A six-hour explosion of art across the centre of the city happens this weekend when Canberra’s free annual contemporary arts festival, Art, Not Apart, returns on Saturday (16 March).
“We’ve always talked about developing and protecting Canberra’s own unique cultural identity,” says organiser Michael Liu. “This is art that does something. It’s not just art for art’s sake. Artists have a huge role in today’s society in the political and actual climate, so this time we took it up a notch or two.”
The theme is ‘Soul and Mortar’, and Michael says it’s all about what defines a place. “We were really interested in what activates the city, how you find it’s soul and its artistic and cultural identity. But this is also about weaponising and mobilising art against those who are threatening the soul of the city through inaction or indifference.”
The Festival’s focus is on contemporary artists from Canberra and beyond and it spans New Acton, The Shine Dome, National Film and Sound Archive and QT Canberra from 1- 7 pm on Saturday (with an after-party, of course). Supported from inception by Molonglo Group, this year will be the festival’s ninth instalment and the third of a four-year funding commitment from the ACT Government.
Audiences can expect a curated outburst of exhibitions, multiple music stages, performance art, interactive installations, film works, art and wine markets, poetry and lectures on love, delicious street food and cocktail bars, and a wild after-party.
“There are lots of introspective, soulful works, but I think art that makes you think can be provocative and enjoyable at the same time,” Michael says. “Some of the most effective art is the stuff that’s entertaining and enjoyable at the same time. We want it to be as accessible as possible in every way so it’s all enjoyable but you can give the brain a workout too.”
Among the art extravaganza events are:
• Soul Defender – Supported through a City Grant from City Renewal Authority, the Soul Defender is a repurposed 14-tonne military truck which will debut as a stage at this year’s festival featuring performances by Melbourne eight-piece funk band Fulton Street, local favourites Endrey, and more. For more music, check out the Mosaic Room and Courtyard Stage.
• Visual Arts – This year’s festival features three exceptional exhibitions. Soul and Mortar in Nishi Gallery, Outside In in the ANCA Art Bus, and Façade in The Apartments on Kendall Lane will present evocative works tackling contemporary issues such as climate change, isolation and identity.
• Canberra Opera presents The Prime Ministerial Impressario – Commissioned exclusively for Art, Not Apart, Canberra Opera updates Mozart’s comic operetta into a political satire replacing the title characters with some of Australia’s most divisive politicians. Two performances in the iconic Shine Dome, $10 tickets.
• The Artery – Following its overwhelming success over the last two years, the stone wall on Edinburgh Avenue will once again be transformed with over 100 metres of street art, viewed by tens of thousands of commuters over the duration of the exhibition.
• Film and Moving Image – From encouraging Canberrans to take actions to reduce emissions to exploring the dichotomies in queer relationships, powerful moving image works are scattered through the festival.
• Food and Drink – Enjoy some of the city’s favourite street food vendors including Momo’s Taste of Tibet, Tikka Stand, Lazy Grazer, Wandering Woodfire Pizza, Hector Asado. Bar Rochford returns to operate the festival bar as their once-a-year excursion and taste some of the region’s best local wines at the Cellar Door wine markets.
• Sound and Fury after-party – Sound and Fury is a not-to-be-missed performance art party. Laugh, cry and dance as performers fuse music, theatre and dance over one unforgettable night. $35 tickets.
“I want people to say ‘I can’t believe this is all coming out of Canberra’. We can change the perception of visitors and locals alike to generate pride in our city and everything we can create,” Michael says. “We don’t have to copy anyone else from anywhere else in Australia. We have our own unique thriving burgeoning art scene.”
With the exception of the afterparty and The Prime Ministerial Impressario, all events are free.