A crowding of crucial ideas
The Critical Mass program is where expressive freedoms we deem critical and crucial, converge. As participants in what is celebrated as Melbourne’s festival of cultural democracy - Melbourne Fringe- Critical Mass aims to draw together works which empower the individual and the alternative but also explore how our ideas collectively can become more powerful.
Over four venues Brunswick Mechanics Institute, Site Works, Blak Dot Gallery and Testing Grounds a newly formed community of artists work alongside one another.
How do we as artists collectively move - physically?
How do artists move people collectively - emotionally?
Together can artists evoke change through unity?
These artists brought together challenge the everyday via politics inherent in their practices and being. Across the fifty plus artists the themes are broad and far reaching but the intention is that we are stronger together on mass and have the ability to shift the pressures of those against us collectively. The critical threads explored include environment, identity politics, self-determination, unity, reclamation, reflection and community through visual and performative forms.
Poets and spoken word artists ask us to listen, take stock - these very individual and solitary works require us to listen to their language and its intent. Through generous acts of storytelling a group of artists reimagine histories, reflect on the current and create futures free of pain. Through a theatre maker the notion of self-determination through decolonisation is interrogated - is it truly possible? Feminist artists explore denial and restraint, create discomfort and comfort through the acts of access and in-access. Blak Dot Gallery host a series of ‘art lock in’s’ cultivating an incubator of critical ideas from their community to take shape just in time for the Critical Mass Rally.
Connection and unity is celebrated and reclaimed through a selection of dance, movement and music works. Individual dancers think about bodies and authorship whilst a work of endurance over 24 hours dismantles isolation through liberating a group of people through movement. Experimental musicians look at the craft of how creating live music transforms space to enable connection and lyrical poets create a sonic exchange on black masculinity. Queer voices find their way through movement, dancehall music and an evening on the dance floor. Later in the program the audience are encouraged to join us through a new take on karaoke as the ultimate band making noise as a unified voice.
Whilst we sing and dance, respite is also important. Some quieter works encourage us to meditate. A sensory theatre experience for those in the first year of life lets us reflect on time and perspective. Loneliness and isolation in amongst all the noise can leave us silent, despondent how do we find the right community - theatre makers help us navigate this.
The ever pressing urgency around environment and how we respond through consumption and waste are responded to visually, alongside the impacts of urbanism in the city setting of Testing Grounds. Technology and identity intersect through facial recognition technology, data collection, robot ethics and feminist representations. New technologies focus on the individual experience although can they be collective experiences evoking change?
In contrast to the divisions of technology Site Works becomes a plaza of activity celebrating all things Latin and the need for people to come together in order to maintain culture and tradition.
Tasked to find meaning within all these moments in the program only leaves one with more questions as to how we transform collectively or can we at all? It is at the Critical Mass Rally that our artists finally converge, physically unite, take to the streets of Brunswick - together. They will experiment with voice, gestures and ultimate collective action to enable a new language for change. The hope is that these artists help us navigate and give voice to ideas often lost yet so relevant to the masses. As poet, feminist and writer Audre Lorde once stressed that language is powerful and by transforming one’s silence into language and language into action we can give rise to new meaning and shift power. What is important here is that this is their action. Transforming people via an intent which is collective yet self-determined and we need to listen.
The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action by Audre Lorde in Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Geraldine Lorde (Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press, 1984)
Words by Naomi Velaphi.