RISING's 2024 Program Includes Free First Peoples' Art and a Yasiin Bey-Led Blockwide Fest Within the Fest

The full lineup spans 105 events featuring 480-plus artists, all to start off winter in Melbourne with a feast of art, music and performances.
Sarah Ward
March 12, 2024

How many times have you walked through Federation Square, whether rushing to Flinders Street Station, hopping on or off a tram, checking out a sporting event on the site's big screen or hitting up a nearby venue? How well do you know the public space in your mind, then? It's up there with the MCG as one of the first places that anyone thinks of when they think about Melbourne, but both locals and visitors alike will see it as they've never seen it before when June hits and RISING 2024 arrives.

The Victorian capital's annual winter arts festival — because Vivid Sydney doesn't have a monopoly on citywide cultural celebrations at this time of year — will run from Saturday, June 1–Sunday, June 16. One of its centrepieces is a spot that everyone is bound to go to anyway, but turning Fed Square into a showcase of First Peoples' art and politics. The free exhibition and public program is called The Blak Infinite, and will boast Richard Bell's EMBASSY as its centrepiece. Inside the work, which is inspired by the original Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra in the 70s, talks will be held every Saturday, while films will screen daily.

Make sure that you spend time looking up at Fed Square during RISING 2024, too; each evening, projections will take to the heavens, telling tales of Sky Country and the cosmos. On the site's big screen, Ellen Van Neerven's speculative fiction will feature. And keep an eye out for Kait James and Tony Albert's contributions, with one digging into and subverting souvenirs via collage, and the other going big and colourful with large-scale installations.

The Blak Infinite leads the highlights on RISING's full program for this year, which has been unveiled after a couple of past announcements for the June fest. So, audiences should already be excited about Counting and Cracking and Communitas. The first brings the acclaimed Sri Lankan-Australian stage saga to Melbourne finally, and the second involves 'Love Tonight' talents SHOUSE throwing a music party that'll fill Melbourne's St Paul's Cathedral with hundreds of people making tunes as part of a choir.

There's 105 events featuring 480-plus artists all up — including 23 newly commissioned works, plus six that are making their world premiere — with tunes also at the heart of the newly revealed Day Tripper, a festival within the broader festival over the King's Birthday long weekend. Melbourne Town Hall will be its hub, but the event will take over an entire block, including the Capitol Theatre and Max Watt's. And, you'll only need one ticket to hit it all up.

Music-wise, Yasiin Bey, who was formerly known as Mos Def, leads the Day Tripper bill with a tribute to MF Doom. The rest of the lineup includes almost every genre that you can think of from hip hop and disco to post-punk and acid house. There'll be dance works, video pieces and brass bands as well — and Bar Italia, Asha Puthli, HTRK, Richard Youngs and more taking part.

Love music films? Make a date with 24 Hour Rock Show, which British Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller first staged in Finland in 2015. It'll play rock documentaries back to back for a whole day and night, and for free. If you're up for it, catching the full 24 hours will be a wild cinema endurance test.

Bey isn't only appearing at Day Tripper, but also at PICA to perform his 2009 album The Ecstatic. On the rest of RISING's music roster, ONEFOUR, Fever Ray, The Dirty Three playing their home town for the first time in 14 years, Sky Ferreira, Tirzah, Blonde Redhead, Snoh Aalegra and Moktar also pop up. For trance fans, UK producer Evian Christ has an exclusive show for the festival — and, for something complete different, Deller's Acid Brass is staging free public concerts.

Once more linking tunes with the big screen, Hear My Eyes is back with a screening of Hellraiser. Hieroglyphic Being aka Jamal Moss is doing an all-new score for the horror classic, while visual artist Robin Fox will add a live laser performance.

RISING attendees will also be able to enjoy The First Bad Man by Ireland's Pan Pan Theatre, which is based around Miranda July's novel and described as "a performative book club" — and ILBIJERRI Theatre Company's Big Name No Blankets, which dives into the Warumpi Band's history. Or, there's the first chapter of The Cadela Força Trilogy, examining sexual violence in art history; First Peoples' futuristic drag show ECLIPSE; inclusive club night CRIP RAVE THEORY; and eight hours of 8/8/8: REST, the second part in a triptych that began at RISING 2022 with 8/8/8: WORK.

At a festival that's all about showing folks something that they won't see every day, SONG HISTOIRE(S) DU THÉ TRE IV certainly fits, too: as conjured up by Flemish artist Miet Warlop, it involves musicians playing just one song over and over, all while partaking in an obstacle course featuring trampolines, treadmills and balance beams. So does FOOD, which is set at an illusionist's dinner party, and has audiences sat around the stage-sized table to dive into the history of its namesake.

Also on the program: the return of The Rivers Sing, the Melbourne Art Trams unveiling their latest First Peoples' works, Bell's Pay the Rent making a Melbourne comeback over a decade since debuting in the city, plus nightly social club Night Trade.

Brett Boardman

RISING 2024 runs from Saturday, June 1–Sunday, June 16 across Melbourne. Head to the festival's website for further information and tickets, with latter on sale from 12pm on Tuesday, March 12 for subscribers and 12pm on Thursday, March 14 otherwise.

Top image: Damian Raggatt.

Published on March 12, 2024 by Sarah Ward
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