The 2013 Underbelly Arts Festival was held at the fabulous location of Cockatoo Island, a jewel in Sydney’s magnificent harbour. Cockatoo Island has its industrial shipbuilding heritage, historical convict era buildings and striking natural beauty. There are many atmospheric spaces in which to locate artworks, installations and performances.
Underbelly Arts started in 2007 as a response to artists working out of their bedrooms and in warehouses. It sought to bring all those artists under the one roof and expose them to one another, and to new audiences.
This year’s festival involved 100 artists working on 30 projects. These are emerging and potentially Australia’s next great artists. These emerging artists take risks and are innovative. The results are both breathtaking and confounding. Art can be something more than aesthetically pleasing and many of the artists participating in the Underbelly Arts Festival achieved this level of engagement. There was a wide variety of art at the Festival to contemplate and relate to. There was performance art, visual displays, sound and light installations and you could even have your brainwaves mapped.
One project, ART WORKS, had the artists building the installation, which poses questions of whether the art is about the process, the thought behind its inception, the finished product or its relationship with its audience.
GAME ON was a very popular project. Based on the 1970s sci-fi film FUTUREWORLD, the audience controlled, via giant joysticks and electrodes, a boxing match between two performers.
MUSSELS was a playful display of mussels opening, closing and clicking across a large expanse of driftwood. Nature is recreated and aligned with modern technology in this thoughtful work of art.
TABLEAU VIVANT on first appearance seemed to be kitsch sculptures. On closer examination when one realises that they are all made from confectionary, there is an urge to touch feel and even lick them, while thoughts of childhood come flooding back. The artists have cleverly appealed to multiple senses as well as recollections on place and time.
One of the more thoughtful installations was I MET YOU IN A CITY THAT ISN’T ON THE MAP. The scenario is that the city is being destroyed and is about to end, and asks what would you do. Would you try to re-build, observe or become destructive? This was an example of relational art at its best.
Cockatoo Island is worth visiting on any excuse. An arts festival that appeals to various senses makes the journey to this delightful island even more interesting.