Rising 2023

Wed 7th June, 2023 – Sun 18th June, 2023
Multiple locations
The third edition of the winter arts festival features 400 artists, 185 events and 12 world premieres. There’ll be crane-sized marionette puppets at St Paul’s Cathedral, a giant ice-skating rink at Birrarung Marr (with mulled wine and hot buttered popcorn), two special Paul Kelly shows at Melbourne Recital Centre, and much more.

Rising is back for its second full, uninterrupted year of programming (2021 was all but cancelled due to Covid), and things look a bit different this time.

The festival’s various hubs and outposts are being drawn closer to Flinders Street Station, creating a single walkable supercluster of dance, music, theatre, cinema, sculpture, large-scale installations and mass-participation events – but with the same fun, subversive spirit.

This year’s festival will feel busier and more festive, but also more spontaneous and accessible. You’ll be able to spend several nights ambling around the city, bumping into exciting pieces and engaging with whatever looks good, with less forward planning.

“Rising is a mass celebration of Melbourne’s unique culture in the heart of the city,” say co-artistic directors Hannah Fox and Gideon Obarzanek. “The 2023 program is a rallying call to get involved, experience the new and be a part of a festival that couldn’t happen anywhere else.”

Crowd-pleasing events
You’ve maybe already heard about 10,000 Kazoos, which will see that many ordinary Melburnians take over Fed Square to create an absurd, “kazootiful”, world-record-setting orchestra. Registration is required to take part, but that’s it. “No rehearsals, nothing to practice. Just rock up on the day,” the festival says.

For the first four nights of Rising, thousands and thousands of biodegradable, bioluminescent sparks created by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde will be also be released into the sky above Fed Square, painting the night with colour and forming hypnotic undulating shoals in the wind. Kids and adults alike will appreciate the show.

Next door at Birrarung Marr, Rinky Dink – one of last year’s most joyous all-ages events – is upsizing to a much larger ice-skating rink on the river’s banks, flanked by fairy-lit trees. In between skate sessions, you’ll be able to warm up with buttered popcorn, hot chocolate and mulled wine, while marvelling at a 20-strong troupe of three-metre-high technicolour wallabies bounding up and down the park, courtesy of Archibald Prize finalist Matthew Clarke.

Back up on St Kilda Road, Hamer Hall’s facade will act as a giant screen for Electric: Mookies Around the Waterhole, a looping work about time and place, by Aunty Zeta Thomson. Yorta Yorta writer and curator Kimberley Moulton is also marshalling 30 First Peoples artists and collectives upstairs at Flinders Street Station to present the sprawling Shadow Spirit, which Rising says is the largest commissioned exhibition of contemporary First Peoples art in Victorian history. Via theatre, dance, music, visual art and sound, the exhibition will explore Ancestral spirit worlds and knowledge systems over eight weeks, until July 30.

“This is an ambitious national show that will amplify the exceptional contemporary creativity of First Peoples art in this country and take it to the people of Melbourne and the world,” Moulton says.

Diagonally opposite Flinders Street Station, Night Trade will activate the grounds of gothic landmark St Paul’s Cathedral in a “free, fluid and ephemeral piazza of organised chaos”, with hawker-style food by social enterprise Free to Feed and a giant Negroni tank. Puerto Rican twin brothers Pablo and Efrain Del Hierro, who work together as Poncili Creción, are in command of visuals. They’re known for kinetic sculptures and surreal, crane-sized marionette puppets, so expect the spectacular. There’ll also be DJs, drag karaoke and other spontaneous performances.

Inside the cathedral, a billowing 25-metre-high silk screen will be the medium for Anthem, a ghostly sound and video work by American filmmaker Wu Tsang and pioneering New Age musician Beverly Glenn-Copeland. The free piece, recently shown at the Guggenheim, will resonate through the towering structure, with Glenn-Copeland’s voice and ambient sounds complemented by abstract visual textures on screen.

One block up, a massive multi-channel film installation, Euphoria, will light up Melbourne Town Hall and overwhelm the senses. The brain behind it, German filmmaker Julian Rosefeldt, enlisted actors including Cate Blanchett, Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad) and Virginia Newcomb (The Office, The Walking Dead) to recite musings from the likes of Snoop Dogg, Warren Buffett and Ayn Rand. At ground level, life-sized members of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus will appear via 24 big screens, encircling the audience and enveloping them in sound. Above, five virtuoso jazz drummers will duel on screen, including Herbie Hancock touring drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, Weather Report’s Peter Erskine, and Grammy Award-winning composer Antonio Sánchez (Birdman).

ACMI and the NGV, meanwhile, are extending their opening hours until late into the evening for the 12 full days of Rising. That means more time to see blockbuster exhibitions Melbourne Now and Goddess, away from the usual daytime crowds.

Spread across at Max Watts, the Forum and Melbourne Recital Centre, the impressive music program covers everything from experimental jazz to club bangers, with a strong contingent of First Nations acts chosen by Wiradjuri curator Hayley Percy.

Mutti Mutti elder Uncle Kutcha Edwards is assembling a super crew from all over Australia for Waripa, a celebration of Blak music, ceremony, tradition, and storytelling. It builds on his Carpool Karaoke-inspired show Koorioke, a soulful, funny sing-a-long of First Peoples anthems. The line-up includes Bart Willoughby and Joe Geia (No Fixed Address), Mo’Ju and Shellie Morris, with more to come.

Girra, meanwhile, is a collaboration between Butchulla men and cousins Birdz and cultural leader Fred Leone – produced by none other than multi-platinum, Aria-winning producer Trials (Ngarrindjeri). The world premiere show will fuse Birdz’s sharp rap flows with Aboriginal Creole and Leone’s soaring vocals.

Like last year, a handful of rarely seen underground Japanese artists are also on the bill. In a massive double header, guitarist and composer Cornelius will appear alongside easy-going psych rocker Shintaro Sakamoto at the Forum. At a separate upstairs show, folk songwriter Ichiko Aoba will ply the audience with dreamy guitar riffs.

But if we’re talking big names at the Forum, Rising 2023 is all about American hip-hop legend Madlib. Bassist Thundercat will also play the iconic theatre. Another American act, Chromatics frontwoman Ruth Radelet, is appearing upstairs to play her first ever solo show, off the back of dueting with The Weeknd and performing in Twin Peaks.

In a second huge double bill, ’70s punk icons The Damned will appear alongside American doom metal supergroup Witch (featuring J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr, Kyle Thomas aka King Tuff, David Sweetapple of Teepee Records, and Aussie Graham Clise of Annihilation Time and Rot TV) supported by Melbourne industrial duo Vacuum.

Another local act, Paul Kelly, will play for two very special shows at the Melbourne Recital Centre. With a full band, he’ll play right through Drinking, his 2022 compilation and ode to booze drawing on his discography and previously unreleased recordings.

Equally exciting is Melbourne post-punk group RVG’s show, supported by Danish punk band Iceage and reformed Melbourne rock group Batrider, playing their first show in more than a decade.

Finally, there’s a raft of dance and electronic acts that’ll shake the walls of Max Watts. South African producer and band leader Esa is assembling his sometime-project Afro Synth Band, to cover disco, funk and afrobeat, this time with help from Swahili singer Mim Suleiman and South African disco star Kamazu.

Artist Ihab S Balla and Paul Gorrie (aka DJ PGZ) are together curating Black Mass, a multi-disciplinary experimental art project paired with high-energy tunes for a public holiday eve party to remember.

Experimental producer Loraine James, whose work fuses IDM, R&B, drill and pop, will appear alongside Indian producer Arushi Jain, who blends classical Hindustani music with cosmic modular synthesisers.

And on the final night of Rising, globally renowned internet radio station NTS (which launched in Australia earlier this year) will take complete control of Max Watts with an as-yet announced line-up that’s sure to be killer.

Theatre and dance
In the Fitzroy Gardens, Genevieve Lacey and Erkki Veltheim’s Consort of the Moon will act as a haunting, ethereal counterpart to the joyous silliness of 10,000 Kazoos. At the twilight gathering, audiences themselves will participate, transforming the oldest known piece of notated music (an ode to Nikkal, goddess of orchards) into a choral ritual.

Indigenous choreographer Daniel Riley, recently appointed artistic director of Australian Dance Theatre, will present two shows at Rising. The first, Tracker, tells the powerful story of Riley’s great-great-uncle, Alec Riley, a Wiradjuri Elder and skilled tracker who joined the New South Wales Police Force in 1911 and served for 40 years. Performed in the round by an all-Indigenous cast, it’s an intimate story of cultural resilience across generations. The second show, IN THE HUM, features a score from celebrated soprano Deborah Cheetham AO and costumes by Taungurung fashion designer Annette Sax. It'll appear on a double bill with the Australian Ballet choreographer Alice Topp's show Paragon.

At the Playhouse, Trawlwoolway pakana playwright Nathan Maynard and Māori writer Jamie McCaskill’s Hide The Dog will combine puppetry, colourful costumes and scenic projections to tell a swashbuckling (and hilarious) all-ages story about a quest to hide a Tasmanian tiger.

TANZ, from, Austrian choreographer Florentina Holzinger (sometimes called “the Tarantino of dance”) is a subversive and schlocky body-horror ballet, using nudity and dancers suspended from wires to explore the idea of self-optimisation in the name of art and beauty. Since premiering in Vienna it’s inspired standing ovations, but also walk-outs and fainting.

Want a private tour of Rising's highlight exhibition Shadow Spirit? Attend our exclusive event through Broadsheet Access.


Broadsheet is a proud media partner of Rising. Rising is an initiative of the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria and Visit Victoria.