There are a few things that Canberra does that the rest of the country takes notice of. Politics. Porn. The War Memorial. And Floriade. It’s become an institution as revered (and just as often pilloried) as Parliament House, and for the past few years, the annual flower show has amped up its tourista value with NightFest, a five-night after-dark extravaganza for young and old that’s currently in its third year.
Ian Hill of Australian Capital Tourism (the gents who run the whole shebang, dontcha know), explains that NightFest has “a very different feel,” from Floriade Vanilla, with “a bit of something for everybody.”
Of course, the festival is one of Canberra’s biggest tourist money spinners, so the focus isn’t exactly on avant-garde. Instead, the pitch is to attract overnight stays from interstate visitors, as well as about diversifying the festival’s crowd with younger types.
There’s night markets, “food and wine tastings, [...] live music, roving entertainers” and more, including displays, how-tos from local florists, films, and the full gamut of fire-twirlers and doodads that you’d expect from a massive, family-and-tourist-dollar-oriented fiesta del flora.
One of the more intriguing additions to this year’s Floriade program is the Da Vinci Machines exhibition, which features exact replicas of more than 60 machines designed by the great Leonardo, including “amazing flying machines, nautical, hydraulic and architectural innovations, groundbreaking applications of civil engineering and war machines.” The exhibition will be open for NightFest patrons to peruse at their leisure.
In choosing the acts and entertainments for NightFest, Hill says that Australian Capital Tourism looked for “variety, and things that were a bit more interactive.”
“It’s a more dynamic mood that we’re trying to create.”
There are two main performance stages: the Carnival stage, which will feature stand-up comics such as Patrick McCullagh, Dave Thornton, Mr Quirk, Jacques the Cheeky French Waiter and the List Operators, and the Butterfly Lounge, which will be the go-to place for music during NightFest, with funk, reggae, and DJs spinning tunes for cocktail-drinkin’ types.
As far as films go, NightFest will be screening Twilight,Mamma Mia!, Up, Alice in Wonderland, and Filmtasia, a specially curated night of Aussie short films presented by the National Film and Sound Archives. And, if you’re bored watching Bella and Edward for the fortieth time, you can sidle over to the Garnier Dome (it’s a big green dome!) and get a complimentary facial.
Hill explains: “We were looking for things that complement each other, and bring something different to Floriade.”
Floriade NightFest runs from 22 to 26 September in Commonwealth Park. Tickets are for sale through Ticketek. For full details on the program and events, go to http://floriadeaustralia.com/nightfest
Bangarra is dance theatre that can appeal to people who aren’t particularly interested in dance or the theatre. Such is the magic they weave over audiences.
Following Bangarra’s twenty-year anniversary and retrospective last year the pressure was on for Of Earth And Sky to herald a new era for the company. The hotly anticipated double bill pairs new work ‘Riley’ by emerging Choreographer (and Canberra expat) Daniel Riley McKinley and ‘Artefact’ by the acclaimed Frances Rings.
McKinley’s spark of inspiration for his choreographic debut was the minimal yet powerful work of his cousin and well-known photographer the late Michael Riley. I had seen the images from Riley’s Sky Series on exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia, and there they had left me a little cold. But now, in massive projection above the stage and retold through movement, the images burst to life.
Six images were interpreted by McKinley, each of them symbolic of stages of Riley’s life journey. The aggressive rhythm of ‘Locust’ created a crescendo of excitement about what was to come, subsequently tempered by the ominous regimentation and unsettling black crucifixes of ‘Bible’. The duet ‘Angel’ exuded a somber, simmering strength and ‘Feather’ swung between beauty and pathos, hope and loss, ending ‘Riley’ with the gravity of its namesake’s voice ringing posthumously through the theatre.
Following interval ‘Artefact’ commenced with quiet power. In the half-light two dancers emerge from a huge and sumptuous possum skin cloak; Plumes of ochre powders unfurling from the fur and dancer’s bodies contributing to an intoxicating mysticism.
From here the cast proceeded to interpret other traditional objects - such as the grinding stone or coolamun - and important traditional practices such as weaving. The closing piece of the same name left the audience spellbound and aching for more.
With ‘Artefact’ choreographer Rings is bringing to light the uncomfortable positioning of culture as curiosity and the treatment of a people as specimen. The objects are simply a starting point through which to reclaim ownership; to delve into the deeper meaning and associations they possess beyond the anthropological surface.
An innovative set and incredible costumes help realize this vision, sensitively setting the scene and adding a warmth and tactility. The score by David Page perfectly rounds out the sensory experience.
In the pre-show Q and A session, Rings spoke passionately about Bangarra’s intention for their dance works to act as a starting point for audiences to gain a fuller understanding of Indigenous culture; a culture that the company comfortably encapsulates so many aspects of. There are the views of both urban Indigenous people and those living traditionally, stories from the past, reflections of the present and visions of the future. With such breadth, accessibility and eloquence, Of Earth and Sky is another solid step towards Bangarra’s ultimate aim, leaving the audience both moved and changed.
Rumbling inevitably towards top glory over the past fews years by inching up the charts, Canberra's very own The Aston Shuffle have finally scaled the mountain, and planted their synthy flag on the ITM #1 poll.
The news comes just as new single Your Love has been tearing up the clubs, radio (including triple j) and just about anything else that's tear-upable.
BMA would like to extend its hearty congrats to the lads.
In the meantime, enjoy this from our friends at ITM:
"As we settle into a new decade the nation has raised its voice in support of change, with the 2010 inthemix50 poll receiving a major shake up this year. Not only does the list of top 50 DJs in the country - as voted by the club going public - feature a whole host of new faces, but 2010’s poll also marks the birth of a brand new winner at #1! Continuing their ascent to the top of the local dance scene, Canberra’s favourite sons The Aston Shuffle are the new champions of the inthemix50, taking out top honours in their home state of ACT and rising from #3 in 2009.
The Astons boys were crowned the new rulers of the inthemix50 in grand style as the dance music scene’s big night on the town moved to its new home at Sydney’s best-kept-secret, LO-FI in Darlinghurst. As well as a new location, the awards found a new host in 2010, roping in the ever excitable Chris Taylor to helm the night, with the Chaser gang member conquering the crowd and poking the ribs of the dance scene’s elite players.
Back to the awards themselves, last year’s champ tyDi may’ve lost the crown but he’s by no means disappeared, falling just one place to #2 which is turn pushes last year’s place-holder Andy Murphy to #3. Queensland’s sibling duo The Stafford Brothers bump up to fourth place, and rounding out the top five with a big move this year is none other than Sydney double-act Bag Raiders, who’ve clearly consolidated on a year of hard work behind the decks and in the studio with the strong showing not just on the national countdown but also locally. They take out the title of NSW’s favourite DJs from long-time king Ajax.
Elsewhere in the chart new blood reigns supreme with Melbourne whiz Heath Renata shooting like a bullet into sixth place, up an impressive 55 spots the list from last year, while the likes of Havana Brown, Jus Haus and T-Rek coming in strong. If there’s one noticeable trend in the national inthemix50 chart it’s the popularity boom for hard-dance DJs, with the local hard favourites like Bioweapon and Toneshifterz roaring into the upper reaches. Marking it a golden year for the genre, it also carried over into the festival gongs, with NSW punters voting hard dance spectacular Defqon.1 their favourite. Debuting in 2009, Defqon.1 blew away fans’ expectations with a big lineup and an even bigger production element. This award should make Defqon.1’s second Australian outing even more special as the fireworks go off this weekend.
As well as the new winner amongst NSW festivals, there’s a changing of the guard in other states with the indie-meets-everything-else Splendour In The Grass taking the Queensland gong in its first year up north, while the support for Stereosonic went wild with the summer festival taking out awards in both Victoria and Western Australia, but beaten to the post by the mighty Future Music Festival in South Australia. With the Stereosonic love flowing out this year we’ve also got a new #1 in the international DJ category, with 2010 Stereosonic headliner Tiesto climbing back to the top spot after trading blows with fellow Dutchman Armin van Buuren last year.
Continuing the theme of change this year’s inthemix50 saw the debut of two new categories. Firstly with Favourite Track, where voters chose their favourite dance originals or remixes from the last year. The competition was fierce and of course diverse with the likes of Pendulum, Bag Raiders and tyDi making the top five, but the honours went to the year’s most unmistakable crossover hit ‘We No Speak Americano’ from the Sydney dream-team of Yolanda Be Cool & DCUP.
With inthemix turning an incredible 10 years old in 2010, there’s been a lot of reflection on the past decade’s events in Australian dance music, which led us to the launch of this year’s other new field; the Lifetime Achievement award. Designed to recognise and celebrate important and influential people in the local dance community, voting for this category was conducted by industry figures, and those insiders gave the nod to the kingpin behind Future Entertainment, Mark James. Having been in the game for well over 20 years, his company Future Entertainment was launched in 1993 and is one of Australia’s most successful event promoters, having revolutionised the local festival market with brands like Summadayze and Future Music Festival.
Whew! That’s a massive outcome for all involved and an even bigger year for the inthemix50 itself with a staggering tally of 65,000 votes in total for the 2010 competition. Our rundown can’t really do the whole glorious thing justice, so head on over to the inthemix50 2010 results page to take it all in and find out who ended up where this year! Thanks for voting and we’ll see you in 2011.
Upon entering Life, Death and Magic at the National Gallery of Australia I am greeted by a familiar figure: the Gallery’s own ‘Bronze Weaver’, a sixth century figure of a woman adorned with large and ornate jewellery, seated peacefully at a loom while her baby suckles at her breast. The figure takes pride of place in the entrance to the exhibition, amongst other ancient Southeast Asian artworks such as textiles, beautiful gold jewellery and numerous carvings of human figures.
Life, Death and Magic focuses on ancestral and animist art, arising out of the ancient religious practices of Southeast Asia which predate Hinduism and Buddhism in the region, and still practiced in some areas today. “Through loans we’re able to show [the Bronze Weaver] alongside some other really important animist bronzes, for example a maternity figure from the Honolulu Academy of Arts,” curator Niki van den Heuvel says, gesturing toward another, less elaborate figure. “While the Bronze Weaver is very clearly a female, this figure is quite androgynous, so it introduces the animist idea of ambiguity in sex. Shamans, for example, are often women, but they’re also sometimes men who identify as women.”
Most animist communities believe in the idea of a three-layered universe, with humans inhabiting the middle realm, and the upper realm associated with deities and ancestors. Members of the community who die under desirable circumstances, for example as a result of old age, and are then sent off with the best possible funeral are believed to return as ancestors, who will look favourably upon the community and bestow assistance. These ancestors are depicted throughout animist art, predominantly symbolised by creatures of flight.
The most striking representation of a bird is displayed near the end of the exhibition, where a beautifully carved effigy of a hornbill hangs from the ceiling, throwing a stark shadow against the wall beside it. Traditionally, hornbills were believed to have acted as intermediaries between the principal deity and the human world. Bird motifs also appear in various carvings and textiles throughout the exhibition.
Images of dragons and serpent-like creatures symbolise the underworld, a watery realm associated with prosperity and fertility. A large buffalo racing sled from the National Museum of Indonesia is featured in the exhibition, brightly decorated with colourful scales and carvings of monkeys and dogs along the spine. “In the community you’d race your buffalo using this really incredible sled, to show off you prowess as an important male” Niki tells me.
While the boys were out racing their buffalo, the ladies were inside beading and weaving tapestries. The NGA has drawn on its extensive collection of Asian textiles for this exhibition, with extraordinary head cloths made of painted bark, and woven ritual cloths featuring skull tree motifs and protective imagery.
“Gender permeates all ancestral and animist art” Niki explains, “so you have this concept that female objects are cool, dark objects which are associated with an interior, like textiles. Then you have male objects, which are hot, light and outside, so we have stone and wood sculpture often made by men.”
Similarly, Niki stresses that magic pervades all elements of the animist existence. One room displays wonderful relics from the Batak people of Sumatra in Indonesia, such as amulets and divination books in Batak script, which were used to foresee appropriate days for funerals and other important community events.
“In some instances it can be quite dark magic” Niki explains, leading me to a case which displays ornately carved Shaman staffs, one of which is decorated with feathers and human hair. “To make these staffs, the Batak priest from a community would have kidnapped a child from another community. They befriended the child by giving it rice wine every night, until one night the Batak priest would give it molten lead, and so the child would drink the lead and die. Then the Batak priest boiled the child up, sort of distilling the corpse and infusing it into the Batak staff.” Noticing my horrified expression, she adds, “Like I said, some of it’s really quite dark.”
In the following room are various funerary markers and implements associated with death, decorated with images of transition like ships and horses. Then we come to my favourite piece in the exhibition: a stone carving which is more than three metres long. Two ancestor creator figures sit astride a horse-serpent beast, which carries the ancestors through the three realms so that they can bestow favours upon humans and go about their business. The male and female figures have incredibly kind, loving expressions, and the female rests her hand upon the male’s shoulder in a supportive gesture while he holds the reins.
“This is a recent acquisition for the gallery, and it really sums up a lot of what the exhibition is about: life, death and especially the idea of magic” Niki says of the sculpture. “I think the more you look at it the more powerful it becomes. What’s really nice about the art in this exhibition is that you don’t have to really know a lot about art or have a great appreciation of Southeast Asian art in particular to look at these objects and see how powerful and striking they are. Often, because they’re such ancient images, they’re quite familiar to us, even if we’ve never seen them before.”
Life, Death and Magic – 2000 Years of Southeast Asian Ancestral Art can be seen at the National Gallery of Australia until October 31st. Tickets are $15 or $10 for concession and NGA members.
When Simone Penkethman and Chanel Cole were asked by their good friend and Canberra's proclaimed 'Godfather of the arts' Domenic Mico to write, produce and perform a cabaret show, they looked no further than their own lives and friendship for inspiration. Sure, some less imaginative types may have consulted the legacy of the Folies Bergere, Le Lido, The Duplex or the Tropicana for guidance, but not Cole and Penkethman. As two of Canberra's most well known and beloved performers (in a variety of forms), they needed but a nudge of encouragement before their collective creativity swelled uncontrollably into the makings of what would become The Pleasure Society Cabaret.
"It [the Pleasure Society] was very much a concept that we'd been talking about and discussing for a while. It evolved really naturally through our friendship - in the beginning it just had a lot to do with bicycles and pretty frocks and high heels; dressing up and bringing pleasure to yourself and to others" Penkethman says. "Then Dom asked us to write and perform a cabaret show. Neither of us had done one before. We thought about what we were going to do, and we said to ourselves 'well, we could do the Pleasure Society'".
The pair joined forces with Adam Cook on piano and Paul Christiansen on bass, and together they conjured up two acts of musical and theatrical brilliance. The first act will mix acoustic musical performs with theatrical, comedic story-telling, while the second act showcases a veritable buffet of "lovingly arranged" covers from Bowie, Spoon and the Cure, among others.
"As a cabaret, the show is a bit like theatre, but not as claustrophobic" says Penkethman. "Our first act is mainly theatre with some songs. It's not microphoned up, but we have a pianist and some guitar and we do some story telling with the songs."
The show will take place at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre's new cabaret space, where the wrap-around balconies and panoramic lake views will undoubtedly prove a perfect environment for the evening. A small exhibition of local art will precede the performance, and the bar will remain open during the second act to ensure that punters can, in the true spirit of the evening, enjoy themselves.
"I think that overall, our main inspiration for the show was each other, more than anything else" Penkethman says. "Chanel and I don't seem on the surface to be that similar, but we have this wonderful understanding together. The place we meet, musically and ideologically, is really interesting. We both have a myriad of influences, but the Pleasure Society is really just about happiness and finding pleasure in simple things as well as the obvious things."
Catch the Pleasure Society Cabaret on 17-18 September at 8:00pm at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre. Bar and outdoor smoking area will be open from 7pm.