Posted by Thom Smyth, March 27th, 2014
What is ‘live art’? It’s a contentious term that has been applied to works from a broad swathe of cross art form contemporary practice. So it’s a daunting task to attempt to answer that question, and even more so to curate a Festival of Live Art. Arts House, Theatre Works and Footscray Community Arts Centre took on the challenge, with a massive three-week program from across the world. The question wasn’t answered for us, but we (Thom and Fiona) found it was well worth trying.
We hit FOLA – Melbourne’s inaugural Festival of Live Art – in week two, when it had taken over the whole of Arts House, converting the North Melbourne Town Hall and the nearby Meat Market into a playground of live performance. James Berlyn was suited up and manning Tawdry’s typewriters, ready for the secrets Melbourne had to offer, having already hosted the Silent Drag Booth of Berlyn earlier in the week.
The works we saw:
Sam Halmarack (UK) | Sam Halmarack & The Miserablites
An adorable take on audience participation, ably facilitated by our stranded band frontman and a suitably daggy “instructional” video work. Took the audience on the journey.
Tristan Meecham | Game Show
Putting his life’s possessions on the line for the live “studio audience”, Tristan Meecham as our host led selected contestants through several gruelling challenges to find the ultimate winner. Large scale and ambitious.
triage live art collective & Nicola Gunn | Live Art Escort Service
Fiona procured the assistance of Nicola Gunn to ponder the big artistic question of the festival – What is live art? – while being led outside and down surrounding dark laneways. Peering in on the lives of others through open windows, definitions of live art melted away into shared experience.
Sam Routledge & Martyn Coutts | I Think I Can
This Perth Festival favourite called the North Melbourne Town Hall home for the week, laying down the model railway for locals to bring the miniature world to life. Fiona’s Giant Man arrived in town as a political appointment as Acting Police Inspector, only to spring into action to save a Giant Woman being threatened by a vampire on the hotel roof…
Julie Vulcan | Drift
Entering a contemplative space of twinkling lights and tentative refuge, we were greeted with an inflatable flotilla of “vessels” where you could curl up against the ravages of the outside world. Travellers remained for such a long time we both missed out on the trip.
Malcolm Whittaker | Ignoramus Anonymous
An interactive support group for the ignorant. Is there something you are too ashamed to admit that you don’t know? The sort of thing everyone would scoff at? Ignoramus Anonymous is here to help. Thom’s group were both forthcoming with their knowledge gaps and with their answers, Fiona’s group…not so much.
Paul Gazzola | Gold Coin Series
Three works spread across the Town Hall and Meat Market spaces, Paul Gazzola encouraged us to questions our notions of value, worth, and what you truly think a dollar is worth.
Ranters Theatre | I Know That I Am Not Dead (created by Beth Buchanan)
Fiona was the first audience member to enter Beth’s tent on a first floor balcony at Arts House and spend 20 minutes discussing sleep and not sleeping – one on one. The blankets were cosy, the thermos was full of hot peppermint tea, the conversation convivial.
Emma Beech | Life is Short and Long
A work in development, this facilitated conversation about what we know, how we feel, and how we were affected by the Global Financial Crisis morphed into a conversation about coping with crisis more broadly. Fascinating conversation, and Thom got into the snacks.
Mish Grigor | Man O Man
Part performance, part town hall meeting, post’s Mish Grigor joined forces with a team of local female writers to script letters to be read on the final night of the Patriarchy. On hearing the beautifully and hilariously crafted arguments for and against, participants were invited to vote on whether the male tyranny should prevail. The performance also included lamingtons. Lots of them.
Live Art Dance Party
Curated by Arts House, this was a hit and miss celebration of different works, crossing art forms, boundaries and taste levels. Sisters Grimm and The Town Bikes were highlights.
Sarah Rodigari | A Filibuster of Dreams
While many were sleeping off the effects of a Saturday night, Sarah Rodigari was delivering a mammoth ten hour durational performance reciting well-wishes submitted by audience members to their fellow Melbournites.
Amy Spiers & Catherine Ryan | Nothing To See Hear (Dispersal)
Appropriating the techniques of riot squads and police units, patrons were steered away from the “performance space”, breaking and reforming their crowds. Fiona was a peaceful objector, and got covered in ‘Nothing to See Here’ tape for her disobedience. A stand out experience provoking self-reflection and meditation on freedom of choice.
Fragment31 / Leisa Shelton | Mapping
What are the key touch points and experiences you’ve had with live art in Australia? This work seeks to map the collective memory of all participants. Stage One of a longer project, Leisa reported early results were showing a flurry of Perth-based projects. Stage Two will build an archive and invite us to step back and see what it looks like.