Yelling at Stars
In every genre, consumers of art are ready to be disenfranchised by yet another ordinary if not hollow art experience. Lately I have found myself wondering where the art in art has gone. I think we all accept the cultural assumption that art is important. It often strives to be beautiful, and occasionally assists us in reflecting on the deep and terrible wonder of the human experience. Yet in the climate of contemporary art, finding art that moves us can be bloody hard work.
It is enlivening to be surrounded by cunning and deliciously unusual artistic ideas, but when the idea itself is more exciting than the work that results, one can’t but help feeling a little let down. This seems to me the dangerous territory of festivals such as Melbourne’s Next Wave, Fringe and the other domains of the ‘emerging’ artist. The briefs of these events are often focused on the redefinition of the mediums of art practice. This seems to be the current de rigour project and is often a commendable and intriguing one.
My problem is that they often deliver very little art that combines beauty, integrity, wit and wonder. And yet optimistic Melbournians continue to provide an audience night after night, festival after festival; willing to sit through bad art in the support of a platform that can also reveal moments of true artistic brilliance. Melbourne art lovers have a generous spirit, allowing artistic careers and local cultural trends to develop, and thus enrich our societies’ understanding of the poetics of human potential.
So with a mixture of apprehension and optimism, my Next Wave Festival comrades and I (who together form a humble art collective that pools money to buy and share art and regularly comes together to visit an array of cutting edge creative ideas) jogged the green slippery slope of the Sidney Myer Music Bowl like characters from Harry Potter about to chance upon world cup Quiddich.
It started with the confused giggles of a small yet unified artistic gaggle. SBS newsreader, Anton Enus, introduced the experience that would unfold – an intergalactic space message from our very own Melbourne – to celebrate the end of this years’ Next Wave and mark the beginning of a possible conversation with the rest of the universe. The crowd quickly warmed to the idea. Willoh S. Wieland, eminent emerging multi-disciplined artist, entered stage right, stepped inside her lonely yet well traveled canoe, on a formidably large stage covered in various sized ceramic balls that appeared to be gatherings from the Moon or Mars, in front of an expectant and somewhat dubious crowd.
In a taffeta dress, she cracked us open.
What followed, delivered as a 50 minute monologue, made us ache, helped us remember why we are human, how we are human and why it is better to know ourselves even if some of the details are unspeakable. To all this and more we bore witness whilst words of hope, sadness and longing were beamed to outer space.
With an exceptional and perceptive command of the horror and beauty of our race, Willoh had rent us all transfixed, wishing we were the aliens receiving this poetic love letter. For the whole transmission, artistic deliverance and substance was universally felt, as we shared with the invitation to all who may be listening in deep space to come dine with humanity.
This was the telling of an honest story, at times wrought from Willoh’s own life, with a sense of great possibility for our uncertain future. As cooees were sent out to the unknown, no one quite knew what might happen down here on earth, in the cold dead of the night on a grassy slope in Melbourne.
Yelling at Stars rendered the audience artisans of their own human experience, as the glimmer of what might come next rippled through the united, if somewhat frost bitten crowd. Across this body of restless, art-fuelled souls, there was a palpable sense of genuine liberty in the acknowledgement of what we are and what art allows us to be; wretched and beautiful in all its honesty.
Jasmine Proust is an emerging writer and mother of two, who grows a garden in her front yard in Fitzroy North. She believes deeply in the notion that life is art.