Sydney Festival 2016

Make the most of the last days of this month’s Sydney Festival with our pick of the best design, art and music highlights…



Skateboarders vs Minimalism
For this year's Sydney Festival, Australian video artist Shaun Gladwell’s latest installation Skateboarders vs Minimalism pits the world’s best freestyle skateboarder Rodney Mullen against minimalist sculptures by iconic US artists Donald Judd, Dan Flavin and Carl Andre, set to the strains of contemporary composer Philip Glass. Don’t worry though – ‘no original artworks were harmed’ in the making of the massive-scale, slow-motion video, which uses recreations of the works as jump-off points for flips and stunts. Gladwell set them up in California's Torrance Art Museum, and invited Mullen to create his own skatepark with the models.

London-based Sydneysider Gladwell (above), who has represented Australia at the 53rd Venice Biennale, is known for videos exploring physical pursuits from surfing and skating to BMX riding and motorbiking across the desert, and is himself a passionate skateboarder. Here his work is projected against the vast western wall of The Cutaway, Australia’s largest subterranean gallery. Recently carved out beneath the artificial hill that forms the city’s newest harbourside park Barangaroo Reserve, it's topped with indigenous planting. To see it properly visit after dark during Gallery Hour; by day it’s quite faint so you won’t get the full impact.
The Cutaway at Barangaroo Reserve, Hickson Road, Barangaroo
Gallery Hour, 8pm-9pm, until 26 January (closed Mondays, free)

The Ephemeral City
We can be architects, just for one day… At The Ephemeral City, taking shape in cavernous gallery The Cutaway in Barangaroo and above on the park’s Stargazer Lawn, members of the public are encouraged to help construct towers and turrets to form a fantastical urban landscape made entirely from cardboard and tape. The Fizz witnessed some early works coming together resembling opera house sails in scenes reminiscent of Witness’s Amish barn building. Devised by Frenchman Olivier Grossetête, this community participation event takes design to the masses, with the utopian temporary city being demolished at 3.30pm on the afternoon of Tuesday 26 January. It’s also a witty way of questioning the pompous authority of built structures and propose a more human, collective take on architecture. A free Flying Fox ride (2pm-8pm, until 24 January) zips over The Cutaway installation, offering vertiginous views.
The Cutaway at Barangaroo Reserve, Hickson Road, Barangaroo
1pm-8pm, until 26 January (closed Mondays, free)

El Anatsui: Five Decades
From a distance they look like beautiful, dip-dyed silken textiles, glimmering in shades of gold, red and black. Approach closer though, and you’ll see that Ghanaian artist El Anatsui’s sculptural creations are formed from salvaged waste, incorporating bottle tops and tin-can lids, West African liquor labels and discarded packaging. Copper wire stitches many of the aluminium and metal pieces together, in a chunky yet delicate take on patchwork quilts.

‘El Anatsui: Five Decades’ marks the Nigerian-based talent’s first show in Australia, co-hosted by Carriageworks and the Anna Schwartz Gallery. More than 30 works are on display, spanning the 1970s to the present day. It’s a startling retrospective that tackles colonial history as well as modern consumption. Along with wall-hangings and floor-based works, there are clusters of suitcases and tin boxes, giant bags made from rubbish, assemblages of printing plates, and wooden figurines inspired by tribal insignia. Come for dazzling art; leave with radical materials inspiration and a strong eco mantra.
Carriageworks, 245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh 10am-6pm, until 6 March 2016 (free)

Mexico goes Morrissey with Mexrrissey, a seven-piece band who reinterpret The Smiths songs in Spanish. Arrangements by Calexico's Sergio Mendoza are accompanied by Latin rhythms from mariachi to mambo. The Mancunian miserabilist and multicoloured Mexico might seem like an odd marriage, but there’s an epic, romantic and sorrowful side of Mexico that fits Morrissey’s darkly lyrical world view like a ‘hand in glove’. The Smiths have a big fan base in Mexico, and this one-night gig at Newtown's Enmore Theatre should bring devotees of Moz and danzón together in Sydney’s inner-west.
Enmore Theatre, 118-133 Enmore Road, Newtown. 8.30pm, 23 January

Meriton Festival Village
Pop into Sydney Festival hub the Meriton Festival Village, in Hyde Park, designed by Province Studio (aka Laura Pike and Anne-Louise Dadak). Alongside free gigs, DJ events (such as the recent Bowie tribute the Fizz attended) and theatre, you’ll find food and drink from noon, and licensed bars from 4pm. Argentine meat-wranglers Porteño will be firing up the grills, with quirky ice-creams from Gelato Messina that resemble hot dogs, mushrooms and candle floss.
Hyde Park North, entry near Archibald Fountain
Until 26 January (closed Monday, free entry)
Sydney Festival runs until Tuesday 26 January; 'El Anatsui: Five Decades' until 6 March 2016