Hot August Night
Sydney based artist Malcolm Whittaker is in the middle of a three week stint in Melbourne. By the time you read this article, Whittaker will have already played a part in Team MESS's collaborative piece This Is It as well 'performed' his solo social experiment A Lover's Discourse . However, in a very different role to his first two outings in Melbourne this winter, Whittaker's work will not be central to the curiously titled Hot August Night.
He explains his role thus, "I am playing the role of curator for a show called Hot August Nights which is a collection of short works. I am one of four curators." Described in the press release as "a stripped-back, frenzied and festive performance showcase," Whittaker is only too happy to go into further detail about how the event will roll out. "Each is a separate work in its own right, a separate episode with the time constraint of three minutes or thereabouts." With the evening centring around a collective of emerging artists who have been challenge to compete against their fellow emerging artists to design compelling interactive and thought provoking pieces in a pre-specified time slot. Though the time slot is a strong component of the brief handed out to the partaking artists, Whittaker is certain that rules were made to be broken, within reason that is. "I don't think there is going to be a heavily policed sort of stopwatch going off, or an hour glass. Each thing will be quite short and sweet, leaving everybody wanting more."
Returning to the finer details of the evening, Whittaker continues, "I think there will be around 20 of these on the night, with the audience free to roam about the massive Arts House meat market space. It will go from each work, one to the next and the 20 different artists from very different practices will have a different, very interesting work that will make for a really nice experience."
While his other two recent outings in Melbourne have called upon his own artistic abilities, in essence Whittaker's role has been that of mentor and organiser. When asked to detail the challenge, his response is simple, "My role has been essentially to round up some young artist colleagues of mine from around Melbourne. They will be showing their works in progress, little snippets of new ideas for people to check out." With Whittaker clearly excited about having been involved with this group of upcoming talent, he admits that, for him at least, the public response is central to the night's success. "I think that is what the night is meant for. You get these really raw ideas that are still in progress. They will be presented to the audience and tested. I think it is quite an important thing to get a sense of so much being at stake and at risk crammed into three minutes. Audience presence is very important to that."
As the role of curator is new to Whittaker, has he found the challenge a worthwhile use of his time? His response is neither loaded with positive or negative connotations, with Whittaker cleverly wording around the answer. "It is the first time I have really done something like this, so I can only really ascertain on behalf of the people I am working with and there is another fifteen coming from elsewhere. It is just about staying in dialogue with them about keeping a nice balance and structure to the evening."
While he gives very little away about his own enjoyment of the process, it becomes clear that the role has at least presented its own fair share of challenges. As an artist with his own vision, he has found it difficult to sit back and relinquish creative input. "I don't want to impose anything on the artists either. They should be free to do what they like, if you know what I mean? Which is actually difficult for me as I work as an artist myself, so I sometimes might be a bit pushy. I just have to take a deep breath and let these guys do what they like."
Though he has refrained from sharing his opinion on their work, he has at least been able to help ensure and advise the artists how to keep within the brief while making the evening both entertaining and engaging for the public. "I have just been trying to keep stuff achievable and keep stuff simple because of the nature of the night requiring everything being simple, easy and episodic in the way it goes from one thing to the next."
Hot August Night takes place at Arts House Meat Market on Saturday August 20.
BY DAVID HUNTER