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Next Wave Festival: A Snapshot

May 08, 2014

Image: Article 14.1 by Phuong Ngo, Next Wave Festival 2014. Credit: Alex Clayton

The Next Wave Festival which provides a platform for emerging artists working across performance and visual arts, is a whirlwind of events popping up every two years in Melbourne. This year was no different with origami, murderous re-enactments and confetti spread across Melbourne’s famous laneways and arts houses. Next Wave is full of surprising works and with plenty more to see and do in the remaining week, here are a few highlights from the past weekend.

A Wake: Kids killing kids was a confronting exploration of the Australian-Filipino theatre production of Battalia Royale. First produced in 2012 in Manila, young Australian playwrights Too Many Weapons collaborated with the Filipino theatre company Sipat Liwan to create a live spectacle of a class of teenagers instructed to kill each other and remain the sole survivor or be killed. With violent re-enactments and cheering crowds baying for more murder, and accusations of insensitivity and glamourising violence, the artists reflected on their responsibility in causing or perpetuating psychological trauma. The Filipino artists felt that the context of violence in Manila had not been understood, leading to criticism from Westerners for whom danger was not an everyday occurrence. The artists sought to delegate responsibility back to audiences through forums and “the provocation” which allowed audiences to stop the production and the killing mid-way through. A question remained were these interventions enough to absolve the artists from the violence they enacted and the trauma they portrayed? A Wake was a thought-provoking and important public debriefing of these artists’ collaboration.

Megan Cope’s The Blaktism explores the process of the artist recently obtaining a ‘Certificate of Aboriginality.’ The artist is at the centre of this quasi-religious, absurdist ritual which transforms her from a “fair-skinned Aborigine” to being an authentic fair-dinkum Australian. Upon entering the space, audiences briefly view the Australian flag and the artifacts on the animal skin before realising they are bejewelled make-up brushes used in the film. Cope interrogates notions of identity and legitimacy, power and politics which continue today.

Another artist addressing the politics of today by exploring his family’s past is Phuong Ngo. Article 14.1 is a gentle personalisation of the refugee story in distinct contrast to the loud rhetoric of politicians. Audience members are asked to remove their shoes before stepping onto rugs, where one can sit and listen to stories from Vietnamese refugees from the 1970s.  There is a quietness in the gallery that comes from people folding in silence as they listen to these stories of escape. There is a meditative quality that comes from folding small origami boats despite the fact that the paper is hell money and the boats are set to be burnt at Southbank later in the week. Phuong is in residence for the festival, living off zip-locked bags of snacks, the equivalent of what his parents had for rations, echoing the journey at sea of the many that were forced to leave their home. Ngo says of his work it is a ‘sketch of an experience that is not my own, but one that I wish to understand.’

Next Wave continues until 11 May 2014

Next Wave Festival 2014 and selected artists are supported by the Australia Council through the Visual Arts, Dance, Emerging and Experiment Arts, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Theatre panels.