Tag Archives: Melbourne Fringe Festival

Coburg Carnivale – on authenticity and robots

This post about Coburg fades in and out of focus because I am jet lagged but read on and forgive me for my omissions and digressions because this is a local story about authenticity… and robots! There is a robot pushing baby carriage with a baby robot in it…

Robot performer Coburg

… Where am I?

I am in Coburg, the suburb in Melbourne, not the city in Germany. It used to be called Pentridge but that became the name of a prison, so it was changed to Coburg to make it sound more like the British royal family but that’s not important now. What is important to me now is to eat some Lebanese cheese pies and drink fruit juice at the Lebanese bakery overlooking the parking lot. Mulberry juice tastes great, just one of the benefits of living in a neighbourhood with a large Muslim population is that you have a great selection of fruit juice available…

… What is going on in the parking lot and Victoria Mall?

The Coburg Carnivale (sic.) presented by the Coburg Shopping Precinct and Moreland City Council. I always seem to be jet lagged during the Coburg thing or whatever it is called… no, it is definitely called the Coburg Carnivale (sic? Or if it was in italics would that make it all right? Is it important?)

It is also included in the Melbourne Fringe Festival (not a curated festival) to market to the hipsters. The Coburg Carnivale is definitely curated, it has a community, arty vibe to it and none of that carny festival feel. I suppose that the Coburg Shopping Precinct didn’t want anyone honing in on their trade.

Wow! The parking lot at the back of Coles in transformed, there are more people enjoying it than when it is full of cars. It should be a plaza all the time rather than another ugly carpark. Why do Australians believe in the right to free parking and no vehicle emission standards? I’m digressing, focus, focus …

… There is some art work around; public seating, like Callan Morgon’s Switchback deserves serious consideration as social sculpture. More gold is being applied by Alica Bryson-Haynes and Ria Green, see my earlier post about it.

Alica Bryson-Haynes and Ria Green, The Golden Opportunity Shop

Alica Bryson-Haynes and Ria Green, The Golden Opportunity Shop

… What time is it?

Saturday 26 September about 1:15pm, the sun overhead and it is pleasantly warm. Eid Mubarak to all my brothers and sisters of Moslem faith or “Bayramınız mübarek olsun” to my Turkish neighbours; I was reminded of this because I flew on Royal Brunei airlines. It is worth noting this fact because it was conspicuous by its absence at the Coburg Carnivale. I can see why, even though Coburg has many Moslems living here for generations, a mosque and a private Islamic school providing primary and secondary education, it is not something that you would advertise for a festival …

…. Okay if this is Coburg, then why are there so many South Americans around?

You are right. There are a lot of South Americans. It is Mosaik Experiences, a social enterprise providing authentic Latin American cultural experiences. But is that really authentic to Coburg’s population? When is a local festival not a local festival? How to unpack and explain that? The inauthentic authenticity of the festival is beginning to make my head spin as I am still having difficulty with reality due my jet lag…


From Russia with Stamps

The video shows the image of Roger Moore strangling a blond woman with her bikini top projected onto the back and thighs of a lingerie clad woman. Jenna Corcoran created the video and is tells me about her marathon of watching Bond films to find these strange misogynistic images amongst the early films; thankfully diminished by the 1970s. “Goldmember,” Jenna says and then realizing her Freudian slip, “I keep saying that.” Easy to do the Bond films are one gigantic Freudian slip, the id projected onto a giant Cinemascope screen.

On Friday night Brunswick Art Space opened two group exhibitions: “Bond Song” and “Posted from Nowhere (Or, What Have You Done For Me Philately?)” advertised the Fringe Festival Guide.

Sorocuk, Ive Sorocuk

Sorocuk, Ive Sorocuk

Dapper Ive Sorocuk, a committee member at Brunswick Art Space had art in both exhibitions and was dressed for the Bond theme. His video played with the iconic opening credits with the gun barrel viewpoint. Brunswick Art Space has several comix artists on its committee, an unusual artistic direction for Melbourne’s art run spaces.

“Bond Song” features art by Monique Barnett, The Chaotic Order, The Dark Carnival Dolls, Alister Karl, Max Piantoni, Genevieve Piko, Ive Sorocuk, and Jamie Rawls. Curator Alister Karl’s theme of the songs Bond movie franchise inspired lots of video art and even some music videos like The Chaotic Order’s take on Peter Gabriel’s song “Sledgehammer” as a Bond theme. Genevieve Piko’s video installation “The Sun Ain’t Shinning No More” showed the influenced of both Bruce Nauman’s “Good Boy Bad Boy” (1985) with the two video monitors with heads and the vacuity of the Bond movie dialogue.

(There is a sideshow or teaser for this exhibition in the window space at the Edinburgh Castle but that looks a bit weak with an awkward installation of a TV set and other bits.)

“Posted from Nowhere (Or, What Have You Done For Me Philately?)” is an exhibition of comix artist showing a series of stamps issued by the postal system from utopia/dystopia/parallel universes. Curated by comix artist, Jo Waite, the exhibition looks great. The tight theme for this exhibition is great as postage stamps are evidence of the collective consciousness, the official image of the country, some of the best of these retelling Australian history presenting alternative cultural icons. There is philatelic focused art by Neale Blanden, David Blumenstein, Bernard Caleo, Alex Clark, Maude Farrugia, Michael W. Hawkins, Greg Holfeld, Peter Jetnikoff, Mandy Ord, and Ive Sorocuk.

My Fringe Festival 2011

“I Heart Tintin” is part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival’s small visual arts section. I’ve enjoyed Tintin since I was a small child and “I Heart Tintin” at the Window at the Edinburgh Castle Hotel, is a great little exhibition. Created by Bernard Caleo and Jo Waite (I must note, for full disclosure, that Bernard Caleo is an old friend of mine). Cutouts of waves and giant mushrooms visually unite the little exhibition of cartoon panels, drawings and paintings. But there is nothing two dimensional about the art in the exhibition amongst the many takes on Tintin, the racism and anti-Semitism in Tintin are exposed.


I don’t want to make a big deal of the Fringe Festival as most the visual arts exhibitions would have happened whether the Fringe Festival was happening or not. I did not specifically set out to see all the shows in the Festival’s small visual arts section and these reviews arise from what is convenient for me rather than following a plan to review the Fringe. For more reviews of the Fringe Festival visual arts see my previous post: MoreArts & ArtLand.

Also part of the Fringe Festival was “Your Imminent Arrival” by Kirstan McIvers at Platform under Flinders Street. Kirstan McIvers is represented by James Makin Gallery; James Makin Gallery, a commercial gallery in the centre of Collingwood’s gallery district is so fringe. McIvers has filled the vitrines with a minimal amount of text. The text based art reminds me of art from the 1980s with its prosaic true statements like: going places”, “city loop” “this way up” and ‘close the gap”. This has to be one of the most boring exhibitions that Platform has had this year.

Aside from the visual arts part of the Fringe I asked my wife if she wanted to see anything in the Festival program. She leafed through the 80 something page program, checked the online program and in the end decided to see a play: “Closed” by The Ministry of Drama. It was a terrible play – I reminded myself to avoid collaborative theatre as actors seldom make good playwrights.

That was the random quality that I experienced from the Melbourne Fringe Festival 2011. What did you think of it all?

Clockwork Butterfly

Steampunk is a fictional retrospective, futuristic design style that exists in movies, role-playing games and books more than it does, or ever did, in reality. But the image of anarchic inventors in a steam-powered automobile with precision ocular devices is too good to just ignore.

Clockwork Butterfly” described itself as a “steampunk extravaganza” combining musical hall vaudeville, burlesque and a fashion show. Miss Ixia, the mistress of ceremonies and graphic designer, had the extensive lexicological vocabulary of the musical hall. The acts were enjoyable especially the illusions and prestidigitations of Madotti and Vega, Missy’s pole dancing, Antonia belly dancing, and Sarina Del Fuego’s “time in motion” burlesque act was the perfect end for a clockwork butterfly.

Miss Ixia introducing the Clockwork Butterfly

Miss Ixia introducing the Clockwork Butterfly

Interspacing the acts were parades of fashion. The clothes started with daywear and beachwear (something that you would never see at a goth fashion show) and moved on into eveningwear. Alex Chambers, assisted by Courtney Webber, designed all the clothes including the costumes of the performers, which give the spectacle consistency. The models showed great personality and professionalism. The whole show was a bit like I imagine an Alexander McQueen fashion show would have been like, a beautiful, visual circus of theatrical clothes.

The venue of the Thornbury Theatre provided an excellent backdrop to the “Clockwork Butterfly” with its arched ceiling complete with chandelier and gilded Victorian plasterwork.

Steampunk, for Alex Chambers, is like a neo-Victorian version of goth fashion with a different colour palette and different accessories. Toffee, caramel and umber replace the black, emerald green and ruby of the goth palette. Goggles, parasols and top hats replace the gauntlets, chains and studs of the goth world. Brass replaces chrome steel. And button-up boots with Louis heels replace platform boots. Cotton, linen and leather replace PVC.

The fantasy of steampunk style in constructing a futuristic Victorian era is informed by the time lags in history where people can live in the past, the present or the future. And every era creates its versions of the past, present and future.

Melbourne Festival City

Melbourne has many arts and culture festivals: arts, film, music, food, comedy, fashion, stencils, flowers and gardens… They range from the “international” to the “underground” or “fringe.” There are so many arts and culture festivals in Melbourne that many overlap on the calendar. Currently the Melbourne International Jazz Festival and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival are both on.

Do all of these festivals add depth to Melbourne’s culture? Do they attract a wider audience and so build a larger audience base for art, music, comedy etc.? Or, are they rather a thinner, superficial, marketing exercise? The festivals pretend to curate and promote an aspect of culture while actually reducing it to a spectacle.

The arts festival is spectacle that can be marketed and managed rather than an organic culture. That the Melbourne International Arts Festival (MIAF) is dominated by marketing was clear to anyone who filled in the MIAF online survey; the questions were all about classifying the audience for the advertisers. There were questions about cars and travel rather than anything about the artistic content of MIAF. Sponsors and advertisers are important to fund a festival but the position should not be reversed; festivals should not become types marketing and publicity.

Part of the problem is that festivals have staff. The festival organisers try to prove that they are doing a good job at running a festival by running a bigger festival. The festival organizers try to attract more sponsorship, organize bigger festivals with more venues, more events and less and less definition of the festival. Many of the festivals lack of any curatorial supervision; whoever applies will be included.

Every year I get emails from artists complaining about the Melbourne Fringe Festival. The “Melbourne Fringe Festival” sounds very exciting, cool and interesting; the word ‘fringe’ is a good selling point. However the Fringe Festival is a criticism free zone, it is all-good, it is all promotion for the festival.

At least many of the Comedy Festival shows will be reviewed on the Groggy Squirrel; the Groggy Squirrel reviews live comedy in Australia. I went to one performance that was part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival but I’m unlike to go to another. Janeane Garofalo bored me with her observational comedy that relied on reactionary television shows that I’ve never watched.

Melbourne’s festivals are just a marketing vehicle, another promotional expense for the participants, another advertising and sponsorship vehicle, and another festival package for the consumer. It is not as if you would notice these arts festivals walking down Melbourne’s street, not like the festivals of Xmas or Easter. Well, you might have noticed the Comedy Festival if you were walking past the Melbourne Town Hall last night with a stilt-walking Cthulhu but if you were on the other side of Swanston Walk you might have only seen the regular buskers. The existence of these arts festivals is an exercise in marketing rather than an organic result of the culture. They are a distraction from the creative process, not an enhancement.

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