BY ALANNAH MAHER
Sydney is gearing up for a full calendar of creativity as a new and rejuvenated Art & About (A&A) returns to bring art to unusual places, but with a major difference. After 13 years of a festival-style program tediously packed into one month of thought-provoking exhibitions and intriguing events, A&A has expanded into a yearlong calendar of cultural expression publicly accessible art.
Creative Director Stephen Gilby said that this newly extended platform has opened up A&A to working with an even broader range of artists across various disciplines, as well as the flexibility to work with different people at different times of the year without being restricted.
First and foremost however, the programming change was a response to the findings of Sydney Council’s recent Creative City cultural policy and action plan. Through an extensive consultation process carried out over about two years, the council found that “…people wanted more cultural expression, they wanted to see more art, they wanted to see more performance and they wanted to see it more regularly” explained Gilby.
On reviewing expressions of interest in participating in A&A submitted by a vast range of creatives, the program organisers deducted that the proposed projects had the strength to “really stand outside of a festival context… and give people an opportunity to experience really unique and amazing things all throughout the year”.
Reflecting on the newly expanded program, the usual one night launch in Martin Place has been traded in for nine evenings of The Terrace, a pop up garden bar on top of the Town Hall building, offering up the best of live music from this Friday night.
“I think placing a venue like this, a New York style rooftop bar in the iconic Sydney Town Hall is just going to be fantastic. What an experience, I can’t wait to see what it’s going to be like,” said an eager Emma Pask, one of nine diverse musical performers entertaining as part of The Terrace’s musical program. With a career in jazz music spanning 20 years, Pask was discovered at a high school band workshop at the tender age of 16, by none other than esteemed Australian jazz musician James Morrison. She will be launching her latest album of Latin inspired music on Saturday night.
“I can’t wait, its such an incredible event,” said Emma. “The fact that City of Sydney are putting this on for us as musicians and also for the public who want to come out and hear some live music for free, its such an incredible incentive to get out there and check out Sydney in the warmer months…”
The Terrace is an exciting and relaxing space to grab a drink as the sun sets over the city, whether you’ve been in the office or spending the day discovering art works. “It really give a taster of the broad diversity of the music scene in Sydney,” said Gilby. “…It’s a really good opportunity to broaden out what you think you know.”
According to Stephen, one of the aims of A&A is to “…bring something to the public, something that people can stumble across and be surprised, entertained and maybe perplexed by.” Embracing the theme of ‘art in unusual spaces’, many of the projects involved in the A&A program aim to surprise Sydney’s residents and visitors in unexpected places and to encourage new perspectives on familiar themes. Photography exhibitions including Exchange, Little Sydney Lives and Australian Life capture outside perspectives perfectly; with Exchange rendering everyday moments beautiful by capturing the instances we see but don’t ‘really see’.
Situated in the high thoroughfare location of the forecourt of Customs House Square, Near Kin Kin is a soaring bamboo tower standing over 20 metres tall, and encourages bustling city commuters to step inside and be reminded of the tranquillity of nature. This structural achievement has been a huge feat for design collaborate Cave Urban, the original concept by sculptor Juan-Pablo Pinto has been collaborated on by various professionals and has spent two weeks in the warehouse and one week on site before being unveiled.
The bamboo and name for Near Kin Kin were specifically sourced from a hillside farm in QLD. “It’s a place we often work, that part of Australia grows very large bamboo that you can’t get down in NSW,” said Jed Long, Architectural Designer with Cave Urban. “It’s taking a place that’s quite important to us and translating that into the city…”
With the support of Event Engineering and Marco Steel, Cave Urban were able to expand upon the design of a 12 metre tall tower built for Sculptures by the Sea. “Each artwork that we create allows us to test structurally all the different joints and connection methods,” said Long.
The Customs House forecourt was a deliberate location, without skyscrapers crowded around the sheer size of the tower can be appreciated (which was reaching 23 metres in height, according to Long’s latest update from the warehouse). Its ties to nature also reflect upon the many layers of Sydney Cove’s history.
Stephen Gilby remarked that it has “been a long time since Art & About has done a really big major installation like [Near Kin Kin].” Gilby is also excited for out of the ordinary events including the surprise ambient sound performances of Games + Actions (for a Quiet City), contemporary dance project Tut, and the immersive cinema projects coming up with Golden Age Cinema.
A&A’s expanded program means a whole year of enriching art experiences awaits the people of Sydney. “We’re not trying to compete with other existing festivals that are happening,” explained Gilby. “What we’re looking at is those quiet periods within the year, those times when something may have just finished and people go: ‘Wow that was fantastic, but what’s next?’”
ART & ABOUT
Sept 18–27. 5pm-10pm each night, Sundays 3pm-8pm. Sydney Town Hall, Druitt Street side.
[EMMA PASK performs Sept 26. New album Cosita Divina available on iTunes or from emmapask.com]
NEAR KIN KIN
Sept 18–Oct 11. Customs House Square forecourt. Info: caveurban.com
Information on these and all other upcoming events: artandabout.com.au