Welcome to the 13th guest blog post of Time Out Sydney's 52 Weeks of #SydCulture 2017 challenge! April's culture selector is Roslyn Helper: director of Underbelly Arts Festival, artist (solo and as part of Zin), and former artistic director of Electrofringe. Every Wednesday of April, Roslyn will be telling us what she loved the week before. Think of it as your recommendations for this week, from someone who sees a helluva lot of arts and culture. Over to her.
Last Sunday afternoon I attended Desire Lines, the third and final of a series of Sunday afternoon Ultimo ‘art walks’ curated by Maeve Parker and Sebastian Henry-Jones. As they have so beautifully described, “To travel along a Desire Line is to engender an alternate direction of behaviour or thought. Desire Lines traverse both physical and cognitive space, and so to step differently is also to think in new ways. A Desire Line is the hole in the fence, the absent-minded turn, the shortcut home.”
It started with a shy group, a combination of 20-something art hipsters ironically wearing sports caps, socks and sandals, and parent-aged inner-westies rocking cargo shorts, gathered on a eucalyptus-scented Ultimo street corner under the collective but unspoken assumption that we were all there for the same reason. We got our names marked off a roll by a friendly guide named Joel, who gave each person a fortune cookie (“Life is not a mystery to be solved, but a reality to be experienced”) and then conducted an acknowledgement of country.
Joel led us, a curious troop of around 30, across to the Ultimo PCYC, past the formidable senior ping pong masters cracking shots across blue tabletops at each other, and up to the rooftop soccer courts that wow you with an unexpected view of Sydney’s skyline. Here, artist Szymon Dorabialski, dressed in a winged motorcycle helmet, a post-apocalyptic Mad Max-cross-Robocop costume and rollerblades swanned across the court to an ambient soundtrack.
Then, led down a narrow pedestrian alleyway lined with crooked backyard fences, we came upon a dead-end cul-de-sac where artist Hana Hoogedeure (with Julien Bowman and her mum) created a game of basketball with a twist. The basketball hoops were strapped to the artists’ backs like backpacks and the basketball was big and cushy and too large to fit in the hoops.
From there to a Kennards Storage facility, we squished into an elevator to the second floor. As the doors slid open, we were greeted by a figure in white pants, black duct tape wrapped brutally around his middle, a stocking around his head and one hand behind his back shaking a tambourine.
Stepping out of the elevator was like stepping over a threshold. Echoes of industrial techno music rattled off the cement and metal surfaces. As we followed, the noise, pierced intermittently by falsetto screams, grew louder and louder until we were all squished inside the storage unit, faced with a slight, androgynous figure walking elegantly on a treadmill. His right arm was ominously hooked up to a catheter and hospital bag as he played noise on a synthesiser. He was framed by a rich gold curtain backdrop, strobe lights and flanked by two stocking-headed figures, who had replaced their tambourines for dumbbells. It felt otherworldly and warpy and shattering.
Other works that featured along the walk took place in a carpark usually reserved for apartment residents, where dancer and choreographer Rhiannon Newtown conducted a group reading and dance. A series of found object sculptures were placed along the walk by Harrison Witsey – marking the way but also leaving us to question which objects had been artfully placed and which were coincidentally poetic; and a leafy dappled sunlight park, where Placeholder (John Wilton, Andrew Fedorovich & Laurence Williams) performed an unamplified noise set.
The walk ended with a video screening – Captain Ultimo by Charlie Freedman – at The Lord Wolseley, also the perfect place to get a beer and transition out of art walk mode into real life mode, though the experience lingered and the traces of it were still felt walking home through the city. As my fortune cookie has so aptly foretold, “Life is not a mystery to be solved, but a reality to be experienced”. Desire Lines certainly affirmed that.
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