Arts House Melbourne are riding a festival rollercoaster. Season one of their 2014 program spans three arts festivals in just four months, before finishing with the much anticipated premiere of BalletLab's newest contemporary dance provocation, which will be presented as part of the International AIDS Conference. In the mix, there's also a unique collaborative installation "space opera", featuring Slave Pianos, the Astra Choir and Indonesian art-punk band Punkasila.
The year begins with the Melbourne Indigenous Arts Festival, and the return of Noel Tovey, a true pioneer of Indigenous theatre and a world renowned dancer and choreographer who has been touring his acclaimed monologue, Little Black Bastard, for more than a decade. Now, after more than half a century, he is returning to North Melbourne, the suburb where Tovey grew up and where he spent some of the rough years of his youth. It's being billed as a farewell performance for Tovey, so it could be your last chance to see this living legend of the Australian stage in action.
March sees the first ever Festival of Live Art in Melbourne (FOLA). The 17 day festival is co-presented by Arts House Melbourne, Theatre Works in St Kilda and the Footscray Community Arts Centre, with the festival focus shifting between the three venues across the three weekends. From Thursday 20 March to Sunday 23 March, FOLA takes over Arts House with a whopping 23 shows, including ten world premieres.
Among the many experiences on offer are intimate one-on-one works from the triage live art collective, Ranters Theatre and six-foot-five nail technician and manic palmist James Berlyn.
There are extended durational works by Julie Vulcan, who is constructing a series of nests in the North Melbourne Town Hall warehouse, Sarah Rodigari, who will be staying up all night in a marathon public speaking event, and a curious piece by Joel Gailer and Michael Meneghetti which aims to turn printmaking into an extreme sport, a ten-hour exploration of masculinity and reproduction which ends in the live "branding" of Joel Gailer.
In Game Show (19-22 March), Tristan Meecham will be giving away all his worldly belongings in a faux TV game show that will take over the entire Meat Market space. Want to win a picture of his mum? His first teddy bear? His fridge? Everything – literally – must go.
Sam Halmarack from the UK presents an interactive music pop concert called Sam Halmarack and the Miserablites (20-21 March), which was seen at the Edinburgh Fringe by Arts House talent spotter Joseph O'Farrell (he of The Suitcase Royale).
In a piece combining art and research, Lisa Shelton's Mapping (21-23 March) asks festival goers to share their memories of previous live art experiences, including images and documents. Meanwhile, core member of Sydney-based theatre collective Post, Mish Grigor presents Man O Man (22 March). What, she asks, would we say, formally, on the last night of the patriarchy?
If you prefer your live art mixed with a liberal serve of partying hard, Joseph O'Farrell curates the Live Art Dance Party (22 March), featuring a swag of FOLA artists in an art-and-dance party mashup. Bring your sweatpants and join in. And speaking of participation, Jason Maling – pretender and facilitator – presents Everybody hates audience participation? (23 March), an attempt to develop some ethical guide lines for participatory live art events.
If you need some time to reflect on and digest all this art, US/UK artist Lois Weaver from Split Britches presents an installation dinner party, The Long Table (23 March), a forum for debating topics raised by FOLA events. Arts House will also be presenting a panel discussion on art and the body at the Wheeler's Centre (18 March), with guests Stelarc (the guy who grafted an ear to his arm), Moira Finucane, Natalie Abbot, and Casey Jenkins (the one with the "vaginal knitting" art project that went viral in 2013).
In April, Arts House presents a special collaboration between Slave Pianos, Indonesian art-school punk band "Punkasila" and the forty-member Astra choir. Oh, and piano-god Michael Kieran Harvey will also on hand to perform, along with Indonesian singer/dancer Rachel Saraswati.
The Lepidopters is a multimedia, cross-cultural art odyssey. It's based on a specially commissioned science fiction text written by Mark von Schlegell in which alien moths invade Indonesia with the aim of colonising Earth via inter-species reproduction. The specially built "slave gamelan", a mechanically operated gamelan, built by Slave Pianos, can be seen now at Melbourne Now.
16 Apr-11 May
The biannual celebration of novelty and art that is Next Wave brings three specially commissioned pieces at Arts House. Madonna's Arms is an apocalyptic weight-loss action adventure: theatre collective I'm Trying to Kiss You give you a twisted glimpse into one woman's struggle for fitness and total victory. In Personal Mythology, choreographer Shian Law attempts an act of absolute self-mythologising in a performance that shifts between stages and performance styles. Meanwhile, Natalie Abbott has something new: a collaboration between a dancer and a bodybuilder in Maximum.
Live With It: We All Have HIV
Closing out season one, Phillip Adam's BalletLab and visual artist Andrew Hazelwinkel join forces for an intimate study of the way Australian's have lived with HIV across the virus's 30-year history. The performance includes spoken word, choreography and video. Live With It: We All Have HIV is presented as part of the 20th International AIDS Conference held in Melbourne from 20-25 July 2014.
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