Wed 30 May 2012
Melbourne’s Next Wave festival deals in the new. It’s a roughly week-long dervish of multi-disciplinary (and lovingly diverse) contemporary art from “emerging” voices; artists and collectives of artists who, for the most part, are under the age of thirty.
I am in love with Next Wave. I have been for as long as I’ve known of its existence. I debuted as a theatre-maker in the 2004 festival, without the support of which, I have no idea how long it may have taken for my work to make that awkward transition from the pages of my sketchbook to a public space.
My work wasn’t amazing. It was young, ambitious in concept, and a little full of itself. But it was honest, it asked big questions, and it tried very hard to be “grown-up” art. The review I received in the local broadsheet was brief and very generous, but what really stuck with me was its high commendation of the festival itself for giving young artists a platform to explore and experiment with ideas and form.
It’s not been until this year, though – when I am now a little older than your average Next Wave artist – that I’ve fully realised how important this is; not only for the artists themselves, but for the broader community of the hungry, the curious, and the wide-eyed.
2012 Artistic Director, Emily Sexton, has done a bang-up job of turning Next Wave into something of a work of art in and of itself. Small tweaks have had big ramifications: instead of a festival “program”, Next Wave published a magazine introducing the work, and asking their artists,
“…to tell you why they are making art. Specifically, what it means to wrestle with generosity and urgency in a world fast-crumbling.” – Emily Sexton, Next Wave Magazine introduction
Another major shift in format has been the gluttonously fabulous Day Passes. Rather than necessarily having to dip in and dip out of a lineup of works, Day Passes provide a back-to-back curated experience – an art degustation – that leads you around the city from work to work, engaging with numerous pieces across disciplines from early morning through until the wee hours, if you so choose.
My experience of the Day Pass was overwhelming. In that “Oh, God – I’ve eaten far too much 80% chocolate, but damn it was good,” kind of way. I was stomping my art-piggy trotters and reeling by the end of the day – a barrage of ideas, images, concepts and very visceral experiences exhausting and stimulating me at once. But of course, I have also since gone back for more.
There’s only so much space on this blog, so here are a few (very) brief highlights of the festival that I had the pleasure of tasting:
Breakfast Club (Day 1): A large group of relative strangers from a generous cross-section of life gathers in a room in the Wheeler Centre to talk about public art, space, politics, and the concept of “occupation”. We are joined by special speakers: two curator/producers, two festival artists, and Adam Bandt – the deputy leader of the Greens, and the Federal Member of Parliament for Melbourne. Together (it feels) we all discuss the big issues. We meditate on small details. We get frustrated and inspired together and eat apples. By the end of our two hours sweating out identity, history, art and consumerist place-making, spatial simulacra and human memorialisation, I am knackered and revved up – hungry to continue the conversation elsewhere. I have longed for this for a while.
Give Us A Look (Monte Masi): In a gallery, a man, four screens, and a data-projected video prepare the audience to see a collection of other shows in the Next Wave festival. These same media then reflect on the work through Masi’s own experience (with the collaboration of his two camera operators/technicians). He is our host and guide – a vessel through which we experience work from a slightly different perspective. I am really keen to get into all of the other works now – but even those I know I can’t squeeze into my schedule, I still feel as if I have experienced in some way. Obliquely. We are having a subjective experience of Monte Masi’s subjective experience. I find this dialogue fascinating; vital. I suggest to him that every festival needs this work – this kind of conduit – and that he should pitch to the Melbourne Festival. I am not joking in the slightest.
Food For Thought (LEVEL): I am deeply privileged to be an invited guest to dine with Level ARI, and a small gathering of other “curated” and balloted guests at a dinner conversation themed, “Women in the Media”. Food For Thought is a cross-media work (part installation, part reading-room, part dinner-party) that explores burning questions surrounding feminism in contemporary society. And here we all sit, imbibing copious wine, and consuming hearty winter fare with a collection of strangers – all women – all passionate, opinionated, educated, enquiring. Some of us have submitted questions about women in the media as provocations, these are read out at intervals and stimulate brand new waterfalls of dialogue. We question our own complicity in gender discrimination and objectification, we are self-deprecating about our own sheepishness surrounding the use of the word “rant”. We defend and question both men and women for perpetuating a dangerous status quo. We crack open pornography and disagree vehemently. For the most part of the evening, we’re politely and eagerly allowing one another to speak at a time, but after three hours, we’re all talking across each other, with the table having split off into several different discussions. This work is delicious and clearly explosive – it leaves me hungry, hot, feeling more than a little raw – mucky. Like I’ve spilled red wine and curry all over myself before flinging it back across the history of the subjects we’ve wrestled with. This conversation is difficult, huge and far from over.
Emily Sexton’s theme for this year’s Next Wave festival is The Space Between Us Wants To Sing. Overarching themes for festivals are so often contorted, dismissed or made irrelevant, but this time around, I can’t help but think that the idea of a space in between you and me being one that holds its own vibrant kind of sonic and dialectic pulse, is – with regards to Next Wave 2012, about as apt as they come.
To find out more about the 2012 Next Wave Festival, click here.
Photos: all via Next Wave 2012