"The show has come from a persona that I used to navigate around a time that was quite traumatic for me when I needed assistance," Pether tells NITV.

"This character manifested as a way of coping with that. It looks behind the idea of different realities that people experience as they go through mental illness and it gives the perspective of a dissociative experience which isn’t understood very well." Pether says. 

"It’s got this play between the real and surreal and it’s also got a sci-fi element, that exists in the name 'Jupiter Orbiting', and also I find that sci-fi is often a good way of getting down in to the microscopic ways that humans are and understanding that from a perspective that is quite alien as well."

"I feel as a culture and people, trauma is a known factor in our experience and the results of this manifest through many different forms, ideas and experiences."

Backed by a soundscape of the late 70’s and early 80’s which brings to life the sci-fi effects blended with modern technologies, the result is a wholly immersive experience.

With his work being described as provocative and anarchistic, Pether feels it definitely sits within this realm.

"I feel my work is a reflection of both these things. It is provocative in the sense that I provoke people to think rather than be entertained and anarchistic in that I break apart the traditional barriers of performance and look at alternative ways of achieving the same result– one principle of anarchism.  Overall my work is a series of failures and successes where both hold equal value."

In his work, Pether also explores body politics, culture and identity, but steers away from traditional labels to a place where the idea of culture is expressed and experienced through the body itself. 

"Culture and identity are for me a combination of the whole person – they exist as the one being. In terms of culture and those traditions that anchor people towards knowing something is cultural, this to me is not what my work is about. I instead invoke a sense of ritual within my practice that allows me to understand and comprehend my own culture as it is within my body.  I feel the body has and always will be the best indicator as to what culture and identity is and as an artist my response to that is often a reflection of my experiences be they life or past."


 The concept of Jupiter came from a persona that was developed during a time of crisis and trauma in order to deal with and understand this experience."

In developing the work, diary entries from the time of dealing with trauma became a springboard of ideas. Pether believes that his connection to the surreal goes way back in to his past and may have something to do with not only his life experiences but that of his ancestors, and that bringing these experiences to life through art can help others who are moving through a similar space to feel less alienated.

"My connection to the surreal and fantastical goes along way back into my past and I feel is the direct result of what I have been exploring of late which is inherited trauma through DNA and the transmission of that through the body. I feel as a culture and people, trauma is a known factor in our experience and the results of this manifest through many different forms, ideas and experiences. What is real and what is not can be subjective for everybody and I think in a sense can’t be quantified or understood. We need to keep an open mind about these things. I hope this work allows for that conversation to occur."

After performing the work a few times, the process has become somewhat cathartic for Pether. "Cathartic as opposed to healing as it’s always there with you, it’s a part of the human existence, it’s the light and the dark, you can’t take that away from the human existence otherwise you don’t have the balance."

Jupiter Orbiting opens tonight 10 May and runs till 13 May as part of the Next Wave Festival. For more information and show times head to the website