Over nine in ten Australians, across all states and territories, are receptively engaging with the arts by attending arts events or reading… more people in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland agree that the arts make for a richer and more meaningful life.
Report on Arts in Daily Life – Participation Across States and Territories, Australia Council for the Arts, 2014
Yesterday, I added excitement to my life by rehearsing for an engaging celebration of public participation in the arts, which will take place next Saturday. The UK performance company, Station House Opera, will bring Melbourne to a standstill as a 2km chain of more than 7000 giant dominoes will snake through the city. This will be the first time an interactive domino show has been held outside Europe
Dominoes takes as its starting point the simplest of ideas—a line of dominoes—and will transform the rhythm of the city for one special day. Thousands of breezeblocks are used to create a moving sculpture, which runs through the city, unfolding over the course of the day. Occasionally disappearing from sight and then resurfacing, sometimes pausing for sculptural performances, the line of dominoes will thread its way through historic and everyday parts of Melbourne.
At the briefing today, Artistic Director, Julian Maynard Smith and his team from England, explained how the project will be set up. There have been meticulously planned shows in 10 European cities and Dominoes Copenhagen – Metropolis festival 2013 can be watched online here.
It will be fantastic to see our line of dominoes start at the Town Hall, snake and fall through iconic buildings like St Paul’s Cathedral and the Nicholas building, but also go underground at Flinders Street Station, across the Yarra River via the footbridge, and eventually end at the Arts Centre.
Enthusiastic Arts Centre staff involved with The Betty Amsden Participation Program have been planning the event for months. Betty was there yesterday to thank the 300 volunteers and encourage us all to have fun and make new friends. The fund she has created to celebrate the creativity in us all, one of those generous gifts that keep giving.
I saw parts of the Arts Centre I didn’t know existed when we went outside to practise setting up the blocks, in an area aptly named Testing Grounds. An hour disappeared quickly as we were shown how to ‘pack’ the dominoes onto uneven surfaces, check their balance and to judge the correct distance to enable them to fall in the direction required.
A variety of structures will be built to add to the spectacle. Volunteers are divided into: builders (those who set up and dismantle the blocks), guardians (the protectors of the structure before the 5pm start) and promoters (people explaining to the public what the project is about).
The volunteers will be in groups of 20 with section managers keeping us on track. There will be members of the public annoyed at their day being disrupted, but from past experience, most will be caught up in the anticipation and joy of the event. In the cinema or engrossed in a good book we enter another world, suspend disbelief – next Saturday we want the city to embrace and participate in One Day, One Line of Dominoes.
We set up blocks twice – the second time much quicker than the first. Practice does indeed make perfect. How we cheered at achieving the ‘right’ result without any major mistakes. Everyone helping each other, chatting about the aim, aware we were part of something special – a variety of generations, cultural backgrounds, experienced volunteers and newbies.
Saturday, February 6 will be a long day, but totally worth it. I’m looking forward to being part of a once-in-a-lifetime event. I played traditional dominoes as a child, and it was one of my Mother’s favourite games. She bought all her grandchildren a domino set and they have fond memories playing with Nana. This is a fun extension – who wouldn’t want to play with giant blocks?
I’m sure there will be inspiration and stories to write – certainly plenty of characters to note – this is Melbourne, after all.
Melbourne art scene has lots of opportunities for volunteering, and participating in a project like this enriches your life.
For a smashing start to the New Year join us. Have a large dose of arts therapy and release your inner child. As the well-known song tells us, ‘the best things in life are free‘.