Sydney is chockers with music, art and dance this January. Crikey hits up some of the shows — but finds we just can’t learn to love jazz.
Sydney Festival highlights. Melbourne-based dance theatre group KAGE delivered one of the most original and enjoyable experiences at the Sydney Festival. In Forklift on Saturday, three female dancers drive and dance upon a real 2.5 tonne forklift. In an hour-long performance combining contemporary dance choreography, contortion and aerial acrobatics, the dancers demonstrated extraordinary technical skill, theatrical talent — and a sense of humour.
If you’ve ever wanted to see a woman do a one-armed handstand on a piece of (moving) heavy machinery, this could be the show for you. KAGE is taking the show to Melbourne and the UK.
On Thursday night, US-based musician John Grant put on a great show at the Sydney Town Hall. Grant, owner of one of the most impressive baritone voices in the business, sang tracks from his solo albums Queen of Denmark and Pale Green Ghosts. A linguist and former translator, he lives in Iceland, from where most of his backing band hails from. Icelandic electronic music is more interesting than you might think, and Grant’s songs of love and loss were moving. Interestingly Grant and most of the band sported large beards, as did about half the audience — I even spotted a T-shirt saying Beards Grow On You (actually, they don’t). And isn’t it too hot in January to stop shaving?
Every 10 years I go to a traditional jazz performance in the hopes that my tastes will have evolved, and I will have learned to like a genre that appears to have few tunes or melodies. So I went to see the Sun Ra Arkestra on Saturday with high hopes, especially after reading its backstory. Sun Ra, who died in 1993, changed his name from Herman Blount because he considered himself to be an angel from Saturn. He believed in cosmic philosophies and expressed himself through lyrical poetry, afro-futurism and the wearing of rainbow-hued sequined costumes.
It was a spectacle — 89-year-old alto saxophonist Marshall Allen played with the energy of a teenager — but I’m not a convert. And if sequin-wearing octogenarian extraterrestrials can’t convince me of the genius of jazz, it’s probably a lost cause.
Smart’s poetic highways. A fascinating exhibition of the work of the late artist Jeffrey Smart is showing at the University of Sydney. Jeffrey Smart 1921-2013: Recondita Armonia — Strange Harmonies of Contrast is curated by Australian writer and long-standing friend David Malouf and includes works from public and private collections.
The exhibition is based on the period between 1967 and 1987, as Malouf believes this to be Smart’s richest and most inventive period. “As early as Cahill Expressway (1962) he discovers the poetry of highways,” he wrote in the show’s catalogue. “But it is when he settles in Italy the following year that the landscape of passage and destination emerges as a preoccupation that will make the world Smart works in uniquely his own. When he goes to Italy he finds all the necessary objects and relationships to become the painter he wants to be.”
The works are on show at the University Art Gallery until March 7; below is Night Stop Bombay (1981).
Invest in you — and farmland. One of my favourite websites, Business Insider, published an article last week called “Wall Street’s Brightest Minds Reveal Their Best Investment Ideas For The Next Decade”. It’s a great read, with recommendations like international health care; “because the ‘perfect storm’ in global economies is likely to be an aging-related one,” and farmland, because “the customer base is growing, it produces a yield, and supply is limited.”
Two of the respondents recommended investing in yourself, because the best investment you can make “is in your intellectual, social, physical and emotional capital. The key to a richer, fuller life is maximizing your potential.” The pithiest response was from a (no-doubt) fair-skinned expert; he recommended the Top 500 S&P stocks and sunscreen.
Obama uncut. The New Yorker published an extraordinary article yesterday called “On and Off the Road with Barack Obama”. The lengthy story, by magazine editor David Remnick, contains fascinating insights into the US President, gained as a result of the writer’s excellent access. He writes:
“Obama has three years left, but it’s not difficult to sense a politician with an acute sense of time, a politician devising ways to widen his legacy without the benefit of any support from Congress. But Obama knows that major legislation — with the possible exception of immigration — is unlikely. And so there is in him a certain degree of reduced ambition, a sense that even well before the commentariat starts calling him a lame duck he will spend much of his time setting an agenda that can be resolved only after he has retired to the life of a writer and post-President.
‘One of the things that I’ve learned to appreciate more as President is you are essentially a relay swimmer in a river full of rapids, and that river is history,’ he later told me. ‘You don’t start with a clean slate, and the things you start may not come to full fruition on your timetable. But you can move things forward. And sometimes the things that start small may turn out to be fairly significant’.”