Artist Peter Macpherson – Reflecting on Hobiennale 2017 – Artist-Run Activism Today
By Peter Macpherson
Artist Peter Pit reflecting on Hobiennale 2017
Hobart’s Peter Macpherson documents the city’s art and music scene on his YouTube channel Pete’s Picks. Here, Peter gives us his impression of Hobiennale — a 10-day festival of artist-run initiatives from Australia and New Zealand in 2017.
Hey Brisbane art lovers,
In early November last year, I spent 10 days checking out the state’s new art festival Hobiennale. I’ve been documenting gigs and art events around the usual Hobart haunts and uploading them onto my YouTube channel since I moved here in 2013.
But Hobiennale – spread out across venues from barns, batteries and an old cinema – showed me parts of the city I hadn’t seen before. And it opened up this little city anew, to me and the visiting artist-run initiatives and art community, too.
This could have been the start to the usual Hobart Friday night art gallery crawl, but it ended up being so much more than that. The festival launched at local institution Contemporary Art Tasmania in North Hobart. There was a buzz of anticipation that night — it was the first of a moving art feast spread out across many venues.
The members of the crowd at Contemporary Art Tasmania eventually put down their wine glasses and took a quick saunter to a favourite ARI – Visual Bulk, tucked behind a patisserie on Campbell Street on the edge of Hobart’s CBD – for Talk Back.
As the sun left us, we journeyed into unknown places. Domain House, an under-utilised colonial building owned by the University of Tasmania, had its three storeys filled with art and wonder, with performances by golden-clad creatures from FELTspace that looked like they had dropped in from Mars.
The 18 visiting ARIs delivered a broad range of art to explore. Most of the rooms inside Domain House were filled with work. Although, the emptiness of the site was somehow preserved. We could explore the many floors, encounter some blocked-off ends, then track back to discover another hidden corner.
The experience was made even more gothic by a full moon and brooding gusts of wind. The temperature dropped to single digits as the next stop, Cinema One, beckoned.
After a brisk walk through the cold, deserted CBD streets, we arrived at the abandoned cinema, now playfully filled with art and movement.
The subterranean den housed fluorescent-lit art spaces. It also served as a refuge from the outdoor stage and bar in the now brutally cold courtyard that flanked the side of the cinema. Laura Hunt was one musical performer of note who kept the beats flowing as the drink of choice moved from beer to red wine.
The next day, Hobiennale took us to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery—the other museum in Hobart. The organisers of Hobiennale really must be congratulated for making the effort to deal with the bureaucracy of appeasing the powers that be to have an outside concert on the steps of TMAG.
That afternoon, C3 spanned the distance between TMAG and Salamanca Arts Centre in a group performance called C3 Signal – A Magnet for Projectiles Late at Night. White raincoats were the chic choice of attire, and if you check out the video of the event here I swear that is sleet, not rain coming down on these brave souls.
As the troupe passed the waterfront tourist traps, one onlooker quipped, “They must be Hare Krishnas!” No, they’re ARI Krishnas, was my brainless retort, though it felt good at the time.
Over in Battery Point, another special place was made available to the Hobiennale festival: an underground ammunition store. The space was filled with harmonious singing from a video supplied by PLAY_STATION. Other video installations throughout the tunnel provided a reflective ambience. I was well on my way by this stage, and I felt like I was in a Secret Seven adventure. It was time to return to TMAG for some music.
The night began with local band Philomath. The six women first played less than a year ago at a Little Bands gig, and have grown in skills and style. The outside environment proved challenging again, and I was glad to head inside for the next act, Andrew Harper.
Harper happily warmed up the room by shouting his head off. After this, there was a contingent of head-nodding laptop owners who provided music. But for me, a return performance by Laura Hunt topped the night.
On Sunday, we headed to Glenorchy. The location included a vast expanse of rose-coloured glass that made the passers-by look like extras on their own cinemascope production. A TV monitor set upon milk crates broadcasted a Skype signal from somewhere not too far off, providing an interactive element. The viewer could communicate with the artist in a random, delayed way, limited by the small screen. Other video installations were on offer, too.
But I was installed by the bar as I waited for the music to begin. It came with gusto, in the form of two brilliant jazz sets from the Damien Kingston Trio. Then came an exercise in feedback by noise-monger Oceans. It was then over to the head-nodding laptop owners to begin, once again.
Perched on the bank of the River Derwent in early November, this should have been an idyllic twilight scene. The wind on Sunday night was not as brutal as the previous nights, but still churlish, and I was grateful for the lift back to familiar urban territory.
That first weekend was the big one, for me. And it served as an icebreaker among the visiting ARIs — that shared experience gave us something special in common.
The weather was a talking point, too. My Queensland bones begged for some moderation, but I was far too high on the great conversation and ales to rest during these special 10 days.
The next weekend, I was very much pleased to have the surprise opportunity to perform with my band The Pits on Friday night at Hobart Brewing Company. Another band had cancelled, so here was my chance to show my new friends what I do, besides the video stuff.
The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra played a Live Sessions gig at Hobart Brewing Company that afternoon. After that, the stage was laid bare, with the PA and lights needing to be assembled from the ground up. So a late start ensued.
On the last Saturday with a trip over the river to the Eastern suburb of Rosny, Hobiennale continued to delight at fresh venues. Once again, Hobiennale invited art lovers to explore places that might otherwise go ignored.
Rosny Farm is a site generally used for craft markets and houses a historic museum as well as an art space. This whole area was taken over by Hobiennale.
An outside concert, once again planned for a sweet November twilight, was this time reasonably still. But the proximity to the river soon made its presence felt as the sun dropped.
For the ticketed few, a boat trip on the River Derwent wrapped up the festival. But I was glad to be on the bus by then — totally spent and thoroughly happy by the whole experience.
Hobiennale was a fresh look at the artscape in Hobart, and a cluster of brave, like-minded ARIs contributed to the success of those 10 days.
I do hope that the connections made over this festival continue through successful collaborations among the interstate ARIs.
Prepare yourself for the next one in 2019.