It’s going to be pretty hard to capture such a big day in just one blog post, but we’re going to give it a go….
After many months of hard work Festival Day came and went….as did over 2500 people – an Underbelly Arts record! It was so much bigger than we expected and we completely SOLD OUT of tickets.
Everything you saw on Festival day had been developed during the Lab, a residency that brought 150 artists together for three weeks to work on new projects. As a result, the Festival showcases some of the freshest ideas out there including works in progress and art in its earliest forms, For many of the artists this is just the first step, so keep a look out for them as their projects continue and develop at other events and spaces.
We felt so lucky and proud to be able to share the works of these artists with so many people, and we know our artists felt the same. We’re also very proud of our artists who showed incredible vision and dedication – it’s no mean feat creating works in such a short period of time, under intense pressure to deliver the goods. But boy did they deliver!
We’d like to thank everyone who came on Festival day, braving the risk of rain and the crowds to come and partake in what was the biggest and one of the best Underbelly Arts Festivals yet. We’d also love to thank our sponsors, supporters, donors, volunteers, staff and crew, and of course our artists, for helping to make it all happen. Without any of these contributions, we would not exist, and for that we’re very thankful!
Here are a few photos and anecdotes from the day to help you relive the Festival or see what you missed. Stay in touch with Underbelly Arts via our e-news, Facebook and Twitter in the coming months, as we roll out plans for future projects beyond the Lab and Festival. It’s exciting times!
Once again, thank you to everyone who made this happen!
Emily and the Underbelly Arts Team
Here’s a little summary of the projects from Festival Day…in no particular order, with some photos too (by Prudence Upton, Daniel Heckenberg and Catherine McElhone).
Xuan (Spring) – Ngoc Nguyen
Ngoc Nguyen’s beautiful installation Xuan (Spring), about displacement and identity, was a big hit on Festival Day. Her parents flew out from Vietnam to help her in the final days of the Lab and assist with cooking and serving delicious Vietnamese soup, tea and snacks as part of her work. There were many happy faces amongst the scenes of spring flowers in the middle of Sydney winter on Cockatoo Island. Mmm yummy soup too!
Horizon – Neil Brandhorst
Horizon was a huge undertaking but somehow Neil made it work – with literally not a day to spare. Neil worked nearly every day of the Lab toiling in his darkened room to make Horizon. There were a few set-backs, including not being able to source the right motor to raise and lower the truss (ie the horizon). But with the art-gods happily looking down on him, Neil got the part delivered at 11pm the night before Festival Day and literally pulled an all-nighter to get it up and running in what was one of the most talked about projects.
V – Justin Shoulder
Many of the projects relied on nightfall to happen and walking up at twilight to watch the first show of V was one of those special moments of real anticipation. Still light enough to look out across the water to the crimson sky, hundreds of people gathered outside the convict courtyard to hear Jeff Stein introduce the project and talk about its incarnation and the amazing collaborators who helped Justin Shoulder bring V to life on Cockatoo Island. Not to mention the influence of the Island itself and the fact that V emerges from the oldest site on the Island, the convict courtyard, rich with its own history and indomitable spirits. V is a fantastical creature that transformed the courtyard into a spectacle of performance, light and haunting sound.
OJO – Strings Attached and Younes Bachir
Probably the hottest ticket at the Festival – with one show only (and those who saw can understand why – it had a huge physical toll on the performers). To those who got to the Festival early enough to nab a registration sticker congrats, to those who missed out, our apologies – but never fear this won’t be the last you will see of this hugely talented group of physical theatre performers! Strings Attached spent the Lab in a workshop with Younes Bachir from Spain, devising a show for Festival Day which could on the one hand entertain and enthral but also showcase some of the skills learnt over the three week residency. With his trademark style from his La Fura dels Baus origins, Younes and the performers gave us a raw, energetic and intensive performance which required participation and movement from the audience.
Shima – Murasaki Penguin
Two artists. One from Japan and one from Australia. A mesmerising dance performance with sound, projection and light, turning a cold industrial and machinery inhabited shed into a warm, inviting and emotive space where Anna Kuroda literally shimmered across the floor surrounded by tiny LED flowers. A final performance at 9.30pm was a stunning way to end the Festival day.
Colour, light, sculpture, sound and projection. Mesmerising, seagulls, machinery, beats, blips and echoes – in surround sound and synched with images, was breathtakingly performed and hugely atmospheric in the sandstone room as artists literally brought the machinery to life.
All You Can Stand Buffet – Butterfries
We were a little bit worried about how many people would want to eat food in challenging environments – cup of soup out of a toilet anyone? But considering the response, everyone was very interested in delving into issues around the gluttonous buffet culture and our food-obsessed society. How much could you stand? Did you managed to get a free feed, or were you too disturbed?
Awful Literature is Still Literature I Guess – Applespiel
Applespiel are turning into everyone’s favourite theatre collective and it’s no wonder why. A rotating team of performers devise and deliver great projects often based around strange, funny or ironic ideas. How do we deal with bad books? Do we stop reading them halfway? Do we drown them? Do we read the worst excerpts we can find to friends? Do we use them as props in our home? Do we perform funny dances with them on our heads? Applespiel did all of this and more with their now trademark style of humour and interactive performance, and they added a video installation as well! They took over our Bar on Festival day, they played music, they performed their shows – they were the perfect hosts!
Inflection: The Broken Record – Fetish Frequency
This roving game-style project had people running all over the island trying to find clues to the story. With multiple sessions, some people walked in for just one segment, others followed the story all day and stayed for the final performance. Artists dressed in black roving the island, a lone woman…did you manage to piece it all together?
Rhapsody – Whale Chorus
A journey to the top of the Island in the afternoon didn’t disappoint. Whale Chorus spent the three-week Lab developing the very first stages of their show Rhapsody. Their absurd comedy and style is a favourite with audiences, even the kids find them hysterical. And we’ve all got ‘Tax Man’ still ringing in our ears!
100 Years of Lizards – Sexy Tales Comedy Collective
A roving musical comedy featuring scientists, a ranger and an ancient race of lizards living on an Island…. they whisked audiences away to a land of song, dance and one-liners…
Spatio-temporal Anomalies, Spatial Distortion and the Persistence of Vision – Nick Wishart and FMGrande
Who would have imagined a kettle could do so much more than boil water? Nick and Miguel helped show your average whitegoods in a whole new light thanks to some crazy circuit bending.
Spotlight Bunny – Julie Vulcan and Ashley Scott with Friends with Deficits
Taking only 4 people at a time, this intimate performance was set in and around a car. The audience had to sit in the car and watch the story unfold around them, with the help of good car stereo…
Joan of Arc is alive and well and living on Cockatoo Island - Triage live art collective
Who would have thought Joan of Arc would have a mobile phone, or such a busy schedule! The only way to witness this One-to-One performance with Joan was to send her a text message and see if she could fit you in. If you were lucky enough to meet her in one of her secret locations, the experience was quite intimate…and revealing!
Ever wanted to draw on a wall, have your photos or even your face projected for the passing crowds to watch? C-Art was built during the Lab and made its debut at the Festival, a hit with kids and adults alike, it roams and projects the content created by you!
Skyline – Biljana Yancic
Biljana’s Skyline was an elegant and simple exploration of light and darkness. As smoke from the smoke machines moved through the beams of light, there was an incredible stillness to the space – offering a beautiful contemplative escape to the rest of the bustling Festival.
data_shadow – Brad Miller
Walking in to his installation was like walking into Brad’s very own digital memory. Hundreds of photos from his life were sent moving across the wall, and as the audience entered the space their movement would sent bulges sliding across the screen, slowing and speeding the movement of images. It’s incredible how you really can get a sense of someone’s life from looking at hundreds and hundreds of their photos!
The Stream/The Boat/The Shore/The Bridge
The first stage of The Stream / The Boat / The Shore / The Bridge was developed during the Underbelly Arts Lab…and we got to experience the first ever demonstration! This work will continue to be developed for other Festivals, including Next Wave in Melbourne. We know lots of people enjoyed the first run, and we’re excited to see how it develops. Think large-scale treasure hunt with a twist…
The Dignity of Labour – EG1/EXT
A site-specific gig complete with the band playing on top of old machinery, projections of the workers of days gone by and music infused with the industrial influence of the late 70s and early 80s. It was great to see some live music in such a beautiful space, from incredible musicians!
Kyla Ring – Cohering not Cohearing: Going Through The Motions
Kyla Ring’s illustration based installation looked at the effects of water damage – and how it can be seen from a different perspective.
This project was hugely popular with kids and adults a like. These 6 artists arrived on the Island three weeks ago with one mission, to build a new society. With materials they had brought wit them in suitcases, along with the help from the visiting public during the Lab supplying ideas and care packages (with extra supplies and Tim Tams!), they built a colony based on their own experiences and ideas about migration, colonisation and society building. Child-size houses, gardens and waterfalls, a town hall, even a guest book! It was a great place to spend the afternoon absorbing the beautiful works they created in response to their quest.
Inflate My Heart with 1000 Gushes of Wind – Swanbrero
A video installation and live performances featuring 5 sky dancers and their human doppelgangers mimicking their movements. Who would have guessed these inflatable creatures could be such beautiful and forlorn dancers.
Three different performances in three locations – the tunnel, the air raid shelter and an old creaky wooden room. It was such a pleasure to see this huge ensemble of musicians taking over these unique spaces, exploring the acoustics and experimenting with sounds.
The robots behind the wall were programmed to avoid being bored, so they drilled holes in the wall to change their surroundings and make them ‘interesting’. As the robots chiselled from behind the walls, the artists would patch the holes up with various materials. A beautiful collaboration between human and robot.
And a big thanks to our beer sponsor Little Creatures!