Next Wave: the liberated festival

Keith Gallasch

Skin Club, Sophie, Linda Erceg

Skin Club, Sophie, Linda Erceg

Arts festivals in Australia are going through a process of renewal. In recent years we’ve seen Barrie Kosky and Robyn Archer significantly increase the volume of Australian content in their respective Adelaide festivals in contrast to the standard model operating elsewhere. There’s been greater emphasis on innovation, aided by collaborations between festivals. And there’s been the regional reach of recent Adelaide festivals, Tasmania’s 10 days on the Island and the Queensland Biennial Festival of Music. Access has become a major issue, not only for new and broader audiences but also for artists—witness the Indigenous drive of Peter Sellars’ vision for the 2002 Adelaide Festival. There was an also an increase in the number of free events. Next Wave has long been about access, for young people to create and enjoy art, but this year it’s taken the concept to new heights.

Young people, new work, community engagement, contemporary issues and access are central to the 9th Next Wave Festival. From 17 to 26 May more than 70 digital, dance, online, performance and public art events by, for and with young people will invade venues in, around and above Melbourne. And for the first time it’s all free, a surprising and significant development in an era of enduring economic rationalism.

There are large scale events, exhibitions and other showings that won’t require booking. However audiences still have to book if they want to see performances and participate in forums and workshops. Money will not change hands. Simply register online and request what you want to see. Doubtless, sessions will fill quickly, so booking early is critical.

The 2002 festival sees itself as a collision of art, pop culture, new media, social action, environmental concerns, healthy dissent and, this is interesting, “extreme sport”, and a blurring of the boundaries between audience and participant. The program’s embargoed until the mid-April launch of the festival, but here’s a glimpse of some of the highlights from the 70 premieres created in partnership with young people.

One of the big events will take place on the last day of Next Wave—the planting of 11,000 trees in the suburb of Westmeadows followed by a party in the CBD. The site for the event is an important water catchment area and the planting, part of a 10 year plan, is being produced by Tranceplant, an independent, environmental dance party co-op, in collaboration with Melbourne Water.

As ever new technology plays a substantial role in the festival. Sydney-based sound artist Sophea Lerner will present The Glass Bell, a work 3 years in the making which has been described as a glass waterwall with projections where touch affects sound and image. There’s also interactive martial arts in the shape of Kick the Fractal and VR workshops in art spaces.

Interdisciplinary work will predominate. One of these is a hitchhiker-inspired installation, Human/Machine/Landscape, the result of a collaboration between a visual artist and a documentary filmmaker. The experience will be like a walk-in movie cum sculpture at 45 Downstairs, Melbourne’s newest performance venue (beneath Span Galleries). Another walk-in work will be an inflated chromosome!

Screenings at Cinema Nova include the Megabite Digital Film Project, with help from the ATOM Awards (Australian Teachers of Media). The response from young artists to the call for entries for Megabite has been enormous with more than 150 digital films submitted.

On the performance side of the program, the work is extremely physical, featuring some 25 productions. There’ll be Indigenous dance and The Difficult Company from New Zealand will explore notions of “anti dance.” Look out and look up as one of Melbourne most recognisable architectural and arts icons is invaded by Y Space Company for the 10 days of the festival in a radical outdoor aerial dance event.

In the realm of text there’ll be a focus on comic books and a serious look at independent publishing. Forums covering all aspects of the festival will feature overseas as well as interstate and local speakers.

Next Wave is about access and involvement for individuals and groups. It is also working on a larger scale—towards genuine community engagement. There will be a dozen large public art outcomes which will be unavoidable. These include young people at risk working with artists through long term exchanges in regional and metropolitan Victoria. The resulting installation works move, glow and inflate. Next Wave 2002 looks unique on all fronts.

RealTime/Next Wave

As part of the 2002 program, RealTime editors will work with a team of young writers to produce quick turnaround responses to the festival each day, online and at festival venues on computer printouts. See RT49

Next Wave Festival, Melbourne, May 17-27. For more information go to www.nextwave.org.au

RealTime issue #48 April-May 2002 pg. 27

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

1 April 2002