Melbourne’s new RISING festival has announced its inaugural program, comprising 133 events and projects, including 36 world premieres and over 750 Victorian artists. The festival, which replaces the long-running Melbourne Festival and the White Night festival, was due to kick off in 2020 under co-Artistic Directors Hannah Fox and Gideon Obarzanek, but will have its debut this year over 12 nights from 26 May to 6 June.

Wandering Stars at RISING festivalWandering Stars. Photo courtesy of RISING

“Gideon and I feel incredibly proud to be launching the inaugural RISING program, especially one that so strongly represents the collective creative energy of Melbourne and the culture and artists it’s famous for,” said Fox. “The vision for RISING is centred on the idea that culture is a human right. This means really embedding art, music and ceremony in public spaces and creating opportunities for participation. RISING is a festival of unrepeatable, site-specific performance and large-scale public art, new collaborations in theatre and dance, and novel line ups in live music all connected by food, wine and fun. With over 130 projects in the program from a naked disco for one to an installation floating on the river for many thousands, we invite all of the many communities of Melbourne to come together again after too long apart.”

The festival boasts events across the city. Flinders Street Station’s storied ballroom will open to the public, hosting a “a walkable eco-system of hyper-real silicon sculptures, video, sound and light” by Australian artist Patricia Piccinini, while the Birrarung program on the banks of the river will feature The Rivers Sing, a monumental sonic artwork playing at dawn and dusk by Yorta Yorta soprano and composer Deborah Cheetham, with artists Byron J. Scullin and Thomas Supple, while a 200-metre glowing eel will makes its way up the river in Wandering Stars.

Jason Phu’s Parade for the Moon. Photo courtesy of RISING

Cheetham is also providing an operatic score, performed and recorded by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, for a new multi-channel video work in Chinatown by Reko Rennie, Initiation OA_RR, which speaks to the practice of initiation from an urban Aboriginal contexts. Also in Chinatown, Olivia Koh is curating the hearts of the people are measured by the size of the land, a video art installation of seven collected works that explore a shifting and multifaceted vision of Asian cultures and ask “What parts of your culture do you take with you? What parts do you leave behind?” Visual artist Jason Phu’s Parade for the Moon – featuring community performers including Lion Group Dancers, drummers and amateur dancers – will pop up several times each evening.

The Sidney Myer Music Bowl will be transformed into a supernatural forest of ice, art, music and moonlight in The Wilds, which will also feature Luke Jerram’s giant Museum of the Moon.

Percussionist Matthias Schack-Arnott teams up with choreographer Lucy Guerin for an expansive performance installation, Pendulum, outside the National Gallery of Victoria, while the Melbourne Recital Centre hosts instrumental, jazz and experimental music, and the acclaimed tribute concert to Dr G Yunupingu, Buŋgul, will come to Hamer Hall.

The Melbourne Art Trams program returns in 2021, with six designs created by First Peoples artists: Deanne Gilson (Wadawurrung), Thomas Marks (Wotjobaluk/Gunaikurnai); Aunty Rochelle Patten (Dhudhuroa/Wemba Wemba/Yorta Yorta), Jarra Karalinar Steel (Boonwurrung/Wemba Wemba), Ray Thomas (Brabrawooloong Gunnai) and Aunty Zeta Thomson (Wurundjeri/Yorta Yorta).

“Since the very beginning a strong sense of place has been central to our plans for RISING,” said Obarzanek. “For us, a clear identity through place is what now distinguishes great festivals and the unique experience they offer. For RISING, we wanted to showcase work made specifically for this city that captures, celebrates and responds unambiguously to Melbourne now.”

“Last year we began to plan extraordinary events with many artists and creative teams who were all isolated and their work paralysed,” Obaezanek said. “At times the possibility for coming back together was unknown and felt remote but the work sustained us and gave purpose. Determined, we continued to look ahead and now the time is right. Melbourne is looking forward to a great festival and we are ready to celebrate.”


RISING takes place in Melbourne, 26 May – 6 June

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