Having travelled across the globe to countries such as Japan, France, Taiwan, Australia and Spain as well as the Art Basel in Miami Beach, Dutch artist Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests are set to be showcased in South-East Asia for the first time in this year’s George Town Festival 2016.
Largely made of stiff plastic tubes, these Strandbeests are devoid of motors or technological aids and yet are able to come to life through the force of the wind.
“Imagine PVC skeletons the size of trucks ambling gracefully across a beach and you might just be able to imagine a Strandbeest.
“Having racked up more than 3.7 million views on his TED talk, Theo Jansen has enthralled people from all over the world with these life-like creations and will be bringing them to South-East Asia for the first time,” says festival director Joe Sidek.
The month-long George Town Festival (GTF) runs from July 29 to Aug 28 in Penang.
Joe says in 2010, Strandbeests also starred in a BMW commercial that was televised in South Africa, Germany and Spain and were also featured in an episode on BBC1 in 2014. Strandbeests are among the highlights at the A+SEAN Showcase, a colossal public display of trending talents from South-East Asia and Australia.
“Other highlights at A+SEAN include Snuff Puppets from Australia, a concert featuring the hottest local and regional bands and more,” he adds. He notes that GTF this year will open with Svara Bhumi (Songs of the Earth), together with the A+SEAN Showcase.
“GTF is back for the seventh time this year with more than 100 events, showcasing various performances and exhibitions around exciting and unconventional locations in the heart of the city.
“We wanted to have an opening that everyone could come to. Showcasing everything at the Esplanade was the perfect answer,” says Joe.
He says premiering on the opening weekend is also Pearl Of The Eastern And Oriental, a GTF-commissioned play to run on July 28-31.
Directed by Lim Yu-Beng and Tan Kheng Hua, the team that brought you GTF 2014’s sold-out play 2 Houses, this will be another site-specific play staged at the E&O Hotel itself.
On the subject of site-specific programmes, GTF is also proudly presenting a project called Moved By Padi on Aug 27-28.
“It’s led by none other than homegrown choreographer and dancer Aida Redza. This multi-arts collaborative project will be staged in the heart of George Town at Macallum Street where it will be transformed into a real paddy field,” he adds.
International performances during the festival will include London-based Akram Khan Company’s Kaash (Hindi for “if only”) on Aug 20-21, an updated version of multi award-winning British dancer and choreographer Akram Khan’s first major production (in 2002).
Akram teamed up with the celebrated talents of Anish Kapoor and Nitin Sawhney to present his company’s first full-length evening work fourteen years ago. Danced by a strong international cast of performers, Kaash continues Akram’s quest to build bridges between the worlds of contemporary dance and the Indian classical dance form Kathak.
There is also Smashed on Aug 27-28, a sensational mix of circus and theatre by the world-renown-ed jugglers of Gandini Juggling. Formed in 1992 by jugglers Sean Gandini and Kati Yla-Hokkala, the London-based Gandini Juggling continues to be at the vanguard of contemporary circus, reinventing and reinvigorating juggling for the 21st century.
Not to be missed is Missing on Aug 5-6, the internationally acclaimed play from Britain’s Gecko Theatre Company that is told through a series of extraordinary images, jaw-dropping choreography and a tantalising multilingual vocal soundscape.
Premiering in Asia will be Triptyque, an ingenious spectacle on Aug 26-27 where circus acrobatics meet contemporary dance.
Joe says the Canadian group Les 7 Doigts Le La Main that created Triptyque has directed shows for the Sochi Olympic games as well as the 2012 Academy Awards.
“One of the things the festival has always been working on is giving back to the community. This includes giving out community tickets and affordable prices to students.
“I’m always very proud to say that we have one of the most affordable prices in the world. Where else can you watch an international performance for RM25? This year, our efforts will be formalised as the Arts for Humanity project, details of which will be announced in May,” he explains.
Tickets for the highlight programmes will be available starting May 1 with a special early bird discount for those who purchase their tickets within the two-week period (May 1-15). For more information and tickets, visit www.georgetownfestival.com.