It may be hitting the big 3-0, but this festival still has plenty of new tales to tell
Melbourne’s celebration of all that is new and interesting across every conceivable art platform happens every two years. But Next Wave’s emphasis on supporting and developing the work of emerging artists means that the creative team are never twiddling their thumbs. Artistic director Emily Sexton started planning this year’s festival – Next Wave’s 30th birthday – even before the last one had finished.
Sexton says that in early 2012 she got thinking about whether there were people “who aren’t here who could be”. One of the 2014 festival’s strands, Blak Wave, has a special focus on indigenous artists, “particularly indigenous emerging artists who are working in contemporary practice with an experimental nature to their work”.
Sexton spent the six months after the 2012 festival travelling around Australia and overseas in search of new talent, while 2013 was all about working closely with the artists through a number of different Next Wave programs that offer everything from creative feedback to funding advice.
“We talk to a lot of people; we go to a lot of shows,” Sexton says of how the program comes together. “We dig through the internet late at night; we speak to colleagues, we ask for their recommendations. We just get our hands under the surface of what is next and what is really not quite formed yet but with our involvement could be something really special.”
Sexton set the theme ‘New Grand Narratives’ 18 months ago and has been excited to see how the artists have interpreted it. She points to ‘Can We Please Play the Internet?’, which focuses in part on the idea of how we construct “truth” online. The project is curated by Rosemary Willink, an emerging talent who honed her skills overseas as a research assistant.
“This is her first opportunity to really do a show by herself and be supported to do that. That’s a perfect example of someone who has heaps of experience and ideas – and is ready to go – and is given the opportunity to actualise them.”
Another April highlight from the visual art program is ‘Henry’s Mobile Studio’, in which Henry Jock Walker exhibits the work he’s created while travelling 20,000 kilometres around Australia. “He’s just an incredible generous character, and he brings anyone who comes into contact with him – like the indigenous kids in Broome or the ‘Rubbish Warrior’ in Alice – right into his world and is really open and generous about creativity and where it comes from.”
Image: For 'Article 14.1' at Thanh Ha 2, artist Phuong Ngo lives off rations his parents had as boat people.