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Musician Flora carbon playing the saxophone with a funky pink and blue filter on the image
Photograph: Supplied/Earshift Music Festival

Here are the best online arts events you can stream

Arts venues and festival may be shuttered right now, but there are still plenty of fun things you can enjoy in the digital realm

Written by
Stephen A Russell
Contributor
Time Out editors
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If you've got a screen, you're just a couple of taps away from these awesome streamable cultural events that do not require any fancy clothes (or any clothes at all, tbh). There are heaps of cultural and cool must-sees online right now, from an online jazz festival, to Jude Perl's musical comedy mental health theatre show I Have a Face, to the Spot On(line) Children’s Festival just in time for the school holidays. 

So settle in with our guide to the best livestreams, virtual walk-throughs, and digital arts events happening in Sydney and beyond right now.

Need more ideas? Expore these cool things to do at home.

What to stream in Sydney right now

  • Film
  • Romance
  • Sydney

For many ardent cinephiles, Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai’s lushly lit romance In the Mood for Love (2000) is their favourite film of all time. To celebrate 20 years of the film sashaying into the sublime, the Opera House staged a livestream event In the Mood: A Love Letter to Wong Kar-Wai and Hong Kong, a night of entertainment inspired by Kar-wai’s vision. You can watch it herePerforming on the Joan Sutherland stage, Hong Kong-born, Australia-based pop star Rainbow Chan debuted new music inspired by the movie’s unforgettable score. Chan was joined by Sydney-based composer, singer and performance artist Marcus Whale – who has popped up at Liveworks, Vivid and Sugar Mountain Festival – and regular collaborator Eugene Choi, who narrated this lavish audio-visual feast. Available free and on demand from the Opera House's Stream platform, we guarantee you that even if you haven’t seen the film, you’ll dig the swinging ‘60s silk dress and sharp suit looks, plus the sultry saxophone solos.

  • Things to do
  • Talks and discussions

Have you ever wondered what it takes to create the kind of work that could one day be displayed at the Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW)? Popular podcaster Maria Stoljar, the brains behind the super-popular Talking with Painters, does exactly that, asking Australian artists what makes them and their work tick in every new show. And now she’s doing it for AGNSW too. As the host of the gallery’s new The Artist Speaks online series, she’ll sit down with four past winners and finalists from the prestigious Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes to garner remarkable insights into their creative practices. Multi-disciplinary artist and Abdul Abdullah is up first, followed by Jude RaeLucy Culliton, and Tony Costa. Single tickets are $25 for members, $35 for everyone else, or you can book up the whole season for $100/$140. The talks will be livestreamed.

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  • Kids
  • Kids

Theatres may have gone dark again, with the ghost lights back on across Sydney and Melbourne, but that doesn’t mean that there are no shows to be seen. All sorts of creative minds have created fun streaming stuff to entertain us during lockdown. Some of these efforts have even garnered international acclaim. That’s true of Australian company Threshold. While stuck in the first Victorian lockdown, Kyneton-based co-founders Tahli Corin and Sarah Lockwood conjured up magical theatrical experiences for kids and grown-ups to share at home together. Transforming everyday objects into sets, props and costumes, it really is the natural progression of the classic Shakespeare line – “All the world’s a stage.” All you need is an internet connection and you can dive headlong into Mountain Goat Mountain, with the Threshold team leading you on an incredible adventure using little more than a bedsheet and the limitless power of your combined imaginations. The 45-minute narrated audio work sends you on a mission to discover a rare magical creature. Another work, Feather Quest, creates a treasure hunt looking for hidden cards that trace the life-cycle of a bird, from freshly lain egg right through to flying the nest. 

  • Things to do

The devilish minds behind spook-tacular arts company Darkfield turned 20 minutes locked inside a shipping container into an even more terrifying experience than that already sounds, with their haunted immersive shows Séance and Flight. Since then, they’ve branched out into destroying the sanctuary and safety of our homes too. You can tune in and freak out to Darkfield Radio via their mobile app, which collects a hair-raising series of unnerving soundscapes meticulously designed to creep you out. In other words, the demonic portals they open are the perfect distraction for thrill seekers with a penchant for terror who may well be trapped at home in lockdown right now. 

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  • Film

Sydney stalwart Flickerfest feels like it's been showcasing the best Australian short films forever. In reality, it's been 30 years – and the team are celebrating that milestone by partnering with SBS on Demand. From now until the end of the year you can catch up on some of the best Flickerfest films from the last 30 years via the free online streaming platform. There are a total of 49 award-winning flicks to watch, both Australian and international.  The festival is an Academy Awards accredited short film festival as well as a BAFTA recognised film festival, meaning winning films at Flickerfest are eligible for consideration in the Oscars and BAFTAs. A number of films streaming have been nominated or won Academy Awards, including Butterlamp, Timecode and The Eleven O’Clock.

Films available as part of the 30-year celebration also highlight some of our best local talents, including Deborah Mailman (see her directorial debut Ralph), Rachel Ward (who won at Flickerfest 2020 with The Big House), a young Joel Edgerton (in 1998 short film Bloodlock) and Black Widow director Cate Shortland (her short Flowergirl is based on her real experiences in 1990s Bondi). 

Visit the website to start streaming.

  • Music
  • Music

The Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) were absolute heroes when they launched their digital platform ACO StudioCasts in response to last year’s shutdowns, delivering slickly cinematic concert films to up your chill factor on demand, and they’re at it again. The current drama might have sunk their national tour of River, but they aren’t crying over it. Instead they’ve launched a new season of eight immersive movies that show off exactly what they can do. The latest drop, Tabula Rasa, was directed by Matisse Ruby and filmed at the Hordern Pavilion. It features ACO artistic director Richard Tognetti leading the ACO through performances of Arvo Pärt’s work of the same name and Shostakovich’s ‘Chamber Symphony’, integrated with imagery and video projections by renowned cinematographer Jon Frank and Beizj Studio.

 

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  • Things to do
  • Classes and workshops
  • Sydney

Chippendale’s Peach Black Gallery may have had to close the doors for a while, but they didn’t want to let down their loyal life drawing community. So they’ve come up with a very now solution. They’ve moved their weekly classes online to help Sydneysiders connect to art and creative freedom from their own home. The two-hour livestreamed classes run twice a week via Zoom, on Wednesday nights at 6pm and Saturday morning at 10am. And they’re a bargain, too, at only $10 a go, so you can go as often as the inspiration takes you. Each session will see the model strike poses for two to 20 minutes, with everyone from first timers to experienced artists encouraged to join in online and have a go.

  • Things to do
  • Talks and discussions
  • Sydney

The Opera House's long-running podcast Ideas at the House gets a beautifully filmed treatment with a series of original, one-on-one interviews with some of the most inspiring women of the moment back in March as part of the All About Women Festival. (FYI, you can read five things we learned at All About Women 2021 here.) The series is hosted by the Opera House’s former head of talks and ideas and Time Out Sydney Future Shapers judge Edwina Throsby. Throsby gets up close and personal with actress, artist and Gen-X icon Ione Skye; best-selling author, podcaster, businesswoman and hyper fashion and decor influencer Lillian Ahenkan, aka Flex Mami; Sydney-based writer, sex worker and author of newly released contemporary fiction novel Nothing But My Body, Tilly Lawless (whom we also interviewed about why the world’s oldest profession is due a modern image makeover); and popular Australian media personality, author and host of the ABC podcast Ladies, We Need to Talk Yumi Stynes. Each interview gives a glimpse into a singular figure and the work it takes to succeed on their own terms.

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  • Art
  • Digital and interactive
  • Sydney

The inaugural run of the critically acclaimed Caldera Festival was dubbed “Sydney’s answer to Dark Mofo”, way back in 2018. Plans for a biannual return were scuppered last year, for obvious reasons. But that enforced benching got artistic director Laurence Rosier Staines thinking about how to deliver an online version that would stay true to the spirit of the live experience. Caldera 360º is the result, and it’s arrived just in time for our current snap lockdown. The immersive platform hosts five 360º digital artworks and performances, all scattered across a surreal landscape. From the outset, it asks you, the visitor, the question, “Caldera 360º is a website… or is it a game?”

  • Art
  • Digital and interactive
  • Sydney

Embracing these hybrid times when we’re often online more than we’re out and about, the Art Gallery of New South Wales has launched the mother of all digital galleries, and it’s a kaleidoscopic trip to creative wonderland. Part of their ongoing Together in Art series, Hyper-linked assembles seven exciting contemporary Australian artists pushing the envelope on how we engage with art from wherever we are in the world. Heath Franco’s 'Home Videohome' is a trippy, dystopian stare into the abyss, with Justene Williams’ explosively colourful video 'The Unboxers' similarly loopy goodness. Check them out and more.

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  • Things to do

After debuting in March last year as a livestreamed two-day event, Isol-Aid is back and bigger than ever before. Partnering with 99designs by Vistaprint, Isol-Aid presents Homegrown, a 16-week program where emerging acts from across Australia and New Zealand are invited to perform alongside established artists. It streams live on TikTok and isolaidfestival.com every two weeks. Fans and bands can nominate their favourite Aussie and Kiwi acts (or themselves) to be a part of Isol-Aid Homegrown via 99designs.com/homegrown. One act will be selected by a panel of judges to receive a $10,000 grant to boost their career and creative growth, alongside a dedicated mentoring session from Killing Heidi singer and solo artist, Ella Hooper

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