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Melbourne's New Winter Arts and Culture Festival Rising Has Announced Its Huge 2021 Program

Across 12 nights, more than 750 Victorian artists will help reawaken the city in a big way.
By Libby Curran
March 29, 2021
By Libby Curran
March 29, 2021

A certain global pandemic might have limited Melbourne's creativity fix last year, but come May, the city more than make up for that artistic dry spell. Launching with the total lunar eclipse on Wednesday, May 26, the city is set to welcome Rising, a brand new festival of arts and culture and an ambitious celebration of place. Running for 12 nights and descending on venues and public spaces all across the city, it's set to deliver a huge 133 different projects and events involving more than 750 Victorian artists. Expect a large-scale celebration of music, art and performance, in what organisers are pushing to become the major cultural event for the entire Asia-Pacific region.

After being forced to postpone its planned 2020 debut, Rising is now more than two years in the making. Its expansive program has been very much steered by the artists involved, with an impressive 36 specially commissioned works set to make their world premiere during the event. "We went to the artists of Victoria and asked them for bold and ambitious ideas of what a festival can now be," Co-Artistic Director Hannah Fox explained to Concrete Playground. "So that's really informed how we've programmed it. It's as much the vision of the artists of Victoria and Melbourne as it is ours. And they really were well ahead of us in understanding how to make work for a post-COVID world."

Taking place across five distinct districts within the city, Rising will serve up a broad-ranging mix of music, large-scale public art, grand installations and site-specific performances, intertwined with a healthy sprinkling of food and wine. As Fox says, it's "very much about creating an experience in Melbourne that's completely unique to this place."

Patricia Piccinini by Pete Tarasiuk

And there truly is something in this lineup for everyone to sink their teeth into. Excitingly, renowned Aussie artist Patricia Piccinini returns with her first major Melbourne project in almost two decades, with A Miracle Constantly Repeated unveiling a multi-sensory art experience housed within the rarely spied spaces on the top floor of Flinders Street Station.

The festival's Chinatown precinct will play host to everything from a naked disco called Club Purple to technology-driven laneway art takeovers and soaring visual projections. At its heart, the Golden Square car park building will be transformed into a multi-faceted pop-up gallery, showcasing new works from the likes of Reko Rennie, Parallel Park, Lucy Bleach and more.

Over at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, it'll become a supernatural forest for The Wilds, complete with light shows, supersized sculptures, mirrored illusions and a pop-up ice-skating rink. The Capitol Theatre will play host to a performance lecture by Emmy-winning filmmaker Lynette Wallworth — and, at the Comedy Theatre, you'll catch a series of collaborations and special performances to tempt music fans of all persuasions, featuring New Zealand's Marlon Williams, Julia Jacklin, The Saints founder Ed Kuepper and loads more.

Also embedded firmly throughout the Rising program is a focus on the city's connection to First Peoples' culture. "One thing that we wanted to be really clear on and committed to was about our place, and really thinking about Melbourne's history in terms of deepening the understanding of First Nations stories and living culture," Fox says.

Accordingly, there'll be no shortage of opportunities to dig in deep, including works like storytelling sound pavilion Blak Box and The Lantern Company's community-made Wandering Stars — a 200-metre-long glowing eel undulating its way along the Yarra, to be enjoyed by audiences on the riverbank as they share First Peoples' knowledge of the space.

Or, there's Tjanabi, one of the diverse food and wine experiences happening within the Melbourne Town Hall's Mess Hall pop-up precinct. Led by N'arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs AM, the event will see diners connecting with First Peoples' food culture as they feast their way through a multi-course dinner built around long-held techniques and much-honoured ingredients.

"It's about the community coming back together again in a really major way, taking advantage of the freedom that we have and bringing the city back to life after being the hardest hit city in Australia," explains Fox. "It's a very significant kind of moment... and we feel very fortunate to be launching this now. I think audiences are absolutely ready."

Rising runs from Wednesday, May 26–Sunday, June 6 at various locations around Melbourne. Head to the festival's website to check out the full program and grab tickets.

Images: Wandering Stars; Blak Box, 2019, photographed by Teresa Tan.

Published on March 29, 2021 by Libby Curran
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