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52 Weeks of #SydCulture: Week 2

Written by
Jess Scully

Welcome to the first guest blog post of Time Out Sydney's 52 Weeks of #SydCulture 2017 challenge! Every Tuesday of January, curator and City of Sydney councillor Jess Scully is 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 Jess.

Just as we’re groggily emerging from that hazy holiday period, when you’re never really sure what day it is, Sydney Festival appears. Before we return to everyday life, we have the chance to interrupt our usual thinking and expand our perspectives. Sometimes it can be meditative and gentle, like floating in a ballpit (I have to get to that next week), and sometimes, it can pack a punch.

I copped a SydFest one-two wallop on Friday (Jan 6) and Saturday (Jan 7): first the head, and then the heart.

EXIT by Diller Scofidio + Renfro – installation view at UNSW Galleries
Photograph: Prudence Upton

On Friday night I experienced EXIT, an immersive video piece from designers diller scofidio + renfro, which has been shown at all the gatherings of global leaders you can imagine. It stopped Clover Moore in her tracks in Paris, at the COP21 Conference, and she worked with UNSW Galleries to bring it to Sydney.

EXIT plunges you into the tides of human migration, accelerated today by the effects of climate change, conflict and industrial disruption. It sounds depressing, but it's worth wading into these data waters to see the many threads that connect our fragile human family.

Kenneth Ransom and Pacharo Mzembe in Prize Fighter, at Belvoir until Jan 22
Photograph: Brett Boardman

Saturday brought Prize Fighter at Belvoir, where the audience walked into the heat and tension of a boxing gym. The show is one of the most intensely physical I've experienced: the cast didn't stop moving, pacing, working out, towelling down, seamlessly moving through timelines and characters.

The sweat and movement are just distractions, though, feinting at the shadows that haunt child-soldier turned Prize Fighter Isa, played by Pacharo Mzembe. Isa’s memory flickers back and forth, and we can feel the strain of opposing emotions and drivers – terror, loss, ambition, attraction, guilt – in the battle to move ahead.

Playwright Future D. Fidel has crafted a taut, powerful story, drawn from his experience as a refugee coming to Australia, and it breathes life into the data points and slogans that cloud the conversation around migration.

For me, Prize Fighter was a reminder that behind every face there are a thousand stories: wins, losses, and the hope for connection. Which is a pretty great way to start the year.

Prize Fighter runs until Jan 22 at Belvoir; EXIT runs until Mar 25 at UNSW Galleries. 

Read more about our 52 Weeks of #SydCulture challenge, and let us know what you're seeing/loving on Instagram via the hashtag #SydCulture.

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