Melbourne International Arts Festival
12 – 28 October 2006
After our month in the States we were joined by the welcome fresh faces of Jake and Paul. This show had a grain of rice for everyone living on the Pacific Rim – 2 billion grains, 33.3 tonnes. It was our biggest show since Stuttgart both in terms of size and profile. The setting was a 19th century Meat Market now converted into arts spaces. It was a beautiful place for the show although when we visited it earlier in the year we were concerned it might be too small and had worries about the cobbled floor in the central space. These practical considerations led us to the placing of The Population of China as our centrepiece, with Australia at its front. This was a startling comparison for our hosts, many thinking that the China pile was in fact the World. Other statistics were placed in the ‘galleries’ to the sides of this central square. The history of Australia provided us with an excellent starting point – the history of its indigenous people and its more recent history of colonisation and immigration. One of the most interesting sets contained the seventy or so countries of birth for the population of Victoria. The Pacific Rim gave the show a new focus, forcing us to look at countries that perhaps we rarely include in other versions of the show. Our Eurovision watchers became worldwide daily Neighbours watchers (which people seemed to find more upsetting than any statistic about conflict or disease). The show had some moving and timely elements – it coincided with the anniversary of the Bali bombings in which many Australians lost their lives and North Korea was very much in the news.
The show ran for the length of the festival and was free so many people were able to return. Fears that the venue might be a little unknown or too far out of town were unfounded as the show was visited by at least 6000 people. On weekends the place was constantly full, with any people spending a long time with the show, sometimes carefully looking, sometimes taking time out to view from a distance. The space became very atmospheric with Paul’s subtle lighting and that provided by the shifting sun. But it was always a friendly space, large enough to accomodate the show but without being overwhelming for the visitor.
The artistic director of the festival, Kristy Edmunds, always spoke of the show in such glowing and lovely terms, describing it as “the soul of the festival” and all involved certainly made us feel this. Our farewell to Melbourne was an emotional one.
Performers: Heather Burton, Charlotte Goodwin, Amanda Hadingue, Jake Oldershaw, Karen Stafford, Craig Stephens
with DJ Garner, Mike McEvoy and Lucy Slattery
Lighting Design: Paul Arvidson
Images: Karen Stafford
Concept: James Yarker
General Manager: Charlotte Martin
Advisory Producer: Nick Sweeting
Thanks for the powerful and engaging juxtaposition of meaningful and banal. So powerful to see it – numbers have a shape.Audience Member
The best things are so simple – and this is it. Unreproducible in any other way. Fabulous…Audience Member
Such a fantastic ‘real’ work that puts one’s life in perspective – moving, disturbing, elegant.Audience Member
What delicacy of spirit you have to bring this funny, sad, touching and wonderful display here – seminal, beautiful.Audience Member
I’m visual. I’ll remember this. It will appear and reappear to me as a plasma hi definition. Loads of comparisons, new, surprising – epiphanies.Audience Member