How does the idea of Ritual play out across the programming in this year’s Next Wave festival?

The festival is full of projects that reveal big divides, full of opposing energies. We wanted to ensure that there was a counterpoint to that. Ritual is the name of our keynote project, and simply put, it’s a way of bringing people together to share an experience and go on a pilgrimage together by meeting in different locations at sunset each day of the Festival.

Next Wave,Lifestyles of the Richard and Family. Photo © Jack Toohey

What were some of the ideas you wanted to bring out or explore in the program?

I feel quite strongly that Next Wave festivals should reflect the voices and visions of the artists involved, rather than the artistic leadership – so in that sense I really tried to push my own preoccupations to one side and eagerly listen to what felt most urgent in the applications we were receiving from artists, and just generally in conversations with emerging artists at the time. We were selecting our Kickstart Helix artists the week after Trump got elected and that sense of crisis definitely infiltrated the mood of the artists.

Has knowing this is your final festival as director changed the way you’ve approached it?

It’s been an amazing and challenging role, and to be honest the last four years have been a particularly difficult time to lead an organisation like Next Wave. My job has changed a lot – and I’ve been really focussed on making sure that Next Wave has a long future which means I have been working on strategic projects more, and been a little bit further from all the rehearsal rooms and studios than I was in 2016. I definitely feel less manic right now than I did two years ago, I’m really just excited with the program, and I am looking forward to immersing myself in the Festival, feeling like I have much less to prove, and just enjoying the fruits of so many people’s labour over the last two years.

Next Wave is dedicated to Australia’s new generation of artists – what are some of the trends you’re seeing across their practices? 

There is a sense of a deep social conscience permeating the works in this Festival. I mean, Next Wave has also been political, but there is a definitely more of an activist streak to the projects this year. Interestingly, more artists are interested in each other, their ancestors and their communities than technology, big data and privacy, which are issues closer to the headlines. They are also really embracing access and inclusion, which we find really exciting. Lots of projects have inclusive aspects, such as integrated Auslan interpretation for Deaf audiences or tactile tours and audio commentary for people who are blind or have low vision.

What is the most important thing you have learned through curating Next Wave?

That art really does change lives, it has the power to transform the way people see the world and themselves, in all kinds of unexpected ways.

Estrogenesis, Next WaveEstrogenesis. Photo © Myles Pedlar

What are the events at this year’s festival that you’re most excited about?

Of course I am equally excited about every single work in this program, but I am really excited to follow the Ritual pilgrimage through the Festival. We also have two theatre performances that I think are going to be quite wild – Lifestyles of The Richard and Family, a dinner party drama turned tech-rave apocalypse which is one of the few projects in the festival tackling social impacts of technology head-on, and Estrogenesis, a dark, sexy, sci-fi performance created by an interdisciplinary group of writers, musicians and performers.

For you, what has been the most surprising work on the program?

The brilliant thing about Next Wave is that it is all new work – so everything is a surprise!

What do you hope audiences will come away with?

I hope that audiences will discover new artists, go new places, stay out later than they planned and come away with new friends and new ways of seeing the world.

Next Wave Festival is at venues around Melbourne May 3 – 20