As the city reopens and resurges back to life, RISING – the state’s newest major cultural event, has unveiled its inaugural program.
Set to envelop the city in a tide of art, music, performance and ceremony, RISING will comprise 133 events and projects – including 36 world premiere commissions – featuring over 750 Victorian artists, who will transform Melbourne over 12 nights from 26 May – 6 June 2021.
Conceived and commissioned to become the Asia Pacific’s preeminent cultural festival, RISING will begin on the evening of May’s total lunar eclipse, with the city and its surrounds becoming the canvas for a celebration of the night and an explosion of new cultural experiences on a scale not yet seen in Australia.
From its most iconic venues and hallowed public spaces to its labyrinthine laneways, and twisting waterways, Melbourne will come alive with an array of free and family focussed events, illuminating public art installations, large-scale performances and intimate provocations that will mark, interrogate and celebrate a moment in time defined by the artists of today and tomorrow.
“Gideon [Obarzanek] and I feel incredibly proud to be launching the inaugural RISING program, especially one that so strongly represents the collective creative energy of Melbourne and the culture and artists it’s famous for” said co-artistic director, Hannah Fox.
“The vision for RISING is centred on the idea that culture is a human right. This means really embedding art, music and ceremony in public spaces and creating opportunities for participation.”
“RISING is a festival of unrepeatable, site-specific performance and large-scale public art, new collaborations in theatre and dance, and novel line ups in live music all connected by food, wine and fun.”
“With over 130 projects in the program from a naked disco for one to an installation floating on the river for many thousands, we invite all of the many communities of Melbourne to come together again after too long apart.”
RISING will take place across five distinct geographic areas: Birrarung; Chinatown; Arts Precinct; Midtown; and Satellite sites – with the aim of increasing these districts and their footprint year-on-year.
“Since the very beginning a strong sense of place has been central to our plans for RISING,” said Obarzanek. “For us, a clear identity through place is what now distinguishes great festivals and the unique experience they offer. For RISING, we wanted to showcase work made specifically for this city that captures, celebrates and responds unambiguously to Melbourne now.”
“Last year we began to plan extraordinary events with many artists and creative teams who were all isolated and their work paralysed. At times the possibility for coming back together was unknown and felt remote but the work sustained us and gave purpose.”
“Determined, we continued to look ahead and now the time is right. Melbourne is looking forward to a great festival and we are ready to celebrate,” said Obarzanek.
FLINDERS STREET STATION
Hidden for decades, Flinders Street Station’s storied and mysterious ballroom will open its doors to Victorians for an immersive and transformative takeover by leading Australian artist Patricia Piccinini – her first major Melbourne undertaking in nearly twenty years.
Conceived and created by Piccinini, A Miracle Constantly Repeated is an immersive multi-sensory experience that will take over the entire top floor of one of the country’s most recognisable buildings, including its majestic ballroom and 15 adjacent and secret rooms. Pulling back the curtain on this grand piece of French
Renaissance style architecture, Piccinini will create a walkable eco-system of hyperreal silicon sculptures, video, sound and light, that will transform the long-shuttered upper level of Australia’s oldest train station.
A glowing eel, sonic bathing, shifting seasons and feasts born from fire along the Yarra’s banks will hallmark the Birrarung program. At dawn and dusk each day of the festival, harmonised voices of First Nations and local artists will reverberate through the city’s streets and buildings for The Rivers Sing – a monumental sonic artwork by soprano Deborah Cheetham AO with artists Byron J. Scullin and Thomas Supple.
Just around the bend, at an ancient meeting place on the river’s banks an undulating, 200-metre-long, glowing eel constructed from community-made lanterns will wind its way up the Birrurung for Wandering Stars.
Created by internationally renowned public art group The Lantern Company, visitors are encouraged to meander along the river’s banks – feasting on fire-roasted snacks from RISING’s kitchens in Birrarung Marr – and connect with First Peoples knowledge of the land, sea, sky and river on which we all live.
Further down the river small groups will be ferried through darkness to the isolation of Herring Island, where alone on a deserted island in the middle of Melbourne, they’ll partake in a sonic bathing experience that transcends space and time – Flow State by sound artists Sarah Retallick and Amanda Roff.
A spiralling art carpark, massive projections, naked discos and moon parades – welcome to Chinatown. Melbourne’s Chinatown, the Western world’s oldest continuous Chinese settlement, will become the site for an expansive exhibition of experimental video, performance, installation and huge projections that explore themes of identity, labour, life cycles, the environment and technology.
In a complete festival-long takeover a spiralling art car park will wind its way skyward in the heart of Little Bourke Street. A concrete temple for big ideas, Golden Square will become a swirling vortex of contemporary art from Australia and abroad, featuring new works by Reko Rennie, Patty Chang, Lucy Bleach, Parallel Park and more.
Commissioned by RISING for the Golden Square program, artist Reko Rennie’s new work, Initiation OA_RR, speaks to the practice of initiation from an urban Aboriginal contexts. A large scale, three channel video work featuring footage of Rennie cruising through the urban landscapes of Western Melbourne in a painted Holden Monaro, Initiation OA_RR features an operatic score by Deborah Cheetham AO, performed and recorded by the MSO.
Visual artist Jason’ Phu’s Parade for the Moon will pop up in Chinatown a number of times each evening during the festival. The procession, consisting of community performers (Lion Group Dancers, drummers, amateur dancers) in costumes created through a series of workshops, will wind their way around the Golden Square Carpark space.
Drawing from his own Chinese-Vietnamese heritage, Jason will invite artists and community members to create costumes which represent their cultural or personal folk lore about the moon.
At Club Purple, it’s just you and the music, baby. Housed at the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre, Club Purple is a naturist disco and non-sexual shedding of inhibitions from Australian artist Stuart Ringholt. Simply remove your clothes, step onto the dancefloor, pick your favourite songs and go!
Curated by Olivia Koh, the hearts of the people are measured by the size of the land is a sprawling video art installation of seven collected works that explore a shifting and multifaceted vision of Asian cultures and ask “What parts of your culture do you take with you? What parts do you leave behind?”
Elsewhere, Atong Atem, one of Melbourne’s most exciting visual artists delivers Banksia – an exploration of the lesser-known history of this country’s first African settlers. The free-to-view projection in Chinatown will reveal obscured layers of history on a breathtaking scale and is accompanied by a score devised by Melbourne composer Petra Salsjö.
In a full laneway takeover, artist Michael Candy – known for his work with sculpture, robotics and hardware hacking – adapts recognisable civil infrastructure with cutting edge technology in Persistence of Vision. Candy will install custom spotlights, embedded in standard CCTV camera housings, that use motion tracking technology to uncannily match your movements through the Chinatown location.
Rounding out the Chinatown program is Roslyn Oades and Bob Scott’s creative audio project The Nightline – a mysterious underground listening club for insomniacs, night owls, lonely-hearts and dreamers. Low-lit tables for one will house a modified rotary telephone, switchboard and lamp, and guests will be invited to stay and listen to the city’s fellow restless souls.
Stage lights, swinging pendulums, a twisting bamboo forest and a frozen lake will ensure you experience Melbourne’s Arts Precinct like never before. Nature will take over the entire Sidney Myer Music Bowl, transforming its iconic amphitheatre into a supernatural forest of ice, art, music and moonlight at The Wilds.
Enter through a bamboo forest and encounter mirrored illusions, architectural tunnels of light, large-scale sculpture, video art and the return of a beloved tradition – ice-skating on the bowl’s stage. From devouring cult snacks by the fire and fine dining in the atrium, to exploring artworks, or ice skating to a DJ in view of Luke Jerram’s giant Museum of the Moon, The Wilds is a one-way ticket to elemental experiences. Rug up and get lost.
Across the road at Arts Centre Melbourne, RISING will revisit the accomplishments of the pioneering Geelong-based Back to Back Theatre, restaging two of the company’s most notable works, Food Court and Ganesh vs The Third Reich, while a third outdoor restaging of small metal objects, will take over Queensbridge Square.
At Hamer Hall, Dr Gurrumul Yunupinu’s posthumously released album, Djarimirri (Child of the Rainbow) will be celebrated with Bungul. In a hypnotic, live performance, Yolnu dancers and songmen present the songs, dances and paintings that inspired Djarimirri. Accompanied by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and directed by Senior Yolnu Don Wininba Ganambarr and Nigel Jamieson, Bungul is a transcendent performance that is not to be missed.
Outside at Hamer Hall, interdisciplinary artists Maree Clarke and Mitch Mahoney will present Ancestral Memory – a huge digital projection depicting a physical manifestation of the Spirit Eel, weaving its way across the façade of the building.
At Malthouse Theatre, celebrated theatre company ILBIJERRI and director Rachael Maza will restage and reimagine the whisky-soaked musical road-trip through the heart of the country Heart Is a Wasteland specially for RISING and leading North Queensland dance company Dancenorth Australia will premiere their epic and intimate new work, RED.
Reshaping the seasons as we know them, SEASONS in Blak Box at the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne will invite visitors into an award-winning sound pavilion, to engage in deep listening – a First Peoples concept that acknowledges silence and in-between spaces, as much as the stories which contain them.
Curated by Aboriginal broadcaster and journalist Daniel Browning, Blak Box includes stories, language and anecdotes from six First Peoples women, artists and elders: N’arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs AM; Isobel Morphy-Walsh; Aunty Joy Murphy AO; Justice Nelson; Fay Stewart-Muir and Mandy Nicholson.
An expansive performance installation taking place at National Gallery of Victoria, created by percussive artist Matthias Schack-Arnott and acclaimed Australian choreographer Lucy Guerin, Pendulum sees dancers take control of suspended bells fitted with a small hammer and lights – each of which tolls, pulses and hums as it swings through space in unison with the dancers’ movements.
In a collaboration with the Melbourne Recital Centre (MRC), one of Australia’s most beloved indie rock bands Augie March will celebrate the 21st birthday of their classic album Sunset Sounds by performing the record live in its entirety. MRC will also become RISING’s home of instrumental, jazz and experimental music performance.
As part The Necks’ festival residency, the band’s singular pianist Chris Abrahams and unrivalled drummer Tony Buck, will each perform a solo in the MRC salon; and the power of one musician will be writ large in a stunning concert from XANI Kolac – one of the most celebrated violinists of her generation, who uses live looping and electronic effects to become a full orchestra.
New life, communal feasts and musical riches. Midtown is Melbourne’s heart and soul distilled. From the minds of DJs Chris Gill and Stick Mareebo and artist Jason Maling, Heavy Congress is a major live music event representing Melbourne’s own thriving sound system culture. Sprouting from proud Jamaican roots, crews of DJs and MCs across the world have now built their own monolithic stacks of custom-designed, intricately adorned speakers.
Set up to surround the audience, the unique sound systems of Melbourne crews will drop bass-heavy dub, roots reggae, drum and bass, hip hop, techno, and party tropical soca tracks pressed to vinyl, taking turns to win over the crowd at Melbourne Town Hall. Their triumphant reward? Playing on every system at once in a baptism of bass frequencies that your body will never forget.
At the Capitol Theatre, Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Lynette Wallworth will present a soul-baring performance lecture, How To Live…, that traces her real-life exodus back to freedom, following her youthful anointment as the prophet of a radical Christian cult.
In a rare opportunity for Melbourne’s live music lovers, the gilded and majestic Comedy Theatre will play host to a string of special collaborations, one-off performances, and even some international visitors, brought together by RISING’s music curator Woody McDonald (Golden Plains, Meredith).
Guitarist and songwriter Ed Kuepper has had a profound influence on Australian music. The founder of legendary punks, The Saints; seminal post-punk outfit Laughing Clowns; and a celebrated solo artist will perform work from across his career, in a collaborative set with Jim White, drummer and founding member of instrumental rock icons Dirty Three. Opening the night is Mess Esque, a new project from White’s Dirty Three bandmate Mick Turner and Helen Franzmann of McKisko.
Performing their first live shows in more than a year, cult improvisation icons, The Necks, are RISING’s Band In Residence. Hailed by the New York Times as “the greatest live trio on Earth” they’ll play across multiple venues in varying formats including two nights at Comedy Theatre.
Marlon Williams’ once in a generation voice will ring out like a beacon. One of RISING’s few international guests returns from his home in New Zealand’s rugged South Island to his regular stomping ground of Melbourne for two performances, supported by haunting indie-folk duo Luluc.
Two years have passed since the release of Crushing – Julia Jacklin’s critically acclaimed 2019 album, and one of the year’s best. Jacklin’s world tour on the back of the album sold out, but she’s back with a series of rare solo performances opened by Melbourne-based artist Kee’Ahn.
In 2020 Melbourne artists Gregor and Sweet Whirl each released the acclaimed albums Destiny and How Much Works. In the grand surrounds of the Comedy Theatre, on a double headlining bill, they finally get to launch these accomplished bodies of work – each with an expanded backing band put together specifically for these shows.
Over one night of lush instrumentation and songwriting, Melbourne’s Grand Salvo and The Orbweavers join forces for the first time since 2006 to mark career milestones with their RISING performances.
Grand Salvo’s Paddy Mann celebrates the project’s 21st anniversary while The Orbweavers mark 10 years since the release of Loom – a celebrated collection of dark folk music, inspired by the human and natural history of the Merri Creek region.
And bringing R&B from an alternate timeline, Connan Mockasin is something of a mystery, even in his home country of New Zealand. It’s hard to say what’s on the cards when Mockasin takes to the Comedy Theatre stage, so just step through the portal and melt into his idiosyncratic world.
Showcasing the breadth of Australian music in 2021, longstanding CBD venue Max Watts will become a music hub each night of the festival – a carefully curated insight into the world of underground music. For RISING, the club will be completely reinvented using the surrounding outdoor laneways and featuring an accessible cabaret-friendly dance floor in the main performance space.
In two huge nights of unflinching hip-hop, and vital dancefloor energy, holding the status quo to account, West Sydney based (Malyangapa, Barkindji) rapper Barkaa performs her debut Melbourne headline show joined by Darwin / Larrakia MC Lil Kootsie, Sevy & Beyang & Soju Gang.
And one of Australian hip-hop’s most vocal advocates for change, DRMNGNOW (Yorta Yorta/DjaDja Wurrung/Ngurai Illum Wurrung), will perform a special full band set along with co-headliner, Sydney MC Kobie Dee (Gamilaroi), supported by Kenyan born MC Pookie.
Pre-pandemic, New Zealand’s Vanessa Worm was building a reputation as Melbourne’s most fearless stage presence – a party prophet delivering Dadaist sermons to Melbourne’s dancefloors. For RISING, Vanessa Worm returns with outsider house producer Eden Burns.
Since playing in Geelong noise-rock outfit The Golden Lifestyle Band in the mid ‘90s, Chris Smith’s live and recorded output has been slim. Playing a set of improvisational electric guitar pieces accompanied by film projections before diving into the songs on Second Hand Smoke with a full band, Smith will be supported by fellow Geelong artist and sporadic performer Lost Animal – whose now 10-year-old album Ex Tropical remains a singular achievement in Melbourne’s 21st century musical canon, and OV Pain.
Audiences will get lost in properly loud guitar jams, bass that cracks sidewalks and drums with broken brake lines with a triple header of Clamm, Brick Head, and Voice Imitator – expect cassette-tape chaos, sweat, screams, riffs and disobedience. And after 20 years spent nurturing, presenting and promoting improvised music and sound performances, Make It Up Club, a staple on Melbourne’s gig guide will join with RISING for a one-off collaboration.
Completing the Max Watts program is a chef’s kiss party platter of Melbourne funk and full-band dance music with Bananagun and Surprise Chef joining forces for a special show at Max Watts, while Melbourne’s innovative concert series Play On will bring together beloved electronic producers Sleep D and the six-person Ad Lib Collective chamber ensemble, for a night of contemporary composition, joined by YL Hooi launching her recent album Untitled.
MESS HALL : MIDTOWN
Mess Hall will see Melbourne’s civic heart, the Town Hall, converted into a bustling hub for concept-driven food and beverage experiences from some of our most well-known chefs. Following a particularly challenging year for the sector, the best of Melbourne’s restaurant, food and wine scenes will converge for six nights of food creation and critical conversation.
In the extravagant Main Hall, nightly banquet The Dinner Party will celebrate Melbourne’s dining culture as it has evolved, with a four-course eating experience – each course heralded by the Hall’s grand 147 rank pipe organ.
Late Night Yum Cha will transport the Cantonese practice of partaking in tea and dim sum, in its most authentic and culturally respectful form, to a night-time setting in Melbourne Town Hall, complete with trolleys moving from table to table dropping ready-to-eat dishes to diners.
Ramen, pho, miso, soup, stock, broth. The Stock Exchange is a look at the restorative and nourishing powers of broth and its infinite variations and histories. A collaboration project that will be housed in the Swanston Street activation of Melbourne Town Hall, The Stock Exchange will serve broth prepared by a different local artisan each day.
At one of Mess Hall’s pre-eminent food events, Tjanabi, diners will explore ancient First Peoples culinary traditions as N’arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs AM’s legendary Tjanabi restaurant is reborn for RISING. Prominent settler chefs have embraced native ingredients in recent years but over a decade ago Briggs – a Boon Wurrung senior elder and the chairperson and founder of the Boon Wurrung Foundation—was paving the way with her much-loved Federation Square restaurant.
Tjanabi’s ethnographic conceptual dining experience will lead diners through a multi-course dinner traversing the past and future of First Peoples food culture, using techniques and flavours from the country’s south east. Think clay baking; native raw seafood, grains, fruits and vegetables; predomesticated super foods; and tactile demonstrations, highlighting what’s been here all along, for tens of thousands of years.
Divine raves, mud wrestling theatre and a drive-in party at the festival’s outer reaches. Stomping on history while dancing to a new dawn at a Melbourne venue to be revealed, Yung Lung is a rave on Mount Olympus from Chunky Move, one of Australia’s leading contemporary dance companies.
Devised by artistic director Antony Hamilton, Yung Lung comes to life via a host of co-conspirators – dancers stomp on a god-like effigy by artist Callum Morton, as a barrage of online imagery manipulated by music video director Kris Moyes rains down; and sweat soaks through Perks & Mini-designed club regalia as Bosco Shaw’s lighting pulsates to the bass-heavy soundtrack of Melbourne techno experimentalist Chiara Kickdrum.
Buckle up for an intimate, scary and snack-fuelled night at Dromana Drive-In. Deep Throat Drive-In – conceived by celebrated cinematographer Sandi Sissel with Willoh Weiland and James Brennan – takes you on a quest, examining misogyny tropes and celebrating the icons of queer, feminist and erotic cinema. It’s a celebration of cinema’s lineage and an affirmation of non-binary and gender diverse experiences.
Internationally acclaimed theatre-maker David Woods brings together an alliance of 30 collaborators to debunk pomp and power. Victorian, Cantonese, Syrian, Bundjalung, American, Yemeni, Greek, Gamilaraay, British, Chinese, Italian, Indian, Korean, Ethiopian, Somalian, Congolese and Aotearoa – pakeha (settler) and Maori makers transform three floors of The Substation into a choose-your-own-adventure performance installation in THIS. – a brutally funny, raw and unflinching response to the theme of infuriation.
Within the union stronghold of Trades Hall, experimental art company APHIDS and real on-demand “gig economy” workers come together in a ritual performance unboxing personal and global experiences of work in Easy Riders. Examining how our demand for convenience is shaping our bodies, behaviour and perception of time; and jeopardising hard-won workers’ rights including the eight-hour workday, Easy Riders demonstrates that future of work is already here.
Presented with North Melbourne’s Arts House, The Dispute is a French/Melbourne coproduction by theatre-maker Mohammed El-Khatib. A work of rare heart and bravery, The Dispute sees children take the stage to describe the ramifications of their parents’ separation in their own words.
Also at Arts House, Nat Randall and Anna Breckon, the acclaimed makers of the innovative and lauded The Second Woman, present Set Piece – a new work that sits at the intersection of theatre, film and dance. Genre bending and full of wit, Set Piece shifts from realism to fantasy and from the clichéd to the inventive, using film techniques, theatre citations, pulp fiction, interview material and improvisations to explore queer erotic dynamics.
Hot air balloons floating across the city skyline is an iconic, early-morning Melbourne sight. But a new aircraft is rising. Museo Aero Solar is a flying museum, devised by the international artistic community Aerocene and artist Tomás Saraceno – a hot air balloon made from 400 re-purposed plastic bags. Each bag is illustrated and written on by the local community, teachers and young climate activists, with the aim of reconnecting the community to the natural world from which the balloon’s materials originate.
Curated by RISING Artistic Associate Kimberley Moulton (Yorta Yorta), Moving Objects asks First Peoples artists to create new work responding to the significant collections of Museums Victoria. Presented as projection, installation, and performance across the city, the work is a manifestation of the transformative potential of opening up access to collections held in museums; continuing the connections to historical material through contemporary creative practice.
The Melbourne Art Trams program returns in 2021, rolling out across the city from Friday 21 May and for the first time in the program’s history, all six designs have been created by First Peoples artists.
Also curated by Kimberley Moulton, the 2021 First Peoples Art Trams artists are: Deanne Gilson (Wadawurrung); Thomas Mark (Wotjobaluk/Gunaikurnai); Aunty Rochelle Patten (Dhudhuroa/Wemba Wemba/Yorta Yorta); Jarra Karalinar Steel (Boonwurrung/Wemba Wemba); Ray Thomas (Brabrawooloong Gunnai); and Aunty Zeta Thomson (Wurundjeri/Yorta Yorta).
“This very first RISING festival celebrates the strength, diversity and resilience of Victoria’s creative community,” said Minister for Creative Industries Danny Pearson. “It brings together hundreds of our artists, musicians, choreographers, writers, theatre makers, designers and hospitality stars to create a memorable 12-night event for all Victorians to enjoy.”
The inaugural RISING takes place Wednesday 26 May – Sunday 6 June 2021. For more information and full program, visit: www.rising.melbourne for details.
Image: The Dispute (supplied)