I’ve long been arguing around Adelaide – although perhaps not on this blog – that the two types of art works that this city feels to be best at making as a response to the place itself are documentary films and street art.
Peter Drew, now based in Glasgow, created Adelaide’s Forgotten Outlaws street art pieces: paste-ups around the city of mug shots of 1920s Adelaide criminals. The project not only paired a current Adelaide against its past, but it also took residents to look more keenly at city walls and ally ways – looking out for another poster, comparing favourites.
2011 feature film Six on the Street [full film at link] was a remarkably assured debut from director Kieran Eliis-Jones and a collective of music lovers and filmmakers. At 100 minutes it runs quite long, but the insight the team give to Adelaide makes that length forgivable. It takes both a celebratory eye to the bands and the musicians, and a critical eye to the city and the current frameworks they have to exist in.
Six on the Street was produced by Sam Wright, who went on to produce the Moving Music tour, another work that throws a beautiful light upon this city. When I interviewed Wright about the work, he described wanting Moving Music to throw new light on the city. On the recent tour, we travelled from the bright afternoon sun on Rundle Street to the Torrens, up to North Adelaide, before ending up on night time Peel Street. Wright and design collective Fascination Street, working with local visual artists and musicians, built installations that existed only as long as the festival itself – had you wondered by the next day, they would have been gone. But what really made Moving Music was when it was able to integrate itself alongside the city: the vocals of Hurricanes’ Tara Lynch accompanied by birdsong in the Cross of Sacrifice Memorial Gardens; Naomi Keyte’s music augmented by the thumpthump of cars overhead and the tickticktickticktick of bikes being wheeled behind under City Bridge by the Torrens.
These pieces by Drew, Ellis-Jones, and Wright all work so well not only because they exist physically in the city, but because they are products of and responses to the places they find themselves in. Ellis-Jones records this world on film to be seen anywhere, Drew and Wright demand a presence to be most fully appreciated, but they all share a specificity to Adelaide at their core.
Arts SA and the City Council are trying to support more artistic works that occur specifically in the city, away from theatrical stages and gallery walls, through Unexpected City and Splash Adelaide, respectively, the latter of which supported Moving Music. For these projects to work to their fullest potential, both schemes must seek to support work that exists of this city, and not merely in it.
Unfortunately, this is where the Splash Adelaide supported Cultural Isolation falls down. The dance piece in this year’s Fringe directed and choreographed by Fiona Gardner sees its audience walking down North Terrace, stopping at various locations for short dance works, yet never truly integrates itself into the city spaces. We are left with a work that exists in exception to the city, rather than in response to it.
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