NMA's living exhibits

Francesca Rendle-Short and Clare Young



Across 4 Friday nights in February, if you shot down to Acton Peninsula, site of the National Museum on Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin, you’d be among some of the funkiest new media worlds in The Garden of Australian Dreams. Sky Lounge 2004 was the third in a series of February multimedia mini-festivals. After heat-wave late summer days edged with gold-rimmed mountain lines, you could sit back beneath luminous skies, chill out, eat, drink and get into the slow-lane groove. Alternative, surfy, homie, artsy, under-age, over-age; in the lights we’re all green, all red and we all get along. There’s nothing to really compare.

Listen to electronic artists and DJs making music. Experience visual and music installations in The Tunnel. Watch animated flicks from the hill, plopped on beanbags (if you’re lucky), in between dingo, cyclone and backyard fences. Short films curated by Malcolm Turner (Animation Posse), projected onto a white box known as The House of Australian Dreams, framed by palm tree fronds in the middle of the garden. Or make little sorties to K-Space, featuring the best of interactive and linear new media. The open-air acoustics were surprisingly good and everyone could talk as well. Your own pace was the right pace.

The highlights of the two final nights? Hard to pick, but here goes. Green Night: the HyperSense Complex in The Tunnel, an intoxicating mix of predetermined, programmed music and finger-puppet, gestural movement (or not), an experience of art-as-it-happens, with random events including people unintentionally wandering into the generated space. Hallucinatory choreography on the go. And a couple of animations: Grey Avenue (Eugene Foo, Australia), in which buildings morph into creatures (you want to take them home), and Ward 13 (Peter Cornwell, Australia), an hilarious projection of all-out hospital fear with a faux ‘wheelchair’ chase par excellence.

Red Night: watch Red Thread (Jo Lawrence, England) a can-opener ties up a woman with red string. Then an animation closer to home: It’s Like That (Southern Ladies Animations Group, Australia) features the voices of children in immigration detention camps, showing us their world. The animations come to an end and we’re told to move back so we’re not skipped on…

Ladiez of the Jump Rope are hop-hop hip-hop with smiles, clever rhymes, sexy legs. Juxtaposing rhyme, dance, singing, skipping, hopping and break-dancing, the Ladiez play out a fight between ‘Asians’ and ‘Whities’ at a school camp, concluding with a skip-out battle. Pony M of the Ladiez says: “We don’t take ourselves too seriously.” This attitude shines in their playful rhymes and sing-song taunts. The Ladiez are innovative hip-hoppers, dealing with contemporary themes with an ease and confidence that charms the audience.

Somebody whispers: “You light up a dark room.” And we smile. Time to go home.

Sky Lounge: the future friday 2004, National Museum of Australia, Canberra, Feb 6, 13, 20, 27

RealTime issue #60 April-May 2004 pg. 43

© Francesca Rendle-Short & Clare Young; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 April 2004