A year of birthdays

Since partying in June, we’ve discovered that RealTime is not alone in celebrating a significant birthday this year. Our congratulations go to the Australian Centre for Photography (30), Goethe Insitut Sydney (30), Performance Space (21), parallelo (20), STEPS Youth Dance (15), Ranters (10), Aphids (10) and NYID (10).

Aphids

Aphids, the distinctive and quite unpredictable Melbourne-based multimedia performance company, celebrates its 10th year with A Quarreling Pair, a triptych of miniature puppet plays for adults in the Melbourne International Arts Festival. The plays, by the American avant garde writer Jane Bowles (1917-1973) and Melbourne’s Lally Katz and Cynthia Troup, are directed by Margaret Cameron and performed by Caroline Lee and puppeteer Sarah Kriegler. Lee will also sing the wonderful, rarely-performed art songs by Paul Bowles (1910-1999).

2004 has also been a year for creative travelling for the company. In March David Young, composer and artistic director of Aphids, commenced a 3-month Asialink residency in Java, Bali and Sumatra working with Rendra, Indonesia’s foremost poet and playwright. In July, Aphids went to Europe to develop a new work, Scale, with MUSiCLAB at Les Bains::Connective, a socio-artistic laboratory based in a disused art-deco indoor swimming pool, located in the Moroccan quarter of Brussels. This is another of Aphid’s international collaborations: in 2001 a joint production, Maps, with Copenhagen’s Kokon took them to Denmark after the Australian premiere in 2000.

The multimedia Skin Quartet (RT58, pp. 5-6) premiered at the Anna Schwarz Gallery in the 2003 Melbourne Festival and now lives again on DVD and CD. These are very busy and very constructive aphids! The company celebrates its tenth birthday at North Melbourne’s Lithuanian Club, 44 Errol Street, with a free party on the evening of October 21, featuring a retrospective of performances and installations. David Young writes: “Aphids began with a composer, a fashion designer and a visual artist exploring ways of working together. Since then we have collaborated with literally hundreds of artists from nearly every artform, creating work that has continued to surprise and intrigue us.”

Aphids, A Quarreling Pair, Melbourne International Arts Festival, La Mama, October 13-17, www.aphids.net
NYID

A very busy NYID (Not Yet It’s Difficult) artistic director David Pledger zennishly quipped “to be 10 is to be not yet 11” when asked for a word or 2 on his feelings about the company reaching 10 years of age. Presumably the “difficult” bit is as tough as ever, especially with Pledger having directed the performances in the Jeffrey Shaw new media installation Eavesdrop, currently directing the David Chesworth-Tony MacGregor Cosmonaut for Chamber Made (see p. 47) and preparing for a brand new NYID work in November.

Like Aphids, NYID manifests in a number of exciting ways. Alternatives: debating theatre culture in the age of con-fusion (PIE Peter Lang, Belgium, 2004) is an invaluable collection of essays edited by NYID’s dramaturg Peter Eckersall and academic Moriyama Naoto. It was inspired by the intercultural performance collaboration between NYID and Japan’s Gekidan Kaitaisha (Journey To Confusion, 1999-2002). At last we have a much needed account of the significant cultural exchange between Australian and Japanese performance since the early 1980s, one that has shaped much of the contemporary performance scene in this country.

For the Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney Festivals, David Pledger has been working with interactive cinema pioneer Jeffrey Shaw on Eavesdrop. On a 360 degree screen, 10 people repeat 9 minutes of their lives, driven by a member of the audience searching out the meanings in their stories. Eavesdrop seems logical terrain for Pledger after creating the surveillance nightmare of K for the 2002 Melbourne Festival.

NYID’s much anticipated new work for 2004, Blowback, is a further exploration of the implications of social control in an inter-disciplinary work gleefully described by the company as “a kind of gestural, agit-prop, horror movie; part science fiction, part documentary, part absurdist metaphor.” Now that sounds celebratory!

Eavesdrop, ACMI Screen Gallery, Federation Square, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Oct 7- Nov 7; Blowback, Melbourne, Nov 26 – Dec 5; www.notyet.com.au

ACP

Under the vigorous and adroit directorship of Alasdair Foster the Australian Centre for Photography has embraced contemporary photomedia with a passion (to the despair of ‘human condition’ hardliners), mixed local and international talents in a series of provocative, themed exhibitions and, through a revamped Photofile, has furthered the reach of Australian photography around the world. Foster knows how to party and no more effectively and generously than with the 30 events celebrating the organisation’s 30 years this September.

The wide-ranging program included panel discussions on photojournalism (Rex Dupain, Jon Lewis, Robyn Stacey), documentary practice, publishing, pornography vs art (Scott Redford), Indigenous photomedia (Djon Mundine, Merv Bishop, Christian Thompson, Gary Lee) and popular culture. There were films on Bill Henson (Tony Wyzenbeek), David Moore and Wolfgang Sievers (David Perry); a Brendan Lee compilation of 30 years of Australian video; a celebration of the work of Carol Jerrems and a new performance work by William Yang. The ACP celebrated not only its own birthday but the history and not a little of the present and future of an expanded vision of Australian photography.

parallelo

parallelo is 20. Once it was Doppio Teatro, then Doppio Parallelo and now para//elo, a name emblematic of its integrative vision of distinct cultures linked through art and new communication systems. In July the Adelaide-based company celebrated its birthday with a retrospective exhibition titled 20 years on… and still gorgeous at the Pepper St Art Gallery, Magill. Doppio Teatro, formed in 1984, had a distinguished history as Australia’s first professional bi-cultural theatre company. In 1997 the company expanded its charter under the parallelo banner to enable it to work on a cross cultural platform, “drawing [on our] Italian heritage as needed and as one of many ingredients in a contemporary global perspective.” The company creates multimedia performances, installations, online cultural exchanges and through its Open Platform performance project supports and presents the work of independent artists.

Works in the ongoing Distance Project include Tarantella Project (contributing artists Antonino Gorgone, Anthony Leppa, Claudio Pompili) and Lontano Blu Project (Australia: Teresa Crea, Peter Heydrich, Claudio Pompili, Tony Mitchell; Argentina: Marta Martinez, Alejandro Romanutti).

STEPS Youth Dance Company

In May this year STEPS celebrated its 15 years with the retrospective season, FIFTEEN, with previous artistic directors Ruth Osborne, Claudia Alessi and Felicity Bott, and general manager Michelle Saunders presenting excerpts from their favourite works. STEP’s new show, Powdermonkey is part of this year’s Urban Edge Festival (Oct 22 – 23). It examines child subjectivity with a cast of children and professional artists. “Nine days before the first performance the cast of 18 children aged 9-12 years of age will enter an installation, commencing a journey of collaboration and exploration into the issues that concern them, both serious and light-hearted, from the funny rumblings of their guts to feelings of ownership and power over their adult collaborators.”

STEPS Youth Dance Company, Powdermonkey, director Felicity Bott. Midland Town Hall, WA, Oct 22-23, tel 08 9226 2133

Goethe-Institut Sydney

Cultural exchange has played a visibly key role in the evolution of the arts in Australia in recent years. In fact it has a long history nowhere better exemplified than in Goethe Institut Sydney’s encouragement of artists not only to travel to Germany or to meet visiting German artists but also to enter into joint projects and collaborations across the whole range of the arts. Former director Wolfgang Meisner and the current incumbent Dr Roland Goll have played pivotal roles in developing adventurous relationships in contemporary arts practices. The 30th birthday edition of Kultur (Edition #9, Sept), the Goethe-Institut-Australia magazine, is packed with admiring testimonials from musicians, writers, visual artists, composers and the directors of galleries, theatre companies and arts organisations. As one writer puts it, the relationship with Goethe-Institut Sydney “has never been a one-way process”, the Institut has helped Australian artists take their work to Germany. This 2-way process is evident in the Goethe-Institut’s support for the programming of new German plays directed by Benedict Andrews for the Sydney Theatre Company giving this city some its most disturbing and insightful theatre. The Institut then assisted Andrews on his way to the Schaubühne, Berlin where he will soon direct again (see p12). A model of cultural exchange, long may the Goethe-Institut Sydney keep Germans and Australians in creative partnership.

Performance Space

What can we say? Performance Space has been a vital part of Sydney cultural life (and well beyond) for all its 21 years, providing a focal point for hybrid arts and critical discussion. Best of all, from its earliest years Performance Space has generated a sense of community among some of the state’s most idiosyncratic artists supported and encouraged by the distinctive visions of founder Mike Mullins and subsequent directors, Nicholas Tsoutas, Alan Vizents, Noelle Janaczewska, Sarah Miller, Angharad Wynne Jones, Zane Trow and current director Fiona Winning. Performance Space has always played a national role through visiting artists, conferences and events and is now an integral part of significant national initiatives, Mobile States and Time_Place_Space (see p43). And it’s preparing for relocation to a new home at the former Eveleigh St railway yards. Celebrations will be held at the beginning of November with performances, exhibitions, a conference and the party of parties. We’ll be there. More in RealTime 64.

RealTime issue #63 Oct-Nov 2004 pg. 38

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1 October 2004