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Cementa15 - a regional festival in pictures

Gina Fairley

Twenty good reasons to put Cementa on your radar - a festival that happens every two years in regional NSW.
Cementa15 - a regional festival in pictures

Cementa15 returned to Kandos, a small regional town in NSW, this weekend with performance, installation and interventions.  ArtsHub headed out to the country to bring Cementa15 to you.

For more on Cementa15 and an interview with one of its co-founders Alex Wisser.


Beta Geyer & James Culkin's piece Geometries: Kandos is a site-responsive installation at the former convent, the light catching the material and the modular forms in stunning contrast to the architecture. It was the only large modernist sculpture across the festival, this year with a little more video work than its inaugural event.

Mark Booth used a former industrial "crusher" that was used at the Kandos cement works, neatly packing his grey, or cement coloured, sculpture 22.300-90 inside. Booth played with scale and association in a delightful and erudite way in this piece and, like so many works at Cementa15, was a subtle discovery to stumble upon.

Juilee Pryor with her installation A Meditation on the Redundancy of Childhood, comprised of one hundred ghostly found forms that remind us - like Kandos with its closed cement works - how something so vital can be stripped bare so quickly deemed no longer of value. A simple piece, it struck a chord with both locals and visitors and offered an easy bridge for shared conversations.

Jumaadi presented a moving "low-tech" shadow puppet play, Little shadow and something to swallow, with a group who travelled down from Queensland for the festival. It told the story of Indonesian political prisoners during the 2nd World War held at Cowra, and has an uncanny resonance with the layered histories of Kandos and its surrounds, while not Indonesian, moved between stories of power, land and culture.

Tina Havelock Stevens (drums) and Liberty (guitar) took a twilight take on the Australian Open, dueling it out in their performance Racquet Racket Duel Dual. Tina also presented a stunning performance, usurping the Men's Shed with her story of Lady Bushranger, White Drummer Lady Bushranger, in which she channels the punk spirit of Jessie Hickman backdrop to a video and smoke screen. Both were highlights of the festival. 

Dani Marti's video Stitch 'n Bitch was a fabulous insertion at the Kandos Museum, positioned within close proximity to the local lace collection and Nicole Barakat's sewing circle. Marti's video was filmed over two months in Wollombi NSW, the national park that edges onto Kandos.

Nicole Barakat's performance / installation Meditation (Decolonisation) reached out beautifully to locals, sitting here stitching with and chatting. The piece was two fold - a wealth of doilies collected from Kandos community op shops, which she then took rubbings of and then sewed anew the negative spaces; and secondly a blunt description of the 1824 massacre of the Wiradjuri people that sits deep within the history of this town.

Loss carries across several of the artworks. Karen Golland's field of pom-poms The Nature of Things, is a response to the grief of her partner dying. Viewed from the road or stumbled across in a paddock, it is indicative of the subtlety and sensitivity of many of the works at Cementa15.

Alan Schacher performed throughout Cementa15, seen wandering the streets with his wheelbarrow and cape of newspapers, or at the Manager's tennis court reciting poetry and finding uncanny ways to entertain himself and others with that newspaper. Kandos was a company town - it is said the letters were the initials of the company founders - many of the houses are made of cement and there are many company homes (of varying grandeur) that define this town. The company closed the works in 2012 and moved out.

Adam Hill (aka Blak Douglas) scattered several sites along the main street of Kandos with hopscotch - a game that is close to many of our memories. But this game had a little darker for Hill, here honouring the victims of the 1824 massacre and another using Kandos postcode, pulling history into our everyday passage.

Jason Wing created a phenomenal soundscape in the St Laurence Church Syrinx, which combined native bird calls and human conversation, a piece that starts subtly and builds to a near deafening symphony that becomes a powerful physical experience that penetrates beyond mere listening, what Wing explained as 'exploring the intangible connection many Indigenous Australian feel towards Country'.

Daily in the Kandos Community Centre Hall artists and locals sat down together to discuss The District, a project conceived and coordinated by Karen Therese. Here a local nurse with a young miner who moved to the town for work (the mine now soon to close) chats with a homesteader and a Kandos crafter over "a cuppa".


Stunning projection Selected Memory by Ken Simpson on the side of St Laurence Church. It was the only projection in this year's festival and its success suggests that there is opportunity for more next time round. The textures of the sandstone building against the landscape worked beautifully, and was a really sensitive way to approach the topic of place.

Lock On was a powerful performance in the Kandos Scout Hall by the William River Valley Artists' Project (WRVAP), an activist group that shed light on​ environmental issues associated with mining industry and logging. Since the cement works closed many residents of Kandos are employed by the mines.

Karla Dickens also tackled the topic of mining in her installation The Whole Black Hole outside the Kandos Museum, with the closed cement works in the background. Using a poker machine resurrected from Lismore tip, Dickens has reset the jackpot as the indigenous flag, as she said: 'A pimp somewhere has heavy pockets. The Poker Machine will tempot to sing you. One armed bandits promise hard cold cash. Red, Black, Yellow Dollars. Black tears. The scars left behind by the money makers.' It is a very powerful piece about the "pay outs" from miners for indigenous land and the divisions it is causing in community and country. While a different story, it nevertheless has a correlation to Kandos and "catch 22" of employment with industry.

Sean O'Keeffe's work stopped viewers in their tracks, a tardis-like arrival of a telephone booth in the path of the former Kandos rail service - both antiquated services today. The object was partnered with a video Cognitive Dissonance which references the iconic 1980 cult film The Chain Reaction in reference to changing social structure of Kandos. O'Keeffe worked with community groups locally including members of the local dramatic society The Twin Town Players, and was screened with the soundtrack's composer, Boris Hunt (Mad Dog Boy), peforming live for Cementa15's closing film night.

One of the more powerful works in Cementa15 was Fiona Davies work from her Blood on Silk series. Stacked in your typical tin shed at the Dabee Road Nursery, this installation combined a sound element of an auction of medical supplies - blood and plasma - what Davies said is not dissimilar to an agricultural auction.

melanei e. khava collaborated with Kandos High School students to make this work, asking them to paint a tile of this place with the only instruction that it was not figurative. She has then reflected those paintings in mirror squares the two hover on glass cylinders. It speaks of public and private spaces, conversations so close held and impressions once removed; of landscape and cycles. It is another great example how the Cementa artists reached out to the community during their residencies to make work that connected, rather than being merely imported.

Joining the other vehicles angle parked on the main street was this wagon filled with foilage and a sound piece of bird calls. It epitomises the "make do" aspect of much of these works that use what is available in the town, the landscape and what rises from an engagement with this community.

All photos by Gina Fairley for ArtsHub.

About the author

Gina Fairley covers the Visual Arts nationally for ArtsHub. Based in Sydney you can follow her on Twitter @ginafairley and Instagram at fairleygina.