Lowering Ourselves To Rising

Written by:
30 May 2024
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Originally Appeared In

The Institute of Public Affairs’ Dr Bella d’Abrera contextualises and disseminates the IPA’s research on Victoria’s economic performance.

While Victorians can’t afford their bills, they’re paying for a post-modern horror show

Melbourne’s CBD is a grim place, so why anyone would want to make it even grimmer is a mystery. Yet this is precisely what the artistic directors behind Rising, Melbourne’s third annual taxpayer-funded arts festival, have set out to do. Having decided that last year’s free kazoos, ice-skating rink and nightly moon worshipping were insufficiently woke, this year they are offering an intersectional rave for the disabled, queer Filipino ghost stories, and an unconscious artist simulating her own sexual assault on stage. Rising will colonise Melbourne from 1 to 16 June, making it the longest iteration of the festival to date. Judging from the lineup, this is not a good thing.

Take Anito, which is advertised as a ‘megafauna dance deep time’ offering from Sydney’s ‘underground queer and diasporic club scenes’. Featuring ‘costume, puppetry, drag, dance and experimental electronic music to re-imagine myths and stories’, ticket holders will witness how ‘miraculous ecologies emerge from a fertile and evolving landscape crafted by hands and activated by bodies’.

Those looking to be their ‘fullest selves’, could do worse than venture to Crip Rave Theory, a ‘disability-led party and a political statement’ which ‘draws on disabled/crip knowledge to create more intersectionally-accessible party spaces’. In case you’re wondering, ‘Crip’ is short for cripple, which seems awfully politically incorrect but is apparently in the process of being ‘reclaimed’ by the disabled. Crip Theory, dreamt up by a deranged academic in the basement of a humanities department, is described as being ‘on the edge of both Disability and Queer Studies’. I would also add that it is on the edge of total insanity.

Then there is Eclipse, which is billed incoherently as ‘the very first ever and final, complete, total, solar, lunar eclipse, drag-viewing party in the herstory of all time… a future-forward drag show spanning the ages – from the Big Bang(er), to the Paleocene, through the Beyoncé epoch and into the Blak queer future that awaits us all.’ Apparently, the team is ‘predicting clear skies and the apocalypse’. If this is the future that awaits us all, let’s hope the apocalypse comes sooner rather than later.

Speaking of the future, Federation Square will host the Blak Infinite where stories of ‘First Peoples connections to the cosmos, political constellations, and futures’ will be projected onto the night sky. Festival goers can also visit the Tent Embassy where they can ask Aboriginal people about things like ‘social justice, land rights, environment, sovereignty and coalition-building’. Visitors might also like to enquire about the Pay the Rent clock which will be displayed on the State Library’s façade for the duration of the festival. Has an optimal amount been agreed upon by the recipients of said rent? To whom will the monies be paid? Will we get a refund if the apocalypse comes before the bond runs out?

For three nights, voyeurs can head to the Malthouse theatre to watch Cadela Força Trilogy Chapter I, in which Brazilian artist Carolina Bianchi will be drugged unconscious on stage while female performers move around her lifeless body. At one point, they will insert a speculum and camera into her vagina with a live video for the audience. Unsurprisingly, the Guardian gushes that this piece of theatre is a ‘knockout, nightmarish odyssey’. Nightmarish yes, odyssey not so much.

The most egregious aspect of this whole affair is that Victorians are being forced to pay for this grotesque horror show masquerading as ‘culture’. But it’s not culture, it’s politics. Everyone involved in putting together Rising is driven by the same hatred of modern Australia and the civilisation that built it.

Their aim is to propagate the fallacy that Australian society, like all Western societies, is horriblyand deeply racist, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, and now, ableist. And no doubt, those who willingly buy tickets to watch a young woman being drugged unconscious on stage, or those who spend forty-nine dollars to be an ‘ally’ at a disabled disco, or the guilt-ridden who prostrate themselves before Aboriginal elders in the Tent Embassy, probably believe that they are fighting injustice.

Meanwhile, the rest of us who are still tethered to reality understand what real injustice is. Real injustice is the fact that the state government is taking money from Victorians to pay for this insanity at a time when they are struggling to feed their families and pay their bills. Charities across the state have reported a 27 per cent increase in visits to foodbanks. In March, Suicide Prevention Australia found that 54 per cent of Victorians were experiencing financial pressure above normal levels. Families and landlords are being forced to sell their properties because they are unable to pay the colossal land tax bills now arriving in their letter boxes. Victorians are living in fear of home invasions and violent crime, unable to defend themselves and their families.

Victoria’s debt is now $126 billion, and this is forecast to rise to $178.8 billion in 2026-27. According to the Institute of Public Affairs’ State Economic Scorecard 2024, it is the worst overall performing state in the nation, with more businesses fleeing its borders than any other jurisdiction since the end of the pandemic.

In a normal world of fiscal responsibility, Rising would be the first thing to go. In the May budget, the government did the opposite and announced that it is throwing an extra $161.4 million at ‘creative industries initiatives’, which includes festivals like Rising. This is in addition to the $288 million that Daniel Andrews promised to the arts sector in 2021. But we don’t live in a normal world. We inhabit a world in which the dogmatic adherents of identity politics who run our country have completely lost sight of, and any interest in, the real plight of the people who they are supposed to represent.

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