Gertrude Street Projection Festival

A few month’s ago I had the pleasure of interviewing the founder of Fitzroy’s famous Gertrude Street Projection Festival.

I love Melbourne and all it’s quirky little lane ways, festivals and unabashed passion for fashion, art and all things beautiful.  So it was really exciting to be part of this street art festival and talk to the woman who founded the event.

Originally published on Vulture Magazine. 

Street Art: Melbourne

Gertrude Street Projection Festival 

When the weather is drab and the temperature is inexplicably colder than last winter, it’s tempting to nuzzle up on the coach with a glass of red and your embarrassing rom-com of choice…cough *sexandthecity* cough.

But in Melbourne, if you stayed indoors every time the weather’s bipolar disorder kicked in, you’d never go out.  Ask any Melbournian, ‘insert cliché Melbourne weather joke here’.  That’s why, come July, despite the heinous weather, theGertrude Street Projection Festival never fails to flood trendy Gertrude St with moustache sporting, skinny jean clad art appreciators – dressed head to toe in black of course.

Running from 20 – 29 July, the GSPF displays a plethora of local artwork all projected onto laneways, buildings, tree trunks and shop interiors along Fitzroy’s Gertrude St.  Event co-founder and art buff Kym Ortenberg took a moment to chat to the Vulture about the road so far, artists involved and must see events.

How did the idea for the projection festival emerge?

“We were just talking about the street – she (Monique MacNamara) had an idea about light boxes but the technology hadn’t caught up with that.  The local council didn’t want to put up light boxes because it would change the infrastructure so then we just went, oh we’ll just project it.  Crazy idea, and it just went from that!”

Five years on and the festival is still going strong, do you think this reflects a strong interest in local art?

“It’s an event that anyone can see, anyone can walk around – it engages people in a way that sometimes art galleries don’t, and it’s night time, its magical.  I also think that we’re pretty blessed in Fitzroy with having a lot of very talented people who are designers and artists and they’re all really interested in being a part of it.”

A lot of Melbournians pride themselves on our strong art culture, what do you think is most special about our local art scene?

“We pride ourselves on it because we do it really well.  I think that there’s a lot of collaboration and a lot of enthusiasm.  So, a combination of that and its cold and its dark and we’re all sitting around inside, having a glass of wine, talking about ideas!”

How does the theme of ‘elements’ come into play for the festival?

“We always try to pick a theme that people can respond to on lots of different levels and we also pick a theme that reflects Gertrude St.  ‘Elements’ seems to suit that because there are lots of different aspects to Gertrude St.  People respond to the different elements of Gertrude St – we’ve got high end cafes and fashion then we’ve got community services and a whole lot of interesting people that walk around the streets.”

How have artists interpreted the theme this year?

“We have some pieces that are earth, wind, fire water and there’s also elements of the periodic table so people got quite scientific about it as well.”

The work of Russel Gray Goodman is going to be exhibited for the first time in over a decade as part of the festival, what made you want to include his work after such a long time?

“Well I was actually approached by his brother who restored the piece.  It’s got an amazing ‘old school’ collection of sensors and elements that project and neon tubing and I think it adds a completely new dimension to the projection festival.

We’ve gone from looking at projection art and video art which is just on a flat screen, to using the architectural elements of an existing building and now we’re developing sculptural pieces where we’re integrating projection into that as well.”

How important is it to support up and coming students through the festival?

“Really important! There is an amazing pool of talent and we try to support as many of the artists as possible.  I think what is really exciting for all those artists is that the way that the program is structured; all the art is out on the street.  Everyone is on an equal playing field so to speak.  It’s great to be encouraging people to be developing new skills and confidence, that’s pretty much what the festival is about.”

What are some of the highlights or must see events for someone who’s never been before?

“It’s all fabulous! Some of the high lights you won’t be able to miss.  For instance, the entire eastern wall of Atherton Gardens will be projected on to, so I think you’ll be able to see that from another suburb.  The other one is the (Russell Gray Goodman) sculpture and we will also have our usual collection of projections in unusual spots.”

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