She Speaks, we listen

Female composers have long been under-represented on concert programs but their voices will take centre-stage during a diverse series of concerts being presented this weekend by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

The She Speaks series is now in its third year and the 2024 program curated by composers Anne Cawrse and Belinda Gehlert comprises four concerts, beginning on Friday afternoon (May 31) with a performance at Elder Hall featuring the Australian String Quartet and shamisen virtuoso Noriko Tadano and concluding on Saturday evening with an ASO performance of seven works by living female composers (full program available here).

Gehlert, who has created a new work herself that will have its premiere at She Speaks, says the series “takes us a step closer towards gender parity in classical music”.

“Audiences can expect to hear everything from the quietest notes on a solo flute to the loudest brass fanfare, ethereal music played on a traditional Japanese shamisen, and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in full flight. There may also be some playing of garden pottery.”

Cawrse says there is a particular focus on Australian contemporary composers: “Some will even be in the audience, so if you have ever wondered how you write a piece of music, come along and you can ask the composer herself.”

It’s ‘out-there’ – bringing the past to life

Adelaide Contemporary Experimental has drawn on its archives for a new exhibition in its front-room gallery space that provides a glimpse into Adelaide’s ground-breaking art scene of the 1970s and ’80s.

Titled Entities: The Concepts and Post-Object Exhibitions, the display highlights the work of Adelaide art spaces the Contemporary Art Society (CAS) and the Experimental Art Foundation (EAF). CAS presented the Concepts exhibition in 1974 with a schedule of performances, lectures, film screenings and installations by a group of artists including Mike Parr and Ron Rowe, while Australian and New Zealand Post-Object Show – A Survey was the title of EAF’s first major exhibition, held in 1976 and featuring work by 40 trans-Tasman artists.

ACE – which was established in 2017 through the merger of the two former organisations – says its new exhibition, curated by Alexandra Nitschke, features original materials such as posters, essays and video footage that shine light on the “wild and often unruly practices of some of Australia’s most experimental artists at a critical moment in time”.

Installation view, Australian and New Zealand Post-Object Show – A Survey at the EAF 1976. Photo from Experimental Art Foundation Archive.

“Some of the performances and events that took place in this very building are so ‘out-there’ it’s practically impossible to imagine them being able to be staged today,” says ACE artistic director Danni Zuvela. “Visitors will see for themselves in photographs, slides and a dynamic timeline that brings that period to life and shows how it’s still relevant – perhaps more relevant than ever before.”

Entities: The Concepts and Post-Object Exhibitions will run from June 1 until August 10. Nitschke an Zuvela will discuss the events and period that inspired the exhibition at a free public event on June 8, with guests invited to bring any relevant historical photos, posters or catalogues to digitise.

Those interested in Adelaide’s “radical past” might also want to check out the exhibition of 1970s prints and posters by artists from the Progressive Art Movement (PAM) which is currently showing at FUMA (read InReview’s story here).

The Law of the Land

The Mercury Cinema is hosting a special Reconciliation Week screening of an award-winning documentary that urges Australians to “rethink what you know”.

uku Ngärra: The Law of the Land was filmed over five years in Northeast Arnhem Land and is described as a rare and intimate exploration of Yolŋu culture. Directed by Sinem Saban, it tells the story of her friend Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra, a Yolŋu elder, civil rights activist and spiritual leader who has dedicated his life to upholding traditional law.

The film won the Change Award at the 2022 Adelaide Film Festival and the Human Rights Award at 2023 Montreal Independent Film Festival, and is currently touring to cinemas across Australia. The screening at the Mercury on June 1 (tickets and more info here) will include a Q&A session and be attended by Saban, actor Natasha Wanganeen, and Yolngu singer Yirrmal. As an added bonus, the documentary features a soundtrack of First Nations musicians including Yothu Yindi, Yirrmal and Mau Power.

Gallery coup for Tutti artist

The Art Gallery of SA’s acquisition of a painting by disabled artist and proud Wirangu and Ngarrindjeri woman Jackie Saunders has been hailed by Tutti Arts as a significant step forward in the representation of artists with disability.

Artist Jackie Saunders with Tarnanthi artistic director Nici Cumpston.

Desert Sundown (Alice Springs) was part of Saunders’ solo exhibition presented at the Royal Adelaide Hospital during last year’s Tarnanthi Festival, and was inspired by a trip she took to Alice Springs.

The artist, who is also a performer and former member of pop group The Sisters of Invention, works at the Tutti Arts studios and is the first Tutti artist to have their work acquired by AGSA.

“It’s clear that a career as an artist is totally possible for learning disabled and neurodivergent artists like Jackie,” says Tutti Arts executive director Linda Williams. “It is so important for the work of disabled artists to be included at the centre of arts and culture, including in major institutions such as AGSA.”

Tarnanthi artistic director Nici Cumpston says the gallery ias thrilled to have acquired Saunders work, adding that is is “bold, vibrant and dynamic – much like Jackie herself”.

Long live the queens

The Capri Theatre is celebrating the 30th anniversary of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert with a special screening that will also help raise funds towards the restoration of the bus which featured in the film and is earmarked to eventually be displayed at the National Motor Museum in Birdwood.

The screening (details here) will be preceded by a live drag show featuring local performer Vonni, who recently played lead character Bernadette in the Priscilla musical, along with Eve Elle and Wundes, accompanied by Claire Baker on the Mighty Wurlitzer organ.

Writer-director Stephan Elliot announced last month that he is working on a sequel to the film that will feature the original actors Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce and Terence Stamp. Details of the campaign to restore the Priscilla bus can be found on the History Trust of SA’s website.

Green Room is a regular column for InReview, providing quick news for people interested, or involved, in South Australian arts and culture.

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