A Festival of Ideas, Arts & Action
Dangerous ideas are out at the Opera House and solutions are in,
“When everything is feeling poisonous you need art and culture and ideas to stop the poison”
AFTER EIGHT YEARS of running the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, Sydney Opera House has decided to can the controversial talks and ideas event to make way for a new event called Antidote: A Festival of Ideas, Art & Action. The new two-day festival includes speakers and performers who push for change in challenging times – covering racism, feminism, LGBTQIA rights, environmental injustice, the refugee crisis, colonialism, capitalism, and satire in a world of frightening news stories. Curator Danielle Harvey says the change was in response to what she thinks audiences want and need to hear. “It felt like we’ve had excellent discussion about what’s wrong – now we have a response to that with solutions to the world’s problems. We’ve selected artists, speakers and doers who are quite hopeful in what they’re trying to do or change.”
One major highlight from the program is a free durational performance called ‘Cherophobia’ by Noëmi Lakmaier, who will be suspended in the air by 20,000 balloons for nine hours. Lakmaier explores the concepts of restraint, control and desire through her performance. “It’s a great metaphor for the festival,” says Harvey. Performance art and participatory experiences make up a significant portion of Antidote’s programming. For example, The Money, by UK-based interactive theatre group Kaleider, will give participants the chance to argue over how to spend a collective pot of cash. There’ll be traditional speaker events too, which are all ticketed (starting from $25). International guests include Reni Eddo-Lodge (author of Why I’m No Longer Talking to
White People About Race); transgender rights activist Janet Mock (author of Redefining Realness and contributing editor for Marie Claire); the masterminds behind satirical website The Onion; and Tamika D Mallory – national co-chair of Women’s March on Washington. Then there’s Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, the founder and editor of MuslimGirl, and Rutger Bregman, author of Utopia for Realists – who believes in a 15-hour working week and a universal basic income. Australian speakers include Uncle Jack Charles and Archie Roach, who’ll close the festival with a performance on Sunday evening called Stories & Songs of Resilience. Celeste Liddle (creator of Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist) is giving a talk. And Sydney Mardi Gras ’78er Julie McCrossin will be discussing women’s and gay rights. One of the more explicit representations of activism is called ‘Blank Placard Dance, Reply’ by Anne Collad, who’s revisiting Anna Halprin’s performance in San Francisco 50 years ago. People will march through Sydney with blank placards to encourage audiences to question what constitutes contemporary activism. In addition, there’ll be talks from husbandhusband team Martin Goodman and James Thornton on how we’re treating the planet; The Vagina Monologues creator Eve Ensler, who’ll reflect on 20 years since the play was first staged; North Korean escapee Yeonmi Park; Indian MP Shashi Tharoor; and a hip-hop performance by Inua Ellams called ‘An Evening with an Immigrant’. Harvey says Antidote is a “hopeful” event. “When everything is feeling poisonous you need something to stop the poison. The power of art and culture and ideas is the antidote.” à Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point 2000. 02 9250 7111. antidote.sydneyoperahouse.com. Sep 2-3.
‘Cherophobia’ by Noëmi Lakmaier Inu Ellems: An Evening with an Immigrant
MuslimGirl editor Amani Al-Khatahtbeh