15 March 2018

Review: FOLA, Worktable

Festival of Live Art
14 March 2018
Arts House
to 25 March

It's the third biennial Festival of Live Art (FOLA) with events at curated by Arts House, Theatre Works and  Footscray Community Arts Centre, and new event partners West Space, Temperance Hall and The Substation.

I love live art. It's hard to define. For me it is art where the audience create the work with the artist and the experience is more personal than collective. It's about breaking down that wall between artist and participant, and maybe out a little bit about yourself in the process.

Live art can be as challenging as it is welcoming. I've been naked, I've walked the St Kilda and stuck labels on strangers, I've got into bed with Yana Alana, I've been in a bath in a shop window, I've danced with strangers – I'm down with the live art experiences. But I'm not twerking, wearing a onsie or hugging a stranger – which cut out a chunk of the week one program for me. That thing about finding out things about yourself...

The Arts House program isn't as busy as in past years. There's a new bar to hang out in – and they sell toasties – but aren't smaller shows or exhibitions to experience while waiting for your next show. This leaves it feeling a bit empty. So much of live art is sharing your personal experience with other people.

Kate McIntosh

Worktable is a live and growing installation that each participant helps to create. The creation starts with the choice to destroy. I want to do it again. And again.

The initial experience is individual and private, but it expands to include people who are there with you and all those who have been through before.

And, even if you try not to notice, it'll show you so much about yourself.

Step one: Choose an object from shelves that look like an outer-suburban op shop. There's crockery, handbags, toys, typewriters, books and even a packet of cigarettes (not from an op shop). You choose your object based on knowing you will be taking it apart.

I chose a film camera. It was from the 70s or 80s and I would never have been able to afford it.

Step two: Go alone into a room with your object. This is where you know why you signed a release before starting because there's tool-lovers wet dream laid out and begging to be used. Teeny screwdrivers, a vice, hammers and enough safety equipment to know that you CAN smash and not bleed.

But I wasn't going to smash – I could hear people smashing in other rooms. I started finding every tiny screw and undoing it. This went on for a while and I needed the vice to hold it still as I found the cogs and wheels and connection that I could see and understand.

But this was so well made that 20 minutes in, I still had no idea how the focus-puller worked.

It was then that I looked at the choice of hammers, chose the rubber mallet, put on some goggles and  smashed it. Tried to smash it. This camera wasn't coming apart. I put it in the vice and broke a pair of pliers trying to pull it open. I used a metal hammer and made indentations in the wooden work surface because this beast still wouldn't yield its secrets.

And before I could keep going, it was time to move into the next space with my box of broken bits.

Step three: Put your object down, choose another box of broken, sit at a fully-stocked craft table – I love a craft table – and put it back together in any way that you want.

I found a smashed gold and orange tea pot. I chose it because I'd looked at it outside and knew that I couldn't break it because I might have bought it if I'd seen it at the op shop.

I sat at a table by myself and tried to put this broken-beyond-repair, no-longer-wanted, cheaply-made, not-at-all-significant, maybe-once-loved object back together. Maybe I should do the hugging a stranger one, wearing a onsie?

I gave up on glue and used sticky tape (and because the glue was getting mixed with the smear of my blood that I didn't notice until I was trying to put white sides together).

Other people made new objects from their chosen pieces. There was an amazing pink head piece – "It's very Machine Dazzle" someone said; we all got the reference – and a doll made from a paint brush. People sat together and chatted as they made something new.

I only got up and talked because I had to be at another show and couldn't stay any longer. If I wasn't time restricted, I wouldn't have left until I'd somehow stuck that tea pot back together.

Step four: place your new object with all the others that have been made earlier.

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