Organised by YAK events (a collective of emerging artists based at Shopfron Contemporary arts Centre), the Yak Summer Residency is a new two week intensive residency based at Shopfront Contemporary Arts Centre for Under 25’s in which time and space equal freedom. Freedom to explore and uncover and investigate any idea or concept and which resulted in a showcase of some of the findings. I am a little late reporting on this as my own project is gearing up and I have had to prioritize my writing for the Sydney Festival shows I have seen.I know … excuses… excuses…

Comprising of three projects- Entitlement by Faustina Delany, Evol by Bits & Pieces (Joanna Erskine and Flip Nicol) and The Seance Project by Mark Pritchard and Sophie Webb, this is work which has been developed without any firm outcomes or performance indicators to answer to- this was time and space without restrictions and what was yielded was a fascinating adventure into the unique flavours of the developing artists.

Delany’s piece Entitlement was inspired by an excerpt from Baudelaire- “It is an immense joy to set up home in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of fugitive and the infinite. To be away from the home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home.”
In a room hemmed with people (more than seemingly anticipated as many sat cross legged on the floor) a woman in a slip lies on the floor witha square of light illuminating her torso- a pomegranate rests ontop. Within minutes a sound of an aeroplane landing- repeatedly- and we are locked in darkness. with only the faint green glow on the exit sign- she is naked and moves violently in the darkness we can hear her feet thudding the floor and her arms slapping in flailing desperation. Silence. She is clothed- the lights return. With some stunning imagery and a languid reading of a loveletter (or perhaps a farewell note) Delany’s piece was surprising and visually beautiful- a coil of salt created with a hard bristled broom which wound bigger and bigger with each circumnavigation only to be trampled carelessly underfoot. Alot of interesting moments which may have ressonated longer if we were allowed more time with them- as opposed to the momentary peepshow of the ideas. This is not usually my field (being such a text based obsessive) so having slightly browning pomegranate shoved into my mouth was surprisingly confronting- and I was confronted alot by this piece… but in a way which made me interrogate more rather than shut down.
Evol was next- a travelling multi-stationed adventure about Love and the miscommications that it can illicit. Lead by two group leaders around the space- Carolyn Eccles and Cameron Ellis the audience was divided- labelled, ranked and lead through a series of vignettes- puppetry , a monologue made of cliches, awkward kitchen flirtation, group painting session, the room of lost love and an audience blind folded dance sequence resulting in popcorn and movie night made of the lovestories of the people of Carlton (which was perhaps one of my favourite moments). A huge amount of work and many ideas were associated with this piece… again moments of audience invasion which seemed utterly appropriate since love is often a very invasive emotion/pursuit.

Finally we are solemnly ushered into a room for only the believers- a cabaret seance for Sophie Webb- a startlet, an actor cut down in her prime in New York who can only talk to our host who manages to channel Sophie’s talents… her singing, her piano playing, her tap dancing- her love for performing. A candle fringed room with a piano, and plastic roses- a few items of Sophie’s scattered amongst the audience (a dress, black jelly beans ). A seance with members of the audience- and a wall of headshots of Sophie. Leading us through the ritual of the seance and occasionally summoning Sophie is (hilariously) Sophie herself. We watch as though completely perverse- like those watching endless footage/news reportage of the announcement of Heath Ledger or Michael Jackson’s death… ending in a wholely breathtaking kareoke rendition of “I Will Always Love You”- this is cabaret kitch and self-referential entertainment which explodes the self-indulgentness of celebrity and starpower in an age when acting is synonymous with either celebrity or failure.

All in all- a wonderfully diverse night where we can see what is ticking over in the minds of some brilliant emerging artists… I’m glad I went. And I went not as a board member of Shopfront nor as a reviewer but as a curious punter. This was a fabulous acheivement of the YAK committee- namely David Kirkpatrick and Arnab Ahmed who did a stunning job -and I was utterly impressed with the quality and the smooth curation of the evening.