Immersive engagement: a new edge

An immersive atmosphere will consume OzAsia as part of Artistic Director Joseph Mitchell’s first festival in charge.

Mitchell has introduced some radical changes as part of his first OzAsia Festival. He’s shortened this country’s leading Asian-engagement festival by a week, added a hawker-style night market and programmed works that blur the audience and performer divide. With a focus on Indonesia, Mitchell has delivered cutting edge work that shines a light on contemporary Indonesia through dance, performance art, theatre and visual arts. With Indonesia, the former Senior Director of Toronto’s Luminato Festival, says he wants to showcase contemporary work from our closest neighbour that break this country’s perception of Indonesia as a sun-soaked holiday destination or a country steeped in traditional culture and art. “You have to make an extra push to get into the contemporary culture across Indonesia,” says Mitchell. With this in mind, Mitchell decided to explore Java – where most of the country’s contemporary artists are based – and invite them to OzAsia for the first three days of the festival, “to say, ‘this is the start of the festival and this hasn’t really been done before’. To show Indonesia in a dynamic way.” “We’ve picked up 20 different projects from, or, who are engaging with, Indonesia and more than 100 artists from Indonesia coming in at the same time. It’s not just about contemporary performance. We’ve got talks, debates, artist panels, delegations coming from West Java; we’ve got the Sultan coming from Jakarta. So there’s a real sense of the arts as a meeting point for strong and weighty conversations.” Mitchell says he doesn’t take the word festival lightly, given Adelaide is home to the country’s most prestigious and biggest arts festivals. “I think a festival is more than a series of shows. It’s more than a flavour, genre or an aesthetic; it’s a whole lot of things coming together to encourage people to touch-base with one or two things that they already have an awareness of, and then take a whole lot of risks and try things that are new. “By shortening it to two weeks, it means that I’ve been able to stack a lot of things on top of each other. When you come down into the festival site [Festival Centre and Riverbank Precinct] you can hit the Adelaide Night Noodle Markets, you can see free outdoor music performances and roving art performances throughout the Riverbank Precinct. “The idea of the festival is to create a real immersive feeling about it.” Mitchell has programmed some cutting edge and exciting work from Indonesia including Eko Supriyanto’s Cry Jaliho, Teater Garasi’s The Streets and former Marina Abramovic pupil Melati Suryodarmo, who will present a world premiere. “She has been invited to some of the leading galleries and festivals all around the world and hasn’t had a huge amount of exposure in Australia,” says Mitchell. “This was the first phone call I made when I got this job because I had been tracking Melati for a while. “We had a series of discussions and, of course, what’s really interesting to me about performance art – the idea of restaging a work is not where I think the fundamental nature of performance comes from. Performance art is a one-off documentation of something that the artist has thought about in a really deep and interesting way, which then is documented and that documentation then becomes an ongoing exhibit item of the work of art that was performed live. So, even though Melati has got a 20-year body of work, I really thought it was important to commission her to create something new for OzAsia.OzAsia Festival Thursday, September 24 to Sunday, October 4

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