If like myself you’ve been pouring over the Sydney Festival program like a bored house wife over a copy of NW, you probably would’ve noticed a little exhibition called LIVE. If not there you’ve probably seen publicity plastered across buses and on the back of magazines etc. One of the most exciting features of the festival’s many events, LIVE is a video installation focused on exploring performance, featuring up close and personal solo performances by a stellar line-up of artists such as Jarvis Cocker, Gareth Liddiard, Warren Ellis, Peaches, Fiest and many more.
Put together by director Jasmin Tarasin, LIVE has it’s opening night tonight featuring performances by Gareth Liddiard, Sarah Blasko, Kram and Laura Jean at Sydney’s Lower Town Hall, with the video exhibition going on from the 14th to the 23rd of January. I was lucky enough to talk to Jasmin over the phone late last year to discuss the exhibition, her inspiration and her own lack of musical talent.
Music Feeds: So tell me about where the idea for the exhibition came about?
Jasmin Tarasin: I have always had a lifelong obsession with live music. Moving into directing music videos and doing commercials and documentaries music has always been a major theme in my work and a major part of my life. I was traveling a lot in Spain over the past ten years, enjoying a lot of Flamenco dancing and singing and guitar playing and things like this, and seeing these performers who perform with such spirit and emotion. Speaking to some of the artists and audience members they described to me their idea of how certain performers have the ability to open up their heart and share the experience they’re experiencing with the audience, so you as the audience share that feeling and similar state of being with that performer.
I found that very fascinating, that they would describe certain musicians who had that and others who didn’t and I starting thinking about how that would relate to musicians that I enjoy and who I felt had that energy. So I wrote a list of the artists who did have this effect and I asked them if they wanted to be a part of this exhibition. I thought very carefully about how you would display something like this. I work across a lot of different mediums and I didn’t feel like it was appropriate to be done in a video documentary style or a website or anything like that. I felt that I had to create a really intimate setting as well as a large scale experience for an audience or a viewer to experience what I was trying to explore, so a video art exhibition is what I came up with.
I worked with a exhibition designer called Bruce Ramesh who works a lot with music concert design, he’s worked with Brain Eno and David Bowie and U2 and lots of people, also doing installation work with them at The Opera House and other different places, and when I first told him the idea he said ‘ok how can we integrate that into an exhibition design?’ In the end we came up with something that worked really well. We’re really excited about how it’s come together.
MF: I suppose a lot of it comes down to empathy, and really getting at that direct experience of seeing these performers stripped back from all the pomp and fanfare that can often come along with a concert?
JT: Definitely. It’s as raw as you get, there’s one take, there’s one shot, there’s no visual effects there’s no sound effects so really you’re just getting these amazing performers performing for you. The concept we were aiming at is that we want people to feel like they’re performing for them alone and you do really get a sense of that, and luckily for me they did perform pretty much to me alone, so that was amazing in itself. It was incredible making it, I loved it and it’s just been the most incredible experience. It’s also an exhibition I really want to go to. I don’t have a background in video art, but I hope that after this I can continue to work on exhibitions that I want to go to. So I’m hoping that everyone else will want to share in the experience and want to come as well. But for me it’s just about.. you know I just can’t wait to see it.
MF: It seems that it’s very important for you to keep things simple and straightforward, to make sure the work reflects the content and not the medium?
JT: Video art is a very kind of obscure concept, because purchasing video art, all of that is quite bizarre to me. I respect it, I work with an amazing video artists who does amazing work called Daniel Cook, but it is something that is quite strange, but I felt that Sydney Festival really embraced the idea beautifully. It has been really nice to be given the opportunity to premiere in such a great environment. For instance when I first met with the festival director Emily she came out and thanked me for my concept and I thought she was going to hug me. I was like ‘it’s ok, I love it too,’ so it’s a just been a really nice experience to make it and then put it on. I’m really excited to see what people have to say about it.
MF: Well the opening night looks great, I can’t imagine a more ideal circumstance for you to premiere this piece.
JT: Yeah I think it will be wonderful. The thing which I’m most looking forward to is the fact that t while there are some pretty well know acts in there, there are also some lesser known artists and I’m really looking forward to people going to see their favourite artists or what have you and then exploring the exhibition and experiencing performances and music from other performers who they haven’t experienced before. Like having someone like Laura Jean standing right next to people like Feist and Warren Ellis, it’s kind of a great contrast and I think that’s exciting.
MF: Looking at them on paper, from Peaches and Gareth Liddiard, some of them don’t really seem to sit well together. Was there a lot of effort put into thinking about how the pieces will compare and contrast with each other? Was their a defining characteristic you were looking for?
JT: It really is about performers that are dynamic and enigmatic with their performance styles, if you put Peaches on one stage and Gareth on the other, it’s full on performance from both, even if there is a difference in music. This exhibition isn’t about my favourite music, the music is amazing but that’s secondary, it’s truly about performers who are just there to perform, they can’t not.
MF:They’d be performing whether they were famous or not. If they hadn’t succeeded they just be busking on the street.
JT: That’s it, exactly. I think that’s another reason why I wanted to make this exhibition is because I would love to be a performer and as I said I’ve always surrounded myself with music and people who play music but I just don’t have a cell in my body that can do it. Two of my closest friends have a beautiful little group called the Ukeladies and they’ve kept a position in the band for me for about 5 or ten years and they bought me a drum kit and I’ve just tried so hard to get my thing going, but the position is still vacant. It’s really something I appreciate so much because I can’t do it myself.
MF: I guess that would sort of help with this exhibition in particular as you can experience the performances as the audience would as opposed to the way a musician would, from a perspective outside music.
JT: Yeah it’s more about the feeling that you feel. I was mastering out the exhibition yesterday and you know I was sitting there with the grader that I work with and usually we run through it quite quickly, just checking the colours are right and everything, but he was like oh let’s watch this one, oh one more one more, and we ended up watching the whole exhibition.
LIVE Opening Night
Thursday Jan 13
Featuring performances by Gareth Liddiard, Sarah Blasko, Kram and Laura Jean
Lower Town Hall 483 George Street, Sydney (enter via Druitt Street)$
LIVE Installation Sydney NSW
Friday Jan 14 – Sunday Jan 23
Lower Town Hall 483 George Street, Sydney (enter via Druitt Street)$
(closed January 17)
Timed entry: 11am–7.15pm (closes 8pm) on January 14–16, 18, 23
11am–9.15pm (closes 10pm) on January 19–22
Tickets $15 / $12