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From global superstars such as Laurie Anderson and Marina Abramovic to emerging artists, the Adelaide Festival under artistic director Ruth Mackenzie has something for everyone.
There will be 64 events, 16 world premieres, 12 Australian premieres and 23 exclusives. Highlights of the 17-day festival include dance innovator Elizabeth Streb, writer Édouard Louis and Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson – making their Adelaide debuts – as well as returning artists singer Angelique Kidjo, choreographer Akram Khan, theatre director Milo Rau, and former Adelaide Festival directors Barrie Kosky and Stephen Page.
No Intermission (2022), Marina Abramović Institute at Royal Theatre Carré, Amsterdam. Credit: Joy Hansson
It’s all happening in the South Australian capital in March, with Adelaide Writers’ Week overlapping with the arts festival, as well as the opening of the Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art.
Headlining the event is American artist and musician Laurie Anderson. One of the first artists in residence at the University of Adelaide’s Sia Furler Institute, set up to enable artists to use artificial intelligence and other digital tools, Anderson has created a piece called Scroll, made by an AI program.
There are two Scrolls in the world: one in the National Museum in Washington, the other in Adelaide, which will be revealed for the first time, along with some newer pieces Anderson has made, including an artificial intelligence Lou Reed (her late husband) and an artificial intelligence Laurie Anderson.
Mackenzie describes Abramovic, who will appear digitally, as “a goddess, a giant”. With the Marina Abramovic Institute, the 76-year-old conducts “takeovers”, in which she works with younger artists, creating work, testing the power of durational art.
At Mona in 2015, her last Australian show, the Serbian artist sat counting rice, inviting the public to do so, as well as watching rabbits and birds in a garden. Installations next door showed her and other artists engaged in a screaming match. “Because life is so fast, we have to make art slow,” she said at the time.
Mackenzie says: “I think the fairest thing to say to audiences is this is an adventure. I can’t tell you what they’re going to do yet because they don’t know what they’re going to do yet.”
Attendees can buy a ticket for the four days of the festival or come for one day or one night. “What you’ll get is something you’ll never forget, that’s for sure,” says Mackenzie.
Work by First Nations people is a significant component of next year’s program. Stephen Page’s Baleen Moondjan, will premiere – in the glorious setting of Glenelg Beach – as will Jacob Boehme’s Guuranda and Restless Dance Theatre’s Private View, on the opening weekend.
Stephen Page’s Baleen will make its debut on Glenelg Beach as part of Adelaide Festival 2024.Credit: Daniel Boud
Mackenzie spent three days on Country with Boehme, his creative team and the elders at the Yorke Peninsula. “It was one of the best experiences of my life. Honestly, I learnt so much.”
The operatic centrepiece for 2024 is Stravinsky’s The Nightingale and Other Fables, directed by Canadian Robert Lepage. Inspired by The Nightingale, festival artists have created 18 pieces featuring the songs of 17 different birds, which are dotted throughout the program. Kosky brings the Australian premiere of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera.
Work from up-and-coming artists will also be showcased, including Goodbye, Lindita by 24-year-old Albanian theatre maker Mario Banushi, who is based in Greece. According to Mackenzie, his wordless piece of theatre about family life defies categorisation. “It gets below that kind of rational thinking part of your brain and into your heart and your psyche and your emotions. So you can’t help but feel what they’re feeling as they go on their journey. It’s an unbelievably powerful piece.”
Adelaide Writers’ Week director Louise Adler leads her second event next year, with Richard Ford, Elizabeth Strout and Ted Chiang among the international authors already announced. The full program will be released in January and will include seven contemporary South Asian writers.
“Writers [will] again join us to reflect on the lessons of history, make sense of the present moment and imagine a future that just might hold the promise of hope,” Adler says. “The issues writers lay bare for us are both universal and specific to this time and place, and explorations of the personal and the private are inescapably also political and public.”
The Adelaide Festival runs from March 1-17, 2024; Adelaide Writers’ Festival runs March 2-7, 2024; Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art runs from March 1- June 2, 2024.
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