arts centre ascendant

keith gallasch: lisa havilah, director carriageworks

Lisa Havilah

Lisa Havilah

Lisa Havilah



Havilah is emphatic that programming is central to her vision—programming that is consistently multidisciplinary, representative of local culture (very immediately that of Aboriginal Redfern), of established innovative Sydney companies (Carriageworks residents Performance Space, version 1.0, Force Majeure, Stalker, Playwriting Australia, Erth) as well as emerging talent. Carriageworks also acts as a co-producer to ensure that companies with limited resources have the support they need.

Havilah says: “We’re working to make Carriageworks an integral part of the greater Sydney contemporary art and cultural landscape. This is partly being achieved through collaborations with other respected arts organisations such as the Sydney Festival, NIDA and the Biennale of Sydney.” Carriageworks’ 2012 program also includes productions presented in association with Belvoir, ATYP and, through Performance Space, with Mobile States.

At the same time Havilah is deeply conscious that Carriageworks is not part of Sydney’s harbour culture, hence a need to establish it as a unique arts centre in a distinctive urban demographic. She comments: “Carriageworks is a remarkable space but we feel it’s yet to be shown consistently operating at its best. The introduction of the first annual artistic program is set to change that.

“We are working to expand the amount of presentation space: the two Tracks, previously used for rehearsal, workshopping and Performance Space’s Clubhouse, now have consent to be used for the public presentation of works that will increase the volume and scale of programming and opportunities for resident companies and other events.” Havilah is also keen to address the potentially longer lives of works in her program.

Her commitment to Aboriginal art, especially that with its roots in Redfern, is evident in her collaboration with Sydney Festival director Lindy Hume to co-present Black Capital (see Sydney Festival review and interview with Wesley Enoch) which included the exhibition 181 Regent St: Addressing Black Theatre, about the emergence of Black Theatre in Redfern in the 1970s. As well Carriageworks’ foyer is currently populated with the caravans of Brook Andrew’s installation, Travelling Colony. You step up into them, pull up a chair and witness local Aborginal community members talking about their experience of living in and transforming Redfern (on show until March 4). Havilah says, “Travelling Colony is perfect for Carriageworks, filling the vast foyer, in fact making it more than a mere foyer. We’d like to see the foyer become a space in its own right.” In recent years, performance installations by De Quincey Co (see RT82), Joey Ruigrok (see RT81) and collaborators and Performance Space have demonstrated the space’s performative possibilities. Havilah will now address the potential of the space on an ongoing basis through a commissioning program of large scale works..

The performance I Am Eora, directed by Wesley Enoch as part of Black Capital staged in Carriageworks’ huge main theatre, Bay 17, was a reminder, as Havilah says, of how little that space has been put to consistent use for ambitious works, whether for Australian artists or visiting internationals. I Am Eora exploited the space admirably at times and got lost in it at others, but the challenge was well worth addressing.

Bronwyn Bancroft.  Paradox Of Inequality

Bronwyn Bancroft. Paradox Of Inequality

Bronwyn Bancroft. Paradox Of Inequality

In February-March, Carriageworks presents a Bronwyn Bancroft exhibition, Passion Power Politics, in which the Aboriginal artist addresses personal and cultural identity in contemporary Aboriginal life. Later in the year, Indigenous contemporary music will feature in Redfern Station, headlined by The Medics and Microwave Jenny and including Sydney-based Gadigal Music artists Marcus Corowa and Jess Beck.

Given Havilah’s commitment to Asian-Pacific Art, so evident in her three-year Campbelltown Arts Centre project, The Edge of Elsewhere (in collaboration with Gallery4A), with its intensive engagement between visiting artists and local communities, doubtless art of the region will figure in her programming. That’s for the future, she says. In the meantime she’s co-presented, with Creative Asia and the City of Sydney, Sound Kapital for the Chinese New Year Festival. It featured a one-night stand by three cult bands from the Beijing underground: AV Okubo, Xiao He and PK14 plus Matthew Nierderhauser’s video projections of the Chinese punk scene.

Havilah thinks it vital that resident companies at Carriageworks are firmly identified with it in the public mind. In March, Carriageworks is presenting the riveting and bitterly funny The Table of Knowledge by version 1.0 (a co-production with Wollongong’s Merrigong Theatre Company; RT104 and RT105). In August, version 1.0 and ATYP [Australian Theatre for Young People] are collaborating on The Tender Age, an exploration of the interplay of shifting sexual mores, the mass media and social technologies. Performance Space will stage Dimension Crossing in April-May with performance works by Sydney’s Victoria Hunt and Melbourne’s Yumi Umiumare plus installations by Robyn Backen and Michaela Gleave.

Havilah has her on eye on emerging local talent, taking on Strings Attached, a promising physical theatre company, in A Return to Trees, “an interdisciplinary future of complex aerial systems, sound and light” in May this year. Another group that has impressed Havilah is Milk Crate Theatre, a company that works with homeless communities, bringing them together in September in Fearless with professional artists, in this case singer Christa Hughes, composer Daryl Wallis and playwright Mira Todd, to explore that moment when people leap into the unknown. Hip-hop has an ongoing association with Carriageworks which will present Platform Hip-Hop in October, a two-day celebration of the form with workshops, forums and performances

Performance Space’s second season (October-December) titled Sexes featuring works addressing “the sexed identity.” Curated by Bec Dean, Deborah Kelly and Jeff Kahn, the impressive line-up of artists from around the country includes Eric Bridgeman, Philip Brophy, Bindi Cole, Marley Dawson, The Kingpins, Paul Knight, Pilar Marta Dupont & Tarryn Gill (See RT105), and Christian Thompson.


On the national front, Thyestes (see p4) from Melbourne’s Hayloft in the 2012 Belvoir program was seen as part of the Sydney Festival. Performance Space will show Mobile States’ Show On, featuring Geelong’s Back to Back Theatre’s film The Democratic Set; Brisbane’s Christine Johnson, Lisa O’Neill and Peter Nelson in Rramp, “an electronic dance metal rock set reflecting on…collections, animal love, social commentary, childhood imaginings and human fraility;” from Melbourne, Thrashing Without Looking, a show created with and for an audience wearing video goggles; and, also from Melbourne, Tamara Saulwick’s Pin Drop—an “audio-sensory” work exploring fear in the everyday.

Havilah is deeply impressed with Adelaide’s Restless Dance Theatre’s dance film triptych, Necessary Games which Carriageworks will present in November. It will be accompanied by a public forum and a live performance by Lorcan Hooper and Lachlan Tetlow-Stuart who feature in Moth, the Reeldance award-winning short film in the trilogy.

Other activities in Carriageworks’ 2012 program include master classes conducted by resident companies: Erth (on puppetry), version 1.0 (devising performance), Stalker (devising physical and dance theatre) and Force Majeure (devising physical theatre). New work will be developed by Erth, inspired by Nick Cave’s Murder Ballads; Optimism by Max Lyandvert and Anna Tregloan will explore the relationship between fiction and history for an audience to enter “through individual pathways”; Force Majeure will extend their 2011 emerging directors, choreographers and dancers gathering into a public performance; Stalker will explore relationships between movement, space and technology in Encoded; and emerging Aboriginal theatre group, Moogahlin Performing Arts, looks at the return of three women in aged care in Redfern to country.





On the international front, Sydney’s wickedly droll The Fondue Set join New York choreographer Miguel Gutierrez to present three new solo works in April for one night only.

In September, in collaboration with the Biennale of Sydney, Carriageworks will present the only Australian appearance from Belgium of Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s dance ensemble Rosas in two works, En Attendant and Cesna. Each work explores the relationship between music, dance and ephemerality with design by Ann Veronica Janssens, a leading Belgian artist whose works reputedly challenge the senses with her use of light, artificial fog, projections and sound. Janssens will also exhibit an installation in the Carriageworks foyer and another on Cockatoo Island as part of the Biennale.

Indian artist, Mumbai-based Nikhill Chopra, will also occupy the Carriageworks foyer with his large-scale drawings which are a component of the artist’s endurance performances in which he creates characters from Indian colonial history and his own life. Chopra’s visit is part of the Australia India Exchange Program which will take Australian artist Justene Williams to India to create a new work.

At the end of our conversation I ask Lisa Havilah if she sees Carriageworks becoming part of the growing number of networks that take performance around Australia. She replies in the long-term yes, but first Carriageworks has to firmly establish its identity, producing its own program, above all declaring itself not a venue for hire, but a site for curation, development and for the consistent presentation of multidisciplinary contemporary art.

in the house

At the same time as constructing the program that is the key to her vision, Lisa Havilah has ventured into making Carriageworks more attractive and user-friendly. The cafe area has been transformed into the JohnandPeter Canteen, granting that space a life of its own, while the issue of the foyer bar is being addressed so that it can reliably become somewhere for audiences to snack and drink pre- and post-show (always a challenge for venues but one that has to be met). The once opaque, long front window is now transparent making the building feel more welcoming at first sight and the interior signage in the foyer is more intelligible and coherent. It’s relatively early days in the Havilah regime but a cogent multidisciplinary program and support for local artists and culture in a national and international context suggest promise is on the way to realisation.

You can read the Carriageworks 2012 program at www.carriageworks.com.au

RealTime issue #107 Feb-March 2012 pg. 17

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

21 February 2012