FROM home-delivered theatre performances in private living rooms, to the grand return of the backyard party in Martin Place, Art & About Sydney 2014 consists of a program boasting works from the quirky to the quintessentially Australian.

Now in its 13th year, this year’s Art & About is set to be one of the biggest with artists from around the country and the globe presenting works that explore the theme of endangered for three weeks between September 19 to October 12.

Festival highlights include a traditional Australian quarter-acre block party in Martin Place on launch night, which will see the area transform into a giant backyard complete with lawn cricket, entertainment and snags.

Also returning are the famous outdoor art installations, including The Banner Gallery, which this year will depict images of the iconic Australian milk bar by Eamon Donnelly, plus the Australian Life and Little Sydney Lives photography exhibition in Hyde Park.

You can also catch Bodies in Urban spaces, which will see 20 humans cram themselves into small Sydney spaces, and Trolleys, a dance and acrobatic performance using the humble shopping trolley by Shaun Parker & Company.

Friday Night Live – Quarter Acre Block Party

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ONCE a core part of the Australian way of life, the quarter-acre block party is returning for one night only to the centre of Sydney to launch this year’s Art & About on Friday, September 19.

Martin Place will be transformed into a giant backyard — complete with barbecues, Hills Hoists, table tennis, garage bands, garden furniture, vinyl records, beer and snags. From 5pm-10pm, expect a welcoming and relaxed block party featuring entertainment, food and drinks and a great place to begin your Art & About festival adventure.

Art & About creative director Gill Minervini said the party fits perfectly with the festival’s overarching endangered theme.

“This theme aims to capture and expose the things that are disappearing in our world that we may not be aware of — things like kids roaming the streets, privacy, local food, manners, partying all night in the city, the great Aussie backyard… the list goes on and on,” she said.

“One of those things that is endangered is the Australian backyard — disappearing in the inner city due to space and expense and in the outer suburbs because people are opting for building home cinemas rather than having a backyard.

“I wanted to put [the block party] on because I think we all love a good get-together with our mates. This is just that… We wanted to transform Martin Place into your own back yard, reminiscent of all those barbies we went to as kids — table tennis, slide nights and the chance to meet someone new.”

While Minervini, who was the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras’ first festival director between 1989-1992, lamented the decline of neighbourhood parties, she still held on to hope.

“I think people don’t socialise as much as they used to in their neighbourhoods, increasingly people are spending more time indoors watching TV and playing with computers than having a chat over the back fence or getting the street involved in a party,” she said.

“Hopefully events like the Quarter Acre Block party will remind people how much fun they can be. I also think real social interaction rather than virtual interaction is making a come back — which is great.

Block partygoers can either settle in for the night or kick on with the galleries and museums across the city that will open their doors late just for the launch night. Free vintage shuttle buses will run from Martin Place to the participating galleries and museums, including the Art Gallery of NSW, Australian Museum, State Library of NSW, Customs House and Museum of Sydney.

For those deciding to kick on at the party, Australian chef and sustainable food advocate Jared Ingersoll, of Dank Street Depot fame, is on barbecue duty and boutique winemakers Cake Wines will run the bar. Meanwhile, party hosts are quirky performers Liesel Badorrek and Johnny Nasser, with live music from The Morrisons, Bustamento and Hot Potato Band plus special barbecue mix-tape by Double J and a slide show.

The Banner Gallery – Milk Bar

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AUSTRALIA’S iconic milk bar is set to make a come back, thanks to images by photographer Eamon Donnelly emblazoned on city street banners during Art & About Sydney.

The images on display derive from Donnelly’s The Island Continent, an online archive capturing the colour, nostalgia, fashions, design and people across our country.

“The project began over a decade ago. I took a trip to my childhood suburb of East Geelong to re-visit the home I grew up in through the 1980s, the streets, the back lane, to peek through the fence and take a nostalgic trip back in time,” he said, when asked what inspired him to start the collection.

“One of the strongest memories I had growing up was visits to the corner milk bar, that first taste of independence as a kid riding down the lane to Dave’s Milk Bar to buy mixed lollies, a milkshake, sausage roll or an ice cream.

“I wanted to walk through that front door once more as an adult, but to my surprise and disappointment the milk bar had closed down, leaving only a few traces of its history in the form of two rusted old tin signs for The Age and The Sun newspapers.”

Donnelly said his artworks were normally influenced by the Australia he grew up in during the 1970s and 1980s, in an industrial town with a clash of surf culture, bright summer colours and a suburban childhood.

“I am always looking for an Australian visual language so old advertising on the side of a closed milk bar is part of that visual language,” he said.

“So armed with an early digital camera I took a photo of the side of the building with the signage. I then thought about the other milk bars that we walked to from home, were they still there? I found they were also closed, many with no traces of the shop to be seen except for a personal memory.

“This made me realise that something was happening within our suburban landscape that was quietly fading away without any notice.”

Donnelly said he felt the iconic milk bars were microcosms of Australia.

“It was family, community, friendly service, the migrant success story. You got your news of the world from there, the weekly food supplies, life advice from the owners who knew you name, you watched their children grow up, they watched yours grow with them, your mother helped out in the milk bar when the owner’s wife had another child and took maternity leave from selling pies to the passing truckies,” he said.

“So I came to the realisation as an Australian artist the milk bar represented an Australian culture that was disappearing… I soon noticed that it was not compounded to that childhood suburb but all over Geelong and my new base of Melbourne.

“Soon enough (I) was developing a visual diary of an Australian landscape that was disappearing, capturing these closed, empty buildings with so much rich history.”

During his project, Donnelly observed how milk bars were called different things in different parts of Australia.

“Sydney quite possibly had the most number of milk bars, going back to when Joachim Tavlaridis, who later became known as Mick Adams, opened the first milk bar in Martin Place in 1932.

“However, Sydney today and in recent decades seems to have more “mixed business” named shops, which essentially are the same as a milk bar. In Melbourne and Victoria they are called milk bars, in South Australia and Western Australia, delis.

“It is very interesting to see mixed businesses in Sydney considering it is the birthplace of the milk bar.”

With some of his works about to go on show during Art & About, Donnelly was also hoping to get in touch with past or present owners of milk bars who would like to contribute to his collection.

Australian Life

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For the first time, the former Sydney Life photo competition and exhibition is going national. The Australian Life exhibition in Hyde Park will display large scale images depicting life across the nation.

Little Sydney Lives

The always-popular Little Sydney Lives photo competition is back, displaying a selection of images from our smallest citizens, set among the greenery of Sandringham Gardens.

Neon Nomads

Ten three-metre-high tepees in Hyde Park will illuminate the works of some of Australia’s and the world’s most respected graphic artists. The designs will pay homage to nomadic lifestyles and urban lifestyles.

Us

An outdoor photographic studio set up outside the Queen Victoria Building will invite strangers to come together for old school style group photos. Each participant will receive a copy of the photo.

The Walking Neighbourhood

Kids will turn the tables and take adults on a tour of city streets, providing a rare glimpse into their world. Taking the reins, kids guide adults on a 90-minute curated tour of Kings Cross and Redfern, sharing their thoughts and experiences of the ‘hood.

Bodies in Urban Spaces

Under the direction of Austrian artist Willi Dorner, 20 human bodies will cram themselves into doorways, alcoves and any gap they can find in the CBD. Dressed in brightly coloured clothes, the audience will spot them in all sorts of nooks and crannies for the festival finale.

Trolleys

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Part dance performance, part ballet, part outdoor spectacle, this is a 20-minute outdoor high-energy theatre work where street dancers and acrobats come together with the humble shopping trolley to spin, glide and slide across city spaces. It will take over Martin Place, Customs House Square, Hyde Park and Pitt Street Mall.

Armchair Apocalypse

Instead of going to the theatre, you can order brand new shows written and performed by some of Sydney’s most exciting young writers, brought straight to your door and to your lounge room.

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DETAILS: artandabout.com.au

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