I am a Carriageworks regular: picking apples at its farmers market on the weekends, strolling through its foyer during regular art exhibits, or simply leaning against its wall to listen to music between classes. The 2023 Soft Centre Festival at Carriageworks moved me from the regular calmness I associated with the space and transported me to a space that challenged my senses.
A full-day festival at Carriageworks, Soft Centre 2023 occupied every corner of the space and reclaimed it as its own. While being physically present for all the performances in its entirety is difficult, you must let yourself move through the myriad of performances and reflect on how they merge, differ, and challenge your senses all at once.
Hand to Earth, a dream-like album by Australian Art Orchestra, uses Yolngu Manikay (song cycles) to strike a conversation with Korean vocalist Sunny Kim. The soundscape merges with the natural elements of the Earth it wishes to depict, combining Indigenous forms of communication with contemporary natural scenes of Australia. Their work is elemental and so deeply focused on the natural elements of the Earth, that I found myself slowly swimming through a lake as the performance progressed.
Bay 20 went pitch black for Bract x Bayang (Tha Bushranger) and they truly shined through. The grunginess of the stage complimented Bayang’s industrial rap perfectly, with distorted metal tunes from Bract that transported the audience to a space of anger and defiance. Their works amalgamated perfectly and redefined dystopia, adding life to the deathlessness of industrial landscapes we find ourselves in.
There was a lot of work that discomforted me that night. They moved me, made me question things, and shook me from the core because I was transported to a world of beats that defied the norms of music-making. Manchester-born artist Aya’s work was an example of that. Bathed in a fluorescent green light, her work uses pitch in varying levels with her singing about being on edge. The distorted sounds combined with the lights touch your face in a way that makes you want to shut your eyes and listen.
I will be honest, I kept myself awake until the end of the night to watch the iconic New York duo Deli Girls. The stage turned an eerie red with the rage of their work, and the audience grooved to that rage. A little bit of industrial punk and a lot of metal encapsulated the anarchist vibe of the duo that wanted queerness to question, defy and challenge authority.
The festival was a community within itself with something for everyone. Despite hosting more than 1500 people, the space was conducive to everyone being able to enjoy the art and move at their own pace. The varying sounds and lights were certainly overwhelming from time to time, especially if you’re sensitive to a lot of stimuli, but that’s certainly a part of the publicised theme of the festival. Soft Centre 2023 was indeed a festival within a festival and its unconventional approach towards art shined through.