It’s Canberra’s very own experimental and interdisciplinary art festival—here are five events not to miss at Cahoots Lab | HerCanberra

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It’s Canberra’s very own experimental and interdisciplinary art festival—here are five events not to miss at Cahoots Lab

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Dance, music, glass, cinema, theatre, interactive art, workshops, sculpture, sound, projection, digital art, poetry, and more—this is for everyone who loves art.

Inviting the local community to a unique showcase of experimental artworks, You Are Here’s Cahoots Lab is back for 2023.

Offering a chance for artists who have completed ‘Cahoots’ residency and mentorship program with the peak body for experimental arts in Canberra to connect with audiences and receive critical feedback about their work, this year the festival will see the work of 15 diverse artists presented throughout April and May.

Coming to life in 2019 after the team at YAH realised how much pressure artists were under to complete their artworks, according to Creative Director and CEO Ketura Budd, Cahoots Lab has evolved to become “a sprawling month of seeing very cool art and having lots of chats about it”—and they’re excited to finally kick it off.

“We started imagining a version of a festival where the artists could share their work at any stage of development, and where the production team had a sustainable workload,” they say.

“And so, Cahoots Lab was born…We tested the idea in 2020 and 2022, and we’re super excited to share Cahoots Lab this year, in a way that feels really closely aligned with our vision.”

Inviting experimental and interdisciplinary artists to slow down and share the joys and challenges of making their work at useful stages of development, Ketura says this year the festival will see a huge range of art forms featured in the program, from sculpture to glass to poetry to noise music and film curation—and with many of the artists identifying as queer, non-binary, transgender, or gender fluid, the works will interrogate personal identity and challenge concepts of the human body in distinct ways.

“We work with a lot of artists who identify as queer and gender diverse, and many experiences intersectional marginalisation and barriers based on their identity,” they say.

“At a time when LGBTIQA+ people, and especially trans and gender diverse people, are literally fighting for their lives and rights across the globe and right here in so-called Australia, it is incredibly important to us to create spaces and platforms for queer and gender diverse artists to be celebrated and championed.”

And with highlights (including the presentation of Sia Ahmad’s award-winning music work ‘depth disintegration’ for the first time in Canberra), you can expect to see, hear or experience something unique at each event.

You can expect to have some perceptions challenged, to have some great conversations, and probably to eat a cupcake at some point. You can expect to be quiet, to reflect, you might make something, and you will definitely be asked for your opinion,” says Ketura.

Our Cahoots Lab artists are covering concepts such as colonialism and spirituality, migration, and bureaucracy, yearning and memories, self-promotion as an artist, ‘champagne socialists’, connecting to quiet creativity… there is so much diversity in the program!”

Interested in going along? While it might be hard to sum up the program, we found five events you can’t miss.


This is the first public showing of a contemporary dance piece born out of two years of movement investigation. Created by Ashlee Bye—who wants audiences to see dancers as ‘like them’—this abstract work centers dance without music, proper or narrative, creating space for countless interpretations.

Sunday 16 April, 5 pm – 7 pm | More information here.

Colony in Spirit

This is a solo noise music performance that explores the relationship between spiritual technology and colonialism. Beginning first by thinking about performance apparatus and performance body language then figuring out how to fit the concept into that apparatus, creator Lynden Bassett is a strong believer in the political potential of noise music—here she shares it.

Sunday 16 April, 2 pm – 3:15 pm | Register here.

Dream Space (VI)

Offering the opportunity to drop in and work creatively alongside others (including artist Michele Grimston) Dream Space (VI) is an open space for not only creation but reflection and restoration.

There will be textile kits available for free during each session or you can bring your own project to work on—in any medium. The only requirement is whatever you choose to work on must be able to be completed by hand—that’s right, no tools using electricity or batteries (including phones!). Drop in anytime and take full advantage of Michele Grimston’s support.

Saturday 22 and 29 April and Saturday 6 May | More information here.

Depth Disintegration by Sia Ahmad

Representing one-half of human nature, this is the Canberra premiere of an APRA award-winning composition by Sia Ahmad. Performed by Ben Anderson (using a doubled-belled bass trombone with electronic playback) in near darkness, this is not to be missed.

“This work was first commissioned for Homophonic 2021 as the winner of the Homophonic! Pride Prize and received an APRA AMCOS Art Music Award in 2022 for Electroacoustic/Sound Art Work of the Year,” says Ketura.

“Sia was the first South-East Asian person and the first trans person to win this award…She has just come back from SXSW Austin; she regularly performs at Dark Mofo—Sia Ahmad is kind of a big deal! We’re so glad to see her getting recognised for her art, and it is an honour for YAH to premiere this work in Canberra as part of Cahoots Lab.”

Friday 28 April, 8 pm – 8:30 pm | Book here.

Knots by Ashleigh Hazel

This four-day development is a work-in-progress by composer and producer Ashleigh Hazel (who currently works as a music producer for a variety of artists across Australia) is more than a performance—it’s also an installation that responds to audience interaction. Exploring how physical space primes people for experiences, interactions, and our relationship with space over time, expect an encompassment of experimental, popular, and classical music.

Friday 28 April, 6 pm – 7 pm | Register here.


What: Cahoots Lab
Saturday 15 April until Sunday 14 May
Various locations

Feature image: Ashleigh Hazel.

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