[ARTS: Feature] Time Machine Festival
Fresh to Sydney’s arts roster is Time Machine, a festival of time-based arts (as opposed to those ones that never change/move, like painting) curated by Chippendale’s Serial Space, and encompassing two weeks of experimental and cross-disciplinary work. Performance lecture about gravel? Check. Cocktail experiment? Yes please. Life-sized portrait carved out of soap? Covered. Festival bar? HELLZ YEAH (it’s at Freda’s). Below we present a snapshot of the people behind Time Machine, and our picks of the lineup.
Who: Serial Space is a venue (see below), an artist-run-initiative, and a collective comprised of Kate Blackmore and Frances Barrett (of Brown Council), Dorkbot Sydney overlord Pia van Gelder, sound-smith and sample-samurai Tom Smith, and literature and theatre maven Jennifer Hamilton. This only begins to describe all the good and interesting pies these people have their fingers in.
What: Founded in 2008, Serial Space is dedicated to providing a platform for non-traditional art practices and artists who undertake ambitious, non-commercial and experimental projects – including sound art, experimental music, electronic art, new media art, and performance art. Culled from 250 applications from all over the world, and featuring a party-bag of artists from around Australia and overseas, Time Machine encapsulates the last few years of Serial Space programming.
Why: Time Machine was a response to a perceived need in Sydney’s cultural landscape, “for a festival that brought together live, experimental and emerging practice across music, visual arts and performance,” says curator Kate Blackmore. “We also recognised that most Sydney arts festivals only support the presentation of new work, rather than the development of it.” Through partnering with the Anyplace Projects low-cost studio-space initiative, Serial Space were able to offer artists on the Time Machine lineup free studio space to develop their work in the lead up to the festival.
Where: Time Machine will take place around Chippendale, at the following places:
Serial 001: Serial Space @ 33 Wellington St
Serial 002: 10-14 Kensington St
Serial 003: Embassy @ 826 George St
Festival Bar: Freda’s Bar & Canteen @ 107 – 109 Regent St, Chippendale
When: July 18-29 / Opening Wednesday July 18 from 6pm
More: Downloadable program/schedule and other such things at
Time Machine’s festival launch will be a work of art – literally. Local artist Ella Barclay will be presenting “a series of strong cocktails, served in a science beaker containing an LED light and a dry-ice swizzle stick, distributed through a crowd.” It’s called The Woozy Jacuzzi and it premiered at Melbourne’s Next Wave festival earlier this year, to the sounds of satisfied slurping.
But is it art? Well, it’s billed as a ‘participatory light installation’, and it’s the product of one of Sydney’s most prolific digital media artists. Barclay, who is also currently showing an installation called Maelstrom Studies at Gaffa Gallery’s Rocks Pop-Up venue, is preoccupied with developments in technology, particularly our perpetual engagement with screens. “We can stare at screens and time can stand still. Think about the fact that most of us spend our day sitting in the exact same position, not moving, completely transfixed with whatever we’re looking at. I think I deal with lost time, in that respect.”
The Woozy Jacuzzi, she says, is a realisation of this phenomenon: “We’re interested in the fantasy of science, we’re interested in the spectacle of science, we’re interested in being captivated by new technologies – potentially more than the practicalities of actually using certain devices. I guess I just deal with a desire to fall into something, to really immerse in something, for one blissful moment; to tune out and feel connected to everything else – and whether or not that’s feasible or whether it’s kind of a joke.
“The name ‘Woozy Jacuzzi’ tilts towards connotations of excess,” Barclay explains. “It’s a cocktail but it makes sounds and it emits light: it’s an immersive visual experience. I really like that from a distance the drink can look quite spectacular and amazing, but also the illusion is revealed … you’re sort of aware that maybe it is just another bad cocktail.”
Where: Serial Space 002 / 10-14 Kensington St, Chippendale
When: Festival Launch – Wednesday July 18 from 6-9pm
IS JACOB LUCIANO A BOT?
Performance x Lecture x Science
By Emma McManus
Nathan Harrison is bringing the latest in what might just be a series of performance lectures to Time Machine this week. Harrison is part of the Applespiel performance collective out of Wollongong Uni (responsible for Executive Stress/Corporate Retreat, Awful Literature is Still Literature I Guess and the upcoming Performance Space show Appliespiel Make A Band And Take On The Recording Industry), but recently turned his hand to solo performance works that unpack mathematical or scientific notions – starting with his PACT show The Art and Craft of Approaching Your Head of Department To Submit a Request for a Raise, last September.
For Time Machine, he is exploring a test invented by Alan Turing, which examines whether machines can exhibit intelligent behaviour that is indistinguishable from a human. “The Turing test has sort of come to represent what is humanity, and how we can define what that is,” says Harrison.
Harrison will apply Turing’s test to the Facebook page of his former high-school friend Jacob Luciano, implementing a variety of different tasks in order to establish once and for all whether Luciano is the person Harrison once knew or is in fact an internet bot. “I’m looking forward to asking him to write me a sonnet, which is one of the classic Turing test questions, because I don’t think he will,” he says.
The results will be presented in the form of a performance lecture – titled Is Jacob Luciano a bot? Man, What if Jacob Luciano is a Bot? – that will also spin together Harrison’s online interaction with Luciano, the science behind the test, and the sad personal history of Turing himself.
“Getting to play with the form of a lecture is a really fun way for me to try to bring science into performance,” says Harrison. “I hope the audience will be able to ask a lot of ethical questions about what I’m doing, and challenge what I’m presenting to them…social media changes the way we interact already… and it’s weird that me only having an online relationship with this person for the last six years of my life has changed his definition to me.”
Where: Serial 002 / 10-14 Kensington St, Chippendale
When: Saturday July 21 from 2-3pm