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Live art: new home, new terrain

Interview with Gorkem Acaroglu, Georgia Symonds

Kylie Supski, 10CS, Metanoia Festival Kylie Supski, 10CS, Metanoia Festival
photo Deryk McAlpin
Last year, the Mechanics Institute in Melbourne’s Brunswick became a contemporary art space—home to Metanoia Theatre which also manages and programs the venue. Gorkem Acaroglu tells RealTime, “We’re a core team of three artists (Gorkem, Greg Ulfan, Shane Grant) along with associated artists who came together around June 2013 with the opportunity of working as programming managers of the council-owned Mechanics Institute.

“The council wanted a real contemporary arts space and we won the tender. It had been operating as a community arts centre and hall for hire for about 30 years. It has a retractable raked seating bank for an audience of 100, full lighting rig and two other spaces we’ve put to use. We’ve also refurbished it so it’s got a great contemporary vibe. It’s all about providing space for independent and interdisciplinary artists to create work. We hold dinners for artists to consult with us about the program.” Metanoia are eager for work that is “form-bending and immersive.” An expression of interest is put out twice a year and applicants are assessed “in terms of their art,” not funding they may or may not have.

Performing two to three times a year, Metanoia will complete the first Live Works Program with its own 10CS, an immersive work about the Ten Commandments that will occupy every space in the building and close the season. “Ten artists are each working on a commandment in a designated space. The audience will go on a self-directed journey through a variety of styles and forms—sound-based, one-on-one etc—inclusive of ethnicities and genders. Acaroglu says her experience as Executive Creative Director of The 24 Hour Experience (“24 live works on the hour, every hour, over 24 hours”) in 2014’s Festival of Live Art (FOLA) has prepared her well for shaping the audience’s experience of 10CS.

The Live Works Program opens with Hallie Shellam’s Is This Somewhere You’ve Been Before?, a one-on-one performance taking “each audience member on a sensory journey to remember an event that never happened” (press release). MKA: Theatre of New Writing will follow with EXPEN$$$IVE, “an experimental live art project” in which a fictional video clip is made with the audience on hand and a faux Q&A.

Third in the season is another work utilising the whole building, In the Dark, by writer Georgia Symons, director Iris Gallard and collaborators. Symons tells RealTime it’s a work about faith and belief. “The project started for me when I noticed people who consider themselves quite open-minded and liberal about race, gender and culture giving themselves a free pass to criticise and mock people of religious faith.” Inspired by a Sunday school game from her childhood involving a maze and the solving of a mystery, Symons decided to invent her own interactive game, “but with no fixed ending, embracing complexity and allowing for multiple truths to co-exist. The audience decide where their beliefs lie.” Although the name of the founder of In the Dark’s belief system is named Poseidon Maelstrom and his role is in part based on tele-evangelists, Symons is adamant that the work is not a parody. Maelstrom is awed by the magnificent colours and complexity of the remarkable mantis shrimp, seeing its beauty as redemptive. Video of him preaching will be released in the month leading up to the performance and the audience will be able to test the validity of his beliefs as they enter the work, guided by the leaders of the master’s fellowship. Symons doesn’t expect anyone “to have a crisis of faith during the show or to be indoctrinated; they will test ideas and beliefs in a playful way.” The cast are being trained by Gallard to accommodate “many different outcomes and ones unforeseen.”

With a background in media arts production and an MA from the VCA in Writing for Performance in any medium, Georgia Symons has created the live interactive game design for In the Dark and sees her future in making “responsive story environments.” 10CS and In the Dark look set to expand the possibilities of the immersive performance. It’s fascinating that both productions address matters of faith, if from very different angles, as has David Williams in Quiet Faith (RT124, p47) which premiered at Adelaide’s Vitalstatistix last year and will be seen at Albury-Wodonga’s HotHouse Theatre in October. Sign of the times? RT

EOIs open for July-December Live Work Program,

Metanoia 2015, Live Works Program, Mechanics Institute, Brunswick, Melbourne, 28 April-27 June

RealTime issue #126 April-May 2015 pg. 38

© RT ; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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