By Elissa Blake
APRIL 22, 2014
Known for her work in 16-millimetre film, Tacita Dean is an artist whose chosen medium is on the brink of extinction.
The once ubiquitous gauge for documentary makers, wildlife cameramen, animators, amateur filmmakers and auteurs is being phased out, the British-born, Berlin-based Dean explains. It is more than a personal crisis, she says. It is a cultural catastrophe.
"I’m in a situation where soon, I will not be able to see my own work," Dean says. "It staggers me that the world seems happy to get rid of film."
Industry investment and research has been directed almost exclusively to digital formats over the past 20 years, “for cynical financial reasons”, says Dean. “It all comes down to it being cheaper and easier to control.”
The three major manufacturers of motion picture equipment - Aaton, ARRI and Panavision - have all ceased making film cameras. Processing laboratories are closing worldwide. Fujifilm ended the manufacture of most of its film formats in 2013. Kodak has recently discontinued several lines of product critical to filmmakers and artists.
"Kodak have even stopped making the black leader you need for negative cutting, and once it’s gone, I can’t make my work any more," says Dean. "I bought the last 16 rolls of it."
Some of that precious stock will be used up in the making of Dean’s new project, Event for a Stage, co-commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney and Carriageworks. It is her first live performance work.
"But in no way is this a move into theatre. I have no experience of theatre - none at all. I don’t even go to the theatre, but I wanted to make a film of an actor on a stage."
She is reluctant to say much more about it. “If I tell you anything about it, I’ve told you everything about it,” she says. “All you need to know is that I’m an outsider. This is about the concept of artifice on the stage. It’s not about theatre or film and television acting.”
The actor on Dean’s stage is Stephen Dillane, the British-born Tony Award-winner known to many for his role as Lord Stannis Baratheon in Game of Thrones. The process so far has been “very challenging”, he says.
"I was attracted to the project because it seemed like a different world," says Dillane. "But … it’s still a complete mystery. Over the next week I’ll either find out what it is, or be able to be on stage happily without knowing."
Dean’s camera assistants will be on stage, too. “The whole thing is a bit of a self portrait of how I make a film,” Dean says. “This way of making a film is now so endangered and so instrumental to how the final work is made. I’m exposing it.”
Dean says she isn’t against digital filmmaking per se. “But film is made with light, it’s physical, it’s chemical and because it happens in the camera, all the decisions are imprinted on it. In digital film, you make a template and pass it down the production line.”
Lost too is the element of serendipity, Dean says.
"I’m an artist and I court chance … sometimes you get a miracle. You can’t get miracles in digital."
Event for a Stage will be at Carriageworks, May 1-4.
APRIL 20, 2014
Sydney-based fashion designers Romance Was Born recently collaborated with Perth artist Rebecca Baumann for a multi-sensory installation at renowned Carriageworks gallery, Sydney. The installation, which is titled “Reflected glory, showcases their latest prêt-à-porter collection and will be on view from April 9 to May 11, 2014, coinciding with Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia. Romance Was Born is comprised of Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales, who met while studying fashion design and launched their Sydney based label in 2005. According to the designers, their shows often become a dreamscape to explore vast themes of fantasy and vibrant imagery, and “Reflected glory” is no exception. Rebecca Baumann, an artist who is known for her kinetic sculptures and her use of unconventional materials, created for the occasion a colorful installation with kaleidoscopic effects that evoked the feeling of being trapped inside a shimmering rainbow. This is not the first time that Romance Was Born team up with an artist in order to create a unique language, since they have collaborated in the past with Del Kathryn Barton and Kate Rhode for a series of fabric prints, as well as with artistic duo Pip & Pop, who created a site specific installation during last year’s fashion week. What makes the difference this time is that the “Reflected glory” installation is shown at a gallery and it is open to the general public, a risky alternative to the classic runaway show.
“Each garment signifies a special moment in time: a house party, Mardis Gras, a wake, New Year’s Eve,” says Lisa Havilah, the director of Carriageworks gallery. “Every piece is like a modern-day relic that immortalizes these stories, interwoven with iridescent threads and adorned with sequins and jewels. They signify contemporary rites of passage, the importance of honoring memory and the cycle of life that binds us.” On the other hand, artist Rebecca Baumann, who shares with Romance Was Born the same fascination with color, said to ABC Australia that she was really privileged to exchange ideas with the fashion duo: “I was interested in working with Romance Was Born because of the way they approach fashion, they aren’t the trend-based cycle of fashion, they have their own vision and they make what they want to want.” “Reflected glory”, by Romance Was Born and Rebecca Baumann, runs through 11 May, 2014, at Carriageworks gallery, 245 Wilson St, Eveleigh NSW 2015, Australia.
APRIL 16, 2014
Modular and Carriageworks last month announced they were joining forces to present MODULATIONS – a four day music, art and food collaboration. Today, they are pleased to announce the next stage of MODULATIONS’ highlights. Part of Vivid Sydney 2014, MODULATIONS will transform Carriageworks over the Queen’s birthday long weekend from Friday 6 to Monday 9 June 2014 with exclusive music, art and innovative food.
Alongside performances from award-winning electronic pop legends Pet Shop Boys are experimental musicians Liars, as well as iconic Sydney rockabilly bar and grill, Porteño and artists from renowned LA indie label Wild Records.
Liars are a creative outfit who’ve been pursuing the art of music and performance for over 15 years. Their seventh studio album, Mess, was released this past month in Australia and around the world to wide acclaim. The Quietus share, “They have an uncanny ability to switch from bizarre to beautiful, from lunatic chanting to moments of lustiness to a moment of vulnerability, without ever having to think about it too much, and always with a smirk of utter brilliance”. Liars will be performing at MODULATIONS on Friday June 6.
Sydney’s favourite restaurant, Porteño is promising a unique food pop-up experience bringing culinary delights to Carriageworks for MODULATIONS running from 5pm to late on Friday 6, Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 June. The ultimate Porteño live experience will culminate in Wild Porteño a full all-day music program on Monday 9 June with LA based Wild Records band favorites running from 12noon to late including The Delta Bombers, Gizzelle, and Luis and the Wildfires.
Two nights have sold out but tickets to the third and final night have just been released for Pet Shop Boys’ spectacular multi-media production. Widely considered the most successful duo in UK music history, Pet Shop Boys make their only Australian performance of their 2013/14 Electric world tour, produced by Creative Director Es Devlin, who in the past has collaborated with Kanye West, Jay Z, Lady Gaga and Nitin Sawhney to name a few, as well as having designed the 2012 London Olympic Games Closing Ceremony. This is a rare opportunity to experience their full production including film, lasers, breath-taking costumes, and choreography - along with a catalogue of hits, in an intimate and immersive environment.
Pet Shop Boys
Limited tickets available for the last show, Sunday 8 June, 9pm.
On-sale now at carriageworks.com.au
Friday 6 June – 9pm
Tickets $49.80 + BF, On-sale soon
Porteño Pop-up Restaurant
Friday 6, Saturday 7, Sunday 8 June 5pm – late. Open for all to experience – no ticket required.
Wild Porteño Pop-up Restaurant and music by The Delta Bombers, Gizzelle, and Luis and the Wildfires
Monday 9 June 12 noon - late
Performance tickets $49.80. On-sale soon
Carriageworks is the largest and most significant contemporary multi-arts centre of its kind in Australia. Engaging artists and audiences with contemporary ideas and issues, Carriageworks has a reputation for presenting large scale immersive programs that are artist led and emerge from Carriageworks’ commitment to reflecting social and cultural diversity. Carriageworks is a cultural facility of the NSW Government and is supported by Arts NSW. www.carriageworks.com.au
Modular is a global team of cultural and creative individuals, working across an internationally successful record label, an artist management agency, a touring & events company and creative agency. Modular has a reputation as tastemakers, able to bridge the gap between creatively compelling and wide popularity. In 2011 Creative Director and Founder, Stephen Pavlovic curated Vivid Live at the Sydney Opera House, selling over 40,000 tickets to events over 10 days. The program boasted 34 artists, 38 events, 1 world premiere, 8 Australian premieres and a daily live national radio show. As a label, Modular has signed and developed some of Australia’s most successful musical exports.
ABOUT VIVID SYDNEY:
Vivid Sydney is the Southern Hemisphere’s largest festival of light, music and ideas, which for 18 days - from 23 May to 9 June 2014 - transforms the Harbour City with its colourful creative canvas. Now in its sixth year, and owned and managed by Destination NSW, the NSW Government’s tourism and major events agency, Vivid Sydney features large scale light installations and projections (Vivid Light); music performances and collaborations (Vivid Music including Vivid LIVE at the Sydney Opera House); and creative ideas, discussion and debate (Vivid Ideas), all celebrating Sydney as the creative hub of the Asia-Pacific. For more information visit www.vividsydney.com
April, 2014: Carriageworks, The Keir Foundation and Dancehouse today announced the finalists for the first major Australian choreographic award. The Keir Choreographic Award is a new biennial award dedicated to the commissioning of new choreographic work and promoting innovation in contemporary dance. The eight finalists for the prize include a mix of dancers, choreographers and visual artists: Sarah Aiken (VIC); James Batchelor (VIC); Tim Darbyshire (VIC); Matthew Day (VIC); Atlanta Eke (VIC); Shaun Gladwell (NSW); Jane McKernan (NSW); and Brooke Stamp (VIC).
Carriageworks, Dancehouse and the Keir Foundation have partnered for the first time to present the Award, which will bring significant support and increased profiling to the contemporary dance sector, both nationally and internationally. Among the many benefits, the Award includes a cash prize of $30,000 for first prize and $10,000 for an audience choice prize.
Entries for the Award closed in February with an overwhelmingly high calibre of entries. For the judges, the decision to reach the final eight commissioned artists was not an easy one. They unanimously agreed that the quality of the 77 entries was thoroughly impressive, and in particular judges noted the clarity of vision and distinction of style in applications. According to the international judging panel, this quality speaks volumes about the calibre of contemporary dance in Australia today. As cross sector collaborations are an increasing area of interest to many art makers, judges were also pleased that the short-list includes artists who also work outside the dance sector.
Award founder and judge Phillip Keir said: ‘The wonderful range of the short listed proposals provides great insight into the vibrant range of performance ideas available in contemporary Australia. Wildly interesting conceptual ideas riffing with virtuosic dance and athletic movement. I am very much looking to the realisations of these eight great performance pieces.’
Melbourne judge Josephine Ridge added that, she was struck by the extraordinary wealth of talent Australia has in dance today: ‘That so many of the submissions came from highly original and accomplished emerging artists leaves one with an enormous optimism for the future of dance in this country. Each of the commissioned artists offer a unique, bold and highly intelligent concept, all of which I look forward to seeing presented as a result of Philip Keir’s generous award,’ says Ridge.
The international judges Mårten Spångberg and Matthew Lyons were newly introduced to the Australian entries. Lyons says he was delighted by the rich and contemporary nature of the entries: ‘The stylistic range of the proposals demonstrated the depth of the field in Australian dance at the moment. Particularly present was the new generation of dance-makers.’
Spångberg added: ‘All the applications were of high quality. The Australian dance landscape is evidently vibrant with people wanting to practice and make dance. Of the applications, however, the judges unanimously agreed that eight artists and proposals stood out as original concepts which had been thoroughly developed both in language and practice, but importantly also in that their thinking is of our time’.
Judge Becky Hilton added: ’One of the key aims of the Keir Award is to recognise and to support the potential of a future dance; to identify an interesting proposal for a dance that is yet to be made and to provide backing for its development and realisation. These eight short listed artists now have a golden opportunity to realise their dance, to embody it and to create it for the stage. I’m really intrigued to see these ideas made concrete, made flesh.’
Award entry requirements called for professional artists with an established practice to enter by submitting a 5min video pitch with a choreographic idea of 20min in duration. The international jury assessed the initial video applications and the eight selected artists will be provided with commissioning funds.
The Keir Choreographic Award is being supported and delivered jointly by Dancehouse in Melbourne and Carriageworks in Sydney. A two-week season of the commissioned works will be presented at Dancehouse in Melbourne to provide increased exposure for the artists. The jury will select four of the commissioned works to be presented at Carriageworks in Sydney for the finals. The winner will receive a $30,000 prize, with a further $10,000 prize in the hands of the voting audience. The impact of the Award is significantly enhanced by a new Australia Council initiative, which provides $80,000 worth of funding for the commissioning of new work by the finalists.
The international and national line-up of judges includes a range of voices from the artistic community, from visual art through to dance from Australia and around the world including: Mårten Spångberg, the acclaimed ‘bad boy’ of contemporary dance pushing the boundaries of the art form in polite society; Matthew Lyons, award-winning Curator at experimental cultural hub The Kitchen in New York; Josephine Ridge Creative Director of Melbourne Festival and one of Australia’s most experienced arts identities; Becky Hilton a leading Australian choreographer, director and teacher for festivals and companies nationally and internationally; and Phillip Keir, The Keir Foundation Director and visionary behind the Award.
Rehearsal period 14 April – 29 June 2014
Dancehouse Season (Melbourne) 3-6 July & 10-13 July 2014
Finals Carriageworks (Sydney) 16 - 19 July 2014
Carriageworks presents a contemporary multi-arts program that engages artists and audiences with contemporary ideas and issues. The program is artist led and emerges from Carriageworks’ commitment to reflecting social and cultural diversity. The Carriageworks artistic program is ambitious, risk taking and unrelenting in its support of artists. Carriageworks is a cultural facility of the NSW Government and is supported by Arts NSW. The Carriageworks program can be viewed at carriageworks.com.au
Dancehouse is the Centre for independent dance in Melbourne. Through its programs of residencies, performance, training and research, Dancehouse is a space for developing challenging, invigorating, and socially engaged moving art. Dancehouse is also a hub of knowledge and resources, a presenter of outstanding programs targeting multiple communities and a fierce advocate for the vibrancy and literacy of the Australian independent dance sector.
ABOUT THE KEIR FOUNDATION
Established by Phillip Keir and Sarah Benjamin as a private ancillary fund, the Foundation’s purpose is to foster innovation and excellence in the arts, particularly among new and emerging practictioners. The Keir Foundation has previously worked in commissioning dance projects and this choreographic award has emerged from an ongoing involvement with the dance community both nationally and internationally. Phillip Keir worked for twenty years in media, specifically as Chief Executive, Publisher and Founder of NextMedia. He is a board member of the Biennale of Sydney and Lift International Theatre Festival.
MEDIA CONTACT: For further information and imagery, please contact Gabrielle Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org, 0433 972 915 or Claire Hielscher at Dancehouse, on email@example.com or 0409 789 694.
Sarah Aiken – VIC
Sarah Aiken is a Melbourne based dance artist originally from Bellingen, NSW. Aiken graduated from VCA with a Bachelor of Dance in 2009. Since graduation she has pursued a wide range of experiences to develop her practice as a dancer, teacher and maker, drawing inspiration from choreographic and somatic practices, travel, conceptual and visual arts. Sarah has performed in a wide variety of shows including Natalie Abbott’s PHYSICAL FRACTALS (DanceMassive 2013 ) and Jo Lloyd’s 24hr NOISE (2013) and work by Shian Law, Carlee Mellow, James Welsby, Brooke Stamp and Aphids, Deanne Butterworth/Linda Tegg & Ben Speth. Aiken is a recipient of Australia Council for the Arts, ArtStart, and Ian Potter Cultural Trust Fund. Choreographic work includes Set (Lucy Guerin Inc. Piece’s for Small Spaces, 2013) Now Something Really Final (K77, Berlin 2012), JurassicArc (Dancehouse, Melbourne Fringe 2012) and DanceMusic (Dancehouse, 2010), as well as a range of collaborative and interdisciplinary projects across music, film, fashion and visual arts.
James Batchelor – VIC
James Batchelor is a performer, choreographer and installation artist from Canberra now based in Melbourne. His choreographic practice hybridises performance and visual arts, working site specifically to create dynamic and multisensory environments. He has developed and presented works in Australia, France, United Kingdom and Thailand and has been supported through grants from Arts ACT, Arts Victoria, Australia Council and City of Melbourne. He is the 2014 Dancehouse Housemate and is currently devising a new series of work called Island combining dance with architecture. As a performer he has worked with choreographers such as Sue Healey (Inevitable Scenarios, Sydney Opera House and Arts House), Antony Hamilton (Black Project 2, Dance Massive) and Stephanie Lake (Aorta, Chunky Move). He completed a Bachelor of Dance at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2012. He was the recipient of the VCA Graduate Mentor Scholarship, Joy Nicholls Scholarship, Dr Phillip Law Travel Scholarship, Lionel Gell Scholarship and the Friends of VCA Award. He has also been awarded Canberra Young Citizen of the Year for Arts.
Tim Darbyshire – VIC
Tim Darbyshire graduated from Dance at Queensland University of Technology (2003). His education has continued through programs including DanceWEB (Scholarship recipient in 2006 and 2009), Formation d’artiste Chorégraphique at Centre National de Danse Contemporaine (France 2006-2007) and Victoria University’s Solo Residency program (2008). In Europe he has worked for choreographers including Vera Mantero, Emmanuelle Huyhn, Nuno Bizarro, Shelley Senter, Meg Stuart, David Wampach, Marianne Baillot, Antonio Julio, Christine de Schmedt and Eszter Salamon.
Since 2009, Darbyshire has developed his projects through several residencies including the Dancehouse Housemate program. In 2012 he presented More or Less Concrete at Arts House in Melbourne, a project that he remounted for Dance Massive and has since attracted international interest for further presentations. He recently undertook an Asialink Residency in China and is currently collaborating as a performer on Matthew Day’s MASS (working title) and developing his new work Stampede the Stampede, which will premiere in Dance Massive 2015. Later in 2014 he will undertake opportunities in Europe including an IETM residency program and an exchange project between Australian and Finnish choreographers.
Matthew Day – VIC
Matthew Day is interested in the potential of choreography to imagine unorthodox relationships and propose new ways of being human. Utilising a minimalist approach Day often works with duration and repetition, approaching the body as a site of infinite potential and choreography as a field of energetic intensity and exchange. Day’s work is invested in the proliferate potential of choreography to contribute unique forms of knowledge to cultural discourse and enable affective experiences. He draws heavily from the visual arts, in particular painting and cinema that challenge traditional notions of image, object and body. Raised in Sydney, Matthew was a teenage ballroom dancing champion. He went on to study Dance and Performance Studies at the University of Western Sydney and at the Victorian College of the Arts, before collaborating with students at the School for New Dance Development, NL. Day has been artist in residence, and presented his work extensively in Australia and Europe. He is currently based in Melbourne.
Atlanta Eke – VIC
Atlanta Eke is an Australian dancer and choreographer. Since 2006, Eke has presented her experimental work throughout Australia and Europe in a variety of formats. She has worked with artists such as Xavier Le Roy, Ros Warby, Lucy Guerin, and Deborah Hay among others. In 2010, Eke received the DANCEWEB scholarship at ImPulsTanz Festival Vienna. She performed for Sidney Leoni in Undertones at Tamz in August Berlin and Mårten Spångberg’s Page 74, ImPulsTanz Festival Vienna. In 2011, she was a Melbourne Next Wave Kiskstart Program recipient and was commissioned by Lucy Guerin Inc to produce a new work for Pieces For Small Spaces. In 2012, the artist was the 2012 Dancehouse Research Housemate resident with Swedish artist Emma Kim Hagdalh and was an Australia Council for the Arts 2012 ArtStart Grant recipient.
Atlanta Eke has recently been nominated for a Green Room Award for her performance in her work MONSTER BODY that has been presented at the 2012 SEXES Festival Performance Space Sydney, 2013 Dance Massive Festival Melbourne, MONA FOMA Festival Hobart, 2013 MDT Stockholm, 2013 BACKFLIP Feminism and Humour in Contemporary Art, Margaret Lawrence Gallery and the Fierce Festival in Birmingham.
Jane McKernan – NSW
Jane McKernan is a choreographer, performer and member of The Fondue Set. Recent projects include a research residency through Critical Path based on ideas of group movement; a Dance4 residency in Nottingham, UK; One Thing Follows Another, a collaboration with sound artist Gail Priest; Opening and Closing Ceremony, a site specific dance solo presented by Performance Space; and a collaboration with US choreographer Miguel Gutierrez and The Fondue Set presented at Carriageworks. McKernan was the 2011 Robert Helpmann scholar, and spent six months in Europe working with Kate McIntosh, Antje Pfundtner and Wendy Houstoun. She also took part in the Matchpoint Asia Pacific exchange, and presented her work at HAU, Berlin. Jane edited the first edition of the Critical Dialogues journal.
Shaun Gladwell – NSW
Shaun Gladwell is a contemporary artist working within a wide range of mediums. Key concerns of all Gladwell’s activity is the way human beings critically and creatively respond to their immediate environments. Gladwell’s artwork critically engages emerging languages of movement such as skateboarding, BMX riding, break dancing and parkour. An ongoing concern of Shaun’s practice is to consider these activities and others (soldiering) as forms of dance. Shaun Gladwell critically analyses and celebrates the body in a wide range of media such as performance, video installation, film (for cinema), painting, sculpture, printmaking and photography. Most of his artworks are generated from a direct involvement and ongoing personal relationship to urban movement and he often performs in his own work.
Recently, Shaun Gladwell has collaborated with Zambian, Belgian choreographer, Lindy Nsingo. He also developed a live piece with Branch Nebula titled ‘Paradise City’ in 2007. Gladwell has exhibited extensively throughout Australia, Europe, Asia and the Americas. His work has been included in many internal survey exhibitions.
Brooke Stamp – VIC
Brooke Stamp maintains a rigorous practice as a performer, choreographer and teacher, while continuing the development of her own solo practice and interdisciplinary collaborations throughout Australia and overseas. She has been collaborating with Phillip Adams BalletLab since its inception and most recently presented her inaugural commission project for the company, And All Things Return to Nature. She has also performed with Gideon Obarzanek for Chunky Move, Shelley Lasica, Rebecca Hilton and visual artists Lane Cormick and Agatha Gothe-Snape.
Her solo work includes Orbit Score for Yoko for Lucy Guerinʼs Pieces for Small Spaces (2009); Venus Devotional 2010 at the MCG as part of the 2010 Next Wave Festival; Metaverse Makeover, curated by Thea Baumann for the LʼOreal Melbourne Fashion Festivalʼs 2011 cultural program; and Unified Field for fifteen VCA students (2011). In 2005, Stamp was awarded a Professional Skills and Development Award from the Australia Council for the Arts, and lived in New York from 2005 to 2007. In 2010 Brooke spent two months in residency at the Performing Arts Forum in France, supported by Besen Family Foundation. With Luke George, Stamp curates dance discourse event “First Run” at Lucy Guerin Inc.
By Shannon Connellan
APRIL 10, 2014
Life is one long list of shindigs. We pop a cork on New Year’s Eve, don a tinsel wig for Mardi Gras, throw confetti all over our houses to warm them properly; each a shining story to embellish and revel in down the track. Immortalising these chapters of celebration in the visual equivalent of being blasted in the face with a confetti cannon, Sydney designers Romance Was Born have launched their very first exhibition,Reflected Glory, teaming up with kinetic sculptor and installation artist Rebecca Baumann.
Launching in time for Mercedez-Benz Fashion Week Australia, Reflected Glory sees designers Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales veer off the runway and make a temporary, kaleidoscopic home within the industrial walls of Carriageworks. Rather than staring out the window and sobbing all over the past, RWB and Baumann seize the party blowers and celebrate the milestones that make our lives that extra bit spesh.
LIFE, DEATH, IT’S ONE BIG RSVP
Each piece in the collection represents a unique celebration, rite of passage or circled calendar date, from Mardi Gras to white weddings to that unavoidable final soiree, the wake. A sherbet-paletted, butterfly-beaded sweet sixteenth descends Baumann’s candy-coloured staircase, a Picnic at Hanging Rock-meets-Christina Ricci in Casper wedding dress hovers in a fairy floss pink haze, while a slowly revolving, truly magnificent mirrorball of a silver jacket triggers hazy New Year’s Eve memories.
There’s a metaphoric reflectiveness to the garments, as well as literal. “[I] really like the idea of reflecting back on the past,” says Sales. “The way we celebrate different milestones and the memory that can bring back.” Sales likened the process to a big night out, forgotten the morning after but slowly and (for the most part) fondly pieced back together over time.
Sales points to one of the most striking pieces in the collection, an ode to Mardi Gras, a reflective hootenanny of a party dress. Shingled with the same multicoloured plastic making up Baumann’s kaleidoscopic disco floor nearby, the piece is fringed by a shaggy, shiny rainbow skirt that looks suspiciously like… wigs? “Yeah, tinsel wigs,” he triumphantly confirms. “And that’s New Year’s Eve, so it’s meant to be like a mirror ball. This is a house party, with the curtains and that t-shirt I was wearing the first time I met Anna at a house party.”
The pair met at said house party in 2005 while students at East Sydney Technical College. Plunkett and Sales have since gained an international reputation for their unmistakable RWB swag. The T-shirt in question sports a nautical Madonna, a sentimental relic found in the back of Sales’ wardrobe now emblazoned with the pair’s thematic, tightly packed sequins. Plunkett sees the garment as a perfect representation of the pair’s fused ideology, “We embellished the garment in clear sequins and now this piece embodies the creative spirit between the both of us,” she says.
FASHION, MEET ART. ART, FASHION.
Regularly blurring distinctions between fashion and art, Sales and Plunkett are no strangers to the spoils of influence and collaboration. Before paying tribute to legendary Marvel Comics artist Jack Kirby in their hugely popular Summer 2012 collection, Berserkergang, Plunkett and Sales celebrated the treasured memories of a small-town Australian childhood with Archibald Prize winner Del Kathryn Barton, employing her exclusive digital ‘eye’ and ‘magic’ prints for their Spring/Summer ‘06/07 collection Regional Australia.
It was in their Summer 2014 collection, Mushroom Magic, that the pair used a print from Rebecca Baumann’s work ‘Improvised Smoke Devise’. Scales and Plunkett met up with Baumann after the show and checked out some snaps of her installation works. Carriageworks had already commissioned RWB to create a work for their 2014 artistic program, timing the launch for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, thus the perfect opportunity to let their palettes blend.
Reflected Glory is a fusion of Baumann’s celebratory installation style and RWB’s whimsical experimentation with detail. Where an RWB embellished T-shirt starts, Baumann’s signature gold tinsel ends, her 2010 work ‘Untitled Cascade’, playfully making a cameo in an epic train to the ‘House Party’ piece. Baumann’s popping candy-like projections set a prom-night stage for RWB’s sparkling moments of nostalgia, a fusion RWB embraced within their designs. “It’s very collaborative, like, super organic. Elements just kind of fell into place and we went with it,” says Plunkett. “[It’s fun] to use an artist’s influence, like, directly influencing our prints. We’ve reinterpreted her artwork too, so it’s a lot more interactive.”
Every print in the exhibition comes from the Reflected Glory ready to wear collection, to be unleashed down the track. If there weren’t enough actual sequins sewed meticulously into each sleeve and bodice, the prints are magnified, saturated fields of photographic sequins. Each print was shot in direct sunlight for “maximum reflection” as Sales puts it.
LEAVE THE MODELS OUT OF THIS
Models have been left at the Carriageworks door for this exhibition. Working with mannequins instead of models, you’re working with a few advantages — the pieces aren’t bound by human restrictions like walking ability, plus mannequins don’t have homes to go to. In Reflected Glory viewers aren’t bound by their runwayside seats; instead, they are able to wander through the space and let the mirrorball motors unveil every last garment inch.
Plunkett says working in an exhibition space as opposed to sending pieces down a runway can be a welcome change. “It’s kind of refreshing. It’s fun to be able to explore clothing but spatially, with light and through texture and kinetics.” But Sales and Plunkett insist the design process would be the same, models or not. “In the beginning I thought we wouldn’t design dresses so much — it would be more like objects with bigger shapes, more sculptural. But I feel like that’s not really who we are,” says Sales. “We’re designers not artists, we’re not trying to make sculpture.”
A kinetic sculptor by trade, Baumann was a perfect partner in the duo’s quest to keep things moving. Baumann’s kaleidoscopic projections, bold geometric installations and carefully aimed lighting give each handsewn sequin, elaborate ruffled collar and tinsel-woven bodice its own glinting moment. “We didn’t just want to put mannequins in amongst some art and call that the exhibition,” says Sales, backed up by Plunkett. “We’re really interested in it not being a static thing,” she says. “The whole idea of suspending the garments with mannequins … We really wanted to be able to interact with the space, light and the eye.”
DON’T DESIGN FOR THE INDUSTRY
With mirrorball outfits, oversized white sequins and embellished Madonna T-shirts supported by ’80s love songs and candy store lighting, RWB definitely don’t create to please the fashion crowd. Both Sales and Plunkett see the shortcomings of an industry that can often suck the fun out of an essentially playful medium. “I guess we kind of have a bit of a sense of humour with what we do,” says Sales. “We don’t try and get too serious with fashion and I think, for me, fashion’s not about that. Fashion’s about expressing yourself and being fun and having fun with who you are and trying to communicate who you are to people.”
“In a way, it feels like we’ve kind of gone back to our roots a bit more, working together, hand-sewing the garments together, draping it on the dummy and stitching it together,” he says. “It’s a bit more organic.”
“I hope that people do take away that it is as uplifting as our usual runway show,” says Plunkett, pausing for a moment to consider the crowd attending. “Hopefully, but the fashion crowd can be very critical… Actually, bring it on.”
Reflected Glory runs April 9 to May 11 at Carriageworks. Images by Zan Wimberley and Lindsay Smith.
APRIL 8, 2014
FASHION designers Luke Sales and Anna Plunkett, aka Romance Was Born, have never followed the pack and this year’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is no exception.
East Maitland-raised Sales and business partner Plunkett’s label launched in 2005 and in the years since has gained a reputation for playful elegance, otherworldly prints and bright colours.
The label has a cult following worldwide, and is worn by Cate Blanchett, Nicki Minaj, Lily Allen, Karen O, and MIA.
Yesterday Romance Was Born launched its new season collection as part of a large-scale art installation.
The label’s collaboration with Perth artist Rebecca Baumann was unveiled in a swirl of colour, light, mirrors and tinsel in an innovative Fashion Week project at Sydney’s Carriageworks.
Reflected Glory features garments suspended from the ceiling that illustrate significant moments in time – a house party, New Year’s Eve, a wake – and Sales said it was not only a breeze compared with the demands of a runway show, it was their true calling.
‘‘We didn’t have to deal with models or castings, or fittings or a stylist,’’ Sales said.
It was a joy to be able to do ‘‘something fully creative without having to worry about the boundaries of commerciality’’.
Reflected Glory is on from April 9 to May 11.
Image: TRUE CALLING: Luke Sales and Anna Plunkett at the Reflected Glory show at Carriageworks. Picture: Tamara Dean
By Kristen Daly
APRIL 8, 2014
There are some pairings in life that are just meant to be. Kurt and Courtney. Beyoncé and Jay Z. John Travolta’s Danny Zuko and his very own sweetheart-turned-siren Sandy from Grease. Baby and Johnny in Dirty Dancing. And butter, on white toast with a glass of milk, thank you very much. Then in the fashion world, you have Vogue ice queen Anna Wintour and her flame-haired creative director Grace Coddington, or Marc Jacobs and photographer Juergen Teller, or our fave rap-brat Kanye West and sneaker purveyors Adidas.
And then some. Legendary label Romance Was Born and Rebecca Baumann, the acclaimed Perth-based artist who worked with Romance designers Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales on the new Carriageworks exhibition Reflected Glory. The fruits of this exciting partnership were assembled in time for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. We’re just so darn grateful.
For years now, Anna and Luke have sent models down fiercely embellished runways in designs inspired by everything and everyone from – take a deep breath – Wall Street bankers, yetis, Marvel comic book heroes, Poseidon and his sea nymphs, star-crossed lovers from the ancient orient and, for their highly acclaimed Spring/Summer 2014/15 collection, fairies at the bottom of a psychedelic magic-mushroom plantation. (Even the acid-coloured wigs were shaped like mushroom tops.)
Yet this year, the creative twosome decided to skip the usual Fashion Week proceedings in lieu of working with Rebecca, an award-winning artist with a practice that spans kinetic sculpture, digital animation, installation and photography. Even a cursory glance at her work via Google Images suggests Rebecca is no stranger to the energy, colour and movement that informs the Romance Was Born aesthetic. Together, these creative minds have turned a diverse range of materials – including a selection of prints from the accompanying Reflected Glory collection – into a fashion-fuelled installation that is at once whimsical, bewitching and brash.
The results are quite nostalgic, too. (Even the title of the exhibition resembles those glorious ’80s movie posters the Tumblr crowd goes crazy for…) “Each garment signifies a special moment in time: a house party, Mardis Gras, a wake, New Year’s Eve,” says Carriageworks Director Lisa Havilah. “Each garment is like a modern-day relic that immortalises these stories, interwoven with iridescent threads and adorned with sequins and jewels. They signify contemporary rites of passage, the importance of honouring memory and the cycle of life that binds us. This is very much exemplified in the Madonna shirt that Luke was wearing the first time he met Anna, which they went on to embellish with sequins.”
When Luke is later asked about the Madonna shirt, now smothered in those aforementioned sequins and paired with a majestic skirt of gold ribbons trailing down to onlookers below, he laughs and admits it no longer fits him. “I was cleaning out my wardrobe about three months ago and I found [the shirt],” he says. “I was going to give it to Anna, but I forgot to.” One man’s trash, another man’s golden, sequin-studded, light-bathed, nostalgia-drenched treasure.
Anna Plunkett and Lukes Sales launch an art exhibition instead of a runway show at fashion week.
By Alexandra Brown
APRIL 8, 2014
Art and fashion have long been friends and Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales of Romance Was Born have taken it to a new level in Australia, skipping a MBFWA runway show in place of an art exhibition on-site at Carriageworks.
Something designer Luke Sales seems very relieved about. “I am very excited about not using models this year!” he says.
Another bonus, the exhibition will be open to the public from tomorrow.
Romance Was Born have long been inspired by and collaborated with Australian artists. Last year alone the brand worked with collage artist Ebony Bizy, mixed medium artist Phil James and installation artists Pip and Pop.
This season, the design duo worked with Perth based installation artist Rebecca Baumann on a bright and kaleidoscopic exhibit, representative of all three artists’ favoured aesthetic.
Reflected Glory features an embellished collection, dripping with sequins and jewels surrounded by Baumann’s colourful and reflective tinsel and acrylic sculptures and lighting.
Forming part of the collection is a silver sequinned t-shirt that Luke was wearing the first time he met Anna. “Well it doesn’t fit me anymore”, explains Sales. “I thought it was a cool reference to what we are trying to do with the exhibition.” That is, capturing moments in time, such as a house party, Mardi Gras or New Year’s Eve and the reflections you have on these pivotal life moments.
Romance was Born and Rebecca Baumann: Reflected Glory is open to the public at Carriageworks, 245 Wilson Rd, Eveleigh from 9 April to 11 May. Entry is free. Go to Carriageworks.com.au
Art and fashion collide in a colourful collaboration.
By Georgina Safe
APRIL 5, 2014
Fashion designers Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales first encountered Rebecca Baumann’s Improvised Smoke Device installation at the Museum of Contemporary of Art in 2011.
Twenty-five smoke canisters exploded in a multi-coloured rainbow during a spectacular performance at the gallery’s Primavera exhibition of work by artists under the age of 35. Inspired by the Indian Festival of Colour, Baumann’s ephemeral work explored ideas of happiness and celebration, with malevolent undertones.
”It was about immense beauty, but with a sense of danger and negative connotations,” Baumann says. ”I was also just interested in the smoke as a form in itself.”
Fashion designers Luke Sales and Anna Plunkett from Romance was Born are collaborating with artist Rebecca Baumann (not present) on a big installation to celebrate Fashion Week.
Where Baumann saw smoke, Plunkett and Sales saw fabric. The designers of Sydney fashion label Romance Was Born approached the artist and asked permission to translate her event-based work into permanent digital prints on fabric, which were part of the brand’s 2013 spring-summer collection, Mushroom Magic.
”I’d been thinking about the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland, smoking a coloured pipe, because our starting point was hallucinogens and psychedelia,” Sales says. ”We contacted Rebecca and asked her if we could use a photo of her coloured smoke.”
When fashion designers collaborate with artists, the results can be mutually beneficial; designers acquire added creativity and credibility, while artists gain extra income and broader exposure for their work. For Romance Was Born, though, the relationship with the art world runs deeper than most. The duo have worked with artists including Kate Rohde, Tanya Schultz, Patrick Doherty, Esme Timbery and Archibald winner Del Kathryn Barton, collaborating on prints, accessories, sets and styling for their fashion collections.
”It’s so nice to do something that is more inspiring and refreshing than just churning out a fashion collection,” says Plunkett. ”For the two of us it’s always been about a collaboration, so when we work with an artist it’s just another level of collaboration where they bring their own world of creativity too.”
Plunkett and Sales are reuniting with Baumann for what will be their largest artistic collaboration yet. Next week at Carriageworks, during Fashion Week Australia, they will open Reflected Glory, a large-scale installation combining Baumann’s love of colour, light and celebration with a series of custom-made outfits by Plunkett and Sales. The garments reference events and celebrations such as weddings, wakes and birthdays, and will be displayed on revolving mirror-ball mannequins. The mannequins will throw moving light patterns on to an installation by the artist that uses theatre lights, projections, perspex, tinsel and other shiny, sparkly materials.
”Every garment will tell a different story,” Plunkett says. ”Mostly we have worked with artists by turning what they do into prints. This is the first time we have generated all the prints ourselves from scratch, using materials Rebecca would use, or referencing themes in her work like human emotions and people’s response to impromptu situations.”
Says Sales: ”In a lot of ways I’ve never understood the concept of a runway show; if I wanted to see that I would just sit at the bus stop and watch people walk past wearing different clothes. It’s nice to have something that lasts longer than five minutes and that normal people outside of the fashion world can engage with as well.”
Sales and Plunkett have always been more interested in finding a deeper, more lasting meaning in fashion. ”We want our customer to have an emotional response to our garments,” Sales says.
It was the pair’s track record in artistic collaborations that convinced Baumann. ”I decided to take part because I really admire the artistic spirit with which Romance Was Born approach their work,” she says. ”I’d never collaborated with anyone before and I thought it would be invigorating to step outside of my solo practice, and see what would come of it.”
The trio have used Skype and emails to bounce ideas and concepts around while preparing for the exhibition, which Baumann believes will also introduce her work to a broader audience.
”I didn’t realise what a fan base and cult status Romance Was Born had until I started telling people I was doing this and they started telling me it would be the most exciting thing I had ever done,” Baumann says.
Plunkett and Sales are keen to do more work in artistic spaces after their collaboration with Baumann.
They have been commissioned to create a new children’s gallery at the National Gallery of Victoria, opening on October 11.
”The ready-to-wear experience is very narrow, and it’s getting even more narrow, but these other creative projects really give us freedom to spread our wings,” says Plunkett.
Reflected Glory is at Carriageworks from Wednesday until May 11.
Image 1: Explosive: Rebecca Baumann’s installation Improvised Smoke Device.PICKLES Photo: Louise Schwartzkoff
Image 2: Explosive: Designers Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales. Photo: Edwina Pickles
Image 3: Artist Rebecca Baumann.
By Dee Jefferson
MARCH 31, 2014
The acclaimed British visual artist and cinephile premieres her debut performance work in Sydney, starring Game of Thrones actor Stephen Dillane
Arguably the biggest name on the Biennale lineup, this British artist (Berlin-based these days) is a big deal: in 1998, at 33, she was a finalist for the Turner; at 35 she had a retrospective show at the Tate. In 2011 she presented her larger-than-life tribute to cinema, ‘FILM (2011-2012)’ -– a giant trompe l’oeil celluloid strip – in the Tate’s Turbine Hall. Cinema is more than a medium for Dean, however – it’s a philosophy. She is currently trying to get film – the material (celluloid), the process and the resulting visuals – recognised by UNESCO as an endangered, heritage-listed language (in the same category, say, as various indigenous dialects).
For the Biennale, however, Dean will break new ground, presenting her first ever performance work: Event for a Stage. In keeping with the overarching theme of the Biennale works at Carriageworks, Event for a Stage will explore the audio and visual language of film and theatre. Writing about the work, Dean has said: “I take from both worlds: from constructed sound and from actual sound. My pleasure is in using the artifice of one to depict the reality of the other and I am never prouder than when my labour appears as nothing but the soundtrack of life.”
Actor Stephen Dillane (aka Stannis Baratheon, GoT) will star in the filmed component of the work, which involves a filmic portrait of an actor on a stage.
More: Tacita Dean In Conversation with Juliana Engberg. Carriageworks, May 4, 2pm-3pm. Free. Book here.
By Rima Sabina Aouf
APRIL 2, 2014
Few designers working today create pieces so idiosyncratic and fanciful they may as well be art. One is Romance Was Born, the Australian label started in 2005 by Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales. So it’s perfectly fitting, really, that for this year’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, they’re smashing out a full, multi-sensory exhibition that is more guided acid trip than runway show.
Collaborating with them on Reflected Glory is artist Rebecca Baumann, a technicolour master of her own with a practice spanning kinetic sculpture, photography, performance, digital animation and installation. She also happens to have won a Visual Arts SOYA the same year Plunkett and Sales won for fashion. Together, they’re translating the never-boring design of Romance Was Born into a truly unwearable work of art, opening at Carriageworks on April 8.
The promo video, released this morning by Carriageworks, shows the exhibition will be a kaleidoscope that plays off the unique light and space of the industrial venue. “We’re really inspired by nightclubs and lighting and the feeling of when you see something sparkling in all its glory [and] it just has this fully beautiful, uplifting feeling,” says Plunkett.
Don’t expect mere retrospective or showcase; the exhibition represents a completely new approach for the duo. “It’s not like a collection of work; it’s kind of just one big work, so the whole thing just feels like one immersive experience,” says Sales.
Reflected Glory opens at Carriageworks on April 9 and runs until May 11.
FRIEND speaks with Australia’s most psychedelic fashion designers over a bowl of Weet-Bix and discovers why they “complete” each other. It’s a yin and yang thing.
By Sarah L. Clark
APRIL 1, 2014
In a light and airy studio two assistants quietly toil away as Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales, co-founders and designers of the artistically astonishing fashion label Romance Was Born, arrive to start their working day.
Through large open windows the sound of peak hour traffic hums below. Racks of vividly coloured clothing, cutting desks, sewing machines, rolls of fabric, and floor length gowns covered in crochet seaweed share the space with a fern hanging in a resplendent macramé pot in the kitchen area.
Plunkett and Sales seemingly entered the Australian fashion industry five years ago and scooped up every award possible in one fell swoop (the proof stands marked with fingerprints and casually pushed together in the middle of a second meeting table), but the truth is, for the first three years of the label’s life the two were, “just hanging out as friends and making stuff.” FRIEND connects with Plunkett and Sales as they prepare for a busy day ahead.
SARAH L. CLARK—You met while studying East Sydney Technical College, didn’t you?
ANNA PLUNKETT—Yes. But we didn’t know each other until after first year.
LUKE SALES—Anna had a house party and some people from my class were invited. I’d seen her work and I thought she was my only competition.
SLC—Did your work have any similarities?
SALES—I remember a stupid brief where we had to choose an era of music to design to. I chose the 80s and so did Anna. What we designed had a similar kind of vibe. I just really appreciated what she did.
PLUNKETT—It’s so weird. I made fabric, and Luke made his, and it was similar. I saw Luke’s work when we were back stage [at the presentation], and I was pretty confident until that point. He won.
SALES—So I went to the house party at Anna’s. I hadn’t really spoken to her much before but we ended up getting really trashed and dancing the night away. In second year we did a lot of assignments together and we’d just hang out and listen to music. There was never talk of starting a label. Then the Yeah Yeah Yeahs came to Australia and we made costumes for Karen O.
SLC—And you hadn’t started the label at this stage?
SALES—No. We always joked about calling it Romance Was Born. It was a badge my cousin had and it just sounded like a cool name. Actually, a lot of things we do start as jokes. After a while we just think, “OK, let’s do that.” We started out doing little group exhibitions. Then we got accepted to go to ITS#4, an international talent support award for people in their first year out of university. We were the first Australian’s ever to get chosen – out of over 600 applicants from all over the world.
SLC—You applied for that together?
SALES—Yep. We went to Florence for the finals. After that, we got offered the internships at Galliano, but we didn’t take them. We just weren’t ready. Once we got back to Australia we started the label. For the first two years we weren’t making ready-to-wear collections. Everything was still one-off and handmade. It was still a hobby. Then we started doing ready-to-wear and got a sales agent. There was a lot of time when we were just hanging out as friends and making stuff.
“When we were first friends we used to say, ‘oh my god, we’ve got so much in common’. But now we’re totally different. Anna says at least once a week, ‘oh my god, we are so opposite’.”
SLC—Do you think you work together differently now than you did back then?
SALES—When we were first friends we used to say, ‘oh my god, we’ve got so much in common’. But now we’re totally different. Anna says at least once a week, ‘oh my god, we are so opposite’.
PLUNKETT—We’re like black and white. Yin and yang.
SALES—As we’re getting older we’ve mellowed out. I don’t get the shits with Anna about things so much.
PLUNKETT—It’s so intimate. I know everything about Luke.
SALES—Because we’re friends we talk all day about things that are going on in our lives. I’ve never had a job outside of this, so I wouldn’t know if the way we work is … I mean, I know it’s not conventional.
SLC—Tell me about your upcoming fashion week exhibition. It is part of the Carriageworks artistic program for 2014, isn’t it? SALES—Yep. We’re doing an installation with Rebecca Baumann, the Perth artist.
PLUNKETT—It opens during fashion week but stays open for a month. They have a public program so we’ll be doing a Q&A.
SLC—Why have you chosen to execute a month long installation rather than do a show?
PLUNKETT—After what we did last year, with Mushroom Magic, it felt like a shame that the public couldn’t be engaged with the experience and all the effort that went into creating the environment. Sometimes I don’t know if what we do is deeply understood or appreciated so we want to put it in a different realm. Give it to another audience. SLC—What is it about your work that you think the fashion industry doesn’t understand?
PLUNKETT—The way we make one offs – we’re creating characters, people. It’s not something you’re going to wear down the street, and that’s cool, because it’s just an expression of the ready-to-wear. They just want to see what they can buy, and what’s hot and trending.
SALES—What we do is more than just fashion and fashion people don’t see beyond fashion. So it’s for our fans, our consumers who buy our stuff, and people outside of fashion who have an appreciation for what we do. It’s cool to be able to do something that’s a bit more accessible to the general public. And, yeah, we just feel like it’s got more longevity.
SLC—You feel that because the general public doesn’t get to see your shows they don’t get to see that more creative side of your work?
“This year we want to go beyond that creativity, be our most creative, and not have to worry about the confinements of ready-to-wear.”
PLUNKETT—Yeah, but more like the industry doesn’t appreciate the art that goes into making a show. We think it’s important to change what we do and make it feel new. This exhibition started out as a just new thing for us, but now I think it’s smart because more people will get to see it, and because Rebecca is really quite well known in the art world she will be appreciated in that way. We are representing artists, as well, in the context of doing it like this.
SALES—A few years ago when we did theComic Book collection we wanted to do something ready-to-wear and tell a short, sharp, story. I think we really achieved that. Then with the Mushroom Magiccollection we wanted it to be all about creativity. This year we want to go beyond that creativity and not have to worry about the confinements of ready-to-wear.
SLC—Regarding your collaborators; do you end up knowing them because of what they do, or is it more that you are friends to begin with?
PLUNKETT—We’ve never known them. We’ve loved their work, asked to work together, and then ended up loving them. I guess you wouldn’t like someone’s work, or have those feeling towards it, if they were an asshole.
SALES—Their work is a reflection of their personality so it makes sense to end up being friends with them.
PLUNKETT—This whole thing about collaborations, it’s who we are and it’s something we’ve always done. I feel like more than ever, now, people are doing it. But it’s just an unconscious part of who we are. Working with artists – we’ve done that from the get go with Del [Kathryn Barton]. We’ve worked with Marvel comics, and Disney, and now the National Gallery of Victoria (an interactive exhibition is planned for late 2014). So, it’s not just artists.
SLC—Tell me about your friendship with Jenny Kee. Was she aware of your work when you first met her?
PLUNKETT—Yes, she’d been told her we were like she and Linda [Jackson] were back in the 80s, but for today. She thinks our work has the same energy as hers. And it is a lot about energy with Jenny. I feel weird connections to her. She’s always throwing us weird advice. We have other creative partnerships outside of the collaborations. With our hair and make up people and our show producers. They’re a really important part of what we do. It’s a little creative family.
SALES—Yeah. Like Alan White who does our hair. And Natasha Severino always does our make up. There are different key people that we’ve been with for a while. I know other designers just use whoever is available, but we’ve become really good friends with these people. We try and stick with our little team because we’ve been together so long and done a lot of cool stuff together.
PLUNKETT—You sometimes forget you have to go through the process to get to that awesome end point. We really enjoy working with these people. They’re another branch to our creative tree.
“There are different key people that we’ve been with for a while. I know other designers just use whoever is available, but we’ve become really good friends with these people.”
SLC—What are some of the creative highs and lows you’ve shared together?
PLUNKETT—I’ll tell you the crazy worst. It was fashion week 2010. We were showing the Renaissance Dinosaur collection.
SALES—Oh that was your worst thing? I wasn’t even there!
PLUNKETT—Exactly. You were on Xanax. The model that was opening our show came two hours late. I was in a dungeon at the University of Sydney and I suddenly realised everyone had left me with her, and I had to dress on my own. We had a complicated crochet mask and the shoes were too small. It was hectic. I was just thinking, ‘Where is everyone? What’s happening?’ I could hear the music had already started, and I was saying, ‘wait, I’ve got the first model’. I just wanted to die. I was like, ‘kill me this is so fucked’.
SALES—That show was really good when it was about to start.
PLUNKETT—What? When I was about to die. Luke’s just blissed out on Xanax.
SALES—You could hear everyone in the audience screaming like a concert was about to start. It was super-weird and really funny.
SLC—Where were you seeing all this from Luke?
SALES—I was backstage.
PLUNKETT—No, you were getting your photo taken with the models.
Yin and yang indeed.
Photography by Kylie Coutts
The colourful fashion house teams up with an artist to present their latest collection – as an exhibition.
By Dee Jefferson
MARCH 31, 2014
Since they launched their label Romance Was Born in 2005, Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales have been in almost constant collaboration with one visual artist or another – from two-time Archibald-winner Del Kathryn Barton, whose artwork featured in their first three years of collections, to Tokyo-based Australian designer and blogger Ebony Bizys (hellosandwich.blogspot.com), who provided inspiration for their 2013 Kawaii Hawaii collection. “I’ve always been interested in art,” says Plunkett, “and it’s a really subconscious thing – not a forced thing that we seek out. A lot of our friends are artists, too.”
For the 2014 Mercedes’ Benz Fashion Week (taking place at Carriageworks April 7-11), the design duo are taking the next step: presenting their new collection, Objects of Celebration, as a month-long exhibition. Instead of models and runways, the two are teaming up with artist (and fellow Spirit of Youth Awards 2010 winner) Rebecca Baumann to create an elaborate, immersive installation in Carriageworks, inspired by and named after her 2013 work ‘Reflected Glory’. “Basically, they’re turning the room into a kaleidoscope,” says Carriageworks curator Beatrice Gralton.
It’s not the first time the RWB duo have ventured into the gallery space: in 2010 they were involved in an exhibition of works by sculptor Kate Rohde, in Melbourne’s Karen Woodbury Gallery, drawn from their Renaissance Dinosaur runway show. At the time, Sales commented that, “Not everything we show is meant to be on a rack in a store, and I think once people see it in a gallery context or see it in a different context, then it starts to make a bit more sense.”
More recently, they were commissioned to create an exhibition for the National Gallery of Victoria’s new children’s program, and their collaboration with ‘paper engineer’ Benja Harney, for the set of their 2012 comics-inspired ‘Beserkergang’ runway show, was included in the Powerhouse Museum’s Clothes Encounters exhibition.
Sales and Plunkett first worked with Baumann, who is known for kinetic sculptures that use ‘celebratory’ materials such as tinsel and confetti, for their 2013 collection Mushroom Magic, in which they featured a print of her 2010 work ‘Improvised Smoke Devise’. “We saw the ‘smoke’ print and it had a psychedelic feel, which really worked well [for that collection],” says Plunkett. For their Fashion Week show, they featured a candy-coloured confectionary set designed by Melbourne installation artist Tanya Schultz, of Pip and Pop.
“Actually, last year when we put so much time and energy into building the environment and set [for Fashion Week] it was really sad to see it put away after the show – so we thought [this year’s Fashion Week] would be an awesome opportunity to open ‘the show’ to more of the public so they can see what we do, and have an experience with it.”
The clothes themselves will be inspired by the themes and materials of Baumann’s work, using sequins, jeweled details and brightly coloured reflective elements to capture the different permutations of celebration: the ceremonies, spontaneous outbursts of energy, the gift-wrapping and the present-giving. “Every garment is like a mini party,” says Plunkett.
By Andrew Frost
MARCH 28, 2014
After recent outings for the Biennale of Sydney where it seemed that the Art Gallery of NSW was no longer a major venue, the 19th BoS finds the venerable institution giving over the entirety of its Lower Ground floor to the show where it features the work of 17 artists. Indeed, there’s a lot to see and experience as BoS curator Juliana Engberg’s selection continues the same formal interests as the work at Cockatoo Island and the MCA with an emphasis on surrealism, poetry and the beautiful in photo media, video, performance art and installation.
Among the highlights of the video works at the AGNSW is Angelica Mesiti’s In The Ear of the Tyrant, a multichannel work featuring a performance of a prefiche – a professional female mourner who accompanies a funeral procession – set in an ambiguous although apparently ancient indoor setting. Bindi Cole’s We All Need Forgiveness eschews all theatrical trappings for a video installation featuring faces intoning, “I forgive you… I forgive you….” More abstract but as compelling is Rosa Barba’s Time As Perspective, a film loop installation that meditates on the material qualities of film and the landscape. Deborah Kelly’s No Human Being is Illegal [In All Our Glory] is a stunning series of life size photo collages that morph and evolve over the course of the show, while Mircea Cantor’s Sic Transit Gloria Mundi achieves a poetic and lyrical presence through the meeting of flame and flesh.
Carriageworks makes its debut as a BoS venue in 2014 and the installation of 12 major works in the new gallery space - as well as a 16 hour program of films and videos in a cinema setting by a further 12 artists - makes it a singular experience. The undoubted highlight of Carriageworks is Mathias Poledna’s A Village By The Sea, a recreation of an early movie musical number shown on 35mm film and presented inside a monumental black box. While Poledna’s work becomes a kind of disturbing cinematic uncanny, other more intimate pieces offer equally strange contemplation, such as in Ann Lislegaard’s talking fox in Tim Machine, and in Soren Thilo Funder’s eerie space age homage The Cosmonaut (I Don’t See Any God Up Here). Daniel McKewen’s Running Men offers the viewer the images of men running lifted from various Hollywood movies. Floating in the darkness of Carriageworks the piece takes on an almost religious flavour.
Finally, Artspace in Woolloomooloo scales back its participation in BoS this time around with the work of just five artists but places the emphasis on hypnotic minimalism and repetition, including Ugo Rondinone’s cast bronze birds in the The Cliff and Sol Archer’s video Black Sun.
Until June 9
Art Gallery of NSW, The Domain
Image: Mathias Poledna, A Village by the Sea, 2011 (35mm frame enlargement)?35mm film, 5:40 mins, black and white, optical sound?Courtesy the artist; Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne and Berlin; Galerie Meyer Kainer, Vienna; and Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles.
A modern master of endurance makes his Australian debut at Carriageworks.
By Dee Jefferson
MARCH 24, 2014
Continuing their track record for presenting monumental art works, Carriageworks will present the Australian debut of Manhattan-based Taiwanese artist Tehching Hsieh (pronounced dur-ching shay) – described by Marina Abramović as the “master” of durational performance’.
Performance art is in unprecedented vogue at the moment – thanks in part to Abramović and her pop proponents Lady Gaga and Jay-Z, and in Australia to Kaldor Public Art Projects 13 Rooms and This Is So Contemporary. But Hsieh’s work represents a far more ‘pure’, austere vision. Starting from his late twenties as an illegal immigrant living in Manhattan, the performance artist undertook five year-long works in which he variously: lived in a cage; was tied to another artist but not allowed to have any physical contact with her; lived as a homeless person; gave up art altogether; and punched a time clock – on the hour, every hour.
It is this last piece (the second of the five, chronologically) that is coming to Carriageworks; or rather, Hsieh’s meticulous documentation of the work will be presented, alongside a conversation with the artist.
For One Year Performance 1980-1981 – often called ‘Time Clock Piece’ – Hsieh punched a time clock on his studio wall on the hour, every hour for a year. Each time he did, a self-portrait was automatically taken.
Presented in a purpose-built gallery inside Carriageworks’ entrance, One Year Performance 1980-1981 will comprise 366 film strips (one for every day of the leap year, and with 23 frames per strip) arranged chronologically along the walls. The strips will also be rendered as an ‘animated’ film of about six minutes duration, in which a clean-shaven Hsieh appears to transmogrify into a wild-haired version of himself. “He looks slightly deranged,” says curator Nina Miall, who snagged the important debut for Carriageworks after Hsieh’s work enjoyed a sort of ‘renaissance’ around 2009, with shows at New York’s MoMA and the Guggenheim followed by major retrospectives around the world.
Miall describes Hsieh as a modest, meticulous artist with incredible discipline. “Most people can’t imagine the kind of toll that his work takes on the self – physically, mentally,” she says.
In 2000 he stopped making work – having announced the completion of a 13-year ‘project’ in which he made art in private. What he did in those 13 years is still unknown, and Hsieh has not yet resumed his art-making. In interviews, he has discussed ultimately presenting his 18 years of work as 18 separate ‘rooms’ of project documentation: embodying durational works about time as physical works in space.
So why did Miall choose this work? Partly because it represents Hsieh’s ongoing, fundamental interest in “time and the self” – and partly for practical reasons: “This is one of the most extensively documented of his works,” says the curator, “and so it works as a powerful stand-alone piece.”
How we call it - the “must see” works of this year’s Biennale of Sydney.
By Gina Fairley
MARCH 19, 2014
With 94 artists across five venues the 19th Biennale of Sydney takes you to the place of imagination and dreams, but how do you navigate such a wide birth of physical and emotional space?
In her opening remarks Curator Juliana Engberg said ‘this is a slow biennale’. One can only agree with her; the exhibition is heavily focused towards video works, many of which are a slow reveal. It is an exhibition that needs to be viewed in bites, digested and then return rejuvenated ready for more. Perhaps it is the perfect curatorial tactic?
Given this reach, as one would expect, each of the venues take on a certain mood. Carriageworks, a new partner venue this year, lends itself to the black-box presentation, its huge darkened space almost exclusively screen-based artworks except for the odd punctuation of light and colour through installation. A group of paintings by Anna Tuori particularly jump out, almost as a folly or after-thought to include something on canvas.
While this might sound trite in its criticism, Carriageworks performed extremely well as a space, the sound bleeds controlled and sense of journey through the space offering interesting pairings and bounce, but be sure to set a day aside for this venue alone.
In contrast, Cockatoo Island – that other raw industrial site – was a platform for the fantastical and the child-like. I suppose it was the open slate upon which Engberg could give voice to her theme You Imagine What You Desire. But something lacked at Cockatoo Island; it was not the usual tension where an artwork is overwhelmed by the scale and visual narrative of the site. Rather the “fun factory” of ideas lacked weight in places, the stronger works easily missed such as Ignas Krunglevicius’ powerful text work in a distant corner of the island, or Mikala Dwyer stunning installation of floating plastic forms.
The more conventional gallery spaces worked in favour of this exhibition. The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) arguably was the jewel of the biennale, closely followed by the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW). However, the placement sometimes let the pieces down, such as Rosa Barba’s floating video that was placed in a thorough-fare, leaving the visitor awkwardly skirting by, projected onto the landscape while trying to overt it. Was it intentional or not, remained unclear. Some pieces had too much space while others not enough.
As a whole – and despite the lead up to this event – the tone of politics and agitation did not take centre stage. The most resounding feeling walking away was a sense of widening our world, not through a awe in the type of work shown, but the geographic reach.
On first glance this biennale is emphatically ‘non-Asian’ in flavor and decidedly less American than past editions, turning instead to what could be described as a Nordic wedge: Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and heading down into The Netherlands, Brussels, Belgium with a strong group from Switzerland, and then further into a Euro-centric vision. And, if for that reason alone, this biennale stands up as one to be considered seriously by local audiences.
Where to start? To help you navigate your way, we give you our top ten “must see” artworks in this 19th Biennale of Sydney:
1. Roni Horn - MCA
Glass like you have never seen it!
Cast and finely polished, these vessels capture a luminosity and liquidity that speaks of the fragility and reverence we hold for water. Caught between illusion and reflection,Ten liquid incidents (2010-2012), is a contemplative and sublime space that stands within the biennale bravado.
2. Pipilotti Rist - MCA
Swiss sensation Rist has created an immersive video environment that plays with magnification, colour saturation and spatial disorientation as we drift underwater, float across floral fields and soar alpine zones. A new work, Rist has described Mercy Garden Retour Skin, as an ‘aquarium experience’, one earthed by a floatilla of cushions made from recycled clothing and shaped in body-froms. Simply, this work is big: big technically, spatially and experientially.
3. Eva Koch - Cockatoo Island
If we are talking scale, then I am the River (2012) is next on list. Pitting the power of nature against industry – appropriately shown in Cockatoo Island’s iconic Turbine Shop – this indoor waterfall challenges the scale of the site both physically and aurally. Not dissimilar to a Chinese scroll in format but with a nordic twist (it is Icelands Gljufrabui), it returns energy and life to this disused space.
4. Ignas Krunglevicius - Cockatoo Island
In comparison quiet modest, this is one of the most powerful works in this year’s biennale. Interrogation (2009) takes the police transcript of an interview with alleged murderer Mary Kovic who killed her husband with his shotgun. It is a emotive story conveyed entirely by text, block colour and minimal electronic sound (the artist trained as a composer) which mirrored the phrasing of the interrogation. It is a fabulous reminder that a well construction piece can make a big impact.
5. Michael Cook – AGNSW
Another seemingly uncomplicated but complex work is that of Bidjara artist, Michael Cook, a new series titled Majority Rule. The same male protagonist is duplicated and reclaiming certain sites, and yet there is an undertow of melancholy in these images that hints at a lack of resolve. Cook calls them ‘modern dreamings’; they are unbelievably eloquent and elegant works by an artist we should all be noting.
6. Henry Coombes – Carriageworks
The sense of story telling continues with this single-channel work by UK artist Coombes, which seemingly goes into the mind of an architect stepping from the logical analytical practice to an emotional and impulsive space. Music is key to this video work, which is at time delightfully amusing and others haunting.
7. Angelica Mesiti – AGNSW
Engberg’s show is very aurally alert, and that is one of its strengths. Another example, is Mesiti’s three-channel video piece In the Ear of the Tyrant (2013-14), which fuses a Greek song sung in an Italian tradition and ancient Sicilian site. Simply, it is a lament for those who have died - metaphor to a dying tradition – ‘Prefiche’ or professional female mourners at funerals. Filmed in an acoustically resonant limestone caves, sadly this piece needed to be presented in a more immersive context – bigger, louder - drawing the viewer into the emotion.
8. Douglas Gordon – MCA
Equally dramatic was Scottish artist Douglas Gordon’s work Phantom (2001), a semi-surreal encounter with a grand piano and eye. Presented in extremely low light levels (favoured by Engberg across the show), the music of Rufus Wainwright filled the gallery; a grand piano mirrored by another burnt on the ground. But it is that eye, moving between states of open, gluggy, blackened and pearcing. And…beware of the mirror!
9. Jim Lambie – MCA
How many rolls of vinyl tape did Lambie use to create his optical-pop floor at the MCA? Enough to tape his way home to Scotland. A unique site responsive work from his series Zobop, Lambie adds sculptural elements usually made from found materials to confuse, conflict and conflate the mechanical and manufactured with a sense of hand.
10. Gerda Steiner & Jörg Lenzlinger – Cockatoo Island
And why not finished with something a bit more fun. With the title Bush power, this is like no gym you know! Disused equipment take on new life in a percussive role, triggered by human energy. These fantastical machines of sound, colour and found material are a fabulous pun on the notions of power, energy and industry with the site of Cockatoo Island.
Other worthy mentions include: TV Moore, David Claerbout, Yhonnie Scarce, Shannon Te Ao, Ulla von Brandenburg, Ugo Rondinone’s 59 bronze birds at Artspace… the list goes on.
The 19th Biennale of Sydney
21 March - 9 June
The cavernous Eveleigh venue is the epicentre of the Biennale’s cinematic programming
MARCH 20, 2014
Carriageworks is housing the Biennale in its new wing, and are capitalising on the dark, cavernous space with a number of cinema works. The overall theme of the venue is theatre and cinema, with a focus on works that reinterpret, appropriate and subvert the language of those mediums.
Tacita Dean: ‘Event for a Stage’
Arguably the biggest name on the Biennale lineup, this British artist (Berlin-based these days) is a big deal: in 1998, at 33, she was a finalist for the Turner; at 35 she had a retrospective show at the Tate. In 2011 she presented her larger-than-life tribute to cinema, ‘FILM (2011-2012)’ -– a giant trompe l’oeil celluloid strip – in the Tate’s Turbine Hall. Cinema is more than a medium for Dean, however – it’s a philosophy. She is currently trying to get film – the material (celluloid), the process and the resulting visuals – recognized by UNESCO as an endangered, heritage-listed language (in the same category, say, as various indigenous dialects). For the Biennale, Dean will create her first ever performance work. You can assume it will be a hot ticket. Times and prices TBC. May 1-4.
More: Tacita Dean In Conversation with Juliana Engberg. Carriageworks, May 4, 2pm-3pm. Free.
Mathias Poledna: ‘A Village by the Sea’
This six-minute slice of black-and-white cinema is described by Biennale director Juliana Engberg as “a little bubble of a musical”. Poledna, a video artist who has represented Austria in the Venice Biennale and has previously harnessed the cinema aesthetics of bygone eras to great effect, here channels the look and elaborate modes of production of 1930s Hollywood musicals: filming took place on the Warner Brothers sound stage at Burbank with full orchestra. Of course, there’s more to this piece than what you see on the surface (pay attention to those lyrics). Daily 10am-6pm. Free.
Hadley+Maxwell: “Manners, Habits, and Other Received Ideas”
The duo deconstruct public art and reconstruct it as playful and surreal mashups. For the Biennale, they took copies of various bits of public art in Sydney.
By Joanna Mendelssohn
MARCH 20, 2014
Over its 41-year history the recipe for a successful Biennale of Sydney has remained remarkably consistent. There are three ingredients and all three need to work in harmony for the exhibition to properly succeed.
The first is to include works or artists who have been prominent at recent major arts events in other distant parts of the world.
When the Biennale started, international air travel was about 10-times more expensive than it is today and the world wide web wasn’t even a glimmer in Tim Berners-Lee’s eye. In those early years the Biennale was crucial for eliminating cultural distance.
But as the Biennale has evolved from an elite event into a genuinely popular art festival, many (indeed most) who attend are not the normal habitués of the Venice Biennale, the Kassel Documenta, the Whitney Biennial or the like. As many international artists travel to install their work, Biennale time has become an occasion for significant cultural exchange between artists and a development opportunity for students.
By this measure, the 19th Biennale of Sydney, directed by curator Juliana Engberg, is a success.
Its signature image comes from Scottish artist Douglas Gordon’s 2011 installation Phantom, well presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art, which also shows fellow Scot Jim Lambie’s Zobop, a 2014 reworking of an idea with masking tape that saw its first outing in Glasgow in 1999.
The persistence of this colourful hard-edge approach to art, combined with the political protests that preceded the launch, gives the whole exhibition a sense of living in the late 1960s when hard-edge was king and protests were on the streets.
There is a surprisingly large proportion of work from the Anglosphere this time round, but to my mind the more interesting works come from elsewhere.
One of the most beautiful installations is Romanian artist Mircea Cantor’s Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, which combines video, words written in dynamite caps and a giant double helix, made out of safety pins – all pointing to the beauty and the fragility of life.
Even more compelling is Chinese artist Yingmei Duan’s installation – Happy Yingmei, made originally in 2011 at the Lilith Performance Studio in Malmö.
For the duration of the Biennale, she is living in a “cave” in the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Here, at the end of a leaf-strewn path, she sings and as the visitor progresses she approaches them. When I saw her, she pressed a note into my hand. It reads:
I have a good friend from Zimbabwe. He and his family struggle to survive. Could you please look on the internet to see what life is like for people living in this country?
But the song never stops. It is an uncannily beautiful work.
The outstanding piece at Cockatoo Island on Sydney Harbour is the Norwegian Tori Wrånes‘ BOBO This I can’t tell you. The combination of brass music, song, a giant stone pendulum and the artist dressed as a troll is both compelling and unnerving. The work dates from 2009 but is by itself enough to justify the ferry ride from Circular Quay.
Other choices are less fortunate. Danish duo Randi & Katrine’s The Village is described as “a parable and a representation of a community ideal”. Unfortunately placed in the rugged industrial context of the Turbine Hall it looks like a tryout for a department store’s Christmas installation. All it needs is fake snow and Santa Claus.
The local element
The second element for Biennale success is that the exhibition includes works by local artists – both the edgy next generation and well-established stars.
Putting our art in context is central to developing a visual conversation. Engberg’s is a curiously unadventurous selection. Most of the artists have exhibited in many earlier major survey exhibitions – in the case of the Melburnian Callum Morton even at the Venice Biennale.
One of the few works to reach beyond the slick is Angelica Mesiti’s In the Ear of the Tyrant, a traditional lament for impending doom, sung in a cave in Sicily. Michael Cook’s digitally manipulated photographs play tricks that work, so intelligence and humour aren’t the problem.
Hanging it all together
The difference between a merely adequate exhibition and a very good one is the way the works are placed in conjunction with each other to create a coherent argument or compelling narrative.
While there are small sections of the Biennale that do this – such as the videos linked by the black caves of Carriageworks anchored by Gabriel Lester’s creepy house, and the way Danish artist Eva Koch’s giant I am the River meets Tori Wrånes’ BOBO This I Can’t Tell You – most of the exhibition lacks a sense of any overarching curatorial direction.
Nathan Coley’s textual variations on the exhibition’s title, placed at the entrance of various venues just look twee.
There is more visual coherence in the installations at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Museum of Contemporary Art, but that is because both the spaces and staff can make anything look good. The new huge bays at Carriageworks in Redfern are brilliant for showing videos – but visitors will need to bring their own torches as a devotion to black makes navigation difficult.
It is perhaps unfortunate that this Biennale coincides with the Adelaide Biennale, which shows that it is possible to create a passionate argument with art working together on many levels within a survey exhibition.
Sydney-dwellers should definitely spend some time at the Biennale of Sydney, and try to pick up on the public programs. Those from interstate who are planning a Sydney visit should certainly include it on their itinerary. But international lovers of the contemporary, who will be familiar with most of the Sydney art, should make sure they don’t leave the country without visiting Adelaide.
The Biennale of Sydney opens this weekend and runs until June 9. Details here.
Image1:Audiences are invited to hop aboard Callum Morton’s Google Ghost Train as part of this year’s Biennale of Sydney. AAP Image/Quentin Jones
Image2: Jim Lambie with his work Zobop. AAP Image/Quentin Jones
Image3: Mircea Cantor’s Sic Transit Gloria Mundi. AAP Image/Quentin Jones
Image4: Tori Wrånes performs in the Turbine Hall at Cockatoo Island at the Sydney Biennale. AAP Image/Quentin Jones
Image5: Michael Cook’s Majority Rule Memorial 2014. AAP Image/Quentin Jones
By Fintan McDonnell
MARCH 19, 2014
Australia’s biggest contemporary visual arts festival, the Biennale of Sydney, will kick off on March 21st. The festival, held every two years, will exhibit artworks across Sydney from both local and international contemporary artists. The three-month long festival will also host artist talks, forums, film screenings, family days, performances, guided tours, and other special events.
Two Berlin-based international artists, Hadley Howes and Maxwell Stephens, will exhibit their installation, entitled Manners, Habits, and Other Received Ideas, at Carriageworks in Redfern.
“It’s our first artwork with the Sydney Biennale and it’s our first time in Australia,” Maxwell Stephens says. “We really enjoy it here, the climate is particularly amazing.”
Howes and Stephens’ installation features sculptures made using a black aluminium foil normally used for cinematic lighting effects, called Cinefoil. When pressed onto other sculptures Cinefoil forms a temporary skin over the sculpture. When removed the impression of the absent sculpture remains on the Cinefoil. The artists use these impressions to create the final sculptures.
“We look especially at gestures, symbols of power, symbols of status and different criteria like this,” Stephens says. “We have collected this huge inventory and from that inventory we make new structures. It’s the largest use of the material and we’ve evolved from human figures into architecture, so it’s a step forward for us.”
Howes and Stephens have been working together since 1997. They see the Biennale as important for sharing artistic ideas between artists.
“It’s like the equivalent of a conference,” Stephens says. “It’s this exchange between international artists and artists from Australia.”
The 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire begins with a launch party on March 20th at the Australian Technology Park, organised by The Events Authority. Tickets for the opening night party are $150. (FM)
Mar 21-Jun 9, various venues, Free.
Image: 'Manners, Habits, and Other Received Ideas' by Hadley+Maxwell, photo: Gunther Hang
By Andrew Aronowicz
MARCH 19, 2014
Raw and eclectic sounds in ELISION ensemble’s first concert at Sydney’s Carriageworks.
March 18, 2014
ELISION ensemble has gained an international reputation for performing the more daring and extreme forms of new music out there, and this concert at Sydney’s Carriageworks was no exception.
The evening saw numerous unconventional objects, including CDs used as trumpet mutes, bottles and squeaky toys pressed into service to create its unconventional sonic palette. The works themselves ranged from the soft, slurpy and fluttery to loud and often violent rasping and gasping.
Attending a concert at Carriageworks is part of the experience. The converted railyard buildings are all concrete and metal – quietly imposing their modern message in a space that was perfect for the cutting-edge contemporary specimens on ELISION’s program.
The evening began with two works by Boston-based composer Timothy McCormack, whose focus on the frequently uncomfortable physicality of sound pushed the performers to the brink. Peter Veale was particularly engaging with his virtuosic struggle on the oboe and expert multiphonics in the trio with violin and percussion. Benjamin Marks’s cantankerous trombone solo was also well handled in its daring range and often-absurdist gestures.
Australian Liza Lim’s ehwaz followed, and was similarly demanding of the performers. Tristram Williams managed the uncomfortable rawness and frantic energy of the trumpet part well, accompanied by Peter Neville’s cool and deftly controlled percussion.
Aaron Cassidy’s works offered a refreshing change through their more variegated use of colour. Peter Veale shone again in the one-minute athletic solo, memento/memorial, while Cassidy’s second work brought most of the ensemble onto the stage for a compelling, timbrally eclectic feast in And the scream, Bacon’s scream led by conductor Carl Rosman.
Following the interval, the evening took another turn, with ymrehanne krestos, a trio for flugelhorn, alto trombone and percussion by UK-based composer, Matthew Sargeant. The relentlessly busy monotony of the brass writing allowed Neville’s striking percussion to come through the hero.
Richard Barrett’s duet for bass flute and bass recorder, Adocentyn, was the soft, delicate contrast that the concert needed, and was an absolute standout, if not for its enchanting sonic melding of these two unlikely instruments, then for the compelling rapport between flautist Paula Rae and recorder player Genevieve Lacey.
The concert ended with an organised improvisation by Barrett, again calling on most of the ensemble, including Artistic Director Daryl Buckley on electric lap-steel guitar. An apt end to the concert, then, summarising the impossibly diverse sound world of the evening with a complex, pointillistic landscape that ranged from loud and grotesque shrieks to extremely soft blips and scratches. The ensemble presented a profoundly unified sense of gesture and intention.
With this highly visceral and diverse program, ELISION continues to cement its reputation as an ensemble of incredible range, virtuosity and vision.
ELISION are performing at Carriageworks again on Wednesday March 19.
Andrew Aronowicz is the 2013 AYO Music Presentation Fellow.
By S. Shakthidharan
Following on from the development at Carriageworks in 2013, my play A Counting and Cracking of Heads recently had a development at Melbourne Theatre Company as part of its Cybec Electric program. These were a series of staged readings, of scripts by playwrights from across the country.
While the 2013 Carriageworks development focused on the relationship between sound, performance and text, the MTC development was focused squarely on the script. It was the first time I was able to experience the play performed in full (it’s an epic work, following four generations of a family, from Sri Lanka to Australia and back again), and the reading had a big impact on the development of the script as it approaches final draft stage.
Here are some images from the first day of rehearsals.
Made possible through the generous support of the Cybec Foundation.
While my first year as Associate Artist was founded in research and development, my second year as Associate Artist is going to involve much more production - and my first artistic outcome at Carriageworks, Rizzy Maharajah’s 18th Birthday Party. Rizzy is a hybrid work, straddling the worlds of live and recorded music and film. The show at Carriageworks will at once be a live music concert and multi-channel film screening. This work will be re-edited into a feature film as well as a series of music videos – each artwork telling the same grand narrative in its own unique way.
We are currently auditioning for Rizzy and would love to hear from you if you think you fit the bill. Check out the details below!
Curiousworks in association with Carriageworks presents
Rizzy - a new, independent, Australian feature film.
Rizzy has two outcomes. First, Rizzy will debut at Carriageworks in October 2014 as a live audiovisual artwork – Rizzy Maharajah’s 18th Birthday Party. Thereafter it will be sent to film festivals and have screenings as a feature film.
"It is Western Sydney in 2001 and mateship remains the great Australian virtue.
Exploring the bond between friends from Western Sydney’s unrevealed cultures, Rizzy navigates the space between who we are for our mates and who we wish to be. Friendships are tested as Rizzy and his mates try to find their place in a world in transition.
We all have friends. We all have hardships. We all grow up.
Some things can be forgiven.”
Guido Gonzalez: Co-Writer/Co-Director
S. Shakthidharan: Co-Writer/Co-Director
Aimée Falzon: Assistant Director
Casting: 17th -25th March
Rehearsals: 28th April – 11 May
Shoot: 12th – 25th May
Submissions due in by Wednesday 12th March 2014.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your headshot, cv and role/s being suggested for. All general enquiries regarding the film are to be sent to this address also.
These roles are a mixture of paid and unpaid, depending on professional experience and type of role. Expenses will be paid.
Auditions will be held in Western Sydney. We are particularly interested in auditioning people from Western Sydney – even if you do not have much, or any, professional acting experience. If you grew up in Western Sydney and can relate to the film, please get in contact with us.
You can find out more about CuriousWorks and what we do at www.curiousworks.com.au
Male, 18 yrs, Fijian Indian
Rizzy has been raised most of his life by a single mum. He dreams of the high life, having success and wealth. He has a strong desire to impress people, he tends to behave a little out-of-place or self consciously at times. He’s conscious of a ‘Western-Sydney’ stigma placed on him. He often tries to be funny but fails and ends up being the butt of other’s jokes. But he is a good friend, there for his mates, was quite popular at school, was even school captain, yet part of him still feels ashamed about where he’s come from.
RIZZY’S MUM (Supporting)
Female, 40 – 45yrs Fijian-Indian
Friendly, honest, always smiling, always worried about feeding her son and his friends. She is a provider and has been a single parent since Rizzy was 4. She likes to engage in conversation with her son’s friends. Works at a dentist’s practice as a nurse/assistant.
Female, 19yrs, Anglo-Saxon
She has had a relatively affluent upper-middle-class upbringing, She has come from a good family. She is proud and secure in who she is, secure in her world. She likes to be in control but can be a little oblivious to realities outside her own. She has a medium build, fair skin and hair.
Male, 17yrs, Uruguayan
A soccer fanatic, but terrible at playing it. He has encyclopedic knowledge about soccer. A genuine friend, not a fighter. He likes to hang out with his friends, doesn’t drink and doesn’t smoke. He dances badly but charmingly. He is always willing to chip in for someone, always generous. He is tall, skinny a bit goofy.
Male, 17 yrs, Salvadoran
Short, stocky, and short tempered. Styles himself on Cyprus Hill, considers himself a homey. He’s one of Rizzy’s closest mates. Highly intelligent, a critical and deep thinker, politically savvy and socially aware. He came to Australia as a kid and refugee, his family is now broken up.
Male, 17yrs, Kiwi
The eldest son of loving and very poor family. He disguises his poverty well and gets on with things. He is outgoing, funny, friendly, here for a good time and a good laugh. He’s athletic, medium build, into footy basketball, soccer – all of it. He is a close friend of Rizzy’s.
Male, 17yrs, Chilean
Fernando cares a lot for his friends, always there for his mates, a bit of a ‘big brother’. He loves a good time, likes to get wasted with his friends. He loves sports – rugby and soccer. He despises cricket to the extent where he will change the TV in the pub if it’s playing cricket! Fernando is the biggest film buff, he dreams of being a film-maker. He comes from a separated home. He is one of the closest to Rizzy.
Male, 18yrs, Cambodian
Sam is very quiet, fairly reserved in public, keeps to himself but he loves to joke and get wasted with his close mates. If he gets mad – you won’t see it coming. He comes from a very broken home, has been through plenty of trauma as a child. He took on responsibility from a very young age. He is very close to Rizzy.
Male, 23yrs, Uruguayan
Short, stocky and chubby. He loves Australia and loves his culture too. He is outgoing, likes a good time. He doesn’t drink. He loves to drive fast cars. He is a big brother figure to Fernando, part of the inner circle.
Male, 16yrs, Chilean
Fernando’s little brother. He is curious, chubby, loveable – he has a great smile and a bit of a baby-face. He is treated like the little brother in the group. He loves to joke with the older boys, loves doing pranks. He is starting to associate with people in the area who are involved in crime.
Male, 17yrs, Chilean
Born in Chile, but his family fled to Mexico when he was young, so he considers himself Mexican. He is fun-loving, out-going, loud and somewhat sleazy. He is part of the inner circle of friends but is on his way out.
Male, 18yrs, Anglo-Celtic
He has a slight limp from a muscular disorder in his leg. He is out-going and sporty. He loves getting stoned and pissed, hanging out with his his friends. He is part of the inner circle of friends. He’s always telling his mates that they are Australian, even though they’ve come from all corners of the globe. Brendon’s mates like to call him Ned Kelly.
Male, 23yrs, Cambodian
Short and chubby, and crazy about basketball. He is a joker, and quite sentimental at times. He doesn’t drink, but he loves to smoke – a smokaholic. He loves poker and gambling.
TONY (Featured Extra)
Male, 19yrs, Serbian
Tony came from Serbia in the early 90’s. He’s outgoing, fun-loving, loves to party. He worries about his mates. He is part of the ‘outer-circle’ of Rizzy’s mates. Slight Serbian accent.
SIMON (Featured Extra)
Male, 21yrs, Serbian
Reserved, man of few words who only says what he means. Experienced a lot of trauma as a child. Simon is very quick to stop a fight and calm the situation. Everybody loves him. Slight Serbian accent.
BLUEY (Featured Extra)
Male, 38yrs, Anglo-Celtic
Very thin, substance abuser, looking to take out some anger, out for a battle with a big chip on his shoulder.
WOMEN AT BAR (Featured Extras)
Female 17- 19yrs, Asian or Eastern European
Outgoing, attention seeking, excited, seductive, loud. They’re out for a fun night.
BAR SECURITY (Featured Extras)
Male, 28 – 35yrs, Egyptian or Libyan
Friendly, they care about the patrons and they know the boys.
SHERIFF (Featured Extra)
Male, 38 – 45yrs
Large build, looks like he plays football. Helpful, assertive but not particularly rough.
BAR EXTRAS (Extra)
Male or Female, 19 – 45yrs, Cambodian / Vietnamese / Anglo
Extras to be in the bar scene. Some of the men are construction workers.
Male or Female, 19-23yrs, Southern European / Middle Eastern
Cool, preening, a little too self-interested.
S. Shakthidharan is the inaugural Carriageworks Associate Artist. Carriageworks will support and collaborate with Shakthidharan over the next three years to undertake a diverse program of professional development and mentorship that will underpin the development of a series of new Australian works. Shakthidharan’s practice focuses on collaboration with some of Australia’s most marginalised communities and the telling of Australian stories from ancient to contemporary migration from South and South East Asia to Australia.
Monday 17 March 2014: Carriageworks, The Keir Foundation and Dancehouse today announced the international judging panel for the first major Australian choreographic award. The Keir Choreographic Award is to be a new biennial award dedicated to the commissioning of new choreographic work and promoting innovation in contemporary dance.
Carriageworks, the Keir Foundation and Dancehouse have partnered for the first time to present the Award which will bring significant support and increased profiling to the contemporary dance sector, both nationally and internationally. Entries for the inaugural Award closed last month and partner organisations were delighted to receive an overwhelmingly high calibre of artist entries.
The partner organisations today announced that the international and national line-up of judges for this major new dance award will include a range of voices from the artistic community, from visual art through to dance. The final judging panel represents a range of eclectic and visionary personalities from Australia and around the world including: Mårten Spångberg, the acclaimed ‘bad boy’ of contemporary dance pushing the boundaries of the art form in polite society; Matthew Lyons, award-winning Curator at experimental cultural hub The Kitchen in New York; Josephine Ridge Creative Director of Melbourne Festival and one of Australia’s most experienced arts identities; Becky Hilton a leading Australian choreographer, director and teacher for festivals and companies nationally and internationally; and Phillip Keir, The Keir Foundation Director and visionary behind the Award.
Entry requirements called for professional artists with an established practice to enter by submitting a 5min video pitch with a choreographic idea of 20min in duration. The jury of arts personalities will now assess the initial video applications through a rigorous selection process with eight works being finalised and provided with commissioning funds. These eight works will be produced by Dancehouse and Carriageworks, with the same jury then being called upon to collectively select the semi-finalists and the winner of the Award.
‘Contemporary dance is thriving in Australia right now and yet there are few, if any, opportunities to showcase, reflect on and reward talent on a truly national level. This Award creates an exciting and unprecedented platform for all Australians to enjoy the very best contemporary dance work being made across the country. We are thrilled to be playing a part in the development of this landmark event in the dance sector,’ said Phillip Keir, Director of The Keir Foundation.
The Keir Choreographic Award will be supported and delivered by Dancehouse in Melbourne and Carriageworks in Sydney. A two-week season of the commissioned works will be presented at Dancehouse in Melbourne with a view to provide increased exposure for the artists. The jury will select four of the commissioned works to be presented at Carriageworks in Sydney for the finals. The winner will receive a $30,000 prize, with a further $10,000 prize in the hands of the voting audience. The impact of the Award is significantly enhanced by a new Australia Council initiative which provides $80,000 worth of funding for the commissioning of new work by the finalists.
Commissioned artists announced 25 March 2014
Rehearsal period 14 April – 29 June 2014
Dancehouse Season (Melbourne) 3-13 July 2014
Finals Carriageworks (Sydney) 16 - 19 July 2014
Becky Hilton is an Australian leading choreographer, director and pedagogue. She has performed in and contributed to the work of artists such as Russell Dumas, Stephen Petronio, Mathew Barney, Michael Clark, Tere O’Connor, John Jasperse, Margie Medlin, Lucy Guerin and many more. She has an established teaching practice and teaches in training institutions, for festivals and for companies nationally and internationally. Becky generates work in a variety of situations including large-scale community events, choreographies for tertiary institutions and commissioned work for companies. She was the 2010/11 recipient of a Fellowship from the Dance Board of the Australia Council. More recently, she has worked with Xavier Le Roy as part of Kaldor Project 13 Rooms and installed Tino Sehgal’s work at the Art Gallery NSW.
Phillip Keir - Phillip Keir trained as a theatre maker in the US, the UK and Germany. As a student he took dance class at the Merce Cunningham School before working as an intern with the Wooster Group and appearing at the Kitchen in New York. After working as Associate Director at the Sydney Theatre Company, he created NextMedia, an Australian publishing house specialising in popular culture magazines. In 2004 he established the Keir Foundation with a focus on the supporting of new commissions in the areas of performance and the visual arts and human rights in the Asia-Pacific region. The Keir foundation has supported dance from its inception, including works by Tanja Liedke, Kate Champion and Meryl Tankard. Phillip is member of the board of the Biennale of Sydney and London International Festival of Theatre.
Matthew Lyons is Curator at The Kitchen where he has organized numerous exhibitions, performance projects, concerts, screenings, and events since 2005. He has commissioned solo exhibitions of the work of Amy Granat, Sara Greenberger Rafferty, Glen Fogel, Vlatka Horvat, Alex Hubbard, Jacob Kassay, Matt Keegan and Eileen Quinlan, Jennie C. Jones, Virginia Overton, Jenny Perlin, Sean Raspet, Mika Tajima, and Joe Winter, as well as performances by luciana achugar, Jack Ferver and Marc Swanson, Maria Hassabi, Chase Granoff, Neal Medlyn, Emily Roysdon, robbinschilds, Jay Scheib, Adrienne Truscott, among many others. Group exhibitions he has co-organized include The View from a Volcano: The Kitchen’s Soho Years 1971-1985; One Minute More; Just Kick It Till It Breaks; Between Thought and Sound: Graphic Notation in Contemporary Music; and The Future As Disruption at The Kitchen. Outside of The Kitchen, he organized the group exhibitions Dance Dance Revolution at Columbia University and Character Generator at Eleven Rivington Gallery, NY. His writing has appeared in ASPECT Magazine, Flash Art, PERFORMA 07: Everywhere and All at Once, and Work the Room: A Handbook of Performance Strategies. As a Contributing Editor at Movement Research Performance Journal, he edits the Six Sides, Typologically Distinct: Black Box / White Cube series which he initiated in 2009.
Josephine Ridge is one of Australia’s most experienced and internationally respected arts identities. She is currently the Creative Director at Melbourne Festival. From 2003 to 2012 she was at Sydney Festival as General Manager, followed by Executive Director and co-CEO. Josephine has had extensive experience in a varied number of roles across the arts, as Deputy General Manager of Australian Ballet, Deputy General Manager of Australian Chamber Orchestra, and Marketing Manager of Playbox Theatre Company. She has also held positions in the visual arts arena, including membership on the Board of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in Melbourne, and is currently a Board Member of the Tarrawarra Museum of Art in Victoria’s Yarra Valley. Her experience includes periods of development with a focus on brand and organizational repositioning, which will prove to be beneficial as she meets the challenges of a changing arts landscape.
Mårten Spångberg is a choreographer living and working in Stockholm. His interests concern choreography in an expanded field, something that he has approached through experimental practices and creative process in multiplicity of formats and expressions. He has been active on stage as performer and creator since ‘94, and has since ‘99 created his own choreographies, from solos to larger scale works, which has toured internationally. Under the label International Festival he collaborated with the architect Tor Lindstrand he engaged in social and expanded choreography. From 1996 – 2005 Spångberg organized and curated festivals in Sweden and internationally. He initiated the network organization INPEX in 2006, has thorough experience in teaching both theory and practice and was director for the MA program in choreography at the Univ. of Dance in Stockholm 2008 - 2012. In 2011 his first book Spangbergianism was published.
Tracey Clement provides a guide to navigating Australia's largest visual arts festival.
MARCH 16, 2014
The Biennale of Sydney opens this week and it’s a bit like the circus coming to town: hotly anticipated, exciting, tantalisingly edgy and sometimes controversial.
For the 19th Biennale, artistic director Juliana Engberg has gathered together more than 85 artists from 28 countries under the theme ”You Imagine What You Desire”. From interactive kinetic sculptures and massive site-specific installations to performances, a smart-phone ”enhanced reality” walking tour and long-form films, the program is full of artworks that will delight and intrigue, provoke and amuse.
This time around, Australia’s largest festival of contemporary visual arts will be staged across Sydney’s CBD as well as Cockatoo Island, the Art Gallery of NSW, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Carriageworks and Artspace in Woolloomooloo. Each venue has been given a distinctive atmosphere.
"The MCA is a kind of air/water space for me,” Engberg says. ”Here visitors will find more liquious, melted things as well as floating free-spirited things. Surrealist, psychologically charged works live here.
”At AGNSW - a more promethean space of earth and fire - the visitor will find human stories, and works that seek change and transformation in society and people.
"At Carriageworks we find many works that live in the dreams of theatrical and film worlds but transformed to sculptural or distilled ideas. At Artspace we have our flights of fancy with the wonderful migratory birds of Ugo Rondinone [Swiss/US] and the strange worlds of Henna-Riikka Halonen [Finland], Sol Archer [Japan/Britain] and Maxime Rossi [France].
”And finally, in the city itself, we have a number of performances and navigations that will infiltrate their way into the urban life of city workers and dwellers.”
Cockatoo Island is again in the Biennale’s spotlight. This is where Engberg showcases the wackiest, most energetic and interactive artworks. “The island suggests a kind of wild unknown place, a fantasy place and even a kind of fun park,” she says. “So I’ve played up to this imaginary idea by creating a children’s village, mystery rides, spooky sound spaces - you know, the works!”
On Cockatoo Island will be artworks that invite you to get involved and use the power of laughter to create what she calls “happy anarchy” in pieces such as “the wondrous gymnasium” created by Swiss artists Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger. “As you work your muscle power you make all manner of sounds including hoinks, farts, organ noises,” Engberg says. “It’s impossible for people not to laugh out loud.”
The Biennale provides both serious art and serious fun. Angelica Mesiti, one of 20 exhibiting Australian artists, says it’s a chance “to engage with contemporary art from around the world that is very current - the work that people are producing now”.
With six venues featuring hundreds of artworks, it’s lucky the Biennale is on for three months. More than 665,000 people visited the last Biennale, in 2012, so make the most of its website to plan itineraries around your particular interests.
Be sure to give yourself plenty of time. Cockatoo Island alone can easily take several hours, or pack a picnic and make it a day trip. Don’t forget to book the Biennale ferry online. It costs $7 return (free for children under 16) and pre-booking is required. The CBD, MCA, AGNSW and Artspace are all within reasonably easy walking or cycling distance of each other, and Carrigeworks is close to Redfern station.
But it doesn’t matter how you travel to the Biennale of Sydney, just get out there and, as Mesiti says, see “what the impulse to create art is about”.
Six of the best
Douglas Gordon and Rufus Wainwright - at MCA The Scottish artist and the American/Canadian singer-songwriter collaborate on Phantom, a multi-media installation with a burned piano, Wainwright’s voice and a projection of his enormous blinking eye.
Deborah Kelly - at AGNSW The Aussie artist presents a selection of her erotically charged and politically pointed signature-style photo collages.
Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger - at Cockatoo Island Biennale artistic director Juliana Engberg calls the Swiss artists’ person-powered installation “a kinetic wonderland of gizmos and noise”.
Future Poland - at Artspace Several Polish artists featured in the Biennale discuss making art after communism. March 24, 6pm, free.
Tacita Dean - at Carriageworks The world premiere of the British artist’s latest art/theatre mash-up, Event for a Stage. Four nights only, May 1-4. $25-$35, bookings open March 21.
Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller - at The Rocks Download the app on your smartphone and follow the Canadian artists’ City of Forking Paths. This specially commissioned City of Sydney Legacy Artwork will become a permanent feature of the city. From May 1.
The Biennale of Sydney runs from March 21 to June 9.
Image1: Dreamy: Henne Rikke Halonen’s Moderate Manipulations.
Image2: A video still from Douglas Gordon and Rufus Wainwright’s Phantom.
Image3: Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger’s Souls.
By Jason Blake
MARCH 14, 2014
Ganesh vs the Third Reich
Carriageworks, March 12
Until March 15
Multi-layered, seductive, funny and quietly devastating, Ganesh vs the Third Reich provides its audience with an endlessly shifting experience.
It’s a difficult work to encapsulate. A quartet of actors with perceived intellectual disabilities, wrangled by a director with significant personality impairments, are in the process of creating a new work in which Ganesh, the elephant-headed Indian god (whose specialities include arts, science and the removal of obstacles), travels to Germany in 1943 to retrieve the sacred Hindu swastika from the Nazi grasp.
Neat idea, yes? A show about a group of performers facing their own hurdles working up a show in which Ganesh prevails over Hitler’s mass murderers and eugenicists? Well, yes and no.
In a structure faintly echoing the onstage-offstage antics of Noises Off, Bruce Gladwin’s production for Back to Back Theatre lifts the curtain on the comically traumatic world of a show’s creation.
Central is the fraught relationship between Scott Price, who, playing himself, chips away with awkward ethical questions about this conflation of superhero comic and Holocaust narrative, and David (Luke Ryan), a director whose smoothly bullying style is tested to breaking point.
As we are drawn into and then pulled out of Ganesh’s quest (eerily depicted between layers of semi-translucent PVC curtain with performer Brian Tilley in an elephant mask), the two sides of the production begin to speak to and of each other.
Having the director double as Dr Josef Mengele, the Nazi scientist and torturer, compels us to re-evaluate David’s treatment of his actors. His demonstrations of how a body reacts to being shot in the head take a disturbing edge.
Image1: Story beneath the surface: Ganesh vs the Third Reich. Photo: Jeff Busby
Image2: Play within a play: Simon Laherty, in Nazi uniform, and Brian Tilley as Ganesh.
By Lloyd Bradford-Syke
MARCH 14, 2014
Who knows by what perverse, organic thought-train a concept like Ganesh vs The Third Reich travels; what station it gets on at, or its destination? Whatever the actual process, it’s a grand idea: somehow have the Hindu god travel from India to Germany to take back the swastika, appropriated by Hitler. So, Hitler, Ganesh and six million Jews go into a bar. Well, not quite. But Back to Back Theatre wouldn’t be afraid to go there. Or anywhere. They’re out to provoke us, for our own good.
In the program notes artistic director Bruce Gladwin recalls how excited by the idea the company was, but, for a time, it feared toying with taboos centred around religion and the Holocaust. But then, in essence, the collaborators said ‘to hell with it!’ and took the risk.
It’s a risk that’s more than paid off. Since its 2011 premiere at the Melbourne Festival the work has toured 16 countries on four continents. The work has two strands: one, the fantastical notion of the Hindu god reclaiming the prized, ancient symbol for auspiciousness and, two, a comical, mercilessly self-mocking documentation of the process of the work’s development.
The first strand is, in its way, philosophically lofty, delving as it does into a more general discussion about the power of myth and symbol. The language it indulges pitches symbols as veritable gods. Thus, put your finger through its skin and you’re liable to find your god hollow. The second couldn’t be more divergent and the starkness is cued with lighting (Andrew Livingston, of Bluebottle): the subtleties and shadings contrived for the first giving way to flickering flouros; just as Hitler dragged the civilised world, its head buried in ideas and sublimity, kicking and screaming into a period all too down-to-earth, or under it.
Hidden, or not so hidden, beneath this seeming battle between good and evil is a potent irony: according to legend, the elephant-headed Ganesh came to be as we find him in a battle with an apparent stranger, approaching the gate he was guarding. Ganesh came off the worse for wear, losing his head in this encounter with his estranged father (who he’d never known), Shiva, finally returning home. Ganesh’ understandably pissed-off (well, grieving, actually) mother, Pavati, insisted Ganesh’ severed head be restored.
Obviously, as is so often the case with religious stories, brutal violence is implicated: if this is the best the gods can do, what can be expected of mere mortals? We aspire to be gods, of course. We’re reminded of just how poor our record is through the chilling example of The White Angel (or, more pointedly, Angel of Death), Josef Mengele, who escaped prosecution for the duration of his life. Gladwin plays this and other German roles with pseudo-Teutonic tautness.
Veering between the two strands or conceits works well, up to a point, but I was disappointed (as were others with whom I spoke) the Ganesh story wasn’t more vigorously pursued. Its considerable promise isn’t sustained; it ends up going nowhere, making something of a furphy of the title, as, if anything it’s the ‘making of’ element that takes over. The script is consistently excellent (clever, comical and pointed), but some scenes linger a little too long.
Gladwin’s design (a credit shared with Mark Cuthbertson) is highly original and effective. Little, if anything, more than a few tables, chairs and clothes racks serve as props for the ‘offstage’ scenes, while the Ganesh theme is evoked via a series of semi-opaque plastic curtains, onto which are printed various designs: a forest; train windows; and so on.
Rhian Hinkley’s shadow puppet-like animation is bewitching. Johann Johannsson’s composition is dramatic at all the right moments and none of the wrong ones. Shio Otani’s costume design, whether faithful or not, certainly imparts mystical power to both Ganesh and Hitler. There are so many deft hands on this production you could be excused another Hindu god’s fingerprints (Kali’s) were on it.
Above all, perhaps, the devisors and performers: Gladwin, loveable Mark Deans, Marcia Ferguson, Nicki Holland, Simon Laherty Sarah Mainwaring, Scott Price, Kate Sulan, Brian Tilley, David Woods and Luke Ryan. That so many contributors have arrived at such a cohesive script is about the best advertisement for collaboration I’ve ever seen: it’s packed tight with high-five moments, as when, early on Simon and Brian, who’s cast as the main author of the play, discuss roles. Better and more bravely, yet, they throw caution completely to the wind in intermingling the comedic with the inviolably tragic.
Simon: What sort of part would I play?
Brian: I play Ganesh, God of overcoming obstacles. Maybe you could be one of the obstacles?
By Simon Binns
MARCH 13, 2014
Back to Back Theatre take on cultural appropriation and the politics of representation - and win.
Debuting at Melbourne’s Malthouse theatre in 2011, Ganesh Versus the Third Reich has gone on to be performed in 18 cities to critical acclaim, putting Geelong’s 25-year-old company Back to Back Theatre on the world map. Its Sydney debut is long overdue.
Ganesh is comprised of two interwoven narratives: one the incredible tale of the Hindu god Ganesh travelling to Berlin to retrieve the stolen swastika from Hitler, the other the company’s development of the play. The process becomes a dialogue about cultural appropriation, representation, and how theatre is made (with some fascinating, if satirical, insights into rehearsal-room dynamics). It’s fertile ground – so much so that this show laid the groundwork for Back to Back’s subsequent show Super Discount (which premiered at Sydney Theatre Company last year).
Central to the success of Ganesh is the quality of its show-within-a-show. Too many times in meta works the “making the show” element is emphasised at the expense of the “work” they are putting on. Not here. The story of Ganesh’s journey from India to Germany is intriguing, engaging, moving. As he journeys further and further from his native home and his followers, our plucky hero’s powers fade – and yet he perseveres (true to his reputation as the ‘god of overcoming obstacles’). Along the way he meets Levi, a Jew on the run from Nazi scientist Mengele, and they help each other in their quests. Eventually Ganesh comes face to face with Hitler himself and the power of symbols is laid bare.
Told through incredible visual effects created by the work of various designers (director Bruce Gladwin, Mark Cuthbertson and Rhian Hinkley on sets and animation and Andrew Livingston on lights) and underscored by Jόhann Jόhannsson’s powerful compositions, the Ganesh tale is powerful as it is.
However with the added layer of reflection, the work becomes an entirely different beast, questioning its own right to exist and its method. At first it seems everyone is on board: the director David (a role devised by David Woods but played here by Luke Ryan) is gung-ho; the cast, in particular Brian Tilley as Ganesh and Simon Laherty as ‘a Jew’, are throwing themselves into their parts.
But company-member Scott Price has a problem – a couple, actually: Simon, who knows nothing about Judaism, shouldn’t be playing a Jew; Mark, unable to distinguish between reality and fantasy, shouldn’t be performing at all. Scott’s persistent are a catalyst for discussion – but also ramp up the tension in the rehearsal room, with some hefty interrogation of Back To Back’s role as a company of theatre-makers who have “nominated themselves to be perceived to have a disability”.
The strength of the ensemble is obvious: Tilley delivers charismatic moment after charismatic moment, playing ‘himself’ and Ganesh (wearing an incredible mask, courtesy of Sam Jinks and Paul Smits); Laherty trades in a disarming on-stage honesty; Price, frank to the point of being rude, gets some pearl lines; and Mark Deans has a mastery of comic timing and physicality matched by a capacity for powerful pathos.
There was definitely room for the show to go further with its investigations, particularly in regards to the moral responsibilities that come along with cultural appropriation, however their most recent two works suggest Back to Back are far more interested in raising questions than chasing answers.
By Lenny Ann Low
MARCH 11, 2014
Vivid Sydney 2014, the annual festival of light, music and ideas, has released the first line-up of acts, events and artists for this winter.
Now in its sixth year, the 18-day festival has expanded to Redfern with electronic music artists Pet Shop Boys performing three concerts (limited to 1500 people per night) at Carriageworks as part of a new event, Modulations, curated by Steven Pavlovic.
Vivid Live at the Sydney Opera House features exclusive performances from pioneering band the Pixies, as well as Giorgio Moroder and a collaboration between the Presets and the Australian Chamber Orchestra.
Vivid’s free light spectaculars returns with outdoor events such as Lighting the Sails, this year created by British group 59 Productions, who were part of the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 London Olympics and the theatre work War Horse.
Darling Harbour once again features French group Aquatique creating water and music fantasies via dancing fountains, water jets and lasers.
Customs House and the Museum of Contemporary House will feature projected art works and more than 50 new light installations will run along the foreshore between East Circular Quay to Campbell’s Cove and Walsh Bay.
The harbour will feature ferries and commercial vessels lit by coloured LED lights computer-controlled by satellite navigation.
Vivid Sydney attracted 800,000 people in 2013, adding an estimated $20 million to the NSW economy.
Image: Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe of the Pet Shop Boys.
By Anna Teresa Scheer
MARCH 11, 2014
This week, Back to Back Theatre’s 2012 production Ganesh versus the Third Reich will open at Sydney’s Carriageworks. The show has toured the world, winning awards and laudatory reviews in Montreal, Paris, Chicago, New York, London and Berlin.
Much successful work has been done by disability advocacy groups and national organisations to improve basic rights for people with disabilities, such as the right to employment, full access to transport and venues, and increasing government awareness of disability issues. Still, the status of actors with disabilities remains a work-in-progress in the often elite institution of theatre.
Disability live onstage
Over two decades, Back to Back’s work has broken ground in Australia by challenging the perception that theatre made by people with disabilities belongs to some lowly strata of community arts. As artistic director Bruce Gladwin comments, “within Australian society people with disabilities continue to be placed within the category of ‘the other’.”
Characters with disabilities appear frequently on film, with actors such as Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump, Dustin Hoffman in Rainman, Sean Penn in I Am Sam, and Sigourney Weaver in Snow Cake portraying characters with various disabilities.
Such films have tended to favour a narrative whereby the disabled protagonist can achieve the status of a “normal” person via some heroic achievement or overcoming of odds – but cinema and live theatre are very different mediums.
Companies and solo performers working with disabilities challenge the viewer to engage with their work in a way that encourages a different perception, one that avoids confusing disability with deficiency.
Whether they desire it or not, people with disabilities are frequently the objects of stares – yet they are not represented in most images about daily life.
Historically, disabled people involved in live public display were humiliatingly exhibited as freaks, or cast as the fool or village idiot – figures most of us are familiar with from childhood fairytales.
Cultural theorist Elizabeth Grosz writes that the “freak” pertains to ”an ambiguous being whose existence imperils categories and oppositions dominant in social life”. This ambiguity that attracts a conflicted gaze, that, “amounts to both willingness and shame” on the part of the spectator.
Back to Back has not sought to steer its work away from this conflict, but has instead, steered right into it.
Ganesh and the Third Reich, in particular, conjures images of the pathologising gaze of Nazi eugenicist Joseph Mengeles, notorious for his horrific experiments on those people considered “abnormal” in the Third Reich.
In Back to Back’s theatre, the doctor’s obsession with a perceived abnormality is now transposed to the spectator – who is perhaps looking for deficiency. The spectator may seek to diagnose and categorise the particular disability the individual actors may have – rather than acknowledging the performers as co-creators of the production. Such efforts to diagnose disability suggest that it is what constitutes the totality of a person and their abilities.
Whose neutral body are you looking at?
The spectatorly unease that Back to Back’s productions induce ruptures the theatrical experience for audiences accustomed to the established orthodoxies of western theatre. Traditional methods of actor training and conventional casting have placed disabled people at the margins of the theatre – not at the centre.
In western countries, actor training is predominantly focused around the concept of “the neutral body”. This neutral body is the ideal state upon which to build a character whose inner life is revealed by the actor’s emphasis upon physical features such as posture, gesture and gait. Via the body, the emotions, and even the moral core, of their character can apparently be read.
Theatre and performance are tools for a useful and therapeutic form of self-expression that focuses on the internal process of the performer – rather than her ability to transmit the themes of an artistic work to an audience via her skills as an actor or performer.
But, as performance and disability studies scholar Petra Kuppers incisively observes, “when disabled people perform, they are not primarily seen as performers, but as disabled people”. This in turn can lead to the conclusion that the disabled body – and, I would add, the mind labeled as such – is naturally about disability.
The rise of theatre with disabled actors
Back to Back’s work offers a vital challenge to such perceptions. The company has a high profile in the international arena – but it is not operating in isolation.
There are many companies – not to mention numerous solo performers – such as; Theater Thikwa and Theater RambaZamba, both in Berlin, Mind the Gap, Graeae, and Candoco Dance Company, all in the UK, Rawcus in Melbourne, Restless Dance Theatre in Adelaide and Theater Hora in Zürich who recently commissioned choreographer Jerome Bel to create a work with them that has since been shown at Documenta 13, the major European festivals and in New York.
These companies work with disabled actors and dancers in ways that disrupt received notions of the “normal” body and its privileged status. While their approaches and aesthetics are very different, what they collectively share is a repudiation of the medical model – the term employed by disability scholars to identify a framework that sees people with disabilities as patients, who in fact, want to be “normal”.
The apparently disabled actors and dancers in these companies are not concerned with ideals of normal but display a sense of ease in their own bodies and confidence in the abilities they have.
They do not see themselves as deficient or inferior to “real” actors. The kind of work Back to Back and their contemporaries make, challenges theatre to extend its repertoires beyond the classics that are still routinely scheduled in most venues and engage more fully with the people it has championed actors to represent, but who, until quite recently, have been prevented from representing themselves.
Ganesh versus the Third Reich plays at Sydney’s Carriageworks until 15 March.
Over two nights in March, Carriageworks presents ELISION, Australia’s leading new music ensemble. Established in Melbourne in 1986 but nowadays nomadic, ELISION has built a presence as one of the world’s important voices in new music, and is featured regularly in major festivals and new music programs across the globe. The ensemble’s aesthetic lies at the complex and virtuosic end of the contemporary classical spectrum, resolutely international in focus.
Daryl Buckley is ELISION’s Artistic Director and spoke with Carriageworks New Music Curator Louis Garrick.
LG: ELISION is usually regarded as Australia’s premier new music ensemble, yet Sydney performances have been rare and Australian appearances in general have become noticeably infrequent. What does it mean to be back, touring in Australia? Is this home?
DB: Home for me is where you start from and ELISION with all of its successive restarts, has had a number of homes ranging from the rich turmoil of the music scene of Melbourne in 1986 to a burgeoning Brisbane in 1996 to amazing Berlin in 2007 and beyond.
You always take home with you. How can you not? I don’t think of it as a static place defined by the singular…but as something that you take with you. In this way the idea of home becomes dynamic, constantly explored and re-understood, and always contingent upon what is happening in the world around you. Fluid. Through all of this has been a pleasure for ELISION to represent and be viewed as representing Australia.
LG: ELISION has always made much of its international outlook. To what extent can a Western new music ensemble be truly ‘international’?
DB: Certain places at certain times become highly resonant for arts and cultural practices and galvanise connections across the world. So to my mind ‘international’ is not simply an appellation to be used as a list of places visited. Although that can say a lot. It’s also in part about having a presence amongst those places and networks, those meeting points, about being ‘local’ to someone else’s memory, being part of their histories, references, and ongoing exchanges.
One of the great pleasures I’ve been able to enjoy in my recent years living in Manchester is being able to witness the uptake of ELISION ideas, repertoire and practices, the absorption of that work and the influence it has had on other creative practitioners, critics, commentators and musicologists! The way in which our performance of Barrett’s ‘Opening of the Mouth’ for the Perth Festival at Midland Railway Yards in 1997, our Ferneyhough Kairos CD recording release, the many performances of our work with Liza and others in Australia, have all found their way into becoming strong and critical reference points for others. I would never have seen this as clearly from the vantage point of Australian shores.
LG: ELISION is often associated with the so-called new complexity movement and composers such as Brian Ferneyhough and Michael Finnissy. What do you make of this label?
DB: Well, the term new complexity has progressed from a musicological label to one signalling otherness and fear for some observers and more recently, I guess, the use of the term has collapsed under the weight of its own (mis)use and people just move on- perhaps to the next journalistic tag! In retrospect I believe that part of the fury that that label invoked in Australia in the early 1990s arose from a form of anti-intellectualism, from a view that the intellectual life of music belonged to composers of other countries and was somehow un-Australian. Or should be. I recall one commentator opining something somewhere to the effect that ‘any bum can have an idea’. If only. It’s pretty self-eviscerating to the qualities and talents of your artists and audiences to deny them their faculties!
LG: There are several composers with whom ELISION has had an ongoing collaboration for many years. Two who come to mind immediately are the Australian Liza Lim, and the Welsh composer Richard Barrett. Both are featured in the Carriageworks concerts, including two new compositions by the latter. How important have such collaborations been to ELISION’s success?
DB: Both have been crucial. Certainly, in the late 80s, the shift away from being a composer-service based organisation defined within a nationalistic ambit was propelled by ELISION enjoying relationships with composers that took into account the idiosyncratic, the explorative potential of the musicians, and absorbed these potentials into the act of writing in ways that just took everything far-away from the profferings of orchestration handbooks, the copying of closely-held compositional models. What does it mean, what can it mean when a composer hears in their head not the sound of a ‘cello but Rosanne Hunt or Séverine Ballon playing the cello, of Peter Neville as opposed to an anonymous percussionist, of particular and special musicians like Tristram Williams, Benjamin Marks, Carl Rosman or Richard Haynes? Apropos of my earlier remarks I’ll think you will find if you look at some of the recorded comments I made in the early 90s I compared those possible musical relationships to the way in which the relationship between a choreographer and the bodies of dancers might individuate one another! I still believe this zone of intimacy and of co-creative impacts is where it all comes together at its best.
With Liza there have been three operas and the most amazing aesthetic journey across the terrain of her cross-cultural engagements with her own personal biography in South East-Asia and her friendships and experiences with Indigenous Australians. Liza’s work from the very outset has enjoyed an engagement with the world’s best ensembles and performers and since our time living in Europe this has only accelerated. To have been with her from the beginning is a rare privilege. To have been with the musicians of ELISION is another and second rare privilege.
LG: The Carriageworks concerts are titled “And the Scream, Bacon’s Scream” (18 Mar) and “To Another of that Other” (19 Mar). Can you tell us more??
DB: The extensive vocal practices of the dancers that have worked with the American choreographer William Forsythe have sparked a lot of commentary and have not been without controversy. In his work a simple movement of the body, a raised leg for instance, might trigger a further succession of bodily movements compressing the diaphragm and lungs and inevitably creating sound- a gasp, a scream, a rendering of text. ‘Intermodality’ refers to the experience of visual and sonic as a unified sensory experience and has been used by commentators to describe some of the radical practices proposed by Forsythe’s work wherein dance is not purely a watched but heard experience which defeats expectations of genre.
This same quality is in fact present and specific in varying degrees to all music performance: heard performance experiences which can also be seen.With these two Sydney concerts the ELISION repertoire brings to the fore and makes dramatically evident the performative aspects of the choreographic-in-music. Trilling fingers, lips, lung pressures, rapid hand gestures all assist an eversion of the described Forsythe choreographic priority. Here sound makes evident the physical and sets the body into constant motion. This rich saturation of information can happily thwart expectations through unexpected juxtapositions, shifts or interruptions. Use your ears but also at the same time your eyes!
The concert title comes from Aaron Cassidy’s work for nine musicians ‘And the scream, Bacon’s scream, is the operation through which the entire body escapes through the mouth (or, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion)’. The title is a very direct homage sourced from the Francis Bacon triptych. For many these paintings sum up and provide a visual bank for the horror of our times. The Cassidean ensemble piece takes this violence and the constant eruptive spasms of motion that performance of this music requires, and creates, not a black shadow leaving the body in forced eruptions, but something else- a very sensual trilling, almost a bird-like song language of the soul. Listen to Peter Veale and Richard Haynes play the musette and Eb clarinet parts in the performance at Carriageworks. At these points, for me at least, Aaron’s music provides an in-between glimpse of the body almost settling (but not quite) between moments of sheer exertion and the exhilarating quiet and realisation that follows. Ecstasy and joy gained through motion. A similar attitude might be shared with Matthew Sergeant’s Ymrehanne Kristos, a direct reference to the architecture of an especially significant church in Ethiopia, and the incessant addicted-to-movement dynamic of Timothy McCormack’s One Flat Thing Reproduced.
Here instability and the feeling of a constant almost fractured repetition is key and again sound is motion. But in one work, also by Aaron Cassidy, in this first concert, the sound runs out. Determined by the length of one breath, the duration of memento/memorial dedicated in memory of the leader of Ensemble Surplus, James Avery, is a heart-felt meditation upon life. One breath. Do with it what you can. That is all you have.
At the other end of the musical spectrum, Liza Lim’s Ehwaz (journeying) is made up of an ongoing melismatic thread envisaged as being spun through trance, shamanic energies and ecstatic searching. The line is an activity.
LG: And the second concert?
DB: The second programme is a window back into the first. Irish composer Anne Cleare’s music is visceral yet subtle; compressed blocked moments of instruments exchanging timbral identities, bleeding out, leaving trails and traces as they resonate into silences. Richard Barrett’s Lens gives me a chance to take the country and western or blues and roots narratives of the electric lap-steel and fling them into an altogether different universe. I especially commissioned this instrument from a guitar maker in Newcastle, UK. It’s a unique experiment to pioneer and re-imagine an instrument. And certainly this one is something like tackling a cross between an electric guitar and a trombone. What I feel when I play is amazing- the movement of the slide whipping back and forth, torsioning, snapping around like a string on a kite.
The second programme also focusses on the music of Russian composer Dmitri Kourliandski and his approach to layered and extreme contrasts. I suspect his work is new to Australian audiences and it’s great to have the opportunity of giving the world premiere of one of his pieces.
Crucially both programmes celebrate the players. That’s the thing about these scores. They are not delivered truths but an envisioning of sound that exists with and through the bodies of the players. The site of the body is a very obvious site of co-creation. Luke Paulding’s work ‘The abundance of breath’ for vocalist Deborah Kayser and trumpet player Tristram Williams makes this very clear. These works are very much a part of all of these players. As an artistic director I have always celebrated that relationship.
LG: And how do you feel about performing at Carriageworks for your first time?
DB: This question can only be answered with enthusiasm and expectation. I think it’s going to matter to be part of Carriageworks programme if for no other reason than Carriageworks will increasingly matter as part of Australian contemporary practice.
All Image Credits: Mario Popham
ELISION 18 -19 March 8pm
By Daryl Buckley
MARCH 10, 2014
As contemporary music legends make a rare Sydney visit, founder member Daryl Buckley talks about whet keeps them ticking.
In 1994 that doyen of Australian music commentators, Andrew Ford, in Limelight’s precursor 24hours reviewed an ELISION CD release on the Dutch label Etcetera.
“But it is the disc of the Welsh composer Richard Barrett’s music which so astonishes me. This is visceral stuff in the extreme, not music one would want – or be able – to listen to every day of the week, but important, original, personal, harrowing work, which simply demands a response. You may hate this music very much – as, indeed, I sometimes do but you could never ignore it. The performances are miraculous in their commitment: you picture the studio floor awash with sweat and blood at the end of the sessions; you imagine percussionist Peter Neville being led away to a month-long silent retreat after his performance of EARTH, even as trombonist Brett Kelly is booked in for facial reconstruction; you wonder what kinds of drugs Daryl Buckley had to take in order to grow the extra arm necessary to play colloid from the negatives series.”
It’s now been twenty years since those observations of Andrew’s. Twenty years in which ELISION made a move from Melbourne to a Brisbane-base for 12 years and then Berlin for two, to Huddersfield and Manchester in the UK for six and now heads back to Melbourne again in 2015. In this period of journeying ELISION always retained its Australian identity and coherence as an ensemble whether performing opera in the Fomenko theatre of Moscow or the Opera Bastille in Paris, concerts at the Judith Wright Centre Brisbane, Kings Place in London, Saitama Arts Centre near Tokyo or the new Bing Hall at Stanford University, USA. The long boomerang of journeying and returning gives me a chance to reflect on what has developed for ELISION in terms of its aesthetic choices and modes of working as well as the partnerships between people and ideas that have been most fruitful.
Andrew Ford highlighted the aspect of ELISION’s work focused on pushing physical boundaries in search of certain kinds of visceral expressive experiences and this approach is still at the core of our work. The body in extremis is still a benchmark of our repertoire. In a digitised world where physical presence is frequently replaced by avatars capable of generating enormously complex effects, we continue to be fascinated by an artisanal and intimately gestural approach to the production of music. Value is placed on the effort of a moment-to-moment working out of things and an attention to detail that can be traced between the body and its effects.
Part of the controversy attached to so-called ‘new complexity’ composers was always an anxiety about an inevitable ‘failure’ to realise the demands of the score. This presupposes a power relation in which the composer stands in godlike judgement over the performer’s ability to faithfully realise the score as if it were an architectural plan. ELISION’s interest however in engaging with demanding scores has been to explore co-creative processes of dialogue with composers in which musicians imagine, develop and build new technical and expressive means in which the score is a set of propositions for musical thinking. The point of virtuosity here is not the display of an effortless disengagement in which difficulty is hidden from view, but a dialogue and negotiation that exists between the performers and composers in which effort and the ‘making’ of the work becomes visible in a creative way.
Young composers are drawing upon new metaphors in their music and finding resonance in ideas from molecular biology, genetics and cognitive science. The results can be extroverted and exuberant, introspective and quiet, savage or quizzical. They are thinking about musical structures built not so much out of hierarchical blocks with clear identities – motives becoming melodies becoming large scale structures – but as organic materials in flux.
Irish composer Ann Cleare speaks of ‘infection’ and ‘seismology’ in relation to her music; American Timothy McCormack’s musical language is one of compressing and distending forces choreographed as an ensemble of gestures in an approach influenced by the choreographic processes of William Forsythe; transformation and distortion are also central to Aaron Cassidy’s work who speaks about music as a world of becoming influenced by the multiple perspectives Francis Bacon’s painting. In this work and in the work of the Australian Luke Paulding, the British composer Matthew Sergeant and the Russian composer Dmitri Kourliandski, physical gesture itself is often used as a musical material – that is, the performer’s body is not separated from ‘the music’ (the old anxiety about score accuracy) but to a large extent constitutes the music itself.
This relation between the body and musical meaning is also central to the work of Liza Lim and Richard Barrett who have been part of ELISION’s story from our earliest days. Their work has a panorama of colour that is perhaps different from the younger composers. Gesture is always connected to a virtuosity of hearing in terms of instrumental possibility and the co-creative aspect of their working perhaps lies more closely with a very deliberate personalisation of sound matched to specific players.
The use of words such as ‘difficulty’ and ‘virtuosity’ that in the past have been used to characterise ELISION’s work should therefore be seen as a way of opening up spaces of working in which musicians’ investment of time and energy is returned in highly personalised expressive materials that also rewards the investment of time and energy from an audience. ELISION’s Carriageworks programme offers a picture of both long-standing and new relationships between musicians and composers in which imaginary worlds of sound are grounded in a shared history of practice. The “miracle of commitment” continues after twenty years but, rather than some kind of prickly coat worn as penance, we celebrate the physical and the time spent as artisans of sound!
All images: Mario Popham
ELISION play Sydney’s Carriageweorks from March 18-19
FEBRUARY 19, 2014
ANDREA JAMES: You’ve both been an important part of Back to Back Theatre’s ensemble for a long time (Simon in 2003 and Scott in 2007). How did you hear about Back to Back Theatre and what made you decide to be full time actors with the Company?
SIMON LAHERTY: Well, I started doing Theatre of Speed in 1999 and later on I heard a guy was leaving the company, so I came in for the auditions. Then I got a call back about a week later. And then about a week after that Bruce gave me a call to say I got the position with Back to Back. I was very excited to get the position. Very exciting it was.
SCOTT PRICE: It was actually through disability networks, you know through St Lawrence. You know, with my career I think I actually wanted to do something in IT but this job came up and my career went in a different direction. I love this job, I think this is a great job, I’m doing acting and I love it.
ANDREA JAMES: You’ve both been involved in so many of Back to Back’s new theatre works, small metal objects, Food Court and most recently Super Discount which played at the Sydney Theatre Company. How and why did you begin making Ganesh Versus the Third Reich?
SIMON LAHERTY: Ganesh took about three years to make. We had a lot of other people come in to help us, like David Woods. He came in to audition for the role of Mengele and Director. We were all a part of the audition process. Rita Halabarec (past ensemble member) was drawing pictures of Ganesh every single day. Sonia Teuben (past ensemble member) also came in one day with her head shaved and had the voice of a neo-Nazi.
SCOTT PRICE: I can tell you this much. It was actually a combination of two things, yeah? It was two past members of Back to Back Theatre. One, she started drawing pictures of Ganesh, she was obsessed with Ganesh. And the other one, she actually came to work one day dressed up as a neo-Nazi, she had her head shaved and a bomber jacket. And the last part was the result of a Google search. And Bruce sat there and said obviously we have to make that play. I was pretty shocked at first; I thought maybe it wouldn’t be a good idea.
ANDREA JAMES: Although Back to Back Theatre is based in Geelong, you’ve been steadily building up an international audience and have had some very impressive touring schedules – Paris, Copenhagen, Zurich, Dublin, London, Tokyo, New York; to name a few - what has it been like travelling and performing around the world with Back to Back Theatre? What has been your favourite city and your most challenging city to perform in?
SIMON LAHERTY: I’ll put it in two words. It’s exciting. But it’s also very, very tiring. My favourite city has probably been Rotterdam. There was a huge, huge theatre, about 4 stories high. The most challenging would have to have been Tokyo. They were very quiet. It’s a cultural thing.
SCOTT PRICE: I think it varies, there’s a huge difference. I’d prefer not to talk about the most challenging city. It can bring up some hard memories.
ANDREA JAMES: Have you found the audiences very different in other countries – do they have different responses to you and your work?
SIMON LAHERTY: Mainly they find it funny or not. Or subtle. The people who were the most touched by it were the people in America. They were just really touched by it.
SCOTT PRICE: I think in Berlin they really loved it. They were thinking ‘Oh God this is going to be controversial’, yeah but they loved it.
ANDREA JAMES: Simon, in the production small metal objects you performed outdoors in very public locations – railway stations and shopping centre arcades where passers-by unwittingly became a part of your show. What was that experience like as a performer?
SIMON LAHERTY: small metal objects is a different kind of show all together. It was kind of exciting. But also a little bit scary. The hardest one we did was over in Hamburg. It was hard because we were on a drug dealer’s turf. We had a guy come over to us and say get out of here, this is our place not yours.
ANDREA JAMES: In your ensemble manifesto as a collective of artists you’ve said “We hope you will feel intoxicated by our shows, that our shows will entertain you, that our shows will make you question things.” How does the work Ganesh Versus the Third Reich help you to achieve this?
SIMON LAHERTY: I think with Ganesh, it’s mainly the journey of Ganesh going back into Nazi Germany to reclaim the swastika. I think that asks questions.
SCOTT PRICE: I don’t know, it’s really hard. I think there is some warm, fuzzy feel good moments but its also dark and there is also some shock through the audience. I think that shock has a lot to do with people questioning things.
ANDREA JAMES: How do you feel about bringing your work to Sydney again and presenting at Carriageworks?
SIMON LAHERTY: We were in Sydney last year. But doing Ganesh there, that’s something we’ve never done. And I think it will be fantastic.
SCOTT PRICE: I have been a couple of times, last year, and with my family. But yeah I’m actually feeling quite great about it.
ANDREA JAMES: Finally, what sort of show do you both want to make next?
SIMON LAHERTY: We’re in the process of making another show for 2016. Its called Party. We did a bit of development for it a couple of years ago. It’s like a short film. It’s different scenes about different subjects. It’s exciting.
SCOTT PRICE: Look probably something to do with science fiction I suppose. [In] Super Discount I found the superhero characters really fun. Maybe even something a bit futuristic.
Ganesh Versus The Third Reich
Back to Back Theatre
12 - 15 March
By Nicholas Forrest
FEBRUARY 3, 2014
French painter, sculptor, photographer, painter, and film maker Christian Boltanski is regarded as one of the most influential artists of his generation. Bordering on the obsessive, his interest in the concepts of life, death, memory, and childhood has given rise to some of the most talked-about works of art of the last 50 years, including one of his most well-known works, “Chance,” which is currently on show at Carriageworks in Sydney at part of the Sydney Festival.
The post-industrial architecture of Sydney’s Carriageworks is the perfect setting for “Chance,” which is made up of a two separate components. Running through the main structure, the giant pipe and scaffolding installation, is a fast-moving filmstrip consisting of photos of babies sourced from birth announcements in Polish newspapers. At each end of the structure is a digital clock, one of which counts the number of births across the world in real time, the other the number of deaths.
The second component of the work is a slot machine-style game that splits photographic portraits of young and old human faces into three segments and mixes the parts together, creating a rapidly circulating series of amalgamated faces. By pressing a button that pauses the images, visitors can create their own mismatched portrait, or try their hand at pausing the machine on the rare occasions that the face components match – a prize winning feat.
BLOUIN ARTINFO caught up with the artist when he was in Sydney to find out more about the inspiration behind “Chance.” See what Mr Boltanski had to say in the video - PLAY VIDEO
For more information on “Chance” visit the Carriageworks website.
By Lucy McNabb
FEBRUARY 4, 2014
For a glorious 48 hours you can make your own cheese with Kristen Allan, take a beer-brewing lesson from Young Henrys or, if it appeals, listen to a special talk…
Lovers of wine, food, music and art should check out Rootstock Festival, a two-day extravaganza of wine tasting, coffee brewing, live music and culinary creation soon to arrive at Carriageworks. For a glorious 48 hours you can make your own cheese with Kristen Allan, take a beer-brewing lesson from Young Henrys or, if it appeals, listen to a special talk entitled ‘The Semantics of Australian Wine and the rite of Communal Laughter’. If that gets too heavy, you can always wander off to sample some of the 200 wines on offer.
Nightbirds might enjoy the two foodie festivals set up for Saturday and Sunday evening. An impressive lineup of chefs, including Kylie Kwong (Billy Kwong) and Louis Tikaram (Longrain), will be set up at stalls, cooking dishes they’ve designed to complement their favourite wines. Which will also be on offer, naturally. With DJs, live music and a sake bar thrown in for good measure, it sounds like a fine way to make merry.
Ticket prices range from just $15 for a coffee-brewing class up to a $110 for a package that gets you into the wine festival and two masterclasses. Tight budget? Entry to the sustainable produce market on Sunday from 10am-4pm is free — although you may be tempted to buy an organic loaf or two.
By Elissa Blake
JANUARY 31, 2014
There’s a buzz in the live arts scene with all the major companies and venues offering rich and challenging pickings for savvy audiences who prefer to shop around for their entertainment rather than subscribe to seasons.
Belvoir maintains its edgy focus on the classics and new writing. Sydney Theatre Company is offering one of its broadest seasons in years. Griffin goes from strength to strength with its all-Australian programming and an emerging independent musical theatre scene is filling the programming gaps between blockbusters. The independent scene is revitalising fringe rooms such as Darlinghurst’s TAP Gallery and contemporary dance is expanding into new theatres.
Here’s a selection of some of the most intriguing offers of 2014.
HOT RISING STARS
RYAN CORR, ERYN-JEAN NORVILL, HARRY GREENWOOD, RARRIWUY HICK
While many ticket-buyers look for a big star - think Cate Blanchett - to guarantee a good night in the theatre, others are thrilled by new acting talent on stage. This year is looking exceptionally promising with Eryn-Jean Norvill, who impressed in The Boys at Griffin in 2012 and last year’s Romeo and Juliet at STC, performing in The Government Inspector at Belvoir and Cyrano de Bergerac at STC.
Film and television star Ryan Corr, who wowed audiences playing opposite Jacqueline Mackenzie in the STC’s Sex With Strangers in 2012, will play the handsome lead in Cyrano de Bergerac. Harry Greenwood, who was nominated for best newcomer at the Sydney Theatre Awards for his role in STC’s Fury last year, will perform at Belvoir in February in Once in Royal David’s City.
Star-spotters in the audience might notice Harry’s father, Hugo Weaving. Indigenous actress Rarriwuy Hick, who just performed in The Shadow King, an indigenous version of King Lear at the Sydney Festival, is expected to make an impact in her next role in Belvoir’s Brother’s Wreck, written by award-winning playwright Jada Alberts and directed by Leah Purcell.
ISABELLA ROSSELLINI: GREEN PORNO
Drawing on three short films Rossellini made for the Sundance Channel in the United States, the star of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (dressed in goofy animal onesies) delivers an illustrated lecture on the auto-erotic behaviour of dolphins, barnacle penises and the aggressive coupling habits of ducks. Sex? Yes, and lots of it. But sexy? Not so much, say the New York reviews. ”If anything,” wrote The New York Times’ Neil Genzlinger, ”it is likely to cause you to be creeped out by the very thought of such activity any time soon”. Then again, you might learn a thing or two.
March 22, City Recital Hall, Angel Place. Tickets $79-$99, bookings cityrecitalhall.com
BEST DRAG RACE
From Melbourne’s Sisters Grimm, the reigning queens of independent theatre, comes the story of Beverly Dumont, a fading Hollywood diva (played by the inimitable Paul Capsis) who is offered a last chance to strike gold on the silver screen. But in the wings stands her nemesis, Violet St Clair (Ash Flanders), younger, fresher and even more ruthless. At the top of the stairs, who dares to go first? Think Sunset Boulevard meets Whatever Happened to Baby Jane meets Showgirls - if you can.
Sydney Theatre Company Wharf 2, October 9 - November 8. Tickets $30-$55, bookings 9250 1777
BEST YOUNG GUNS
During the London Blitz of 1941, a gang of boys kept fear at bay by rehearsing and performing plays for the captive audiences of a bomb shelter. Inspired by their example, director Damien Ryan puts a questioning spin on what has come to be thought of as Shakespeare’s most patriotic and war-glorifying play. Ryan’s recent work with his own company, Sport for Jove, has been outstanding and with a fresh and talented cast at his disposal and the resources of Bell Shakespeare backing him, this is shaping up to be the most exciting Shakespearian prospect of 2014.
Sydney Opera House, October 21 - November 16. Tickets $35-$75, bookings 9250 7777
Griffin’s recent revivals of Australian classics - Speaking in Tongues, The Boys, The Floating World - have been remarkable. This year the company turns its attention to the sharpest of David Williamson’s satires, 1987’s Emerald City. Informed by the playwright’s own experiences, the story of a washed-up screenwriter seduced by Sydney’s glittering surface encapsulates everything we love and despise in the city we live in. Lee Lewis directs a cast featuring Marcus Graham and Ash Ricardo.
Griffin Theatre, October 17 - December 6. Tickets $32-$49, bookings 9361 3817
BEST HISTORY LESSON
Bangarra’s new production for 2014 brings to light the story of a young Eora woman named Patyegarang, whose relationship with First Fleet naval officer William Dawes, founded on a mutual interest in language and the stars, too briefly illuminated a way forward for the indigenous peoples of Australia and the colonial new arrivals. Jasmine Sheppard dances the title role in a production choreographed by Stephen Page and scored by David Page.
Sydney Opera House, June 13 - July 5, tickets TBA, bookings 9250 7777
GANESH VS THE THIRD REICH
On one level, this is the story of the elephant-headed god Ganesh on a mission to reclaim the Swastika - an ancient Hindu symbol - from the Nazis. On another it is the story of a young man inspired by Ganesh to create a play about overcoming obstacles. This being a Back-to-Back production, however, nothing is as simple as it seems. Sydney theatregoers have been waiting an age for this production, which comes to us from Geelong via Vienna, London, New York, Los Angeles, Calgary and Tokyo. Pent-up demand and a short season will make tickets hard to come by.
Carriageworks, March 12-15. Tickets $35, bookings ticketmaster.com.au
When Danish director Kasper Holten’s production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin debuted at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden last year, it provoked a critical lashing. ”[A] convincing demonstration of how an intelligent director can destroy one of the greatest operas in the repertoire,” huffed The Guardian’s opera critic, and that was one of the milder ones. Radical takes on cherished works can be mighty vexing to some opera-goers but Holten’s framing of this well-known story in flashback with the hero and heroine observing their younger selves performed by dancers sounds completely intriguing.
Sydney Opera House, February 28 - March 28, tickets $70-$315, bookings 9250 7777
BEST EACH-WAY BET
THE GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR
Simon Stone has yet to deliver a persuasive comedy - his tragic version of Ibsen’s The Wild Duck was his masterpiece - but Nikolai Gogol’s blend of manic situational comedy and unflinching send-ups of institutional idiocy offers no end of comic opportunities to a director of his talent. Greg Stone, Mitchell Butel, Gareth Davies, Zahra Newman and Eryn-Jean Norvill feature.
Belvoir, March 27 - May 18. Tickets $35-$68, bookings 969 3444
Talk about pressure. Millions of dollars are being bet on the success of Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of the movie that launched his international career. But that’s probably nothing compared to the weight being felt by its young stars, Thomas Lacey and Phoebe Panaretos, on whose largely unknown shoulders this story of a ballroom renegade and a blossoming wallflower rests. Heather Mitchell, Drew Forsythe, Robert Grubb, Bob Baines and Mark Owen-Taylor co-star. One way or another, this will be the most talked about show of the year.
Lyric Theatre from March 25. Tickets $60-$145, bookings ticketmaster.com.au
BEST STAR VEHICLE (BY A LONG NOSE)
CYRANO DE BERGERAC
The Sydney Theatre Company had a big hit in 1999 with this Andrew Upton/Marion Potts adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s rollicking story of the life and unrequited love of the swordsman-philosopher Cyrano de Bergerac. Richard Roxburgh joins the line of leading men who have played what is arguably the greatest role in dramatic literature. The hot-as Ryan Corr plays the handsome dimwit Christian and Eryn-Jean Norvill co-stars as the woman at the apex of a hilarious and tragic love triangle.
Sydney Theatre, Walsh Bay, November 11 - December 20. Tickets $50 - $93, bookings 9250 1777
By Nicholas Gordon
JANUARY 29, 2014
“Rootstock Sydney’s great success in 2013 was its inclusiveness – it was totally without snobbery or expectation of knowledge, it was great fun and easy to enjoy,” says Mike Bennie, one of the minds behind Rootstock Sydney, talking about last year’s festival.
This year, Rootstock Sydney aims to be bigger and better; it has extended to two days and has moved to a larger venue at Carriageworks. The wine showcase will be held over three sessions and will feature 200 Australian and international wines presented by 60 leading winemakers, with a focus on artisan, organic and biodynamic drops. The weekend will also offer wine, food and coffee masterclasses, a produce market, performances, an orange-wine bar and a sake bar.
Rootstock Sydney is the brainchild of five Sydney wine aficionados – the aforementioned Mike Bennie, wine writer for Australian Gourmet Traveller WINE and website The Wine Front; Giorgio de Maria, owner and sommelier of 121BC; James Hird of restaurants Wine Library and Vincent; and sake importers Matt Young and Linda Wiss of Black Market Sake.
As Bennie explains, “the five of us decided that a celebration of the things we love – quality produce, natural wines and good times – was in order, and we wanted to collaborate on a festival that would showcase these things.”
One of the big draws is the masterclasses, which this year will include not just wine, but food, beer and coffee. American wine journalist Alice Feiring and Italian musician and wine enthusiast Giovanni Bietti will talk about natural wines. Chef Kylie Kwong will speak about cooking with native Australian foods. Coffee also gets a look in – sip it and talk about it with the crew from Rueben Hills, Mecca Espresso and La Soledad. Brewers Birra del Borgo and purveyors of Newtown’s ale of choice, Young Henrys (who have brewed a beer specifically for Rootstock Sydney using old wine barrels to mature the ale), will also host masterclasses.
The Rootstock marketplace will be held on Sunday, offering the chance to sample and take home bread, meats, cheese, seafood, vegetable and dairy products from producers in Sydney and regional NSW. Leading chefs will also be working with the produce, creating tasty dishes to sample.
On Saturday and Sunday nights the night festival will feature a wealth of heavy-hitting kitchen talent who will be cooking dishes based around their favourite wine. Chefs such as Luke Powell and Daniel Pepperell (10 William St), Mitch Orr (121BC), Kylie Kwong (Billy Kwong, Pasi Petanen (Cafe Paci) and Clayton Wells (Momofuku Seiobo), plus a host of others, will be in attendance, allowing festivalgoers to create their own dining and drinking experience by visiting different stalls throughout the evening. The festival’s orange-wine bar (featuring funky, extended skin-contact white wines of orange hues) will also reappear this year, in addition to a new sake bar where Japan’s favourite tipple will be poured.
Rootstock Sydney will be held on February 8–9 at Carriageworks and tickets are on sale now. For tickets and the full schedule of events, visit: rootstocksydney.com
Image: Alana Dimou
JANUARY 29, 2014
Sydney, Australia: Carriageworks is delighted to announce the first major solo project by celebrated Taiwanese-American artist Tehching Hsieh to be shown in Australia. One Year Performance 1980–1981 (commonly referred to as the Time Clock Piece) is being presented at Carriageworks from 29 April to 6 July 2014. This extraordinary work, the second of Hsieh’s One Year Performances, follows the artist as he punched a time clock in his studio, every hour on the hour, twenty-four hours a day, for an entire year.
The installation comprises the documents the artist produced as he observed the passing of time in this relentlessly methodical manner: a poster and artist’s statement, a witness’ testimony, the artist’s uniform, the time clock, 366 time cards, 366 film strips comprised of the 8621 times he photographed himself punching the time clock, and a 16mm film which condenses the gruelling year-long experience into 6 minutes. A complete set of the posters and statements from all Hsieh’s six durational works will also accompany the exhibition. Having stopped art-making in 2000, the artist will travel to Sydney for the exhibition, and will discuss his practice in conversation with Singaporean curator Lee Weng Choy.
Based in New York since 1974 when he arrived as an illegal immigrant, Hsieh is internationally recognised as a leading practitioner of durational performance. His works explore questions of time, life and being, and are notable for their conceptual purity and physical extremity. In 1973, Hsieh made a performance called Jump Piece in which he recorded himself jumping from a second-storey building and breaking both his ankles. The determination and dedication that the artist brought to his performances has, in recent years, been acknowledged with exhibitions at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2013), the São Paulo Biennial (2012), the Liverpool Biennale (2010), the Gwangju Biennale (2010), the Guggenheim Museum, New York (2009), and the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2009).
Tehching Hsieh was born in 1950 in Nan-Chou, Taiwan. His father, Ching Hsieh, was an atheist and his mother, Su-Choung Hong, a devoted Christian. Hsieh dropped out of high school in 1967 and took up painting. After finishing his army service (1970–1973), Hsieh had his first solo show at the gallery of the American News Bureau in Taiwan. Shortly after this show, he stopped painting. In 1973, Hsieh made his first performance action, Jump Piece. He was trained as a sailor, which he then used as a means to enter the United States. In July of 1974, Hsieh arrived at the port of a small town by the Delaware River near Philadelphia. He was an illegal immigrant for fourteen years until he was granted amnesty in the US in 1988.
From the late 1970s onwards, in the vibrant downtown Manhattan art scene, Hsieh made an exceptional series of works: five separate one-year-long performances that were remarkable both for the extremity of their physical demands and for their insistence on the inextricable relationship between art and life. In these performances Hsieh moved from a year of solitary confinement without any communication, to a year spent punching a time clock hourly in his apartment, to a year spent living without any shelter on the streets of New York, to a year in which he was tied closely to the artist Linda Montano without ever touching, and finally to a year of total abstention from art activities and influences. Begun in 1986 until the end of 1999, his final work revolved around a declaration by the artist that he would make art, but not exhibit it publicly for thirteen years. If the first four One Year Performances made Hsieh something of a cult figure in the New York art scene; the last two works, in which he intentionally retreated from the art world, set a tone of sustained invisibility.
Hsieh stopped making performances in 2000. Since the millennium, released from the restriction of not showing his works during the thirteen-year period, the artist has exhibited his work in North and South America, Asia and Europe. He and his wife, Qinqin Li, currently live in Brooklyn, NY.
“Tehching Hsieh is undoubtedly one of the great artists of our time. The rigour and dedication of his art, along with the uncompromising nature of his performances, have revolutionised performance art and influenced generations of artists. It is a great privilege to be presenting his first major solo work in Australia and to be welcoming Tehching to Sydney for this rare opportunity to hear him speak about his confronting and influential artistic practice,” said Carriageworks Curator Nina Miall.
EXHIBITION DATES: 29 April to 6 July 2014
GENERAL TICKETS: FREE
WHERE: CARRIAGEWORKS, 245 WILSON STREET, REDFERN, SYDNEY
ARTIST’S TALK: ‘Tehching Hsieh In Conversation with Lee Weng Choy’
30 April at 6pm at the EG02 auditorium at the College of Fine Arts, Paddington
Presented by Carriageworks in partnership with the College of Fine Arts (COFA) and the National Institute for Experimental Arts (NIEA) at UNSW
FREE; spaces can be reserved through Eventbrite: www.eventbrite.com.au
SYMPOSIUM: ‘Salon on Durational Aesthetics’
17 May from 10.30am – 4.30pm in Bay 20 at Carriageworks
Presented by Carriageworks, Performance Space and the School of the Arts and Media at UNSW
FREE; spaces can be reserved through Eventbrite: www.eventbrite.com.au
Image credit: Tehching Hsieh One Year Performance 1980–1981, Taking The Picture, Photograph by Cheng Wei Kuong, ©Tehching Hsieh, Courtesy the artist and Sean Kelly, New York
JANUARY 29, 2014
It was announced today that the public program for the 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire will include artists Tacita Dean, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, Nathan Coley, Hubert Czerepok, Douglas Gordon, Callum Morton and John Stezaker, among others. Additionally, the public program features numerous visiting curators and academics, including Professor Russell Ferguson, Agnieszka Pindera, Stephanie Rosenthal and Professor Semir Zeki.
Underpinned by a schedule of talks, tours and film screenings, major events, performances and forums for You Imagine What You Desire will take place across the 12-week period, with extensive opening, middle and end programs held at various venues and outdoor spaces in Sydney.
The 19th Biennale’s Opening Weeks provide special opportunities to witness artist performances by Eglė Budvytytė, Hubert Czerepok, Sara van der Heide and Tori Wrånes, and performance works by Yingmei Duan, Bianca Hester and Mel O’Callaghan, which will also take place at other times throughout the exhibition.
Acclaimed artist Douglas Gordon, whose work Phantom (2011) will be presented for the first time in Australia as part of the 19th Biennale, will deliver the Keynote Address at City Recital Hall. The free event will be held on the Biennale’s opening evening on Friday, 21 March.
An Artist One-on-One Program will be held on 20–21 March, in which members of the public will be given the opportunity to connect individually with 19th Biennale artists such as Søren Thilo Funder, Mikhail Karikis, Ann Lislegaard, Mathias Poledna, Randi & Katrine and Yhonnie Scarce. Audiences are invited to express their interest through the Biennale website, with participants selected via a ballot system and paired randomly with participating artists.
During the opening weekend (22–23 March), Artistic Director Juliana Engberg will lead a series of In Conversation talks with Biennale artists: John Stezaker and Callum Morton at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia; Broersen & Lukács and Gabriel Lester at Carriageworks; and Bindi Cole and Nathan Coley at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
On Monday, 24 March, independent Polish curator Agnieszka Pindera will join 19th Biennale artists Hubert Czerepok, Agnieszka Kalinowska, Norman Leto and Agnieszka Polska for Future Poland, a panel discussion at Artspace that will explore the transformative potential of artists in contemporary Poland. The following evening, Carriageworks will host 19th Biennale artists Bodil Furu, Siri Hermansen and Susan Norrie for Where Angels Fear to Tread, a panel discussion focusing on artists who embed themselves into communities to produce longer, documentary-style films.
Launched in 2010 to mark the contribution made by Nick Waterlow to the arts and academia, the Nick Waterlow OAM Memorial Lecture will be held at the Art Gallery of NSW on Saturday, 5 April. Presented by Juliana Engberg, the lecture will explore the libidinous, amorous and compulsive aspects of the art act.
The Biennale’s Middle Program will take place from 30 April – 4 May, marked by the unveiling of the inaugural City of Sydney legacy artwork, a major new commission created especially for Sydney by renowned artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller.
From 1–4 May, the Biennale of Sydney and Carriageworks will present the world premiere of a commissioned work by celebrated artist Tacita Dean. Furthering Dean’s exploration of the relationship between the aural and the visual, Event for a stage (2014) will undoubtedly be a Biennale highlight. Four ticketed performances will be held across the performance dates, with Dean also participating in an In Conversation talk with Juliana Engberg on 4 May.
Closing the gap between the fields of art and cognition, the Art Gallery of NSW will present The Amorous Procedure on 3 May. Featuring keynote speaker Semir Zeki, Professor of Neuroesthetics at University College London, the forum examines the phenomenology of imagination, cognition and neural activity. On 4 May, Chief Curator at London’s Hayward Gallery, Stephanie Rosenthal, will present a lecture examining the production and presentation of performance in public institutions.
The 19th Biennale’s final weekend begins with Dream Factory, a forum on 7 June that explores how the perceptive and psychological qualities of film influence the practice of contemporary artists. Hosted by Carriageworks, Dream Factory includes a keynote by Russell Ferguson, Professor of Art at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Joining forces with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the Female Voices of VOX (Sydney Philharmonia Choirs), the Biennale will present Henrik Håkansson’s epic THE END (2011) at historic Pier 2/3 in Walsh Bay. Bringing together cinema and sound, this powerful work of life, death, tragedy and comedy is a climactic event to mark the final days of You Imagine What You Desire.
EDUCATION AND RESOURCES
The Biennale and its Major Venue Partners present a number of tailored education programs and resources for students and educators.
TRAVEL TO COCKATOO ISLAND
Throughout the exhibition, a Biennale Ferry will operate daily from Wharf 6, Circular Quay to Camber Wharf, Cockatoo Island. Online bookings are essential for all passengers travelling on the Biennale Ferry. The return fare is $7. Free travel on the Biennale Ferry is available for children under 16, booked school groups and priority access groups.
Bookings for the Biennale Ferry open on 1 March.
You can also travel to Cockatoo Island via regular Harbour City Ferries services or by water taxi.
Image: Fine Art Union: Annette Stav Johanssen and Synnøve G. Wetten, Monument Resurrection, 2009 (video still), video. Courtesy the artists. Photograph: Fine Art Union
By John McDonald
JANUARY 25, 2014
CHRISTIAN BOLTANSKI: CHANCE
Carriageworks, until March 23
Life as a conveyor belt, taking us inexorathe bly from birth to death, is not an original idea. Charlie Chaplin had the same thought in the famous sequence from Modern Times (1936) when the worker was dragged through the machine.
The images tick over like a high-speed poker machine that creates bizarre combinations of eyes, nose and mouth.
Chaplin had a political agenda but the image also captured the helplessness and insignificance one feels in a world dominated by the vast impersonal forces of finance and ideology.
This is not simply a political problem but a deep-rooted existential anxiety that life is brief and largely out of our control. Samuel Beckett put it succinctly in the most quoted line from Waiting for Godot (1953): “They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.”
For some reason, Paris has always been one of the epicentres of this feeling of despair. From the outside, it might seem there is no city more devoted to art and intellect. Perhaps the French have talked themselves into these dilemmas, which seem to have little bearing on the functioning of everyday life.
Christian Boltanski (b. 1944), a Parisian born and bred, has made a career from re-presenting the data of lived experience in striking, large-scale installations that leave viewers horribly aware of their own mortality. One of these installations, Chance, may be seen at Carriageworks as part of this year’s Sydney Festival.
The central section, called Wheel of Fortune, features a reel of photographs of the faces of newborn babies, drawn through a massive arrangement of scaffolding. It is Chaplin’s machine all over again. It is also reminiscent of newspapers going through an old-style printing press, although nothing ever comes off this apparatus. At intervals, an alarm sounds and a single baby’s face is featured on a screen, as if selected as a special prize winner.
This work was originally created for the French pavilion at the 2011 Venice Biennale, where it transformed a classically styled interior into a crammed industrial space. It seems more at home in Carriageworks, originally an industrial site. Here, as curator Beatrice Gralton describes it, the installation extends for the length of an Olympic pool. The makeshift structure is eight metres tall and composed of 20 tonnes of metal scaffold.
At one end of the framework there is a second component called Last News from Humans, consisting of a huge LED counter that allegedly ticks off the number of people born that day, while a counter at the other end records the deaths. Births outweigh deaths, which may be a cause of foreboding rather than celebration.
In a corner of the room we find a third component called Be New, in which two screens, divided into three bands, flick through mugshots of old and young people taken from newspapers. Most of the fragmented faces are those of dead Swiss citizens, although the babies are Polish. The images tick over like a high-speed poker machine that creates bizarre combinations of eyes, nose and mouth, until the viewer hits a button, freezing a particular face for a few seconds.
With an earlier version of this work, Boltanski promised that if anyone managed to get three parts of the same face they could take the machine home. I’m not sure if these conditions apply at Carriageworks, but there are much better odds for winning the lottery.
Unlike so many contemporary artists, Boltanski is neither an ideologue nor an activist. He claims to be less concerned with aesthetic pleasures and intellectual stimulation than with drawing out an emotional response.
In an essay on Boltanski’s work, Catherine Grenier, of the Centre Pompidou, writes: “His intention is not to instruct, but to disorientate the viewer, which explains his taste for dark spaces, unusual places, and for the constant rereading and reinterpretation of his earlier output.”
If there is one theme that dominates Boltanski’s work it is memory - its necessity and unreliability. In previous installations he has reproduced photos from obituary columns and the faces of those who died in the Holocaust. He has made inventories of people’s possessions, and assembled mountains of old clothing that make one think - inevitably - of the dead. All these faces, all this clothing, lead to the most melancholy reflections.
Every photograph is necessarily a record of something lost forever. The Polish babies on Boltanski’s conveyor belt are now children, with the uniformity of the newborn faces giving way to individual features and personalities. The photographs allow us to hold fast to a moment in time.
Boltanski likes to quote Polish theatre director Tadeusz Kantor, who believed we all carry within us a dead child. Those memories of childhood may be happy or traumatic, but they are the earliest (and perhaps most important) of the stockpile of stories that constitutes every human life. These stories are constantly being reshaped until the line between fact and fiction disappears. When we die, our stories are told and retold by others, until forgotten. Although this is a completely banal observation, it has provided Boltanski with material for some of the most powerful installation work being made today.
He acts as an archivist rather than an interpreter, accumulating quantities of apparently trivial information. On the small island of Teshima, in Japan’s Inland Sea, he has created a constantly growing project called The Archives of the Heart, which stores recordings of individual heartbeats. At the Musee de l’Art Moderne in Paris he has a permanent installation called Storage Area of the Children’s Museum, featuring metal shelves stacked with children’s clothing.
The clothing makes one think of the victims of the Nazi gas chambers. The heartbeats have a more affirmative role, suggesting the vital pulse of a human life may be preserved in perpetuity.
Chance has a dualistic perspective, giving equal weight to both birth and death. The mystery is what happens in between, as lives follow diverse paths dictated not merely by the place of one’s birth, or economic circumstances, but by sheer luck. Think, for instance, of the writer Odon von Horvath, who conquered Europe with his play Tales From the Vienna Woods, but was killed by a falling tree branch on the Champs-Elysees in 1938, at the age of 36.
There is a large element of chance in the destiny that makes some people victims and others executioners.
Boltanski is not willing to say some are evil and others good. He doesn’t believe an artist should play the prophet or the moralist, railing against injustice and apportioning blame. He doesn’t set out to entertain an audience, but neither does he seek to provoke or offend.
He portrays life as a game in which we are all necessarily gamblers. We have our share of good or bad luck, but the house always wins.
Chance is by far the most substantial artistic contribution to this year’s festival, outweighing the clever, crowd-pleasing work of Argentina’s Leandro Erlich, whose Merchant’s Store at Darling Harbour gave the illusion of people crawling up the sheer side of a building. The Erlich installation has just closed, but you may still be in time to have a last bounce on Sacrilege, Jeremy Deller’s inflatable Stonehenge, this weekend, at the northern end of Hyde Park.
One can appreciate the gag in Deller’s work, but Florentijn Hofman’s globe-trotting Rubber Duck, which spent 10 days floating on the Parramatta River, was a monument to the universal triumph of banality. The only time the work ever had any significance was when it deflated in Hong Kong Harbour, becoming a floating omelette. At this moment, it attained a visual form that accurately reflected its intellectual ambitions. Let’s not forget that Jeff Koons has made artworks from giant pieces of kitsch since the mid-1980s, with considerably more acumen.
The final special festival exhibition featured three installations by Slovakian artist Roman Ondak, presented at Parramatta Town Hall as the 28th Kaldor Public Art Project. I won’t dwell too long on these pieces because the show finished yesterday, after a run of only a fortnight.
Visitors could revisit the Swap installation from last year’s 13 Rooms extravaganza at Pier 2/3; have their height marked against the wall in a piece called Measuring the Universe (2007); or stand on a facsimile of Ondak’s balcony from his apartment in Bratislava, conveniently lowered to ground level.
I don’t imagine many readers will be gnashing their teeth in frustration at having missed this experience. In fact, it is rather depressing to stand on a Bratislavan balcony and look out on to Church Street Mall.
When I said I’d been to Parramatta to see this show, someone asked: “What did you swap?” Answer: “About three hours out of my day for five minutes’ worth of art.”
JULY 19, 2013