‘Art is a language of ideas’: Now or Never Art Trail turns Docklands promenade into an outdoor gallery

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‘Art is a language of ideas’: Now or Never Art Trail turns Docklands promenade into an outdoor gallery

Words by Luke Carlino

How does 1.2km of free cutting-edge art and technology, food trucks and an on-site Moon Dog craft brewery sound?

Now or Never is simply swarming the city with futuristic art in the best possible way this August, much of it entirely free! One such pro-bono event is the Now or Never Art Trail, which will take over 1.2km of the Docklands promenade from August 17 – 20.

The cutting-edge arts and technology organisation, Experimenta has curated the gallery, finding a range of Australian and international artists to contribute to the trail. We caught up with Lubi Thomas from Experimenta to learn more about the works selected for the exhibition and some of the inspiration behind her curation.

Explore Melbourne’s latest arts and stage news, features, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

“The seeds this exhibition has grown out of is a combination of a couple of things,” she explains. “The first is the title of Now or Never itself, the second is the artists whom Experimenta works with and the ideas that are driving their practices, which is working with contemporary digital and technological tools to talk about the society we live in today.”

The trail aims to inspire curiosity, awe and connection with everything from AI-generated monsters, to a massive light beam, and other audio-visual works that will help you contemplate our place in the future.

“There’s something really interesting about the title Now or Never because it’s kind of an impulse statement, a call-to-action for something to happen now or it’s going to be too late. It’s a phrase that has the future implicitly embedded in it.”

Thomas continues to explain that the festival title was a great starting point for her to consider which artists could bring works out into the street to spark ideas around where we are today and the possible futures that technology can shape.

“It was an amazing offer from the Now or Never team to let us literally bring art into the streets and to take away the boundaries, which are the doors and walls of galleries and institutions, and bring that work out into the street and allow everyone to engage with them.”

One of the works featured in the Art Trail, titled Soul Shift by artist Justine Emard, is about a meeting between two robots that poses questions about what it would be like to meet an earlier version of yourself.

As Thomas explains, this piece dives into how a robotic system gains knowledge: “It looks at how this is understood in a coding context, but also how the knowledge is brought through to the next generation. They are unique robots with a neural network algorithm system, making them the closest infrastructure to the human brain, or as much as we understand it.”

Thomas goes on to explain how grateful she is that Now or Never has afforded the opportunity for something like this to be shown to the public, discussing how the festival’s ethos is right on the money. “Having art and ideas at the top of the hierarchy of what is motivating this festival is a real point of difference in the Australian cultural festival space.”

Thomas continues that the prioritisation of ideas – how they are communicated, imagined and accessed through art – is creating a new space in the festival world. “For me, working in the space of new media and technology, a lot of people ask ‘what is a robot and what is art?’

“To that, I say art is a language of ideas, and therefore all of the art I engage with is where the artists are enquiring about the now, the future, and the society we live in and contemplating what it is to be part of this humanity of today and what the challenges are into the future.”

The Now or Never Art Trail is a free event that will run along the Victoria Harbour Promenade Docklands trail from Thursday, August 17th, to Sunday, August 20th. There will also be plenty to eat via some delicious food trucks and drinks from a pop-up Moon Dog brewery.

Explore the Now or Never Art Trail in more detail here or visit the Now or Never website here.

Beat is an official media partner of Now or Never.