I came to live in Sydney in September, a few days after my arrival the popular arts festival Art & About started. Held every year with the arrival of spring, it consists on a series of artistic events in various public spaces that invite us to be around town. I remember being impressed by the quality of interventions and awareness of its the City of Sydney, to offer a series of actions whose prerequisite is their close connection to the city and its people, who day after day take part actively in the various activities that build up in the CBD and neighbouring districts. Art & About, now in its 13th edition (September 19 to October 12), is a traditional invitation to playfully experience the city, not only from the point of view of artists but also inviting Sydneysiders to reveal their passion for this city. This year the everyday and the citizens themselves are, more than ever, the main protagonists of a set of activities ranging from the traditional photographic competitions Little Sydney Lives and Australian Life (this year, for the first time, participation has expanded to the whole country) to a series of unusual neighbourhood tours guided by children in Kings Cross and Redfern. Not forgetting Armchair Apocalypse, a series of “pocket size” theatre shows by young local writers in Sydney’s private lounge rooms. The full program and parallel activities in the surrounding neighbourhoods is available here: http://www.artandabout.com.au
This year, instead of the sculptures or installations that usually occupy Hyde Park there will be a stunning exhibition design in which 10 tepees welcome the work of the most prominent graphic artists of the international scene with a witty and sometimes critical view of the nomad and urban lifestyles. Sculpture, that usually was exhibited in this park, on this occasion finds different nooks of the CBD with Bodies in Urban Spaces by Austrian artist Willi Dorner. 20 people dressed in bright colours will crowd by surprise momentarily in the gaps and crannies created by the architecture and street furniture, prompting the passer-by to observe these empty spaces of the city from a fun point of view.
Around the same dates (September 19-October 12) and not far from the City in Western Sydney, we can continue our artistic walk in a most unusual setting. HIDDEN is a group exhibition of outdoor sculpture by local artists among the tombs and gardens of the oldest part of the Rookwood Cemetery in Lidcombe.
I must confess that I love old cemeteries. Wandering among the graves brings me pleasant childhood memories. Surely this is because I frequently accompanied my grandmother when I was very little to our town’s cemetery. She loved to keep the family grave well cleaned and with beautiful flowers, so our visits to that place were like an extension of the domestic activities. While she was busy arranging the grave and filling the pots with fresh water I ventured to walk the surroundings, carefully watching the sculptures of weeping women and practicing my newfound reading activity with the names carved on the tombstones. This is the reason why, last year, when I read about HIDDEN, I was enthusiastic by how interested were the organisers to “re-mould the negative public perception of cemeteries and in turn ‘re-enliven’ our burial grounds”[i]. In spite of the ups and downs in the selection of works -at least in last year’s exhibition- HIDDEN achieves its goal. The sculptures subjects, quite rightly, are not necessarily related to the death or the afterlife but respond to the idea of highlighting the history and richness of Australian multicultural nation which is reflected in the country’s largest cemetery.
Parallel to the exhibition, during the school holidays, are scheduled workshops for children between 8 and 16 years.
By Paula Llull