Image for Next Wave Festival

Next Wave Festival

Written by Minna Mühlen on May 26, 2010

Next Wave Festival
Various locations around the Melbourne CBD
May 13th – May 30th

Melbourne has copped some flak recently as the things it cherishes most have slipped out of reach with the closure of the Tote, the painting over a Banksy stencilled rat in Hosier Lane and now murmurings that another seminal piece of art is going by the wayside (funnily enough right behind the Tote) Keith Haring’s mural Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (1984). 

But then something like the Next Wave Festival (May 13th –May 30th) fires up and reminds you Melbourne’s reputation as a creative hub stems not from the guest appearances of Haring or Banksy in the odd laneway but from the unique spaces it continues to offer up to local emerging artists. The festival’s motto this year was ‘No Risk Too Great’ and while some of the work is not always as thrilling as that sounds the spaces are.

Although it is a festival defined by its seemingly unfettered access to some unusual venues a quick comment from any artist or curator involved assures you that there were mountains of Occupational Health and Safety issues surmounted before any artwork was installed. However from the viewer perspective the festival seems imbued with a large amount of trust and nil security as you wander through these venues.

Being able to enter the bizarre utilitarian underground of Federation Square is a whole new experience of the cityscape. As Lauren Brincat’s surreal 12 minute video “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” featuring a parched, rural Victorian landscape plays in front of you, the Flinders Street trains rumble over ahead and alongside, shaking the surrounding walls. Brincat’s video is strangely complemented by this pipe ridden concrete space adding an urban dimension to her work.

Over near the Victoria Markets in the old meat market hall where the Next Wave headquarters are situated is one of the festival’s keynote projects, “Structural Integrity”, featuring six Australian and five Asian Artist Run Initiatives. In the open barn-like hall a circus atmosphere unfolds of tents, smoke rings and coloured flags. The curators Jeff Khan and Ulanda Blair used the pavilion space to play upon the associations of the Victorian era World Fair and exhibitions that promoted national exports and achievements.

However the eclectic works on display here are a world away from the rational or scientific exhibits of bygone times; plants are intertwined with speaker systems making eerie buzzing noises, scenesters tunnel their way to the centre of the earth on video, remote control cars are propelled up cardboard mountains and crystal cities are mounted out of televisions, foil and foam. The space leaves you a little bewildered as you wander back out into the clarity of daylight.

Meanwhile in the evening Melbourne Central’s rooftop finds itself adorned with a refined bit of Japanese culture in the form of bathhouse replete with a miso soup stand. The Sydney collective Bababa International invited unsuspecting shoppers and late night commuters the chance to take a dip in a semi-warm mud bath and gaze out over the city rooftops. Despite the chill a surprising amount of punters took the plunge, perhaps a testament to the festival’s ability to make people take risks in strange places.

With over fifty projects and many more artists there is bound to be hit and misses, and also missed opportunities of viewing the best performances on any given night. However the momentum of the festival is carried by Melbourne city’s willingness to play host over two weeks to a series of events and artists allowing them to mould themselves into venues familiar and not so familiar, making an everyday wander through the city and its surrounds a little more memorable.

Full guide of all the happenings and performances here.

Image by Jorge de Araujo

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