Underbelly Arts where eating books, dumpster diving, growing plants in suitcases and screaming at strangers is aok. Um… so what is it I hear you ask. Well, it’s held on Cockatoo Island and has a 10-day residency The Lab, which is a chance to watch experimental art unfold, followed by the 1 day festival to show off these works. Hmm.. sounds pretty interesting you say. I know, it was, I respond.
Some of the most interesting works that I had the chance to check out on Saturday on the Island was Case Study, which explored ideas about how a society is created. Five artists “migrated” to the Island to set up some funky looking sleeping areas, grew plants in suitcases, drank Lipton tea from science beakers and made a pretty interesting place to live. Everyone seemed to have a lot of fun crawling into sleeping areas and walking around the space.
Heading into the bar/ cafe area for some warmth from the Wintery weather we grabbed a strange tasting mulled wine and simple bread roll and settled in to watch Applespiel’s performance Awful Literature is Still Literature. A collection of what they called “terrible literature” are read from, eaten, ripped, sawn in half, dunked into water and worse. The space hangs with these “terrible” books from the ceiling and beanbags line the floor. During our snack there is a reading of vividly described sex and a list of the top 100 books you must read, along with some personal stories.
My favourite experience of Underbelly Arts festival came towards the end of our night. We lined up in the cold for what seemed like forever before reaching a guy in a suit and bow-tie who instructed us to make jackets out of our garbage bags and armed us with a plastic plate and fork. I have to say this was a first for me. It was the Butterfries All you can stand buffet. We were nervous, hesitant, excited and just a little bit scared. Our team entered after electing a leader for our group and a briefing about how we would most likely die. We started off dumpster diving, were force fed bread by a crazy lady, ate soup from a toilet with a homeless man, received an instructive speech from an abattoir worker, a bbq with a cross dresser, watched a woman drink poisoned punch and a couple have a fight at a dinner party. Some moments made you feel intensely uncomfortable, not hungry at all and learn what lamb neck looks like. It was an interesting experience and I have to say that I will never again look at food the same way. Hopefully it will be the last time I see soup ladled out of a toilet or couscous eaten from a rubbish bag.