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Our guide to Art, Not Apart

Jessica Schumann

Warning: This article may cause your mind to explode. 

With a philosophy to bring all the different arts forms in Canberra together mixed with a little influence from across the state borders, this year’s Art, Not Apart will do more than blow your mind. It will completely change the way you look at art.

But just what is the Festival about?

Art, Not Apart is a multi-arts festival that aims to extend the boundaries of what people think of as art, and puts a spotlight on Canberra’s art scene. The fifth ‘episode’ of the festival is an initiative of the Molonglo Group with the theme ‘Say something’ setting the precedent for what you can expect from this jam-packed, super exciting, explode your mind program.

It’s incredible. It’s insane. It’s ingenious.

There’s Mills Gallery from Sydney who will have an exhibition at Nishi Gallery and commissions from Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney artists doing all sorts of things from installations to performances, painting to music. Says David Caffrey, Events/cultural Coordinator for NewActon, “Canberra is at a rich, artistic turning point and is a long way through that turn now.

Photograph: Alex Moffatt

Photograph: Alex Moffatt

“We’ve have noticed a lot of interest in those people coming together and doing collaborations so cross-arts is a big focus for the festival — think along the lines of dance with painting with music.”

This year there will also be four stages with a diversity of art forms taking place across them. Catch ARIA-winning jazz band, Wanderlust on the Central Stage in the A.Baker Eastern courtyard. A momentous band of the 90s that changed Australian jazz, this is an unmissable performance. For something a little different, hang around for the Canberra Symphony Orchestra and their classical quintet with a twist. The CSO will be adding a piano accordion into the mix, which is sure to change the traditional vibe of this performance.

“You would never done this 100 years ago, it would have been  ‘a very big no-no’ but this is contemporary art and we can do away with old structures,” says David.

Photograph: Alex Moffatt

Photograph: Alex Moffatt

Westside at Acton Park will also be a big focus this year when more than 40 visual artists fill the precinct. Visual being everything from an oculus rift, which are those 3D glasses you can wear hrough to immersive sensory deprivation spaces to more traditional street art. And there’s a lot of street art this year! Plus there’ll also be local beats on the day from 1-7pm where every sound made through the homemade sound system at Westside will be made in Canberra.

“I think people who hear it will be really impressed with the quality of electronic music in Canberra at the moment,” says David.

“You’ll be surprised to know that a lot of the producers playing at Westside are actually signed to major labels, and so a lot stuff they play will be one off sounds that they can’t necessarily release.”

But if you’re looking to follow a more tailored trail throughout the festival or experience something a little different, we’ve got you covered. Here are three ways to explore Art Not Apart…

…if you like to party!

The Acton Beach Party is unmissable. There’ll be swimming, paddleboat racing, shuttlecock, volleyball, pina coladas and a jumptown swing band playing and it will be a lot of fun! Rufino and The Coconuts are headlining at 4.40pm at the Beach Party Stage. And yes believe it, Acton has a beach! A government certified beach. April’s Caravan will be displaying beautiful tropical décor with deckchairs, palm trees and the whole shebang with a beautiful vibe. Make sure you go down to the Art Walk as well because the ImproACT performers will be out and about as the Festival’s “Traffic Marshalls” — telling people to get off bikes, walking around with Stop/Slow lollipops handing out lollipops and running a amok in general… This will be raucous fun!

Experience the Audio Sandwich – an installation that is huge stacks of speakers made in Canberra playing fusion music (electronic beats mixed with traditional instruments) including CSO cellist and violinist who will be playing on either side of the Sandwich which you have to walk through to be completely immersed in the sound. A Loop Salon will also take place, an interactive installation where speak into microphones, make sounds and then watch them appear on LCD screens as it enters the Loop Salon program and is made into a song. Within one hour there will be a whole song made by the public before the loop begins again and a new song is produced. This is a first for Canberra.

Ungus, Ungus, Ungus is a circus party band that will be playing on the Central stage at 5.30pm before kicking off with blues to take you through the evening.

But it’s the after party at Westside where you’ll want to be for the ultimate party vibe. From 7pm onwards, 25 DJs will do their thing for 2.5 hours. Every six minutes a new DJ will play; every minute a new track will be introduced. A continuous flow of music, every DJ must mix from the previous one. This will then be followed by Tom Cosm — one of the world’s most respected Ableton producers. For those unfamiliar with Ableton is an electronic music producing software and Tom teaches the world how to use it. The night will wrap up with Sydney’s Club Junk playing a fun, dance party with lights, strobes and projection mapping.

…if you’re new to the art scene. 

Start your day at the West Maze Garden where Dax Liniere is doing a piece called Perception ≠ Reality. Imagine a pair of glasses, with big mirrors sticking off the front bending backwards, so you see around you. Dax will then guide you, (as you’ll be pretty helpless when you’re wearing these things) to a handle rail next to A.Baker in the Western courtyard. Following the handrail, you’ll walk through a series of installations where your perspective will completely change and a lot of your normal motor skills and the reality around you will not be the way it usually is. This is a ticketed but free event.

The Art Walk is perfect for people who aren’t really into their art at a conceptual level but who want to be entertained and see something interesting. There’ll be roving dancer performers around the walk between 1pm and 3pm and then 3.30pm and 5pm. There’s also going to be a roving Ecopella — an acapella choir singing about sustainability with funny lyrics about how screwed the world is but ‘oh well, our new PM is going to make it worse anyway’. The Walk itself includes about 15 installations with ImprovACT performers also roving between the Beach Party and Westside. If you’ve not yet experienced the Suitcase Rummage then you’re in luck because it returns this year by popular demand with more suitcases than ever before. A mini-scale market with big rewards, people bring suitcases filled with secondhand goods, vintage treasures and handmade crafts.

Down by the lake is perfect for a picnic with plenty of picnic blankets on hand to kick back and relax for the afternoon You can BYO picnic or pick up a bite to eat from the street food vendors nearby including Monster Kitchen and Bar who will be making their very own Chiko rolls and no not the frozen ones! These will be sold from the front of Nishi.

A.Baker. Mocan & Green Grout, and Bisicletta are also doing street food stalls for the festival. Bisicletta will be offering a street food style pizza window, which will be a permanent infrastructure open for the festival and remain open in NewActon.

If you’re wanting to think about art just that little bit more than catch comedian Chris Endrie at (4.10pm) who will be interviewing high-profile Canberrans (including sports stars) and the subject will be “Is art just a waste of time?”. It’s a comedy skit that will provoke some interesting, intriguing discussion but also create some good entertainment too.

Finish up with Work It on level 8 of the Nishi Building where you’re invited to take a seat in a bad office chair, drink bad office coffee (just kidding) and watch a projection, dance and sound installation commissioned by the ACT Government and a major art performance debuting at the Festival. Work It is about common place work, how we respond to spaces and how our identity changes where we work. Everyone can relate to it.

…if you’re a conceptual, high-end art lover.

If you’re really into your art, then you will definitely get a kick out of this festival with a number of interesting exhibitions and performances that will challenge contemporary notions within art. This goes all the way to debating whether the art school is wasting their time teaching art. Hosted by the School of the Art and led by the Head of the School, you can catch this conversation from 2.30pm in the new Monster Salon, which is reminiscent of the coffee houses in France in the 1800s where cups and conversations will be overflowing.

Art Monthly will be interviewing artists from around the festival and having specific talks in that space — an event that will be enjoyed by the more arts educated.

“We’re not going to dumb down these conversations either,” says David. “If people aren’t used to the arts conversations they can go to the Central Stage and listen to Chris Endry.”

If you’re looking for something BIG to check out then head up — sixteen storeys up — to an installation above NewActon. Found at apartment 1601, Mental is a strong conceptual art exhibition that will be housed in the industrial shell of a NewActon south penthouse overlooking Canberra and the whole of the festival. It’s elevates psychological art and looks at how artists can delve into their subconscious and make it a recognisable something that they’ve found within.

“A lot of the time this sort of art is approached with hesitance by the audience because it really shows the insides of your mind. That is the power of art but it also shows what is sometimes scary about art,” David says.

“We’re not holding it back; we’re putting on a strong show of stuff that people might find confronting and we’re putting it at the top of the precinct to elevate the importance of some of the important psychological issues — depression is a massive issue in western society and some of the pieces will challenge that.”

There is also an amazing series of works by Janet Angus, which will be looking at how the mind can feel when it’s isolated. There’s another beautiful piece by Victoria Lees (string art in the festivals before) — a piece called Fixity, which is 1,500 tiny little paper labels hanging off very thin wire from a high point in the ceiling. Together they look like a very delicate collection of labels but when you look closely at them they have cat scan prints and different slices of her own brain placed on the labels with little comments on the reverse side (times 1,500).

“They’ll dominate a significant part of the space but they’re also so refined that you might miss them, and I think that’s part of the point,” says David. “Theres so much detail in the components of our life that we miss or completely overlook them. This tries to bring them to the forefront in a very delicate way.”

In a revolutionary style pop-up café set inside an apartment on Kendall Lane, (and perhaps for the more ambitious), reserve your table for an open discuss about the notion of death and identify the highlights of your life, while perhaps even confronting the idea of death itself. Get a glimpse into what it’s like to be on your death bed, literally, when you lay across a cold, marble cooling bed used for the deceased. A singular experience with no artist in the room, you’re encouraged to take a moment to think of your life, take a selfie on while on the bed and then take to social media to post your photo along with what you would remember of your life. A nice exemplification of art today and presented by Hayley West, this is a beautiful collaborative and cathartic piece.


Jessica Schumann

A 'rambling ranga' at heart, Jessica Schumann is a bubbly, creative social thinker who thrives on words, social media and an innate knack for sharing stories. When she finds the time to write, Jessica seeks out the beauty in change and the essence of human condition. Varied and diverse in nature, her writing delves into the enviable world of people, travel, food and culture. When you can't find her in a nook writing, just follow your nose and you’ll soon find Jessica indulging in her other passion – cooking – or curled up on the couch with a good book in hand. You can find her over at More about the Author

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