Conduit Arts – Coin Operated Launch Party

Words by J Forsyth

Photos by Andy Donohoe

Conduit Arts is the new project for Marie Schoenmaker and Leo Kavanagh, formally of window 99 which closed at the end of 2011. Conduit Arts, located just three doors up from window 99, opened to a warm and friendly crowd, eager to learn about the art space and how it works.

An impressive, well lit front room housed an acid jazz band ready to play as soon as you inserted a coin in the jar. This was the premise of the evening. In front of each performer was a jar with a sign “Coin operated, please insert coin”, once you added your coin the performer came to life. As you move passed the band you found yourself in the intimate courtyard with more coin operated performers. These performers included a poet, an electric harpist/singer and my favourite, the sex poet.

As the organiser rigged up more lights to showcase the performers, we inserted a coin to hear a song. While our friendly neighbourhood harpist got ready, Andy engaged the sex poet with another gold coin. After following the instructions to write down 5 words relating to his last sexual encounter, the sex poet got underway. As he pounded out his sex poem on a type writer equipped with a red ribbon (red for sex he told me) we listened to the harpist sing interesting lyrics like “My four fat friends…my boring four fat friends”, “….Brunswick is burning…” and “…Victoria is so far away from the rest of the world…man.”

As we refreshed our drinks we got chatting to the organisers, Marie and Leo. They explained that the space will be used for visual and performance art and the launch party was a way of encouraging performers and spectators to come down and see what the space was about. As we chatted, I felt I knew Leo from somewhere and it turns out he had worked at the coffee shop near my house. Just like me, and many other “Arty types”, we keep our dreams and lives afloat with a few shifts at your local café.

Back in the courtyard the crowd was silenced as the coin operated poet rose to the microphone. Now, I won’t lie, I am not a huge fan of poetry or spoken word but I was pleasantly surprised by the skill and lyrical content of this performer. Engaging and insightful without being alienating and preachy. This I cannot say for the second performer. With an opening line about “aching wombs”, I was brought back to reality and reminded why I am not a huge fan of this particular performance art. With this in mind however, the performer did deliver the evolved womb poem with conviction which I am sure womb poem lovers would have enjoyed.

With an empty glass and a strange amount of thoughts in my mind about my reproductive system, Andy and I departed the magical coin operated courtyard back, past the band and onto the city end of Brunswick Street.

Conduit Art Initiative is a space well crafted, with great intentions and one to keep in mind for both performers and spectators. Good luck to Marie and Leo and stay tuned for more reviews as this space unravels.

Check their website here