Tag: Barking Spider Visual Theatre

Barking Spider Theatre and The Johnston Collection Present HOUSE OF DREAMS

A mesmerising meander through arts, antiques and imagination

By Myron My

William Robert Johnston was a Melbourne-based antique dealer and a collector of beautiful things, and he wanted to share these unusual and visually arresting items with the public. Upon his death in 1986, the not-for-profit museum, The Johnston Collection was established. The Collection has had a rotation of guest curators including The Australian Ballet’s Artistic Director David McAllister, milliner Richard Nylon and design studio Hecker Guthrie, who were given the opportunity to explore, regard and share the curiosities within the collection.

House of Dreams.jpg

With its current exhibition, House of Dreams, guest curators Barking Spider Visual Theatre – a Melbourne-based multi-art form company – have spent the last 18 months designing the nine spaces to create a highly evocative and imaginative environment to be experienced. Led by Artistic Director Penelope Bartlau, the theatre company is known for its exemplary productions and varied methods of creating and sharing stories with audiences.

While we were advised to wander around the space and devise our own story based on what we saw and heard, I personally enjoyed learning about Johnston’s childhood and family from the highly knowledgeable volunteers, and being able to gain a deeper understanding of the symbolism and purpose that the various items being used held. The meticulous effort that Barking Spider has put into each room is evident. You could easily spend half an hour in the one location, discovering new pieces, seeing things from different perspectives and mulling over the effect a particular room or item has had on you.

House of Dreams is both joyful and saddening. It is filled with hope and also loneliness, but the story you choose to create is completely in your own hands. While I can still vividly recall so many of the striking items on display, the experience of walking through The Collection, and more specifically, doing so under Barking Spider’s curating, made it feel like a dream in itself – and one that I am keen to re-visit over the coming months.

The Johnston Collection runs daily tours of House of Dreams until 20 September.

For booking details please visit The Johnston Collection website.


Freedom, fashion and forgotten stories

By Myron My

It’s hard to put into words the thoughts and feelings I had whilst experiencing Liberty of the Press. Even the venue for this concert/exhibition/fashion-runway/performance-based evening – the State Library of Victoria – was most unusual, yet fitting for a show like this.

Liberty of the Press

In this production inspired by the stunning “Press Dress” – an outfit constructed from panels of silk printed with the front pages of Melbourne newspapers – worn by Mrs Matilda Butters at the Mayor’s fancy dress ball in 1866, we were treated to a variety of sensory events presented within the confines of the library.

Beginning in the La Trobe Dome Reading Room, we witnessed some Chinese drumming which sent reverberations throughout your body and echoes all over the room. At one point four scrolls were thrown over the top floor railings with the last one reading “Liberty of the Press”. It had begun.

It is then you heard a distant beautiful operatic voice singing. It was hypnotic and I could have listened to it for much longer but as I was drawn towards it, I caught a glimpse of the Press Dress in the Queen’s Hall. All that’s left of the ornate costume is the dress, which now belongs in the State Library of Victoria’s Realia collection. Interestingly, little is known about the dress’ creator, Mrs William Dobbs, apart from the fact she lived in South Yarra.

Following this was a catwalk showing of some eye-catching fashion inspired by the dress from designers New Model Beauty Queen and Preston Zly. This was accompanied by a traditional Chinese performance with Chinese Dragons, which led us to the State Library Forecourt where the two worlds came together in a spectacular conclusion.

Created by Barking Spider Visual Theatre, Liberty of the Press was performed as part of Melbourne Spring Fashion Week, and acknowledged the lesser-known history of women from the past and the 40, 000 Chinese who arrived to Victoria during the Gold Rush.

There’s not much else to say about this except it was simply a visual and aural feast of fashion, design, performance and music that took place on September 4, 2014.