On a very special day in early 2020, BMA’s ALLAN SKO was invited to meet with DAVE CAFFERY and MICHAEL LIU to talk about the exciting, three-day, many-venued, multi-medium ART, NOT APART festival. He came away breathless, and it wasn’t just because he’s grossly unfit.
This, is their story…
With a new decade brings new promise, and so in this spirit I took it as a good sign that Michael Liu and Dave Caffery of Art, Not Apart (ANA) reached out for a frothy coffee catch up at Mochan and Green Grout, near/on one of the many future sites of the long-established multi-arts festival over which they preside.
Ten rich, dazzling years long, in fact. Well, not quite, as Dave explained.
“It’s actually the festival’s ninth year, but as we ran two ANAs in the first, this is the tenth one.”
And boy howdy, do they have a three-day, many-venued, multi-medium spectacular planned for the March event.
An enthusiastic Michael Liu – the very epitome of bright-eyed and bushy tailed, replete with tortoise shell framed glasses that looked similar to mine and yet annoyingly better – laid out the 2020 vision for the big one-oh of ANA.
“The music projects being presented at this year’s festival are more diverse and varied than ever,” said he. “I’m remaining tight-lipped about the program at the moment, but I can say it’s a great mix of emerging and established musicians, some of whom will be returning to the festival, and to Canberra, for the first time in quite a while.”
At this point, a triumphant light bursts forth from Dave Caffery as he begins to speak.
“For our 10th anniversary we’re celebrating with three beautiful events in Albert Hall,” he says. “Melting Pot is one of the best music sessions I’ve ever seen, with true jazz masters improvising under live projection mapping; Sound and Fury is an unmissable performance art party directed by the amazing Chenoeh Miller straight after the main festival on Saturday; and then we’re dancing with some of the country’s leading producers and DJs on the Sunday.”
It’s a potent festival that’s radically changed the region for the better, and it resonates at both a community level, and a personal one too.
“The festival is special in my eyes because of its truly wide range of artists and works,” Dave says. “Our six curators work in traditional ways with some artists and then in wildly unique ways with others. ANA has carefully designed programs for cinemas, stages, exhibitions, and street walls, and, at the same time, moat dancing, political installations, bin chickens, and two rocking parties.”
“It’s been an incredible journey to have been part of Art, Not Apart since its very first event,“ Michael pipes in. “First as a musician, and then behind the scenes running the communications, and now also its music curation. I’m proud to see it grow and flourish with every year, speaking truth to power and presenting art that matters.”
I broke from the meeting, belly sloshing with coffee and mind ablaze. I yearned for more. Nay, demanded more! So, sharpening my pseudo-journalistic quill, and donning my beloved and well worn gumshoes, I reached out to the rest of the Curators and Managers (eight – count ‘em – EIGHT in number) to learn what the festival meant to them, their highlights of past ANAs, and what they had in store this year. While some had fled the country temporarily, most were forthcoming.
Lavanna Neal – Events Manager
What’s so special about Art, Not Apart: That it’s free, inclusive, and has so MUCH going on. There’s a great saying from a Monty Python skit, where the Pope is being consulted about the Sistine Chapel ceiling (after Michelangelo has painted The Last Supper with kangaroos, plates of jelly, and 28 disciples), and he says, “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like”. I feel like Art, Not Apart gives opportunity for everyone to find something that you like, or that speaks to you.
Personal highlight: Being the only person admitted to the first aid tent! Hahaha – classic. Actually, seeing the moat of the Shine Dome full of The Australian Dance Party dancers on a 34-degree day dancing up a storm and telling a story through movement about how we treat our environment.
What have you got prepared for this year: An EXPLOSION of human experience – the theme is Today I, Tomorrow You – and the artists all have such interesting interpretations of that phrase.
Chloe Mandryk – Visual Arts Curator
What’s so special about Art, Not Apart: Its creative alchemy; every year we have the opportunity to see how new venues, artists, ideas, and people participating result in connection.
Personal highlight: The enjoyment I get out of Art, Not Apart is always different but the same. The parties are extraordinary too!
What have you got prepared for this year: A group exhibition in the Nishi Gallery with new work from nine artists who have responded to the festival provocation with distinct ideas and unique mediums but are united by a preoccupation with our environment and the contemporary and future impact of climate change.
Chenoeh Miller – Performance Arts Curator (Sound and Fury)
What’s so special about Art, Not Apart: It is really beautiful how everyone comes together.
Personal highlight: Christopher Samuel Carroll rolling down the Nishi Grand Stair in slow motion for hours and hours was one of my favourites (pictured second from top on the right, there). And Captain Ruin MCing the first Sound and Fury in a Nishi Basement was very cool. Too many to choose.
What have you got prepared for this year: The body in space without technology, without too many materials – just good performances. And as it is our last one in New Acton, I was particularly keen to highlight the precinct that has been our home for so long. So lots of roving and pop up performances all over the place. SOUND AND FURY!!! We have our best programme EVER! As usual, we don’t like to give away too much. But we will be doing a ‘best of’ which will include some favourite works from over the years.
Sam Dignand – Film and Moving Image Curator
What’s so special about Art, Not Apart: This festival was born from a collective desire to showcase incredible emerging and established Canberra artists in one of the region’s youngest precincts. We’ve seen emerging artists catapult themselves to a national and international level since their involvement in their first Art, Not Apart. But what I love the most is the collaborations that have been born from our festival.
Personal highlight: A live-scored performance of the F. W. Murnau silent film Nosferatu by Tess Said So in 2017 at NFSA’s Arc Cinema which we’ll be fortunate to have as a venue again this year.
What have you got prepared for this year: We have stunning projection-mapping and visuals from Sydney duo Tszuj Corp within Canberra’s beloved Albert Hall. We’re also lucky to have the Australian premiere of a powerful performance-art film, Text Messages From The Universe, which took out Best Feature at the Poland International Film Festival in 2019.
Byrd – Street Art Curator
What’s so special about Art, Not Apart: I like the variety of things that happen at Art, Not Apart. You can never be entirely sure from year to year what you will find.
Personal highlight: My personal favourite could be the plunge pool thing in the shipping containers. You gave someone your clothes and waded into a freezing lap pool, swam under a doorway into a dripping cavern and clambered out to find your clothes waiting with a towel!
What have you got prepared for this year: This year’s Street Art is a fantastic mixture of globetrotting locals, blow-ins, and ne’re-do-wells! We’ve a nice mix of those with Graffiti Roots, Poster kids and straight up Arty Types.
The big 10 Year ANA Anniversary is on this year from 13-15 March. We’ll have a big cover feature/calendar of the event next issue, but in the meantime you can get your fix at https://artnotapart.com/