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– By Alice McShane

(Photo credit: Sarah Walker )

Thousands of Melburnians may have recently flocked to their overnight arts event White Night, but we here in Canberra prefer our evenings with a touch more intimacy. Such was the premise for Music by Cavelight, a tender performance event disguised as a sleepover in the hallowed foyer of the Canberra Museum and Gallery.

At 10:30pm the evening began with the traditional mark of a day’s end: a bedtime story. We huddled in close for David Finnigan and Adam Hadley to read us their favourite tales. A raw and powerful performance entitled We Are Perpendicular followed, setting the tone for the evening as much as the bedtime stories had before it. The physical theatre piece, devised by Emma Hall and Emily Stewart, absorbed the calm and stillness of the room. We nestled together, the imperative of art you can sleep to inspiring serenity as the artists moved about the stage as though in a trance. The performance was followed by screenings in Theatre Three, which part of the audience attended, while others arranged themselves for sleep and those not staying the night peeled off.

At midnight we (the sleepers), secure in this metaphorical cave, signed our night over to equal parts eerie and deeply comforting musical compositions. Reuben Ingall opened with ambient synth and the low strum of a guitar interspersed with bird song to create a sound that, while not quite sacred, was not quite real either. Ardalan Haddad followed with Iranian music on the santur and was watched by most of the crowd who, on a Friday night, were not quite ready for bed yet. After Haddad, musicians such as Julian Day, Nickamc, Paul Heslin, Metatone Transfer, Shoeb Ahmed and Slowest Runner came and went with dream-like arrangements, gradually erasing my delineation of wake and sleep.

Two visual artists, Robbie Karmel and Kate Vassallo, worked through the evening: Karmel using a delayed loop of live footage to sketch over the projected image, while Vassallo installed cellophane throughout the space in preparation for dawn. In the dim light they softly padded around their sleeping audience, their hypnotising process taking on an ethereal quality.

At 6:55am, the music became loud and undeniable; it was time to get up. The final “performance” of the night was a communal breakfast. Weary yet content, we made our way to Lonsdale St Roasters to decompress.

An incredible amount of coordination and organisation was evident throughout the night, and payed off in spades. The evening was curated brilliantly, everything working together to create a sacred space of art, community and rest.


AliceAlice currently works in regional television, occasionally writes television commercials
but mostly writes film essays. Obviously she should be followed on twitter @aliceclaire, and
at http://filmalice.wordpress.com/

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