Wednesday, August 31, 2011


“I’m here, you’re there. What does that make me?”

There are many boundaries in life, real and imagined. There are personal boundaries, relationship boundaries, divides between the genders, the mind and body, between maker and viewer. The arts love to play with these boundaries, to test them, to cross them, to highlight them, to create and eliminate them, because artists intuitively understand that there is reward in moving through them.

As reviewers, we slip between the boundary of viewer and maker, ferrymen between worlds, our passage, story, our trade, ink. But there are moments in productions when we lose our place, when the performances are so powerful and sublimely believable that we don't want to cross over. Elbow Room's There was one of those productions for me. It has stayed with me (or perhaps I have stayed with it) as a striking piece of original work.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Crocheted Chocolate: sweet as

It’s easy to miss the sweet offering in the window of Nannas Coffee + Vintage because they look so deliciously real.

In fact, an unmentioned colleague of mine went specifically to view the installation by Margaret Barlow and other local artists and came back disappointed because “they weren’t there”. (Mind you, the same unmentioned colleague also insists that Barry Morgan is an organ salesman and actually has an organ superstore in Adelaide. But that’s for another review.)

But a second glance and you’ll notice gran’s woven shopper made out of recycled sweetie wrappers displaying its twinkling boxes of Turkish delight and 1950s biscuits, jars of knitted crocheted truffles and a knitted mug of hot chocolate with its woolly marshmallows. Taking pride of place next to them is an Alice-in-Wonderland three-layered cake stand (which you wouldn’t dream of being anything other than red with white polka-dots) flaunting its white, milk and dark felted bonbons with embroidery for piping, sparkly beads for sprinkles and frilly multi-coloured paper-cases.

Nannas is the perfect setting for this pop-art virtual reality installation. With its vintage clothing, quirky objets trouves and all things polyester, melamine and formica, the crocheted sweets sit happily next to Nannas’ real treats of coconut slice, raspberry bites and choc peanut biccies.

Crocheted Chocolate is reminiscent of one of my favourite installations of Junction 2010, The Knitting Room, albeit on a micro level. Both projects are participatory and collaborative, involving the community in arts that historically have been just that. It’s rich and whimsical and, well, sweet, and one of the delights of this year’s Festival.

Perfect, even if you don’t have a sweet-tooth.

Wendy Newton

Barry Morgan’s World of Organs

I should start this review by admitting that after seeing Barry Morgan perform on the ABC’s music quiz-show “Spicks and Specks”, this show was high on my list of must-see performances for this year’s Festival.

And I pretty much got what I expected.

The “Magician of Tuition” and “Musician with a Mission” played to a capacity crowd of ‘shoppers’ Friday night in Launceston’s Town Hall Reception Room, which had been theatrically transformed into a somewhat sleazy jazz lounge, thanks to some clever staging and lighting.

There, in front of the black velveteen curtains and spotlight, Morgan, with his trademark safari-suit, man-wave, 1970s moustache and cheesy over-the-shoulder smile demonstrated the versatility and joy of his Hammond Elegante organ - which was also for sale at a “never repeated price”.

And there is the hook of his comedic performance. The flamboyant, big-smiling (yet slightly creepy) organ salesman with the turtle-neck and tacky jewellery mixes up a skilled musical performance of original, honky tonk, classical and theme music with his pitch to sell you his organ – and much of that includes some rather tired innuendo. (If one of the shoppers takes home his organ tonight, Morgan will throw in a year’s membership to the Organ Lovers League of Australia, an organisation that gets together each year to play with their own and each other‘s organs.)

As a character, Barry Morgan is funny and loveable in the way Mark Trevorrow’s Bob Downe or TV’s Kath and Kim are, and he certainly kept the family crowd entertained throughout the hour performance. There was also some delightful engagement with the audience, as Morgan’s discerning salesman eye selected shoppers who might be persuaded to take his organ – and ubiquitous steak knives - home for the special price of $9,999. However for me, disappointingly, Morgan’s one-pony trick-and-shtick humour wore a little thin after awhile.

If you’re going to Barry Morgan you know what you’re going to get. Is that a bad thing? Not if you consider the arts are as much about entertainment as anything else. While I like to be surprised by a performance and taken somewhere I can’t find or imagine myself ever going, some people just like to know what they’re getting for their money. For those people, Barry Morgan’s World of Organs is definitely a deal never to be repeated.

Wendy Newton

That's a Rap!

When reviewing artwork of any kind, often the biggest dilemma is that you think of so much more after you have posted your article. It’s a bit like ordering off the menu, looking at what someone else has ordered and wishing you had made a different choice. But it’s too late to change your order.

Festivals such as Junction provide access to so much art in only a few days. For the general punter this is paradise; meandering from exhibitions to shows, to interactive experiences to the bar, back to a show... experiencing the excitement and diversity that is a festival.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Chordwainers

In the closing hours of the festival The Chordwainers assembled on stage, under the canopy of JAF’s vibrant heart, The Junc Room. Every time I have seen these wonderful players I can’t help but feel as though these are privileged individuals, the chosen ones. Naturally curious of not only performance but also audience, I scanned the room. Over there, some heads nodding; a bit closer, the index finger of one half of a conversation subconsciously drawing the air as he points and explains to his partner, while a cluster of friends shuffle for a spare plastic seat in the D around the stage.
To the best of my observation, there are three things commanding attention here. Firstly, the musicians, secondly the magnificent leather instruments, and thirdly the unique and delightfully surreal music produced. I say surreal, because to me, there is a familiarity to the sound but something is decidedly different. These instruments of course are the exquisite sculptural leather creations by the late great Garry Greenwood. Formed from imagination, passion, and masterful artistry The Chordwainers wield Greenwood’s creations that would not be out of place leaning up against the wall of a muso’s home in Hobbiton. Simply said, they are gorgeous.