After the exceedingly hot temps last Sunday (that we cyclists could have done without, thank you), it has turned chilly again. Today, the estimate is from 10 to 18 Celsius, or between 50 and 64 F. I have no idea what it was last night when I hopped the tram down to Federation Square, but it was damn cold. I expected to see a crowd in the thousands for a free Arts Festival event . Instead, maybe a hundred shivering souls showed up.

The event was called “Sphere of Influence.” The pictures convey the aesthetic of the globe, but they don’t really capture the accompanying sounds, all of which were live and quite bizarre, even scary at times. Or the text and images flashed on the huge video display overhead. The artist’s name is Jon Rose. The overriding message seemed to be “there is no free lunch.”

Melbourne loves festivals, even more than Montreal. The Fringe Festival just ended. The Melbourne International Arts Festival is in full swing. Merce Cunningham is here with his dance company. Laurie Anderson performed a specially commissioned work called “Homeland.” Peter Brook is directing an Athol Fugard play.

Attracted to familiar names, I bought tickets to a Canadian production of a play by John Mighton called “Half Life” and a new work by the Japanese Butoh group, Sankai Juku. I had never seen a Mighton play before, but had always liked the production company, Necessary Angel. I had vague, but favorable memories of a performance of Sankai Juku years ago in Los Angeles, probably soon after the company was founded 32 years ago.

The play was well written and very well executed, but its exploration of old age seemed self indulgent and pedestrian. Unfortunately, my wife was heading off the continent the night of Sankai Juku. I talked my teenage daughter into going, thinking the costumes would enchant her.

The dance was called Kagemi, beyond the Metaphors of Mirrors. It was slow and abstract. Compelling if you love the marvelous invention of choreography and the talent of the dancers. But there was no intermission. No chance for my daughter to escape.

Last night’s performance was done for free in Federation Square. No one was trapped. Some people strolled through the performance space apparently oblivious to the art in progress. Some drifted off into the night. I was enchanted with the idea of the fabric globe but the execution of the piece seemed repetitive and less than inspired.

I was home in time to catch the new series on The Australian Broadcasting Corporation called “Not Quite Art.” The host is charming and very enthusiastic about all those activities that fall outside the scope of galleries and museums. Last night’s show was about graffiti, which attracts Japanese tourists to Melbourne in droves.

I haven’t given up. Call me a fool for art. There is the circus and La Clique, in the Famous Speigeltent. Stay tuned.

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