A spectacle of immersive and experimental ideas, in HOTA’s intimate spaces

HOTA’s Underground 2023 festival will entertain and tantalise, with narratives daring and subversive.

This winter, over three nights (13-15 July) audiences are invited to go Underground to experience a kaleidoscopic range of acts, gem-like provocations that are quirky, confronting and surreal. Expect to encounter a varied clutch of live performance, art, music and comedy from contemporary artists both local and international. Presented by HOTA (Home of the Arts) in the Gold Coast’s premier cultural facility, Underground 2023 is not for the faint-hearted.

The festival’s ambition and remit lean towards the experimental, with its willingness to take artistic risks reflected in its scope of guest performers this year, and audiences invited to participate in various immersive and interactive events.

To get you in the mood for Underground 2023, there’s a chance to be creative yourself in Welcome to the VOiiiD: Licensed to be Weird. After a showcase of visual art and art films, everyone is invited to the after-party. (‘Come in your most colourful, stylish, quirky, weird and wonderful attire; alter egos are always encouraged.’) Be brave! There is, after all, a prize for best dressed.

Once you’re in the right headspace for the unexpected and the unusual, you’ll be ready for headline acts that include Batshit, a solo show by Leah Shelton and directed by Ursula Martinez, which promises to be a beguiling look at female madness. Batshit was inspired by Shelton’s own grandmother and explores the fantasies and fears that besiege us and the systems that collude to keep mental health in a spiral of confusion.

The award-winning Shelton has been an explosive feminist performer for decades, with gigs here on home turf as well as in Japan, the UK and the US. Batshit makes a triumphant return for Underground 2023, after successful runs at Brisbane Festival and Darebin Arts Speakeasy in 2022. 

Other performing acts include cabaret glamour puss, Hush, a blend of drag and burlesque, who’s returning to their home state to perform once again after titillating audiences on local and international soil.

Then there’s Mickey, a debut work by dancer Brooke Stamp, described by the artist as a framework to explore ‘subterranean, subconscious impetuses’, and Swamp Fairies curated by Hannah Brontë, multi-layered performance art to soundscapes of different DJ beats. Expect aural delights of percussive and bass.

If your feet become restless, check out Flood the Space, by the dance collective Flood and GroveMindz. It’s a new home-grown dance style that originated from Ipswich, Queensland, in response to natural and man-made disasters – with audience members invited to a freestyle jam and dance afterwards.

For ravers? Head over to Eden Burns & Nice Girl, an epic three-hour music set. And for those who want to play on their phones, make sure you install the Instagram app in advance to engage with Rich Kids, A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran – an interactive digital presentation about the extravagant lifestyles of Iranian rich kids who manage to evade the otherwise oppressive strictures of their poorer, less privileged peers.

Speaking of technology, Alexa Turn on the Light is a curious duet between Jacob Watton and an Alexa smart home device.

With all these events and performances, both intimate and large-scale, it can be hard to choose, but you’ll receive a 20% discount off the total ticket price when you purchase tickets to two or more Underground 2023 events.

For more details check out the full program in HOTA’s Underground 2023.

Thuy On is Reviews Editor of ArtsHub and an arts journalist, critic and poet who’s written for a range of publications including The Guardian, The Saturday Paper, Sydney Review of Books, The Australian, The Age/SMH and Australian Book Review. She was the books editor of The Big issue for 8 years. Her first book, a collection of poetry called Turbulence, came out in 2020 and was published by University of Western Australia Press (UWAP). Her next collection, Decadence, was published in July 2022, also by UWAP. Twitter: @thuy_on