Rating : 4.5 stars

Review: Future Assembly, Arts House (VIC)

The four-day program fosters inclusive art and new possibilities.
Review: Future Assembly, Arts House (VIC)

MOTHERLODE. Photo: Serwah Attafuah.

With Future Assembly, Arts House Artistic Director Emily Sexton and her team demonstrate the North Melbourne venue’s fierce commitment to fresh ideas, new possibilities and excellent activist art. The four-day program consists of three exhibitions, a talk, a manifesto, a party and an interactive space, all of which leverage mixed media of visual, textual, and performance art to foster a non-patriarchal approach to stimulate action and find hope. Showcasing the work of more than a dozen artists, curators, allies and guests, Future Assembly demonstrates why Arts House is at the cutting edge of Melbourne theatre and performance.


When you walk in from the street, the first thing you can see is Jody Haines’ #IAMWOMAN, a social portrait project on and around Arts House that provides a suite of rich and complex answers to the question of what it means to be a woman. Haines subverts the history of infantilisation, sexualisation, and denigration associated with the gaze of the camera to produce a series of warm, human portraits that intimately approach the subject of womanhood, always personalising, sometimes questioning, and never limiting the range of representative chemistry that exists when a talented person wields a camera as an extension of their empathetic, critical eye.

Also on the ground floor, the Reading / Making Room is an open access space over three days which offers a number of ways of approaching the themes of body, time and space. Through the Archiving the Margins exhibition, which featured participation from AGLA, James Eades (photographer Jamie James and poet Quinn Eades) and Son Vivienne, a series of mindmaps, zines and newspaper cuttings investigate a history of queer marginalisation, ultimately opting to celebrate queerness as a joyful fringe identity.  As an artistic gambit and a historiographical exercise, this meshes well with a history of queer oppression. As an artistic goal it creates an aesthetic of queerdom which is radical by nature and political by design.

The separate exhibition QUEERDOM by James Eades plays with the disorderly and the disorienting, as a one-hour soundtrack by Laplustre (DJ Duo Sveta and Estee Louder) plays on a loop to reinforce the situation of LGBTQIA+ individuals previously defined by the scope of Archiving the Margins. Both exhibitions come together under the heading of Making The Margins to posit a creative response to a history of queer oppression and censorship, with the radical queer archiving of Archiving in the Margins given pathos by the James Eades poems and photos of pathos and dispossession. Meanwhile, WHY2K by Hannah Bronte questions the depth of social platforms with irreverent banner making which makes visual art out of song lyrics, fragments, quick thoughts and sayings.

 The Future Assembly festival also includes two live art interactive performances. The party MOTHERLODE features the self-styled ‘hip hop beast’ Fempress and a variety of supporting acts including Jamaica, Kween G, Sojugang, Kotare, and BabyMama. This procession of fast beats and hip groups demonstrates the artistic merit not only of dance but of how inhabiting and transforming a space through joyous self-expression is an inherently radical act.

This theme is further expounded upon in WORK IT – NEW MANIFESTOS, a night of spoken word, speeches and performances on topics from the gender pay gap to respect of Indigenous elders. The speakers and performers highlight both the versatility and subversiveness of bringing marginal identities into the centre of a joyfully reclaimed artistic space. The Future Assembly program at Arts House demonstrates the fierceness of inclusive art at its iconic Melburnian best.

4.5 stars out of 5 ★★★★☆

Future Assembly
Arts House, North Melbourne VIC
10-13 July 2019
Some events ticketed

Vanessa Francesca

Tuesday 16 July, 2019

About the author

Vanessa Francesca is a writer living in Melbourne. She has an Arts (Honours) degree in English Literature. She has previously written for community papers and interviewed guests on community radio. She was a writer and producer for The Melbourne Model Musical, which ran for two seasons at the comedy festival. She is currently a fiction reader for Overland, and a Literary Associate with MKA: The Theatre of New Writing. She is working on a novel and a collection of short stories.