White Night + Melbourne International Arts Festival = Rising
The festival, Rising, combines White Night and the Melbourne International Arts Festival.
Arts festivals unite to create new celebration of Melbourne
An arts festival combining elements of White Night and the former Melbourne International Arts Festival is in the works with the visual and musical spectacular to unveil across 12 nights.
A new Melbourne arts festival is on the horizon that will celebrate our city and the depth of its artistic talent.
The festival, Rising, combines White Night and the former Melbourne International Arts Festival and will open on May 26 next year, running for 12 nights. But artistic directors Hannah Fox and Gideon Obarzanek said it would be a completely new type of festival.
"It will centre around the night time as (Melbourne is) the only city in Australia that has a performing arts culture seven nights a week," Fox said.
"It will be a festival that's really reflective of Melbourne. This large-scale festival will establish Melbourne as a destination in itself."
This week, there has been a $2 million call out for Victorian and Australian artists to submit their ideas for shows, exhibitions and events, which will be narrowed down to 100 applications before choosing about 50 acts to be on the program.
There will be a heavy focus on live music and the performing arts but it won't be bound to certain venues.
"It will also have a stronger visual arts element than has ever been seen before," Obarzanek said.
"We're looking for a richer experience for audiences when they come into the city to engage more than before. It's a festival for everyone, so it's more about public theatre, public spaces and celebrating the features of our city. The city will be our stage." Fox, who has directed popular Tasmanian arts festivals Mona Foma and Dark Mofo, said food and design would be part of the festival experience. The city's buildings won't feature projections, made popular in White Night, but there will be plenty of activity, with Fox also keen to incorporate some Melbourne suburbs, so it's not limited to the CBD.
Melbourne's new festival RISING from the virus crisis
When the full moon rises on May 26, 2021, Melbourne's epic new winter arts festival will begin: two weeks of art, music and ceremony in the heart of the city.
And what will it include? The organisers don't exactly know, yet. And they're very excited to find out.
Dubbed RISING, a replacement for the 34 year-old Melbourne International Arts Festival and White Night, the festival had been due to run in the second half of August, but was put on ice in March as the COVID-19 consequences became clear and before the artistic directors had time to describe their vision or program.
Now the organisers have broken cover to call for local artists to come up with grand plans and projects: "Ideas that are ambitious, unusual ... radical and critical; ideas that are absurd and bombastic; ideas that are contemplative and philosophical; ideas that are celebratory and unifying," said co-artistic director Gideon Obarzanek.
As of May 21, artists have just over two weeks to make their bid for a share of $2 million in development money - with a two-minute video or 300-word precis that captures a big idea worthy of inclusion in the festival.
"It's super-exciting, I'm very curious to see what comes out of this moment," said co-artistic director Hannah Fox. "We are looking for work that's really bold and ambitious, that could only be realised in a festival.
"We are leaving our planning quite open at this stage, to be able to respond to what comes in."
Obarzanek said they were not looking for traditional, in-venue works. They want artistic experiences: rituals or ceremonies that use the city as a stage or canvas.
And they must also be flexible, because so much about the crisis and future restrictions is unknown. Will there still be social distancing measures next May? It's possible.
"Luckily a festival can be quite nimble," said Fox. "We can think about works that are processional, or in large outdoor spaces, or sessional - there are lots of creative ways you can work around [health restrictions]."
Arts festivals often use big international productions as drawcards, but the coronavirus comes with health, legal and cost implications that add extra complexity to importing performances.
Obarzanek said it was a good time to focus the festival on celebrating Melbourne, a "city that is diverse, that is progressive and that is creative". This was reflected in the callout, and in work already commissioned for 2020 that will roll over to 2021.
Leaks suggested the 2020 festival had ambitious plans for public events and installations such as a 400-metre light installation on the Yarra River and performances and artworks on the steps of Parliament House, with parts of Spring Street and Bourke Street made pedestrian-only. Chinatown would have been transformed into a "sensory wonderland" of lighting, video art and music, open late into the night.
One of the main themes of the 2021 and subsequent festivals will be the Yarra River, Fox said - "It's a major spine of the city, a cultural ancestor and that's a rich area to explore."
Do they want art that reflects on the coronavirus? Not necessarily, says Obarzanek.
"I think there is always a problem with new works addressing [current] issues very directly. In some ways people are exhausted by it."
"We're also cognisant it is a time for people to come back together, for neighbours, for cities, for sovereign states - and festivals play a very big and important role in that."
The festival is funded by the state government.
"RISING is set to play an important role as we emerge from this crisis, reigniting the exciting creative offering Victoria is known for and rebooting our visitor economy," said Martin Foley, Minister for Creative Industries.
"While this festival will be global in its ambition and scope, Victorian artists and creativity will be at its heart."
The festival, Rising, combines White Night (pictured) and the former Melbourne International Arts Festival. Picture: Jason Edwards
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→ White Night + Melbourne International Arts Festival = Rising
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→ Melbourne International Arts Festival + White Night = Rising
→ Rising | Melbourne Arts Festival 2021
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