Sydney council leading the way in waste management innovation Reply

by Daniel Graham

Royston St bins. Source: Supplied by Lord Mayors office

Royston St bins.
Source: Supplied by Lord Mayors office

An innovative underground bin system is being trialled in Darlinghurst by the City of Sydney Council. Five 1,100 litre bins have been installed under a traffic island in the middle of Royston Street, replacing an overcrowded wheelie bin bay built in the 1980s.

The Council says the move to install the new system was made to alleviate problems with overflowing waste and pest problems, the results of illegal dumping made possible by public access to the old bin bay.

“This state-of-the-art waste system is a practical way to reduce clutter and beautify inner city streets,” said Lord Mayor Clover Moore.

“Underground waste systems have been used in other cities around the world and are proven to be an effective means of managing waste in high density areas with limited bin space.”

Two of the bins are devoted to recycling, with another three to general household waste, adjustable according to need. Residents deposit waste into chutes that they access with a PIN. The bins are raised to street level by a hydraulic lift for collection.

The high-tech system cost the Council around $80,000, and replaces 22 standard wheelie bins. There are currently no plans to roll the system out to other areas of the city. More…

Community comes out for a Better Block Reply

by Daniel Graham

Better Block, Clovelly Source:  Park to Pacific Facebook page

Better Block, Clovelly
Source: Park to Pacific Facebook page

A pop-up urban renewal project took over a suburban shopping strip in Clovelly one recent Sunday afternoon, turning the main road into a pedestrian-friendly community hub.

The Clovelly Road Better Block demonstration day was organised by the Park To Pacific Association, a residents’ group advocating for more green spaces along the road to better cater for pedestrians. Clovelly Road runs for almost three kilometres from Centennial Park to Clovelly Beach, and is an important access road for over 130 Clovelly and Randwick businesses.

Temporary green spaces were set up along a stretch of the road’s main retail zone, with hundreds of potted plants and additional outdoor seating installed. There were live folk music acts, craft activities for kids, and local businesses were encouraged to set up stalls on the footpath. A group of primary school children held a homemade lemonade stall, raising money for the Sydney Children’s Hospital.

The aim of the Better Block event was to explore how a community might reimagine its central public space as being something more than just a main road with some shops. Initiated by community members and inspired by a similar movement in North America, Better Blocks are events that, as the organisers say, use “short term action for long term change”.

Better Block events are a form of “tactical urbanism”, a neighbourhood-building concept developed by American urban planner Mike Lydon. Mr Lydon is an advocate for the development of compact, walkable neighbourhoods as an antidote to problems caused by urban sprawl. He is currently in Sydney to deliver a keynote address at the Walk 21 International Conference. Together with Melbourne’s CoDesign Studio, Mr Lydon recently published the fourth volume of the Tactical Urbanism handbook, which has a particular focus on Australia and New Zealand. More…

Australian painter remembers those silenced by oppression Reply

by Daniel Graham

Wang Xu’s work pays homage to so-called ‘rightists’ who dared to speak out for democracy and freedom of speech.

Wang Xu’s work pays homage to so-called ‘rightists’ who dared to speak out for democracy and freedom of speech.

When he was last in China, Wang Xu showed a group of students the iconic image of “Tank Man”, staring down tanks on the day of the Tiananmen Square massacre. They did not recognise it.

“This may be performance art,” one said, trying to puzzle it out.

Mr Wang, a Chinese-Australian artist, unveiled his new exhibition at Verge Gallery in Sydney at the weekend. As pro-democracy demonstrations grip Hong Kong, his works commemorate the victims of Communist Party persecution in his homeland.

The Silenced: From 1957 Until Today is a series of paintings that honours over half a billion Chinese persecuted under Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong’s Anti-Rightist Movement, a purge of intellectuals that is considered to mark the end of free speech China.

Mr Wang, who was born in China in 1949, came to Australia as a refugee after the 1989 Tiananmen protests. He was a finalist for the 2013 Archibald Prize. The exhibition was organised by the Sydney Democracy Network in association with the Sydney Fringe Festival.

At the opening of his most recent exhibition, Mr Wang said he uses his art to remind people that China’s economic development is not in line the growth of its citizens’ political freedoms.

“China has a unique socioeconomic model, where a one-party state can achieve its superpower dream, and the ruling party can claim this as the will of the people,” he said through an interpreter. “An autocracy can improve the economy on the back of slave labour.” More…

A seed planted in The Vegetable Plot Reply

by Christy Doran

Performers in The Vegetable Plot promoting the benefits of going green.

Performers in The Vegetable Plot promoting the benefits of going green.

“You get a bunch of vegetables together and it’s some kind of green conspiracy,” says Luke Escombe, creator of The Vegetable Plot, a musical inspired by vegetables at The Annex at the Sydney Fringe Festival.

Motivated by the idea of making vegetables a “fun and exciting” experience, Luke, 36, the lead-singer and guitarist, plays the character of a vegetable Aspara Gus. He was joined in the production by members of Sydney girl-band, All Our Exes Live in Texas, with each one of the four vocalists playing other vegetable inspired characters such as Sue Kini, Collie Flower, Ru Barb and Rockit lettuce.

Backing the vocalists and providing the “roots, grooves and blues” in the performance were bassist Rutabaga, guitarist Purple Haze, drummer Mr Beet, keyboardist Tom Ato, saxophonist Blowbergine and dancer Tina Turnip.  Collectively, the Vegetable Plot put on a colourful performance and kept the audience, made up largely of toddlers and their parents, entertained with witty vegetable puns and dance moves like ‘throw ya root down’. More…

Defeating stereotypes: AFL player comes out Reply

by Elliot Constable

Tales from the locker room break stereotype.

Tales from the locker room break stereotype.

“I used to play local footy around the southern beaches and never told my teammates I was gay,” Jason Fennessy said. “I just kept it to myself because I knew they would feel uncomfortable or make an issue about it. Mind you this was back in the early 90s and you would hope things have changed.”

Jason was among the audience at a performance of James Cunningham’s play ‘The Sheds’, at the Sydney Fringe Festival, that follows AFL star Darren Anderson (Patrick Chirico) who, in a pre-season media conference, ‘comes out’ to his team mates, the press and his fans.

After the performance, actor Andii Mulders, who played the character Jimmy Davis, Darren Anderson’s best friend, stressed the importance of theatre in addressing issues such as homophobia in sport.

“The close proximity between the audience and actors in theatre creates a more dramatic effect, it becomes more real,” he said. “My character, who in dealing with his own issues, portrays himself as a homophobe and struggles to deal with his best mate’s revelation.”

He said his role gave him a better understanding of the struggles one would have to deal with when coming out in our society. More…

Snowglobes: a recipe for magic Reply

by Krista Sturday

A recipe for magic: the alligator snow globe. Image by Horizontal Integration used under Creative Commons licence

A recipe for magic: the alligator snow globe. Image by Horizontal Integration used under Creative Commons licence

The Sydney Fringe Festival has always encouraged people to get involved in its events as members of the audience. But this year it invited people to create something of their own with its snow globe making crafternoons.

Kerri Glasscock, Director of the Festival, has a special recipe for snow globes, and her youngest daughter Daisy has perfected it ­– a yellow dinosaur, green cactus, pearl glitter, a “slurp of glycerol” in the water to stop the flakes sticking together, and super-fast drying glue so that the excitement does not wear off while waiting for it to dry.

The crafternoon sessions are held in The Campground in the ballroom of the old School of Arts in Newtown.  Previously used as a bar at past Festivals, the ballroom is being used this year as a venue for emerging performance artists as well as an art-making venue between performances. Ms Glasscock says, “It is a place young artists can be nurtured where there are no expectations from the audience.”

Photographer Kim Rudner, who attends the Festival every year, likes snow globes because “they are a little microcosm of a snow-land trapped in a dome that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy and child-like. It’s magic.” Fellow festival fan Sophie Penhallow agrees. “It reminds you of a simpler time and place. It sparks the imagination and wonder you had as a child.” More…

Burlesque still popular despite push for stripper regulation Reply

by Grace McCarthy

Sydney burlesque performer Rosie Rivette presents her alter ego Mrs Rivette, a dysfunctional, widowed and lonely homebody whose life changes in just one evening.

Sydney burlesque performer Rosie Rivette presents her alter ego Mrs Rivette, a dysfunctional, widowed and lonely homebody whose life changes in just one evening.

Mrs Rivette’s nipple tassles are made of the same material as bath scrubs, not sequins. She twirls them, flicks her hips and shrieks. The one woman show ‘Mrs Rivette’s Wild Night In’, at the Sydney Fringe Festival, is not typical burlesque, although it is about female self-empowerment and sexual tease, set to a XX soundtrack.

In a small room in the back streets of Marrickville, aptly named ‘The Newsagency’, as it once was, burlesque performer Rosie Cremer, 23, plays dysfunctional widow Mrs Rivette who is encouraged by the ghost of her dead husband to explore her sexuality by way of fetishes, strip tease and dance.

Avoiding the tease and titillation characteristic of conventional burlesque performances, Mrs Rivette’s emancipation from helpless prude to sexually liberated diva says much about female pride and sexuality, according to Ms Cremer.

The emergence of burlesque in the United States in 1840 challenged the typical representation of women, as performers began taking off their clothes and making a show of it. As social satire, performances made a mockery of the cultural mores of the bourgeois of the time. Modern burlesque does not have to contend with the same cultural conservatism of the nineteenth century but the issue of female empowerment remains.

“We no longer live in a time where strong divisions exist between classes, however we do use it to challenge gender expectations as a form of feminism,” says Rosie Cremer. More…

The independent arts sector at risk Reply

by Rachel Smith

Kerri Glasscock, Emilya Colliver, Rachel Healy

Kerri Glasscock, Emilya Colliver, Rachel Healy

A special forum at the Sydney Fringe Festival, ‘Where are the canapes’, examined the importance of a strong, sustainable independent arts sector given the sector is facing venue closures, budget cuts and minimal pay rates. The forum’s role was to tackle questions such as the role of the independent or fringe arts and how can they be sustained, how venues can be made sustainable, how funding models can be improved, how pay rates for artists can be establishes – and where are the canapés?

The panel discussion, at the Eternity Playhouse in Darlinghurst, was led by Festival director Kerri Glasscock, curator Emilya Colliver, arts administrator Rachel Healy, live theatre organiser Camilla Ah Kin and arts businessman James Winter.

But before any of the big questions could be tackled, the panel had to considered what was in front of them – the dismal turnout at the ‘Where are the Canapes?’ forum. It was symptomatic of the questions under discussion. And Festival director Kerri Glasscock was worried.

“The lack of focus on the independent arts sector is dangerous; it is a place where artists can build their voice and develop their career as an artist,” she said. More…

The new world of fan fiction Reply

by Maribel Martin

Writer Elmo Keep presents a short story about a girl on the hunt for a date when she starts getting chatted up by Google in human form.

Writer Elmo Keep presents a short story about a girl on the hunt for a date when she starts getting chatted up by Google in human form.

A staple of Sydney’s independent arts community and the Fringe Festival for more than five years, erotic fan fiction embodies all that the Festival is about.  Behind The Music, held at a small theatre in Redfern, saw writers and musicians take the stage to perform a series of stories about the sexier side of the music industry.

While the thought of erotic fan fiction may normally conjure up ideas of fan- written blog posts, Behind The Music, demonstrated that the genre has evolved and isn’t just for the die hard fans anymore.

The performances were a mixture of multimedia presentations, live singing and even a bit of improvised impersonation with some of the biggest names in music such as Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Daft Punk and even Louie Armstrong as the topic of bedroom banter and wild fantasies.

Brainchild of Fran Middleton and Virginia Gay, the erotic fan fiction nights started eight years ago when the two girls got talking in Melbourne and thought it would be a laugh. The event is a relaxed and a low-key affair that is held regularly in both cities. The theme of the night and who performs changes every time the event is run, giving lots of different artists an opportunity to get involved.

Liam Bray, sound engineer for Lady Sings it Better, an all-girl vocal trio who performed a piece on the night, said he got involved because it was funny and different. “It’s a lot of fun to work with the girls. We have a laugh about our own fantasies and what we would find funny and then go from there when writing the fan fiction.”

The content of the night can be full on – penis metaphors, the mechanisms of robot sex and even the awkward wet dream story. No taboos are left out and no fantasy unexplored. But the environment is relaxed and all the performers sincere in their intention to just have a good laugh. More…

Bunkered: art that responds to environmental issues Reply

by Philippa Martens


Bunkered, a special event at the Sydney Fringe Festival located in a residential house in Forest Lodge, brought together 14 artists and architects in a domestic environment to tackle the issue of climate change. The objective for each was to create art that responds to environmental issues.

Artist Sarah Nolan, who curated the event, lives in the Forest Lodge house. She got the idea for the event after she created Branch3D two years ago when she opened her front window to artists as an installation space. After receiving an overwhelmingly positive response from local passers-by to that concept, she decided to extend it and create a show in her entire house around the theme of climate change.

Ms Nolan describes the event as “an imagined future scenario of what it might be like to live in a house, ‘bunkering down’ in a space where you are not expelling much energy as it’s in short supply and you never know when you might need it due to the effects of a changing climate”.

She created her artwork ‘Grotty’ to resemble a cave-like grotto of consumer waste. It is installed in the back door of the house and makes use of old tetra packs and recycled plastics of her own as well as those she found in the street.

Lisa Andrew’s ‘Droom’ is a room within a room, taking the concept of being ‘bunkered’ down by using recycled fabrics painted like a brick wall around the bed. Interested in the use of recycled waste, she just got back from the Philippines where she said a lot of the temporary homes were built out of discarded waste. Ms Andrew uses a lot of synthetic textiles, but said in the Philippines artists are using their natural resources, such as banana peel fibre and pineapples to make leather, instead of cow hide.

Lotte Schwerdtfeger‘s artwork ‘Water Closet/Wilderness Cabinet/Wellness Centre’, fills the bathroom with real and fake plants that give off a smell of moist compost and weeds. It’s meant to represent a substitute outdoor space, although the garden is unable to sustain itself as it would in nature.

Marlene Sarroff’s ‘Temperature Rising’ uses painted stairs are a metaphor for the earth’s warming. It highlights the heat rising as one ascends the stairs through brighter and richer hues of red on the way up and denser shades of green as one descends, signifying the earth’s temperature is once again stable.

The global art movement of ecological art, or eco art, specifically addresses environmental issues. Its history goes back to the late 1960s with the emergence of ‘land art’ or ‘earthworks’ – the name Earthworks was coined by artist Robert Smithson, as the title of his gallery show in New York in 1968. This form emerged as an artistic protest against the perceived artificiality and commercialisation of art in America.

In Australia, the popularity of eco art is growing, with companies such as ECO|LOGICAL|ART being commissioned by local government, companies and public instrumentalities to create environmentally friendly art. Its aim is to ‘create spaces that are self-sustaining: economically, socially, environmentally and culturally’. For example, it was commissioned by the City of Melbourne to design a sculpture for Federation Square using only recycled materials.

Sarah Nolan says artists are often interested in climate change issues in their general life. Artist Helen Earl, who attended the event, said she is interested in the effect climate change will have on the environment. She is environmentally aware and has just planted around 1,000 new trees on her country property.

Art is often used as a way to talk about important societal issues. “I know a lot of artists who are making community gardens into artwork as an example,” Lisa Andrew said. Either way, eco art or ‘art that responds to environmental issues’, is a relatively new frontier creating a lot of buzz around the world and it’s a positive reflection on the importance of the issue.