What I learned at the Edinburgh Fringe

The best time to philosophise about the pros and cons of travel to an international festival, or specifically Edinburgh Fringe Festival, is when you are in extended transit on your way home. Hungry, smelly, tired, and still yet to buy enough duty free alcohol to kill a Jersey Cow, now is the perfect time to reflect on the whirlwind of the Ed Fringe.

Our show, SNAFU Theatre’s Murder at Warrabah House, ran for approximately sixteen nights from the start of the festival. The beginning was when crowds were still getting into gear and there was a freshness to the whole event. As time wears on, audiences, as well as critics, tend to dig their heels in more. Trends appear. Doors to amazing and innovative ideas open. People get very, very drunk, all day long.

The final weeks of Edinburgh Fringe tend towards the more prestigious acts that have received a lot of buzz from previous success in the Fringe or from critical buzz generated from festivals in other cities, such as London or the Brighton Fringe. An example of this was the Belarus Free Theatre, a company whose leader lives in the UK in political exile and whose members suffer constant threats from the country’s dictatorship. From the outset this was a must-see show, developed in London and premiering only in the final week of the Fringe with heaps of publicity to back it up. The buzz was well deserved and left me needing a quiet sit down afterwards.

But we are already about to delve into the Edinburgh Fringe’s mess of contradictions. The real hit of the festival (or arguably one of them?) was a little show by a bunch of kids vaguely associated with the Bristol Old Vic graduate program called the Wardrobe Ensemble. Their devised musical called Riot! was about a riot that occurred at the opening of an Ikea store six years ago in London. The ensemble of eight talented and annoyingly youthful artists incorporated a thoughtful story with belly laughs, physical theatre, dance, music and simple yet incredibly effective art direction (including a canny use of Ikea lamps as their sole lighting gear) to make a great piece of theatre. The reason I went? Because a friend saw it and told me to. How many people did I tell to see it? Three. How many people did they tell to see it? Who knows. But Riot! got its consistently large audiences from enthusiastic word of mouth, as well as from excellent reviews that they seemed genuinely surprised and delighted to receive. And you know what? I saw them out flyering on the street as well.

Both of these shows ran in the early afternoon. A trend that we did not know about before, but have learned now, is that theatre is generally on from the early afternoon until around 6pm, after which the stand up comedy kicks in. The rationale in many audiences’ minds is that they can see theatre and bawl their eyes out during the day, and then cheer themselves up and get drunk at stand up that night.

For us Australians living a 26 hour flight then a five hour train ride away from the excitement and fun of an Edinburgh Fringe it’s easy to forget that there are a lot of people who choose the Edinburgh Fringe as the vehicle to mount their production simply because they live two hours away. Not everyone is sinking thousands of dollars and jet lag into appearing there. As well as the companies like Belarus and Wardrobe, there are also high school groups bringing up their plays, lots and lots and lots of sketch comedy; there’s buskers and puppeteers participating in the free fringe, and so many other types of performer. The quality and verve with which participants are involving themselves varies massively.

I will definitely participate in the Edinburgh Fringe again. However, thought needs to be given, perhaps, to the merits of Australian artists continuing to participate, or seeing the pinnacle of exposure within the confines of the Edinburgh Festival.

One of the things I found surprising during my time in Scotland was that those that ran the Fringe, as well as the audiences hitting the streets, were genuinely pleased and enthusiastic that anyone had turned up at all. Then there was the receptiveness and curiousity of the audiences. People bought tickets to whatever tickled their fancy, whether they knew the performers or not. There were certainly ‘hot tickets’, but the overriding idea was that everyone has their own tastes, their own ideas of what they would like to see. People saw shows because they could, not because they should; a motivation that I sometimes feel the Australian arts scene needs to work on.

The Edinburgh Fringe, like so many other Fringe and art festivals reflects that old phrase: If you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own; that refreshing new hit, or special discovery is out there, you just have to take the chance and go out and find it.

Link to the original article http://www.artshub.com.au/au/news-article/opinions/arts/what-i-learned-at-the-edinburgh-fringe-185610

How to put on an Edinburgh Fringe Show

Firstly I have a few questions: are you into the arts? Do you have a sense of adventure? Are you relatively unafraid of ending up massively in debt? Do you like Sixteenth century architecture? Then the Edinburgh Fringe festival is for you.

The brief for this article was to tell the story of SNAFU Theatre’s journey to the warm rainy cockles of the Scottish heart of the Fringe, in the hope of encouraging and advising others to follow suit. But the only thing I know from running a theatre company with my friend May Jasper, who acts as our producer and playwright, and the many talented and dedicated theatre nerds we have met on our way, is that each person’s purpose and experiences behind upping sticks and getting a show on the road, whether it be to Edinburgh or Northcote, is different. And well it should be too.

The main thing about ‘getting yourself in’ to the Edinburgh Fringe, or to any Fringe festival for that matter, is that the big papery programmes that are printed each year are not releasing the names of the artists most meritorious of putting themselves under the banner of the festival. Every act, every show of the Edinburgh, of the Melbourne and Adelaide Fringe festivals, simply pays a registration fee and are therefore in the programme. From Simon Callow to North Carolina High, the initial registration fee, in relation to the rest of the costs you incur later in the show, is really a blip on the horizon.

Which leads to the advantage of launching your new piece in a Fringe environment; an idyll in the seemingly competitive field of the performing arts (competing for funding, reviewers, and often, as an afterthought, audiences).

Most audiences who ‘do’ the fringe see at least two shows a day, more often four or five, so by day three they consider themselves to be festival connoisseurs. To put it another way, punters may walk out of your show after five seconds if it doesn’t take their fancy, but it won’t be down to bitchiness or hard feelings, rather the incessant need for every footpath-hitting show-goer to see as much as humanly possible within the confines of August. Not that anyone has walked out of our show – that would be terrible.

May puts it much better than I, so I’ll paraphrase: If you have a show, an idea of a show, and you’re willing to do the work, and you have some semblance of an ability at fundraising (you’d be surprised how far selling boxes of Freddo Frogs goes), then there is nothing stopping you from putting on your own Fringe show. On top of that, the only way that you’re going to learn how to edit, produce, direct and act in a show well is by doing the work and being crap at the start. To paraphrase May again: making art is like making pancakes. The first one is always going to be soggy and inedible but when you get into the rhythm of it, you’re making a whole stack of perfect pancakes with bacon and maple syrup on the side.

To be slightly more practical
To be slightly more practical with this article, and to deal specifically with Edinburgh:

– Book accommodation early because it will fall through and by the time you find somewhere else to stay you’ll be so desperate you won’t mind paying to live in a closet for a thousand pounds a month.

– Don’t rehearse in your living room because it’s distracting and you’ll end up having to do twice the work for the same result.

– Look for a venue for a show early; those that run them will think you’re well organised and much more responsible than you really are, and in terms of Edinburgh’s geography with its winding stairways and bridges, the two points on the map that look close to each other may not be as close as you think.

– And finally when it comes to marketing, listen to everyone and no one’s advice, because there is no winning formula.

Don’t forget to delegate
Also, there is a lot of work on the producing side of the show, so don’t be a megalomaniac and think ‘the piece will speak for itself’. Delegate tasks as much as humanly possible, and respect the people who are putting together marketing and publicity materials. They are the ones who may well just find the right audience for you.

My follow up article might have a more philosophical wrap up once our Fringe run is over and I’ve had some sleep, but right now I’ve got to go to this show that’s starting soon and then I’ve got to go to this site specific thing that this random person told me was awesome. It’s at this vault and….

Murder at Warrabah House
SNAFU Theatre
TheSpaces @ Surgeons Hall (Venue 53)
Time: 22.35 (55m), until 20th August (except 14th).
www.snafutheatre.com/

Read the article where it was originally published here:

http://www.artshub.com.au/au/news-article/opinions/arts/how-to-put-on-an-edinburgh-fringe-show-185180?sc=1

Paul Foot performs Ash In The Attic

Paul Foot falls in with the past decade’s refreshing crowd of high surrealist comedians which, on this side of the world, is instantly associated with French duke darlings The Mighty Boosh.

In fact, the pedigree isn’t just a vague association, as Boosh-style guru Noel Fielding directed (in the broadest sense of the word) Foot’s current comedy show Ash In The Attic.

Despite being seen as the man who speaks a comic language from a galaxy far, far away (with a heavy dose of Shire horse-based humour on the side), Foot sees things otherwise: “My style of comedy is quite simple, I tell a few jokes, and then go home. Although they’re not really jokes, more like disturbances. I have characters too, such as Skeleton Johnson, Inspector Foot and Penny. Penny likes Australia; Penny is bi; Penny likes to take things to the next level.” Are Foot and Penny going to get up to much when he’s in Melbourne? “I’m going to make an effort to get out a bit more in Australia and maybe go on a rampage smashing beach huts with a golf club. I’ve been offered free surfing lessons but I’m not interested unless they can provide me with waterproof sudokus.” Fair enough.

Skeleton Johnson and co. all come up regularly on Foot’s website, a spidery rambling extension of his brain. “Originally Jemima Lozenge was my web editor, but she was so awful at hosting a website that I had to sack her. She couldn’t even host a small cocktail party in the suburbs of Southhampton. I currently edit my own website; it’s a nice way to relax after a week in the casino. Live by the slots, die by the slots, that was my Great Aunt’s motto before she died.” One section even categorises every joke Foot has ever told in a stand-up show, including how it went with the audience, and whether he is considering reviving it again. Maybe it’s an indication of the inner workings of a mind that completed a mathematics degree in Oxford before moving on to comedy?

But really the mainstay of the website is for it to act as a haven for Paul Foot’s ‘connoisseurs’, the exclusive name he gives to his ever loyal fans, rewarding them with secret gigs and much more: “Every year I hold the Annual Paul Foot Art Competition in which connoisseurs of my comedy draw me and the winner receives a hamper of objects from my house. You can see a video of me judging this year’s on Youtube.”

There really is something admirable about cultivating a following. “My connoisseurs are my lifeblood. Unlike other organisations, such as the Flansham Whist and Chatterbox Society, everybody is equal within the Guild Of Paul Foot Connoisseurs. The members are not fans of me; they are appreciators of my humour. They have no particular interest in me as a person and wouldn’t be bothered if I were run over by a bus, other than the fact that my comedy would end (after some brief laughs about the bus).”

Even so, Foot’s popularity has grown to such an extent that he now needs to hold “secret secret shows” for the old guard cream of his connoisseur crop.

Paul Foot performs Ash In The Attic at Melbourne Town Hall’s Cloak Room from March 31 – April 24. It’s at 9.30pm Tuesday – Saturday and 8.30pm on Sundays. Tickets are $23 – $29.50 and available from Ticketmaster online, 1300 660 013 and at the door.

View the original article here: http://www.beat.com.au/comedy-festival/2011/03/30/paul-foot-performs-ash-attic/julian-barratt-noel-fielding-paul-foot-mighty-boosh

Headliners

Headliners showcases the best in up-and-coming talent coming out of the America’s gruelling comedy circuit.  There’s a wide range of comedians on offer, playing on a rotating bill throughout the festival. This all goes down at the Hi-Fi bar with acts including Moshe Kasher, Tom Segura, Sean Patton, Matt Braunger, Hannibal Buress, Marina Franklin and Garfunkel & Oates.


Out of the swathe of
Headliners acts I spoke to Moshe Kasher, the Californian comedian who was named Best New Comic of the Year by iTunes for his album Everyone You Know Is Going To Die And Then You Are. I asked if he had plans for Australia: “I’ve been here before. Both in actuality and in my imagination via the movies Australia and Crocodile Dundee so I knew exactly what Australia was like before I got here. While here I plan on going into the ‘outback’ on ‘walkabout’  and going ‘croc hunting’. Also I will be playing ‘didgeridoo’ whilst eating a ‘vegimite sandwich’. Also I will be snorting ‘cocaine’ off of a ‘stripper’s tits’.” Indeed.


His particular brand of hipster vitriol was named Best Of The Festival at Montreal’s Just For Laughs, Jamie Foxx’s Laffapalooza and the Aspen’s Rooftop Comedy Festival. Asked to describe his comedic background, Kasher replies obliquely: “I am a trained ninja assassin. That’s all I’m willing to say,” but when pressed goes on to add: “I am an angry effeminate Jew who likes girls.” Definitely angry. In fact, when asked about this anger and his propensity towards the offensive in his comedy, he replies simply: “Suck my dick.” This is going well.


On to safer territory, Kasher gives his picks for the festival: “You have so many stand-outs… Arj [Barker] is an old friend but you guys seem to have heard of him already. Marc Maron, Paul F. Tompkins and Maria Bamford are amazing Americans. I mean each one is a unique genius. Greg Proops is a master.”


Moving on to the lineup as part of Headliners, Moshe reels them off: “Of the younger bucks, Tom Segura, Hannibal Burress, Matt Braunger, Garfunkel & Oates, Sean Patton and the impeccable gentleman, Bo Burnham are all unmissable.”


Twee musical comedy-folk duo Garfunkel & Oates have definitely made a splash over the past couple of years, appealing to the indie crowd with their Youtube releases such as Fuck You (featured on US sitcom Scrubs), Sex With Ducks, and a personal favourite, Pregnant Women Are Smug (lyrics include: You’re just giving birth now/You’re not Mother Earth now), showing themselves to have equal stakes in the cutesy folk song and the potty-mouthed ballad.


Kasher isn’t the cleanest comedian either, as he has hinted at before. His tagline is a close indication of this: Comedian. Jew. Jew Comedian. OBGYN.


OBGYN? “Well I never got my official OBGYN paperwork so at this point, I’d say I’m more of an amateur enthusiast.”
And finally the big question, would you rather not wash your towel for three months, or your bedsheets for three months?Trick question, as I use towels as sheets and curtains as underwear. I smoke crack.”

Moshe Kasher, Sean Patton, Hannibal Buress, Tom Segura, Matt Braunger, Marina Franklin and Garfunkel & Oates perform Headliners at The Hi-Fi from March 31 – April 3 and at Melbourne Town Hall from April 5 – April 24. Tickets are $23.50 – $31.50 and available through Ticketmaster online, 1300 660 013 and at the door.

View the original article here: http://www.beat.com.au/comedy-festival/2011/03/30/headliners/america-s-gruelling-comedy-angry-effeminate-jew-aspen-s-rooftop-comedy-comedian-comedy-cen

Melbourne Fringe: Girls@Work

Theatreworks in St. Kilda have taken their opportunity at the Fringe festival this year to showcase the wild and wonderful women of Melbourne theatre, covering straight performance to Cabaret, from serious subjects to do with immigration and feminism, to the dissection of the female orgasm. Entitled Girls @ Work, and encompassing five separate performances, as well as two workshop-based events working with women in the business, it’s a large and diverse undertaking for the venue. I spoke to Angela Pamic.

“We’re celebrating our thirtieth anniversary and were going through the archives for the venue. It became apparent that the company itself had a strong female presence right throughout its history. The founding company members had some really strong women amongst them, one woman in particular, Kaz Howard who has since passed away.  She was, by all accounts, an amazingly fiery, energetic, charismatic, woman who kind of pulled the company together and created these amazing works and an ensemble… And so when we realised that we thought it would be nice to celebrate our thirtieth birthday about women and actually to celebrate the artists in the industry today, to give them a platform to show their work.”

 
Of the five works being shown, two are physical/dance pieces (PaPer Man & The 499th Day, The She Sessions), two are straight theatre (I Could Be You, Instability Strip), and one is cabaret (Le Petit Mort – The Orgasm). All of the shows are on most nights, which means that if you go, you might not end up seeing just one type of live theatre.

 
“We wanted a broad cross range of performances, not just theatre or dance.  An audience member could come to the venue and see three different things in one night, broadening their arts experience. This way they get to see things they might not normally see.”
 
GIRLS @ WORK
VENUE: Theatreworks
DATE: Various
TICKETS: See website

See the original article here: http://www.beat.com.au/festivals/2010/09/23/melbourne-fringe-girlswork/arts-australian-comedy-festival-film-fringe-fringe-festival-gig-girlswork-show-t

Tomorrow, In A Year

Ralf Richardt Strøbech is the director of Tomorrow, In a Year , an opera mounted by Hotel Pro Forma and a highlight of this year’s Melbourne Arts Festival. It takes the life of Charles Darwin as a starting point, with music scored by Swedish duo The Knife and choreographed by Hiroaki Umeda.
 
Strøbech’s opinions on the opera are both open and precise, so it’s a good idea to let him do most of the explaining, starting with how much the production has evolved since it was first mounted. “It’s not the same piece as when it opened, which is nice because Darwin also made several changes in his Origin of Species. In the sixth edition it only contained 21% of the original book… so if it was insistently the same way every time it would be non-Darwinian.”
 
But what is the story, really? “It’s only fragments of a narrative… although there definitely is an underlying structure. The big one is about the life of Darwin himself, split into four parts. The Beagle voyage is the first where it’s about youth, then there’s the death of his daughter Annie, so that’s much more about middle age, and making a family, and then the third part is about the publication of his book, and the last part is about how he becomes a recluse and allows the world to exist around him. Then there is of course time itself, all evolutionary time starting from 4.65 Billion years ago.”
 
Darwin’s daughter Annie died at the age of ten after a series of health complications. The effect of Annie’s death on her parents was devastating, moreso as Darwin’s theory of evolution developed and he wondered if her death was because he had married his cousin. I ask if this interests Strøbech. “It does… The second part of this performance treats that a little bit… [There] is this beautiful story about the letters of Charles Darwin. He’s with his daughter at the hospital and Emma’s actually at home with all the other children… she gets these letters sent by messenger describing how Annie’s state deteriorates while she must keep up her face because she doesn’t want to alarm all the other children. So this to me was extremely interesting: How do you cope with that? And this is a pivotal image in the play, sung by the mezzo soprano, the dilemma between actually having an emotional storm on the inside while having to keep up appearances on the exterior.”
 
He just answered my next question. I was interested in who the Mezzo Soprano was supposed to be representing, because she’s female and it’s the story of Charles Darwin, so I was interested in the choice of gender roles. “In a sense they don’t represent anyone, the three singers; in a sense they just represent themselves, to be very hardcore post-romantic. That being said, there are times obviously the male singer is very much Darwin, you can’t help but read him that way. [The mezzo soprano] has moments when she is an actual person, I would say in Annie’s Box she’s really Annie’s mother, but other times she’s more like time itself, because [her voice is] very grand and has the capability of suggesting something outside the individual’s body… she’s also somewhat distanced from the audience whereas the second lady Lærke [Andersen], who is an actress, is much more a representative of the audience onstage.”
 
And as for live musicians on stage? Turns out there are actually none. “None, exactly none, there are no musicians on the stage or in the pit, it’s all electronically produced,” says Strøbech. “The music was all made by The Knife who are completely incredibly fantastic. They make everything from scratch, so Olaf [Dreijer] went to the Amazon to record sounds, he also went to Iceland and then they were kind of transformed into this electronic score. The singing is live and there also is live voice manipulation and vocal coding so the singers can be in harmony or even in rhythm with themselves.”
 
If that’s not enough for you – the story of the greatest scientist of our time, incredible choreography and the mind-blowing music of The Knife – here’s Strøbech’s advice: “I think the most important thing to say is that we always tend to look for explanations in things but… this performance is really about accepting that the origin of thoughts is from sensing and observing. I think this is Darwin’s method. It’s only because he freed himself of all preconceptions that he was able to find a new path.
 
“And I think this is the most important thing about the opera: that it doesn’t want to bring one specific reading, it’s much more showing something that speaks to the senses more than the brain… and that was very much how we would work, the Knife and Hiroake… It’s a process and that in itself will read its meaning, much as the way a rosebud doesn’t mean anything other than a plant wants to get laid. It’s not symbolic in any way apart from to just be.”
 
Hotel Pro Forma’s Tomorrow, In A Year plays at The Arts Centre from Wednesday October 20 until Saturday October 23 at 7.30pm. Tickets range from $25 to $110.50. You can book through The Arts Centre or Melbourne Festival.

View the original article here: http://www.beat.com.au/content/tomorrow-year-0

Fleur Elise Nobile

 

Visual, and now performance artist Fleur Elise Noble comes over the line from her hotel room in Korea, and we both know we have a task ahead of us; close to the opening of her multi-disciplinary and conceptually diverse show 2 Dimensional Life of Her, a performance which incorporates projections, live action, visual arts and puppetry all in the one space, where do you begin talking about it? Well, how about starting with the obvious, which was why was she calling from Korea? “I’m here on a two week residency, working with digitised art and music, using traditional Korean culture as a basis.” Sounds excellent, and quite far from her background in Adelaide.
“I studied painting and sculpture in Adelaide and then New York. My main focus until two years ago was in drawing, but then I moved into other mediums like animation, puppetry and performance, and from that exploring different ways to bring it all together in a new show.”
That show is 2 Dimensional Life of Her, running out of the always surprising and dynamic Meat Market in mid August as part of the Mobile States program, which is produced by Performing Lines, a touring contemporary performance initiative that targets small production companies and arts practitioners going solo. The initiative favours the more multi-disciplinary and technically ambitious members of the art world, “they kind of knit together the whole tour through other venues throughout Australia, this particular work will have performances in Brisbane, Perth and Hobart. Usually they do Adelaide as well, but since that’s my home town I’ve actually done this show there before.”
The Mobile States project goes for the highly experimental, which is where Noble’s work comes in. Set in her studio, it is a multi disciplinary show about the artist confronting her own work. “It’s a theatre production that’s ninety five percent made out of projection. The intention came from spending so long working with two dimensional artworks. Drawing for me was always about something emerging from nothing, but often when it was exhibited it became about interpretation of the established text, just a final product, a picture hanging on the wall. This was finding a way of bringing people into the space where something is in the process of being made. It’s about the unexpected things that can take place in the process of creation.” This can be seen in the snows of paper that are both handled by the animated puppets in the performance, as well as being used as a projection surface for those selfsame animations. Searching for another explanation she says, “It’s almost like a pop up book, a three dimensional pop up book. All the surfaces are constantly changing. [The performance is] A book with an inside and an outside, so they can become two dimensional objects as well.”
A lot of the projections in the show utilise puppets in the form of stop animation. This painstaking process involves multiple marionettes each with their own coordinated movements. The use of the puppets seems to be an act of separation, an extra stage entered between the conception of the piece and the artist’s final involvement in it. The artist inhabits the construction of the setting, physically assembling the elements of paper, projection and puppetry, but she still allows these elements their own life in the act of performance, which is the point the audience becomes that little bit more than mere spectators.
The use of these figures also highlights what seems to be an increase in the use of puppetry in performances for both adults and children in recent years. “For me it comes out of doing so much sculpture, and wanting to bring those pieces to life. I animate my sculptures, my puppets, then project them during the performance.” A technically challenging performance, how much preparation went into it? “Two years, with lots of different phases, loads of experiments to work out what was possible. This particular show, making the puppets, took ten months full time to put it all together on very little funding, with all the objects made from nothing. It often involved twenty four hour working sessions in places that I’d hired overnight, so it was pretty epic.”
Have you done the show anywhere else before? “Well I just got back from a European tour of the show. I did it at the International Festival of Live Art in Scotland, as well as the Danish Children’s Festival. I mean those are the polar opposite in terms of audiences. [The show] doesn’t just go across mediums, but also audiences, from little kids to high end Arts people.”
And what happens after your show in the Meat Market? “There’ll be a New Zealand tour, then Europe again. After that I’ll be working for five months doing a creative development grant for a new show that will be premiered at the World Theatre Festival at the Powerhouse in Brisbane in February. For that I’m again going to be working on live performance, working on its visual language.” A visual language that seems to be strongly established in 2 Dimensional Life of Her.

Beat Magazine, Issue August 4th, 2010

Talanoa: Shigeyuki Kihara

The Emerge festival is upon us again. Presented by Multicultural Arts Victoria, it is a showcase for those artists newly arrived on our shores, presenting their art practise and traditions, establishing a basis of understanding amongst the variety of communities that cohabit Melbourne. One of the highlights of the festival is the Talanoa: Walk the Talk VII performance and forum, which will be kicking off on the 20th of June. Conceived and mediated by Samoan performance artist Shigeyuki Kihara, this is the seventh instalment of her trans-Tasman project. “As a Pacific Island diaspora artist… I wondered: in an age of global migration that results in cosmopolitanism in many big cities, how can we actually live along side by side with people who are already there, who are making their homes where they are, amongst other people who are making new homes for themselves?” Thinking about ways to bridge this gap, Kihara thought of the ancient Samoan concept of Talanoa. “It alludes to a process of exchange of dialogue between two conflicting clans, coming together to establish a mutual ground based on love, respect and peace. I strongly believe there is not enough Talanoa in this world.”

To explore this process, Shigeyuki brings together seemingly disparate groups with different cultural backgrounds, and mediates a process of understanding and sharing, culminating in a collaborative performance of song and dance. “I think there’s all these government policies… and a lot of critics that talk about concepts of ‘cross cultural’, ‘transcultural’, etc. etc. But all those fancy rancy terms are always up on high, and never trickle down.”

Her first Talanoa was staged in Auckland, between Chinese Dragon dancers and a Scottish Highland Pipe band. This time for the Emerge Festival, Kihara has been working with the Dambai Dancing Sudan Group and Te Roro n Rikirake Kiribati Youth Group. “My project has been understood by those who I have worked with as a community icebreaker, it’s a great way to get to know one another… And funnily enough, most of the time when I bring these communities together, like for example when I brought the Kiribati, which is a very rural pacific island, and the South Sudanese community into this, and the Sudanese said things like, ‘you know I wouldn’t have guessed there is such a country called Kiribati,’ and there are other cases where some members of the Kiribati and the South Sudanese were literally neighbours, they’ve never spoken to each other until they were engaged in this exercise.”

At first the project seems like a massive undertaking, if anything because of the dance groups’ radically different backgrounds. “My father’s Japanese, and it’s my mother that’s Samoan, and people often say: ‘My that’s an interesting, odd mix.’ But what is the right mix? There’s this really static idea that culture does not evolve, that it does not engage. When I approach them… a lot of the communities that say yes are communities that want to engage, and are prepared to share where they come from.” This means anything from fusing rhythms together to preparing afternoon tea for each other with traditional foods. “I’m trying to provide opportunities for people to explore each other, because most of the time we think we have to travel abroad to understand where a community comes from, when they’re just literally next door.”

When the concept of Talanoa is introduced to these communities, is there an equivalent in their own culture? “I find that a lot of traditional ideas from the Pacific, which is where my background is, are universal. It’s just a matter of, how do we apply it in this environment. Because I’m working with grassroots communities, and it’s always intergenerational… it’s more of a forum for the older generation to pass on the core values of the community: self-confidence, social responsibility, community engagement… because in the mainstream we only dance when we go out and get drunk at a nightclub, but for some communities song and dance is what they do all the time.”

Kihara is a powerful and eloquent speaker for Talanoa, and that drive is infectious. “When you strip away the costumes and the ethnicity, the gender, essentially what they are trying to pass on… are core values about social responsibility, which has been really inspiring. I’m trying to go beyond the surface of, what they wear, beyond the kilt, beyond the grass skirts, beyond the drums. Why is it that these communities are so attracted to coming together through music.”

Beat Issue June 16th 2010

Simryn Gill: Gathering

Sifting through a pile of broken pottery and porcelain, you come across a used cigarette lighter. Looking up you only hear the sound of terracotta on china, the noise made by a six year old child also searching through the pile at the secret found objects: a toy truck, the pattern on a discarded cup, two of the few people game enough to crouch down on the cushions and spend a good twenty minutes sifting. Interaction, exploration, objects, photography, and the vague dissolve of boundary between inside and outside, these are all concepts that Sydney-based Malaysian artist Simryn Gill carries into her work, including Gathering, her exhibition currently showing at the Heide Museum of Modern Art. An expansion on a touring exhibition, I spoke to the show’s curator, Russell Storer, who is the head of Asian and Pacific Art at the Queensland Art Gallery. He curated Gill’s original show at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art in late 2008, which has been touring ever since, now placed in the hands of the Heide’s senior curator Linda Markwell.

“Linda really drove the Melbourne show, but I was more involved in the initial realisation, working with her for several years before the first exhibition at MCA.  We first met through the Roslyn Oxley gallery in Sydney, we both had a kind of ‘first day’ there together, and found that we had a lot of shared interests… I feel that this show is a reflection of an ongoing conversation I’m having with her.”

So why the Heide? “Linda and Simryn worked together fifteen years ago, they have a long association, and the Heide is the perfect space for this show, with it’s indoor/outdoor feel. In some ways it reflects the histories of modernism in modern Asia.”

Asked about what the most important aspects of her work are, Russell had two objectives in mind: “First I wanted to look back over her more recent work over the past five or six years. She’s a very international, and internationally shown artist, and a lot of these works have not been seen previously in Australia. I also was interested in her more experimental and ephemeral pieces, looking at that aspect of her practise. She works in a very intimate and experimental way, with small pieces, pieces that she collects, putting them together in her house.  They may not go any further into her larger works, but they’re an important research aspect of her work.” 

Then there are her larger projects, like that of Throwback, for which Gill has collected natural materials, casting them to recreate the machinery of the Tata truck, which used to be seen all over Malaysia, now disappearing along with the economic booms in China and India, and the increase in demand for scrap metal.  “I’m attracted to her art because it’s about understanding the world around you,” Says Storer, “She has a very personal approach I guess, but not biographical. It’s about how to be in the world in a personal way, how the meaning of objects changes over time, what they say about the place they come from. I think she can tap into these things in a very real way: how we travel, how we make a home, her work addresses these in a very real, very open way. It’s not telling you how to think about one thing, not directing you towards how to look at an object.” 

I ask if this is where the ‘audience participation’ comes into play, the allowances to sift and rearrange a lot of her work. “A lot of art is about play and discovery and the involvement of simple activities. Her work is very layered and people experience it in different ways, with different histories towards an object.”

Gill is also an accomplished photographer, but doesn’t interact towards her photographic work in the usual way. “She’s been commissioned as a photographer but doesn’t see herself in that way. One of her great works was done during May 2006, when she took eight hundred snaps of her neighbourhood. These photographs are pinned to the wall, close together. It makes them very present, you can see the photographic paper, the grain, a record of the demise of photographic film.”

A large and varied exhibition, and in a gallery known for its natural surroundings. “They’ve created a lovely way of using the windows in the space. Often the windows are closed off, but for Simryn’s show they’ve left them open, that blurred line between the artificial world and the natural world.” And are there any new works we can look forward to? “There’s a book Simryn’s produced in the veggie garden at the Heide. She’s listened to conversations of people in the garden, and produced in an artists’ book. A beautiful response to that particular place.”

 

from Beat Magazine, June 2nd 2010

Eddie Ifft

Eddie Ifft is back in Melbourne for the Comedy Festival. To pass the rigorous Festival entrance exam, he answered a few questions for Beat.

Tell us about your upcoming show for the Melbourne Comedy Festival.

This year’s show [his second] is about not keeping my big mouth shut. It’s called Things I Shouldn’t Have Said and it’s a compilation of jokes and stories that I have said over the years that have had me banned from radio and TV, fired from jobs, even thrown in jail a few times. 

What thing/person/idea are you most obsessed with at this time? 

Crossfit. It’s kind of a workout cult I am in, that all the military special forces do.. After 14 years of touring, partying and destroying my body, I have decided to clean it up… I still party a little. I got really drunk in Vegas recently, so drunk that I walked out of a nightclub at 5am and people were going to the Las Vegas Marathon. On a bet with my friends, I ended up changing my clothes and running the race on no sleep and 10 vodkas.

Which city has been your favourite to play at (apart from Melbourne)?

I played a place called Prominent Hill. It wasn’t really a city but a makeshift gold mining town in the bush. It was really different for me. If you blind folded me and took me there and told me that we were on Mars, I would have believed you.

A lot of comedians from the USA have had an easier trot these past few years in terms of available source material for them to make fun of.  Does the current political climate in the US mean that you have more, or less comedy fodder?

George Bush made it really easy for a while. There was a reprieve for a while with Obama, but as… the hype around Obama has died down, people have started to realise that it isn’t the politician, but the system … My country and our celebrity culture never cease to amaze me either. We have more people on death row than any other country, but yet we have a whale that is responsible for three deaths at Sea World and he is probably doing back flips for the crowd right now…. It’s not the whale’s fault either. You put me in a swimming pool and make me synchronize swim with a ball on my nose, for fat dumb people, I’d want to drown someone too.

Are you a Winter Olympics fan?

I can’t believe some of the events. The Skeleton? What is that? It’s the event, where they luge downhill on their stomach, head first. These people get to go to the Olympics and call themselves Olympians. I mean good for them, but I don’t remember skeleton tryouts in high school… I’m pretty sure everyone that tries out makes the squad, because there are probably only three people in the country that even do the sport.

Beat Magazine, Issue #1210, March 24th, 2010