Gertrude Street Projection Festival

Words – Jerram Wurlod

Photos – Andy Donohoe

Gertrude Street Projection Festival, Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, until July 29th, from 6pm – Midnight.

I had the pleasure of wandering down Gertrude St on Monday night to see the Gertrude St Projection Festival. The festival takes over many shops, pubs and alleyways along Gertrude between Nicholson and Smith St. I arrived from Napier St not really knowing what to expect. Before I had a chance to lock my bike I noticed some punters already looking through a flyer that contained a map to each projection site. They had received it from a mysterious fellow on the street but alas no such fellow approached me, however I soon found one at Radio and the journey began. After hearing about, but missing this festival last year, I was both excited but unsure as to what to expect. I’m a fan of screen-based art and I’ve seen some amazing building projections from various online videos. The art I’ve experienced in galleries certainly seem to lend themselves to the gallery atmosphere, quiet and intimate spaces that allow you to fully immerse yourself. I wondered how the street dynamic might affect this experience. Perhaps the curators were only aiming at projections that specifically interacted with their surroundings like the videos I’ve seen. To my delight this wasn’t the case.

There’s a commendable variety of works on offer. Although not everything works perfectly, the organizers and artists have done an amazing job to fit such a wide variety of works along this funky stretch of town. The street really does seem to work perfectly for this event, with enough action to keep things lively and enough quiet corners to make things intimate. I really enjoyed making my way along the street keeping a keen eye for that next funky animation or cool cinematography. As I walked I encountered plenty of other people following the same trail, as well as plenty who had just happened upon it, not quite sure of what it was but interested enough to stop a while and check it out. Even a couple of drunk teenagers made a positive comment that I’m sure they initially meant, before the fear of being seen as slightly intellectual set in and sarcastic taunts ensued.

What I hadn’t bargained on was that many of the works are interactive. This seemed to work in a limited way with one piece presented by Media Lab Melbourne, which offered the use of the old green and red 3D glasses to work with LED back lit silhouettes. But it was fun trying them out and mingling with a few others as we each took our turn. I really enjoyed Thomas Russels’ interactive piece next door, as I didn’t realize it was interactive at all until I was about to depart. Just when I thought it was a tad boring I noticed a small boy approach and cast a silhouette against it. The silhouette was actually being filmed by a mounted camera, which also caused your silhouette to echo itself as you moved. I realize that in this day and age of motion-based video games this may not seem revolutionary, but it was a rush when I discovered it. It added to the feeling that you were exploring and that anything could be around the next corner.

It was all so much fun and I’m disappointed I couldn’t make the opening last Friday night. However it was actually quite cool cruising along at my own pace on a quiet Monday night. The scale of Nick Azidis’ projection that covers an entire block of apartments is stunning but so is Liam Gilmour, Peter Ryle and Tomas Frimi’s unobtrusively presented short film. I’ll defiantly be dragging a few more friends down to Gertrude St this week before it closes Sunday July 29th. Projectors fire up at 6pm and run until midnight, get involved.