Test Fest Adelaide

Friday the 11th the Victoria Theatre transformed into a pop-up cinema for Adelaide’s new film festival, Test-Fest. 2019 is the first year of this festival which allows filmmakers to come and receive feedback on their works-in-progress. 

The Victoria Theatre is a mixture between a haunted Gothic setting and a dystopian hideout. Cold concrete floors were decorated with small tables and chairs, with wooden bleachers and wooden seats off to the side. Roof scaffolding lay open to the elements. Dim lights hanging from a single cord. 

Free food. Music. A pop up bar. Film. All the ingredients for a good night. 

People milled about, drinking, talking, watching. Children ran around the open space, flopping down on beanbags becoming distracted by short films playing on two large flat screen televisions in the corner of the theatre.

All of these shorts have been entered in film festivals and showcase the talent Australia has on offer. Test-Fest provided the opportunity for the average Adelaidean to see what’s been created over the past couple of years. Everything from animation about a nine-year-old girl who enters the world of sumo wrestling, a claymation adaptation of Frankenstein, and an examination of lost love with the recurring motif of rock, paper, scissors.    

Sitting in a beanbag as gracefully as one can sit on a beanbag, I watched Australian short after short, marvelling at the sheer talent and creativity we have. Now I can say I have officially cried in three movies: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Les Miserables and The Sandpit, by Matt Pearson, a seven-minute film about a girl finding rocks in a sandpit. 

On the main screen films which are still being workshopped were played. They were broken up by twenty- minute intervals to allow the audience the opportunity to give feedback through a short answer survey. Volunteers in high-vis vests walked around handing out clipboards and pens. As someone who is well versed in literary metaphors and techniques, visual and filmic techniques are a challenge for me to wrap my head around. Although this didn’t matter when getting feedback. Directors guided their viewers with the questions surrounding what they were most concerned about asking about everything from ‘was the music distracting’ to ‘what do you think about my main character?’

It was like an extended focus group, a chance for attendees to voice their views and for filmmakers to test their work. A safe space to show friends and family what they have been working on.

Test-Fest gave burgeoning filmmakers a chance to hear from their audiences, with the aim of “demystifying the filmmaking process” before the final product is revealed. It’s peering back to the curtain and having a peek into the inner workings of an artist’s mind, seeing the role of the director and their filmmaking process, to witness the work that goes into the creation of film. 

The suburban Gothic film, Carrie is Great by Bryce Kraehenbuehl, Alex Salkicevic and Lauren Koopowitz and the Cormac McCarthy-esque, and On The Road to Old Man’s Town by Andrew Ilicic are definitely some new Australian projects that are worth keeping an eye out for. 

Attending Test-Fest opened my eyes to the amount of local, South Australian talent there is, and allowed attendees to have an opportunity to give opinions and gain an insight into the often confusing and mystifying filmmaking process. It was definitely a night to remember and a showcase of our best talent.

 


For more information on Test Fest and to keep up with any future events check out their website or follow them via Facebook.

Review by Georgina Banfield

Header image: Test Fest Adelaide

Quilty, Art Gallery of South Australia

The intense stare and bearded jawline of the artist, both as self-portrait and ‘hero shot’ photograph, features extensively in the publicity for AGSA’s Quilty exhibition. This is hardly surprising given Ben Quilty’s high profile, with his combination of down to earth interview style, progressive politics and bravura technique helping generate his regular media presence.

Quilty is best-known for his emotive, vigorous oil paintings. These dominate the present exhibition, although examples of his sculpture and ceramics also feature. Confronted with the frequently aggressive character of his paintings, with slashings of paint and violent distortion and fragmentation of forms, it seems perhaps ironic that his socially-engaged artistic practice began with works critiquing the destructive characteristics of youthful masculine identity. Quilty’s highly painterly style, with its connotations of combat, domination or competitive displays of physical prowess, could be read as a testosterone-driven performance of machismo, vis-à-vis Abstract Expressionism.

Similarly, Quilty’s expressive style suggests an outpouring of passionate emotions. This approach is typically used by artists to convey their angst or anguish, which can sometimes come across as egotistical and self-absorbed. However, the dominant themes of Quilty’s art suggest that he is primarily harnessing his feelings out of compassion for others, directing his aggression towards political and historical injustices which have caused unnecessary suffering.

Besides toxic masculinity, issues addressed in Quilty’s art include the intergenerational trauma (and guilt) stemming from colonisation, post-traumatic stress disorder and the current refugee crisis. Given the combination of weighty themes and Quilty’s meteoric art world acclaim, I approached this survey exhibition with a certain disquiet. It concerned me that by assuming the role of celebrity-artist-as-social-justice-warrior Quilty was effectively capitalising on the suffering of others for the advancement of his own career. However, this exhibition has convinced me that he is sincere in his convictions.

INSTALLATION VIEW -20190219 Ben Quilty sRGB 2000px Photo Grant Hancock 0157
Quilty featuring Irin Irinji and Fairy Bower Rorschach, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 2019; photo: Grant Handcock.

Particularly moving is the group of twelve canvases depicting levitating orange life jackets. Like the relics of martyred saints, they serve as stand-ins and memorials for the asylum seekers who wore – and in many cases died – in such life jackets during perilous sea crossings. Adding a further emotional punch, each work is named after a refugee who committed suicide while held in detention. These are powerful statements about protection sought and denied, counterfeit life vests which sink rather than float serving as a potent metaphor for Australia’s border security policies.

In two of the works Quilty has sought to invoke the exiles’ agony more explicitly through the surreal addition of a screaming mouth or mournful eye. However, this is just as strongly conveyed through the seething impasto of his painted surfaces. The global refugee crisis is an issue most viewers have only encountered through media representations, but the sheer physicality of Quilty’s paintings helps invest the topic with a forceful immediacy. We are compelled to recognise that these are real flesh-and-blood people, not just statistics or fleeting images on a television screen.

In some works, when Quilty’s highly-textured paint surfaces butt up against areas of unpainted canvas, the stark contrast feels like an act of violence. In Captain S after Afghanistan (2012) the writhing soldier’s torso becomes devoid of volume when presented as an expanse of plain white. Thus, his physical strength is rendered useless as a defence against his mental torment.

The most technically and compositionally sophisticated works in the exhibition are Quilty’s recent series titled The Last Supper. Despite admiring their virtuosity, I found these paintings both overly melodramatic and too strongly reminiscent of earlier artists, such as André Masson.

By contrast, I considered Quilty’s Rorschach paintings more memorable and satisfying. In these works views of tranquil Australian landscapes have been doubled as mirror images, resembling the eponymous psychologist’s inkblots. Adding further depth and poignancy, some of the locations depicted were the sites of colonial massacres of local Aboriginal communities. These paintings deliver an immediate, stark visual impact, before gradually divulging more menacing undertones. They succeed in being simultaneously dramatic and understated. For me they were the most haunting works in the show.

This is a powerful exhibition, but the perpetual visual and emotional intensity of Quilty’s paintings can quickly become exhausting. Consequently, it was only after leaving the gallery that I felt able to properly contemplate many of these thought-provoking works. At its best, Quilty’s art makes a compelling impression, both in the direct physical encounter and in its after-effect.

 


Words by Ralph Body

Ralph Body is an art historian, researcher and reviewer.

Title Image: Ben Quilty; photo: Daniel Boud

Getting Lost in the Art of Edvard Munch in Tokyo

I stand in the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, my pupils dilating as I catch sight of Edvard Munch’s The Scream. I have seen this painting so many times through pop culture, but nothing has prepared me for seeing it in real life. It’s really here, right in front of me. Well, at least one version of it (1910 tempera and oil version). I become lost in its world, feeling the terrors the person in the painting is feeling.

The Scream was one of the many paintings exhibited at the Munch: A Retrospective exhibition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. The exhibition celebrates the life of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944). Being in Tokyo at the time of this exhibition, I made sure I explored the show. Little did I know I would find myself lost in the world of his art while there. I found myself on a journey through loneliness, love, fear and trauma.

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With language barriers, I was left to interpret Munch’s works in my own way. As with many things I have previously experienced, my interpretations relate back to pop culture. The Kiss (1897) was one example of this. The way the couple were morphing together, it was much like the one R.J. McReady and Dr. Blair found at the Norwegian base in John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). I later found out this painting was in fact depicting how two people unify in love.

edvard munch the kiss

Excluding The Scream, the paintings that made the most impact on me were Two Human Beings, The Lonely Ones (1933-35), and The Sun (1916). My interpretation of Two Human Beings, The Lonely Ones was how lost these two people were in a strange new world. I thought of them being the only two humans on an alien planet or the last two on Earth. The Sun stood like a shining beacon at the dawn of a new world, one unfamiliar to the one we live in. These two paintings combined together drew me into a world where the everyday as we know it is gone. I began connecting them to Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, a book I’d recently read. I imagined these two people staring out over a world with a bright beacon rising over the horizon and children dancing through the forests that cover the ruins of once great cities.

This exhibition had me one more surprise for me, in the form of Pokémon. Made specifically for this event, there were folders, postcards and even TCG cards where The Scream was redone using Pokémon as souvenirs from the exhibition. These stood out to me as much as the visuals of the paintings themselves. Unlike most of Munch’s artworks, these were familiar to me. The way they were made though, not only was adorable but uncanny. These souvenirs were unique to the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum.

Stepping back into the world, which was still unfamiliar to me, I smile. The exhibition was worth the 1600 yen (AUD$18) entry fee. Munch’s paintings spoke to both my creative side and allowed me to understand him better as an artist, despite the language barriers. I feel this was aided more due to experiencing it in Japanese rather than its original Norwegian. It became one of the highlights of my journey and I recommend to anyone who is going to Japan to check out a major exhibition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum.


Words by Cameron Lowe

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2
Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

Franco-Belgian Comics at Supernova 2018

Supanova Adelaide had a new addition to its line-up of events this year: a Franco-Belgian comics exhibition. A first for Supanova, the Franco-Belgian comics exhibition was a booth dedicated to European pop culture icons like Tintin, The Smurfs, and Asterix. This exhibition was hosted by Stuart A. Blair, an Adelaide pop culture historian and avid pop culture fan.

Blair says the idea of the Franco-Belgian comics exhibition was put forward by the organisers at Supanova. They had never had an exhibition quite like it before and there wasn’t as much on European pop culture compared to American pop culture. This exhibition’s presence allowed a light to be cast on the pop culture icons of European pop culture.

Some of the eye-catching pieces at the exhibition included dioramas from the Adventures of Tintin series. An example of one of these is seen below, with Tintin and Snowy travelling towards a castle. This diorama is based off the seventh volume in the series The Black Island (1938). When asked about the dioramas, Blair said the figurines were bought during his international travels and at auctions. The backgrounds were designed in France and taken from scenes within the stories. Other displays from Tintin included figurines of Captain Haddock and Belgian copies of the original adventures.  

Other exhibit displays in the collection outside of Tintin included graphic novels of Le Chat du Rabbin (The Rabbi’s Cat), an original daybill poster of Asterix in Britain (1986), and a set-up of the gold mine from Lucky Luke. One of the unique pieces in the collection though was a 1941 copy of le Journal de Spirou. The reason why this is so, Blair says, was because of the shortage of paper in German occupied France and Belgium during Second World War. Alongside this as well was issue one of Le Petit Vingtième (1937), which featured the first story of Tintin published.  

For those who are interested in European pop culture and comics, Stuart says there are many exhibitions in the near future. He is currently looking into getting exhibitions going on at libraries and local museums around Adelaide, one dedicated to French pop-culture and another for retro pop culture.

If you are interested in finding out more information on Stuart A. Blair, check out his website below.

http://www.stuartablair.com/


Words and photography by Cameron Lowe.

Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

Steampunk Festival 2018

You watch steam blow from the locomotive’s chimney as it sits idly at the station. Men and women dressed in Victorian fashion walk along the platform around you, smiling and taking photos. Your eyes catch a market set up on the other side of the locomotive. Here, you see a multitude of arts and crafts, books, and antiques for sale. Your attention, although, is on the strange contraption at the edge of the market. It looks like something out of a Jules Verne novel. The inventor of this device calls it: Virtual Reality. You put it on and reality disappears as you reappear on the bridge of an airship in the midst of a battle.

No, this isn’t fiction. This was, in fact, September 15-16 at the Adelaide Steampunk Festival at the National Railway Museum (NRM) in Port Adelaide. For one weekend, the NRM came alive with fans of both steampunk and history. This is a walking tour review of the event and why you, dear reader, will enjoy it too.

Your senses are overwhelmed as soon as you step through the museum gates. You get the illusion that you have just stepped into an alternate world, where steam and Victorian fashion is still dominant. There is the combined scent of steam from Peronne (NRM’s operating tank engine) and potato on a stick. These combine in taste as you purchase your own potato on a stick from near the signal box and begin your journey into the festival.

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Entering the first pavilion you are greeted by professional photographers. To the left is a set up where you can sit and listen to steampunk enthusiasts and authors talk. On your right is a small cinema set up with Georges Méliès’s 1902 film A Trip to The Moon (based on Jules Verne’s novel From the Earth to the Moon).

Down the first row, display cabinets filled with old railway memorabilia and a reconstruction of the Adelaide Railway Station ticket booth are to your right. To your left, in carriages used by Commonwealth Railways on the Trans-Australian Railway, is the Pop Club and another photography spot. The Pop Club have wargames set up for visitors in the dining car while professional photographers are set up in in a nearby carriage. A wargame or two would be good later, you think.

The main steampunk market sits in the second row of the museum. Here, you find a range of goods, foods, and crafts to buy. Some include antique dinner sets, Dark Oz’s DECAY and Retro Sci-fi series comics, and cupcakes. The first set up on the left of the market is a VR set up, brought to you by the Flinders University Digital Media Department. You continue to browse what’s for sale through the marketplace. A custom-made TARDIS coffee table catches your attention, although its $340 price tag is a little steep. You finish your snack in time to reach a cupcake stand run by B is for Bake. After a quick browse, you buy a double chocolate cupcake, fascinated by the decorative chocolate steam cog.

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Before you go down the next row another display catches your eyes. This one is filled with metalwork art, ranging from steam operated electric lights to a clockwork robotic dog. You wonder how can people make such wonderful art. You swear the robotic dog could actually work.

You continue to the end row. Here, among the carriages and steam locomotives, you find a ‘secret’ second market. Here, an artist can give you calligraphy on a picture or bookmark for a small fee (free with a purchase), purchase steampunk detective fiction by local author Karen J. Carlisle, and converse with sci-fi comic author and game developer Mike Cooper (Dr. Mike 2000). At the end of the row are a group of musicians playing some rock music to heighten the atmosphere. You stand for a moment and take in the music, finding it unusual to hear such music in a historical setting.

There isn’t much in the next pavilion, apart from a stage where more performances occur throughout the day. You begin to wonder what to do next. Do you go have a game or two at Pop Club’s set up? Do you try the VR experience? Or will you go explore what else the museum has? If so, will you go ride Perrone or Bub, ride the Bluebird railcar, or grab a drink from the 1940s style Cafeteria car?

You had a lot of fun while you were there and make a note to visit again to it again next year. You make a reminder to recommend to the dear reader to also come along and visit too if you have an interest in steampunk, 19th-century history, literature and fashion.

There is a lot of fun to have at the Adelaide Steampunk Festival. The NRM is the best place to hold it as it blends in well with the old locomotives and rolling stock. The day is great for fans of steampunk. It also gives reason to visit the NRM, one of Adelaide’s many hidden gems. The Steampunk is an annual event so if you’re interested in attending next year, you can check out more information on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/adelaidesteampunkfestival/.

 


Words and photography by Cameron Lowe.Meet-the-Team-Cameron2

Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

Edo Style: The Art of Japan (OzAsia Festival 2018)

 

1615, Tokugawa Ieyasu reduced Osaka Castle to ruins. Its destruction brought an end to the age of war, giving Ieyasu complete control of the Japanese archipelago. In its place was the era of ‘peace’, officially known as the Edo period. Named from the capital Edo (present-day Tokyo), the Edo period lasted until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The era was captured through the eyes and hands of its artists. The exhibition, as part of the 2018 OzAsia Festival, will be at the David Roche Foundation until December 1.

As you walk into the first room you are immediately transported back to the Edo period. To your right is a hanging scroll of Enma, the King of Hell, glaring at a family through his crystal mirror. To your left are woodblock paintings of different people and scenes, one being The Courtesan Akashi of the Tamaya.

On the far side of the room are panels showing a view of Edo Period Kyoto. It shows sights that are still popular today like Nijo Castle and the Imperial Palace. Along the walls to the right of the panels are period artefacts, including a collection of Buddhist figurines which has been part of the Japanese religious culture for centuries. The centre has a period pot and an 18th-century Illustrated Guide behind Foreign Textiles by Naniwa Shorin Publishers, also hidden behind glass.

Stepping into the second room there is a samurai suit that catches your attention. It stands in the centre of the room, tall, brave, and honourable as if possessed by the spirit of its original wearer. However, the way of the samurai in the Edo period lost its relevance, reducing them to the roles of patrolmen.

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The samurai suit isn’t the only thing in the room, there is an array of art and artefacts throughout. On the left, you come across a picnic set and can’t help wonder what food they ate and where they had it. Were they looking over at Mount Fuji or sitting in front of the Imperial Palace? You can only imagine. Your eyes shoot towards the katana (long sword) and a wakizashi (short sword) in the nearby display case. You wonder what it’ll feel like to grasp them in your hand and what it will be like to use one. Then you think of what it’d be like to wear a samurai suit while wielding it. Would it be easy to use or difficult?

Moving on to the right-hand side of the room you find a Nō (musical drama) costume and more panels. These panels depict battle scenes from the 14th-century Japanese military epic The Tales of Heike. The battle scenes are those of Heike’s clan’s stronghold fall at Ichinotani (present-day Kobe). Examining it you begin to hear the clanging of the katanas, the beating of horse hooves, and the warrior cries.

There is another panel in the third room, this one of the Seto Inland Sea, an important maritime region during the Edo period. The route connected the islands of Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu and was known for its treacherous travels. It was also the route taken to bring imported goods from Nagasaki to Osaka, which would then travel overland to Kyoto and Tokyo. Today it has largely now been replaced by road and rail systems.

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Another woodblock painting on the right catches your interest, ‘Fine Wind, Clear Weather’, which depicts a snowless peak of Mount Fuji. It’s one of the few paintings from the 36 Views of Mount Fuji series on display. Moving to the left of the room you see a panel from the port at Nagasaki. Here you see these strange looking people are talking with the locals of the city. There is a black carrack on the left panel, a common Portuguese ship, sitting in the harbour. It makes you wonder what the people of the era would’ve thought, seeing these foreigners appearing in a strange looking boat. It would be intriguing, to meet a person from a big wide world you are forbidden to go out and see.

In the small final room there is a painting depicting westerners conversing and walking among the locals once again in Nagasaki. Its style allows you to see how the Western influences brought the end of the Edo period. Before stepping out you notice a book telling the story of the Japanese landscape. The eighteenth-century publication shows both the writer and illustrator’s amazement of a new world which until then they were forbidden to see.

Edo Style: The Art of Japan is the place to visit if you who have an interest in either Japanese art, culture or history, or all three together. You will step back in time to an age of peace, intrigue, and isolation from the outside world. The exhibition is a historical retelling of both Japan’s war-ridden tribal past and how it became an imperial power to challenge the likes of the European empires in the 20th century.

 


Words and photography by Cameron Lowe.

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2

Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.