Best Arts Program

2016 has given us a lot to reflect on. Curating an arts program that sheds new light on complex contemporary issues is no easy task, but each of these nominees has created something unique, challenging and utterly immersive. Which of these programs surprised and delighted you? Who took you out of your comfort zone and made a resounding impact on how you see the world?

FM[X] Sydney 2016: What Would a Feminist Methodology Sound Like? (Liquid Architecture at Firstdraft)

Over two nights at Firstdraft, FM[X] assembled a culturally diverse group of artists to explore the sound of contemporary Australian feminism. Twenty artists, musicians, comedians, activists and performers came together to reflect on power, sound and silence. Using sound “as an acoustic mirror for society”, FM[X] gave voice to new ideas on gender, sexism, colonialism and race through noise, poetry, indigenous storytelling and dance. With curators Frances Barrett and Danni Zuvela, FM[X] became a festival of adventurous and far-reaching questions from an ambitious yet accessible perspective.

Food Fight (C3West and Liverpool City Council)

Chilling figures gave rise to this unique, immersive live art event in Liverpool’s Bigge Park. A million Aussie kids go without breakfast or dinner every day; one in five bags of shopping ends up in the bin. With equitable access to affordable, healthy food at its heart, Food Fight brought these issues to life with local markets, live cooking demonstrations, soapbox performances from ‘Food Warriors’ and roving ‘Food Security Guards’ who struck up conversations with attendees. The dramatic finale was a live, choreographed food fight, with rotten fruit and vegetables painting a vivid picture of food waste. Food Fight was led by artists Branch Nebula and Diego Bonetto as part of the MCA’s C3West program.

LIVEWORKS (Performance Space)

Be awestruck and hypnotised by the power of a storm. Pollinate in an ecosexual bathhouse. Embrace the awkwardness of ‘the talk’. LIVEWORKS 2016, presented by Performance Space, was about as wild as it sounds: a festival of experimental art whose sheer sense of scale left us breathless. Pressing contemporary concerns – protest, surveillance, climate change and more – were explored in dance, kinetic installations and interactive performances, all with supreme vitality. LIVEWORKS also invited the public to engage with artists through a workshops program aimed at furthering theoretical and practical skills, providing a hub for artists to meet and share ideas.

With Secrecy and Despatch (Campbelltown Arts Centre)

In April 1816, Governor Lachlan Macquarie sent his men to capture and disperse the Aboriginal population of Appin, ordering that those who resisted be killed. The 200th anniversary of this massacre was the sobering inspiration for curators Tess Allas and David Garneau in assembling With Secrecy and Despatch. Allas and Garneau commissioned new works from six Aboriginal artists and four First Nations Canadian artists, which were featured alongside existing works, all testifying to the common histories of violent suppression of Indigenous peoples across the globe. The exhibition was commissioned by Campbelltown Arts Centre in collaboration with the Dharawal community.

Women of Fairfield (C3West, PYT and STARTTS)

Fairfield is one of Australia’s most multicultural cities, and the impact of its cultural, ethnic and religious differences is extraordinary. This live art event, curated by Anne Loxley and Karen Therese and facilitated by Jiva Parthipan, sought to explore the complex question of what it means to be a woman in Fairfield. Cars decorated by Aboriginal, Iraqi and Khmer women blasted collages of sound and music as they did laps of Fairfield’s streets at dusk. Live and filmed performances of local female martial artists upended a male-dominated cultural tradition. The project comprised two years of collaboration with local communities, and the result was a vivid celebration of diversity and womanhood. The project artists were Kate Blackmore, Hissy Fit and Maria Tran, Claudia Nicholson, and Zoe Scoglio. Women of Fairfield was a collaboration between the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia’s C3West program, Powerhouse Youth Theatre (PYT) and the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS).