Current Issue #488

The Dark Arts Find a Home in Z-Ward

The Dark Arts Find a Home in Z-Ward

A local duo will prove Adelaide’s own “lunatic asylum for the criminally insane” is the perfect venue for dark experimental music and immersive art with their Umbrella Winter City Sounds event, DARK MATTER.

“We just thought we would be silly not to take it, because Z-Ward will really contribute to the vibe we’re going for,” says Michael Ellingford, co-organiser of DARK MATTER alongside Liam Somerville. “Sonically with the space being so open and reverberant, too, it really suits the kind of music we’re putting in there.”

With the event promoting itself as a “myriad of demanding performances and installations in the realm of experimental arts”, those who are partial to the dark arts and experimental world will find themselves at home in the snug cells of Z-Ward. But for others, this could be an introduction to new things.

“Basically we’re putting forward an immersive experience set inside the walls of the old Z-Ward, the old lunatic asylum for the criminally insane,” Somerville says. “If people aren’t used to noise or experimental electronics and are just going along to see what it’s all about, they’ll be in for a bit of a journey, I reckon.”

“It’s not going to be a scary or fearful experience,” adds Ellingford. “It’ll be more about challenging how art is presented, or what art is and how it’s presented.”

The pair is adamant about making DARK MATTER an immersive experience for attendees. With so many different rooms, cells and auditory spaces in the Z-Ward, they are hoping audiences will “choose their own adventure” as the night goes on, navigating a “mixture of musical performance, visual arts, installation art exhibitions all heavily themed around the ‘other’ or the darker side of things”.

“The word ‘immersive’ gets thrown a lot, and we’re trying to take it to a place where it’s not just about coming in and having a look at an art show,” Somerville says. “We want you to feel something and walk away from it, maybe change a little bit.”

Somerville adds that the night’s music might be the strongest entry point for attendees, noting that noise electronics, as a genre, deliberately defies convention.

“It’s away from the traditional music forms,” says Somerville. “It’s not a classic verse-verse-chorus-bridge-verse kind of thing. It’s more experimental in form and structure and vibe.”

Ellingford, who practices his own experimental music with power tools and will perform on the night, explains that “the best way to describe [noise electronics] would be as improvised, or somewhat organised performances using equipment that wouldn’t typically be used for music… generating a racket or a set of sounds that come from unconventional means.”

Asked how artists were selected for the event, Ellingford says much of the line-up comes from his own drive to support the scene, and get their music to broader audiences.

“Some are in my community and others are a little further away, but they’re all artists I wanted to get on board, support and get behind because they’re worth showing and supporting and worth hosting,” he says.

On the visual arts front, DARK MATTER is also looking to draw dark inspiration out of a raft of local visual artists, including Olivia Kathigitis, Jack Ladd, Matea Gluscevic and Capital Waste Pictures.

“A lot of the visual artists were given a very open brief but [with] certain parameters to push them in certain directions, too,” Somerville says. “We have a lot of flat visual artists who work on paper and stuff thinking about projections and sculpture. It’s an experience for all the artists as well as the punters. There’s a lot of crew bringing something different. If you’ve seen their art shows before, this will be something different.”

Asked whether they take inspiration from the now-defunct Adelaide Festival Unsound shows, which brought some of the world’s most recognised experimental sound artists to Adelaide venues, the pair firmly agrees that they do.

“We definitely draw inspiration from Unsound,” Somerville says. “It was an event that both Mike and I really enjoyed, and we’re very sorry for its loss. I’m not sure that you’d say we’re a direct descendant, or even a completely similar experience, but we definitely take inspiration and notes from certain aspects of it.”

“We saw it fall into the hole here in Adelaide, and it disappeared so we wanted to fill that hole with something exciting,” Ellingford adds.

Z-Ward, Glenside
Friday, July 21
Tickets via

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