RISING launches epic 2024 program of new music, art and performance set to ignite Melbourne this June

RISING Flinders St photo by Damien RaggattMelbourne’s premiere festival of new music, art and performance, RISING has unleashed its sweeping 2024 program. Featuring 105 events, more than 480 artists, 23 new commissions, 6 world premieres, and 8 Australian premieres, RISING is set to take the city as a stage as winter begins from 1 – 16 June.

Across sixteen nights, spanning three epic weekends, RISING will stretch down the spine of Swanston St and beyond as large scale installations, free public events and world-class contemporary music, theatre and dance, ignite the city’s streets, venues and hidden spaces.

Historic arcades and back alleys will come alive with art exhibitions, performances, micro-bars, art and dance classes. A transformed Melbourne Town Hall hosts a sprawling day party across the King’s Birthday long weekend.

Epic and ethereal sound works echo from the Birrarung through the CBD, St Paul’s Cathedral becomes a site of mass music making, and First Nations art goes large at Fed Square.

“RISING 2024 is a festival that belongs to Naarm, Melbourne. Some of the most exciting voices in art, music and performance offer moments of catharsis and reflection with mass music making in a church or summoning the cosmos in our town square.” said RISING co-artistic directors Hannah Fox and Gideon Obarzanek, “The most important part is coming together to be thrilled, bemused, shaken or delighted.”

Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Steve Dimopoulos shared the enthusiasm: “A packed program of amazing cultural experiences will see RISING ignite Melbourne’s winter again in 2024, bringing visitors into the city to revel in this major event filled with art, music and performance.”

In 2024 RISING invites audiences to see Melbourne in a new light and experience the city’s transformed landmarks and hidden gems, from its labyrinthine laneways to its iconic gathering spaces.

Presented in partnership with MAPCO, and curated by Kimberley Moulton (Yorta Yorta) (Shadow Spirit, 2023) and Kate ten Buuren (Taungurung), Fed Square will transform into a vibrant forum of First Peoples’ art, politics, and cosmic connections with The Blak Infinite – an expansive free exhibition and public program at the heart of the festival.

Anchoring The Blak Infinite is Richard Bell’s (Kamilaroi, Kooma, Jiman and Gurang Gurang) installation EMBASSY – inspired by the original Aboriginal Tent Embassy, pitched on the grounds of Canberra’s Parliament House in 1972. Bell’s piece continues the politically driven work of First Peoples, featuring daily film screenings and a program of talks with activists, writers and artists every Saturday of the festival.

Immersive night-time projections share stories of Sky Country and the cosmos – lit up each evening in the square, transporting you into celestial knowledge. Tony Albert’s (Girramay/Yidinyji/Kuku Yalanji) large-scale artwork immerses us in themes of alienation, belonging and place through colour-filled installations and a children’s program.

The big screen features speculative fiction from First Peoples writer Ellen Van Neerven. While  Wadawurrung artist Kait James, uses collage to subvert the loaded visual language of souvenirs.

RISING The River SingsAlong the Birrarung, First Nations soprano and composer Deborah Cheetham AO and audio artists Byron Scullin and Thomas Supple’s monumental sound work The Rivers Sing returns to RISING. It offers a nightly pause at dusk that blends field recordings with human voices, echoing waterway singing traditions.

Projected by powerful long-range speakers across a 2km radius in the heart of Naarm the work is a celebration of nature’s voice and a reminder of the river’s enduring song.

In a free, Australian-exclusive world-premiere, international dance-floor phenomena, SHOUSE, will conduct a rapturous coming together. In Communitas the duo invites over a thousand participants to form a mass-choir as they sing, dance and make sound vibrations for vibration’s sake.

Beneath the hallowed vaulted ceilings of St Paul’s Cathedral, SHOUSE will lead a unique celebration, bringing together the beat of drums, a chorus of voices and a mass of humanity to forge new connections and strengthen old ones through an act of collective composition.

Over the past three years, Melbourne Art Trams have been dedicated to First Peoples artists working and living in Victoria. They have become emblematic of Melbourne’s unrivalled artistic spirit, enchanting commuters, and passers-by alike.

This year, breaking free from a dedicated theme, curator Jarra Karalinar Steel has selected works that embrace artistic freedom, unleashing a kaleidoscope of narratives, styles, and perspectives reflecting the vibrant essence of First Peoples culture, art, and design.

Numbers don’t lie. In 2013, artist Richard Bell (Kamilaroi, Kooma, Jiman, and Gurang Gurang) debuted Pay the Rent in Melbourne/Naarm – a digital sign with rapidly accumulating numbers. The staggering sum, zooming upwards in red digits, represents the calculated debt owed to First Nations people by the Australian Government since Federation in 1901.

It’s over a decade since the work was first displayed. Since then, it’s travelled to Performa 15 in New York, documenta in Kessel, Germany, the Tate Modern in London and the Venice Biennale. Now returns to Naarm for RISING, spanning the facade of State Library Victoria.

RISING Night Trade photo by Shannyn HigginsThe festival’s pulsing hub and nightly social club Night Trade, made easy by Up, returns in 2024. This time, it delves deep into Melbourne’s hidden history as it sprawls across the network of laneways underneath the Capitol Theatre and connects through to Howey Place – the original home of Melbourne’s most eccentric and ambitious book shop and the first queer club in the city. Amongst the neon haze, discover installations, exhibitions, dumplings, micro-bars, interactive art, music and dance.

RISING’s theatre, dance, and performance program features world premieres, epic new commissions and works that challenge, entertain, and provoke.

At Melbourne Town Hall, ILBIJERRI Theatre Company present Big Name No Blankets, a rock ‘n’ roll story celebrating the trailblazing music icons, Warumpi Band and inspired by tales from founding member Sammy Tjapanangka Butcher.

The epic new commission, co-directed by theatre icon Dr Rachael Maza AM and Anyupa Butcher cranks the amp and plugs into to the heart of Papunya via Sammy’s tales of the Warumpi Band – Australia’s original First Peoples rock stars, known for their anthems, Blackfella/Whitefella, My Island Home and Jailanguru Pakurnu.

An illusionist’s dinner party becomes an absurd meditation on human consumption in FOOD – an Australian premiere at The Lawler (Southbank Theatre), from poetic illusionist and master clown from New York, Geoff Sobelle.

Audiences gather round the stage-sized table where at first, Sobelle plays the fine-dining waiter. Then he’s off: tracing the history of food – way, way back into distant fields of buffalo and grain. It’s sensory time travel with a surreal sizzle. But make sure you eat before you come

Cadela Força Trilogy The Bride and the Goodnight Cinderella photo by Christophe RaynaudChapter One of the Cadela Força Trilogy: The Bride and the Goodnight Cinderella, sees Brazilian artist and director Carolina Bianchi travel through time and states of consciousness to confront a vision of hell.

Direct from Europe where its premiere has drawn accolades and sparked controversy and conversation about the very nature of theatre and storytelling, this powerful work makes its Australian premier at Malthouse for RISING.

Shaken by the death of Italian artist Pippa Bacca – who was sexually assaulted and murdered while performing a work about human kindness – Bianchi presents a performance-lecture. She presents vividly about the spectre of sexual violence that runs through the history of art, until she hits an impasse. Then things go dark.

8/8/8 is a durational performance work, a utopian, maximalist epic of experimental performance from Melbourne theatre-makers Harriet Gillies and Marcus McKenzie. The first part of the triptych, 8/8/8: WORK, presented at RISING 2022, was an 8-hour immersive experience, highlighting the absurdity and violence of modern workplaces.

8/8/8: REST shifts gears by delving into the unconscious on an 8-hour nocturnal journey through the many levels of Arts Centre Melbourne: a murky dreamscape where capitalist models of success are rejected, and individual identities are dissolved.

In a world premiere presentation from Lucy Guerin Inc, One Single Action (in an ocean of everything) sees dance duo Amber McCartney and Geoffrey Watson ride the internal and external rifts in a world fraught with interference.

In and out of sync, they move in conflict and in harmony – through fragmented terrain that leads in one direction. In an attempt to interrupt the acceleration of our times and pause the relentless scrolling of their anxieties, they resort to a single desperate action.

Stretch the hamstrings. Strap on the protective headgear. Tune the snare and apply the bow resin. ONE SONG HISTOIRE(S) DU THÉÂTRE IV is an utterly frenzied rock concert spiked with lactic acid. The brainchild of Flemish artist Miet Warlop, it’s one song performed over and over by a squad of musicians.

At the same time, they run an obstacle course of balance beams, treadmills and trampolines – until they almost collapse from exhaustion. And to witness it literally course through their veins – as they speed it up, break it down, and sweat it out to the finish line – is nothing short of inspirational.

RISING The First Bad ManUpstairs at the Capitol Theatre Salon, Ireland’s Pan Pan Theatre present The First Bad Man – a performative book club that lives the fiction of Miranda July’s debauched classic. Four characters – Kitty, John, Rose and Freya – join a book club. Their first novel is The First Bad Man.

Just like a regular book club, you don’t have to have read The First Bad Man before joining this performative book club. But you’ll get the chance – each person booking tickets for the performance will receive a copy of the novel, for good measure.

UK comedian, writer and theatre maker Daniel Kitson, who the New York Times hails as being “in contention for greatest comedian working today ” is putting on a show at The Lawler (Southbank Theatre) called Collaborator: A Work in Progress.

True to form he has not provided usable copy or a press shot, but describes the show as being conceived specifically to be performed in the round, re-written for each venue, saying “This will likely be the fifth staging and something like the eighth rewrite and it’s actually getting quite good”.

In Burnout Paradise at Malthouse, endorphin levels surge early, and harried euphoria takes hold, as four performers from Pony Cam Theatre Collective run over 15km on treadmills, manically multi-tasking before burn-out sets in. They simultaneously prepare a three-course meal, apply for an arts grant, recite a soliloquy from Hamlet, and call a game of Bingo with the audience… all the while running as if their lives depended on it.

In a new RISING commission, ECLIPSE at Melbourne Town Hall, a war is raging between two of Naarm’s fiercest kweens CERULEAN and Stone Motherless Cold, with special guests from across the multiverse. A First Peoples future-forward drag show that spans the ages – from the Big Bang(er) to the Paleocene, through the Beyoncé epoch and into the Blak queer future that awaits us all. Destroy the empire and dance among its remains in this world premiere.

S. Shakthidharan’s acclaimed Sri Lankan-Australian saga, the multi-award winning Counting and Cracking, makes its long awaited Victorian debut at RISING, co-presented with University of Melbourne Arts and Culture (UMAC) at the new Union Theatre.

The breathtaking production, co-produced by Belvoir St Theatre and Kurinji and directed by Belvoir’s award-winning Artistic Director Eamon Flack, follows four generations over five decades from Sri Lanka to Sydney, and tests the complex strength of family love.

At the Immigration Museum, enter the innermost realm of iconic Melbourne dance company Chunky Move’s latest work where the walls quiver, and time contorts. You, Beauty is a cavernous and intimate performance experience that moves between hard exteriors and soft interiors.

Inside the Immigration Museum’s stately Long Room, a giant undulating inflatable acts as an explorable theatre and a sculptural form. Two dancers converse with each other and the abstract mass, as it warps and stretches.

RISING Arkadia photo by Gregory LorenzuttiArkadia, Melanie Lane’s new dance opera at Substation, invites audiences to step through a wishing well into a utopian realm. Inspired by Greek mythology, it’s a Garden of Paradise where gods, nymphs and aliens transform. Bodies unite and suspend as entities tense and stretch the in-between of the natural world and advanced technologies.

Queered Filipino myths surface through dance, installation, masquerade and haute couture costuming in artist Justin Shoulder’s ANITO at Arts House. Live soundscapes flood the space as performers morph between animal, plant, human and machine. It’s the latest evolution of his theatre-dance-art hybrid. A work of Filipinix future-folklore that charts humanity in a reverse spiral. Meet us at the RISING premiere for myths reimagined.

At the Capitol Theatre, India’s most popular mentalist is going to plunge into your thoughts and blow your mind. Suhani Shah, the pioneering superstar mind-reader has the unique ability to make sceptics believe and leave them smiling as well. Participate or spectate as Shah delves into the depths of mental mysteries, with enthralling charisma, linguistic deception, and mind-reading prowess. Let go of logic and let Suhani take over.

Also at Arts House,Ghenoa Gela with Force Majeure in association with ILLBIJERRI Theatre Company, present Gurr Era Op. Torres Strait Islander women dance and weave stories of connection and culture, as their homeland is threatened by rising seas and climate catastrophe. Led by choreographer Ghenoa Gela, they weave the wisdom of creation stories into an urgent call from the now.

In partnership with the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne Out Loud is a free, new exhibition featuring the newly complete archive of the late Australian maverick photographer, Rennie Ellis. Best known for his fly-on-the-wall photography of celebrities, models, nightclubs and Australian suburbia, Ellis was the social documentarian of an era, capturing every slice of Australian life over a thirty-year period.

For RISING, Rennie Ellis Up Late is a party curated by MzRisk, in the spirit of a photographer who didn’t just document the night, he got right there in it. Have a boogie with DJ Gavin Campbell, Rara Zulu, Voices of Halo, Crew-X and House of Diesel.

From Melbourne icons Dirty Three in their first hometown shows in 12 years, to Western Sydney drill trailblazers OneFour, US hip hop icon Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) performing two sets including a headlining show at PICA (Port Melbourne Industrial Centre for the Arts), and the singular Swedish electro-pop singer and producer Fever Ray, in Australia for the first time, RISING’s contemporary music program will take over the CBD’s most iconic venues, weaving together a diverse line-up of the best musical talents from across Australia and the globe.

Tentpoling the festival’s mammoth middle long weekend, Day Tripper, co-presented with Triple R is RISING’s day party takeover of Melbourne Town Hall and surrounding venues under a single ticket. A live mixtape of music, performance, art and film encompassing multiple rooms within the grand old Melbourne Town Hall, the glorious Capitol Theatre cinema and basement club Max Watt’s.

RISING 2024 runs 1—16 June. Tickets for RISING subscribers are now on sale. Tickets for the general public from 14 March. For more information and full program, visit: www.rising.melbourne for details.

Images: RISING on Flinders St Station – photo by Damien Raggatt | The River Sings (supplied) | Night Trade – photo by Shannyn Higgins | Cadela Força Trilogy: The Bride and the Goodnight Cinderella – photo by Christophe Raynaud | The First Bad Man (supplied) | Arkadia – photo by Gregory Lorenzutti