On the first Wednesday of every month two things happen: a bunch of exhibition openings in the inner city from 6pm–8pm. Then after that, two women in their early twenties help an artist transform Freda’s into a sensory spectacle of performance, visuals and installations with a sweaty, vibing dance floor.
Nerida Ross and Anna May Kirk are the two creative producers behind After pARTY; an immersive art event that acts as an extension of the generic gallery experience. After pitching a performance-art night last year the pair hosted a monthly event and the concept evolved.
“We realised we were given this specific day that had so many exhibition openings, so why not work with it? Instead of going to a shitty pub after, why not do something fun and help people engage in artists’ practices in a non-conventional way,” says Kirk.
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Each incarnation of After pARTY stars a different artist (scouted via Instagram ) who envisions the theme of the night. “We take them to Freda’s for a site visit and have a conversation where we throw around all sorts of insane ideas,” says Kirk.
More often than not these insane ideas become reality. Over the past seven months prominent Sydney artists such as Rosie Deacon Claudia Nicholson and Caroline Garcia and past Biennale exhibitor Roslyn Helper, have created an Australiana candy shop atmosphere, a Latino/Philippine house pARTY environment and a simulation of a queer cyborg future, among other immersions. “There’s always a climax of the night and it’s usually a performance … or Latino paraphernalia in cake form, says Ross.”
The most recent event involved creative duo Honey Long and Prue Stent transforming the space into a smoky, seductive love machine scented with pheromones and bathed in a red fluorescent light. Suspended above the heaving dance floor was a feeling pool of phallic objects and a giant illuminated love heart. “I don’t even think anyone has realised they are in an artwork,” says Ross.
DJs accompany each artist. Calling on mates for favors and using contacts from their volunteer work at FBi Radio, the two try to meld artistic concepts with a specific music genre. “Get To Work collaborated so well with Shantan Wantan Ichiban, and it just made the Pacific dance-hall pARTY vibe,” says Kirk.
The two see the events as an opportunity for artists to explore their practices in an exciting way. “It’s a reflection of the art world at the moment,” says Ross. Kirk continues, “It’s all multi-disciplinary, there are few contemporary artists that are just painting – it’s, ‘I’m a painter, but I also use green screens and have nuts ideas’.”
Ross and Kirk give their entire budget to the artists; a gold-coin door charge covers the material costs. “I feel like we’ve proven the value in having arts events. There’s a demand and a place for this in Sydney and people are excited about it,” says Ross.
The next After pARTY will feature experimental artist Angela Goh on Wednesday October 5 from 8pm¬–12am. Details will be finalised soon.