I suppose I should begin this article with a disclaimer that I come from Sydney, and in terms of Canberra’s art scene, my expectations weren’t super high. So imagine how overly stoked I was when I walked down to Kendall Lane and found myself transported into some sort of inner-city, ultra hip world.
Art Not Apart works off Jean-Luc Nancy’s idea that art is essentially designed to connect people. It pushed for collaboration between the two hundred artists, without the usual over-regulation by curators. The result? A festival with a seriously fluid feel, flowing with graffiti side-street pieces, 1950s caravans, and overflowing with jazz tunes from the Canberra Symphony Orchestra Ensemble.
One of the most hyped works was MENTAL, an exhibition situated in an unfinished penthouse, in NewActon South. MENTAL uses the industrial space to display artists’ interior worlds. In the performance piece ‘restricted access’ you must be stamped by disabled artist Daniel Savage to move to the second level: an immediate insight into his daily restrictions. Upstairs is a transfixing area of multi-disciplinary art: huge eerie portraits, wire sculptures, tiny collages.
What was cool about ‘MENTAL’, or really the whole festival in general was the amount of interactions with artists themselves. I spoke to artist Hayley West, in her work Death Café. Before going in, she told me a bit about the work.
“Most people don’t realise you can stay at home after you die, for up to five days”.
In her other work I Remember You, the viewer lies on a cooling bed, which usually allows a family to say goodbye before burial.
As a fellow viewer said to me, “I just did something I won’t ever do again until I die”.
Just across the road from Kendall Lane, the lake was covered in market stalls selling clothes, art works and music. It reminded me more of Byron Bay than Canberra, but still had a very idiosyncratic feel; 50’s vibes: caravans, old lettering, a picturesque sign declaring that we were at “Acton Beach”.
In all, Art not Apart was ridiculously engaging with good vibes galore. Maybe they should make it more than a day next year, because I want those markets every weekend.