It’s been a while… almost three years since I last posted. So some catching up.
Following on from the ‘Real Big Tony’ Abbott puppet, I made a ‘Real Big Mal’ puppet head of Malcolm Turnbull (when he replaced Abbott as Prime Minister in September 2015). His handler, Matthew Armstrong, repurposed Real Big Tony as the Ghost of Tony – not much has changed! – and for a while both puppets appeared together. Prior to the 2016 election I also made a big Barnaby Joyce puppet head. At this stage Matt did away with the large body suits, just wearing the heads on top of ordinary suits. I think all three puppets may now have been retired.
(Nakiya Smith as Dinnawhan and Maitland Schnaars as Biami. Photo credit: Angie To)
For the Wiradjuri Echoes production Biami last year (see previous posts) I also made a mask and costume elements for Biami, and an emu puppet. In the creation story, Biami the creator spirit ‘created the emu Dinnawhan, the female emu, whose spirit he used to create the Wiradjuri people; who now believe they are of the egg of Biami and the female spirit’.
With a headdress (painted up by Duncan Smith) representing the five elements of the sky that he embodies – wind, lightning, thunder, rain and fog – and long soft brushing fingers, Biami’s presence was awesome!
(Duncan Smith, artistic director of the Wiradjuri Echos, with Biami‘s Rainbow Serpent. Photo credit: Angie To)
I recorded some of the build for Biami, the creation story of the Wiradjuri people, this time last year, (see previous posts) but didn’t get to blog about the Rainbow Serpent until now.
The serpent was about 4 metres long, and operated with rods by four to five people. After worrying about how I could make it twist and turn enough to be truly serpentine if it was designed to have solid body, I had what I think of my ‘warhorse’ moment of inspiration (!), and decided to make it impressionistic, with a skeleton outline instead. So it was made with coiled flexible foam backing rod, and two midline connecting lines of the same material.
Then I wrapped coloured cloth around the outlines. The design was effective and light, and enabled the serpent to snake and dive sinuously over the audience, carving out the Australian landscape according to the creation story.
These masks were made for walk-about performances by The Fool Factory at the National Gallery of Australia‘s festival during the Enlighten Festival, Canberra, March 2014. They were themed to go with the NGA’s exhibition Gold and the Incas.
The owl design was suggested by a golden bead in the exhibition, while the other was based on the decorative hilt part of a small sacrificial knife known as a tumi.
I made four puppets of Australian politicians earlier this year – Abbott, Bishop, Turnbull and Hockey – for Puppet Government, an indie youtube parody series. So far four episodes have been made, with more presently in the works.
I’ve recently made new hands for the Tony Liar Pants on Fire puppet, as well as some flames to accompany his smoking pants. Meanwhile he has appeared at a rally at the ANU to protest Abbott’s changes to higher education, and the March Australia protest in Melbourne last weekend.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been involved with the making of a giant 3 metre tall protest puppet of the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, with the theme of Liar, liar, pants on fire. Matthew Armstrong, who came up with the concept, brought together the skills of a number of Canberra artists to make, assemble and perform the puppet within a pretty short timeframe. Thanks, too, to Dario Vacirca and Mark Timberlake from KneeHigh, now Open Space, in Adelaide who hired us the frame and advised us on various aspects.
The Abbott puppet debuted at the Bust the Budget anti-austerity rally on an icy cold day at Parliament House, Canberra, on 6th July. Matthew is now improving the puppet in a number of ways, ready for more appearances.
I made the head of the puppet from foam sheeting. Here are some photos of the process.