Festival of Live Art

A new festival promises to shock, amuse and engage Melbournians.

An exciting new festival will inhabit Melbourne this month. The Festival of Live Art will move between Arts House in North Melbourne, Theatre Works in St Kilda and Footscray Arts Centre in Footscray. “We were really interested in the idea of creating a festival that literally moved people and moved itself across the city,” explains Angharad Wynne-Jones, the Creative Producer at Arts House.

The concept of ‘live art’ is an entirely new idea for some. “It’s something that tries to describe a relationship with a participant that’s really active and engaged,” Wynne-Jones explains. “It really is a mixture of connections into the theatre world, into the dance world, into the visual art world but it places the audience at the centre of the experience. How that’s expressed might be a one-on-one theatre experience or it might be a durational work that feels more like an installation that you might see in a gallery or something like Game Show, which involves 120 participants. So within it, there is a whole range of different experiences, but at its heart, I think, it’s about the relationship with the audience as being a participant of the work and sometimes even being a co-creator of the work.”

A good example of this is Game Show, where the audience can participate as performers, contestants and studio audience of this epic contemporary art piece where Tristan Meecham, co-creator and host, showcases all his possessions as potential prizes.

“It’s an over the top spectacle that comments on materialism, fame and greed,” suggests Meecham. “Game Show has come out of my own obsession with fame and the grotesque nature of that. It’s putting me through the wringer in terms of the emotional impact of giving away all the possessions that I own; everything from the personal, to the expensive to the sentimental to the embarrassing as well. It’s a little bit intense to have everything you own on show. It dates back to early childhood, toys and certificates right up to stuff I own in my apartment now.’

Although Meecham feels it’s important to note that the work will be a lot of fun. “It’s really important to celebrate things rather than alienate things. The work can be viewed as just entertainment as well as a conceptual art piece.”

In addition to the audience involvement, the piece will include performances from community groups such as The Body Electric dancers and THECHO!R with Dr Jonathon Welch AM. All profits from the Friday performance go to Welch’s The Choir of Hard Knocks.

Taking Live Art in a completely different direction are Joel Gailer and Michael Meneghetti with Performprint, a ten-hour exploration of masculinity and printmaking at the Meat Market in North Melbourne. “We’ll keep building and adding to the space with projections, prints, props and performances,” explains Meneghetti. “The audience is free to roam around and explore the space and come and go as they please. If you come at ten o’clock you’ll have a very different experience as if you come at 5 o’clock, it will be constantly changing.”

Performprint will explore different possibilities in printmaking. One of the performances involves text being carved into skateboard wheels and rolled in ink. Then skateboarders ride on a skateboard ramp, printing text up and down the ramp. They have also invited the United Harley Davidson Riders Association along. Taken to its absolute extreme, the day will end with a live human branding.

“All the performances that we are doing on the day, all the acts, they all reference print making technique, like the copy or the reproduction of imagery,” Meneghetti explains. “It all feeds back into the idea of exploring masculinity.”

“The conceptual point for us was the idea of copy has always been secondary in nature,” adds Gailer. “Through its reproductive nature it has feminine connotations and we are coming from a completely different perspective and putting this out there as a possible idea to overturn existing paradigms that the copy isn’t a secondary thing, it’s a primary thing. We use the masculine ritual as an irreverent display of printmaking as a masculine.”

Offering another entirely different experience of Live Art is Leisa Shelton with her project Mapping. Shelton will engage with her long history of involvement with Live Art practice to create a living archive on the subject. She will engage older artists and give a sense of Australian history that is undocumented.

Mapping is the first stage of a much longer, larger project which is looking for a way, through practice to created archives and lineage,” she explains.

Mapping will engage ephemeral forms like memory to create these archives. “It’s an interview process and an archival process. So it is about a person sitting with another person, handwriting and speaking and marking time, place and event. The key thing from an audience perspective is that the project is aiming to give them agency, it gives value to their experience, over and above what an academy or an already documented field will do.”

The Festival of Live Art runs from March 14 to March 30




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