Round 2: Reviewed

Two Up: Round 2 by Katie Milton.

I have a friend that reads plot summaries online so she can join in discussions about films she’s never seen. Another trawls Wikipedia pages whenever he’s bored to increase his stockpile of obscure facts; he knows an abnormal amount about bees.

Fortunately, for those who don’t have the time or the incentive to homeschool themselves on infinite conversation starters there’s Two Up, a talk series that takes away the computer and plates up specially selected facts, along with refreshments and snacks.

Two Up is a unique concept wommaned by 22-year-old Nerida Ross that aims to inspire thought in the younger generation and bring the fun back into learning. The talk series runs monthly; with each round featuring two experts who speak for fifteen minutes on completely unrelated topics. The floor is then opened up for question time.

The late Sunday crowd was noticeably diminished from Two Ups first installment in September. This could be put down to the aforementioned weather, or too many of the good times at Astral People’s dance event OutsideIn the previous day.

That’s the type of crowd Two Up draws, a bunch of scene kids in their early twenties looking for something new to do.

Missing was Ross’s adorable grandmother settled in a chair munching on cheese and crackers, but there was cheese. Fancy brie and biscuits and unlimited Cake Wines. The pre talk mingling was set to a playlist of Caribou and Hiatus Kaiyote. Much attributed to Ross and her crowd, the Two Up series has the chilled vibe of an afternoon Sunday session.

The speakers for this round were phD candidate Zevic Mishor and spoken word poet Miles Merrill; both highly qualified and both dressed in plaid.

First up was Mishor. In a quirky green and purple check he won the group’s attention as soon as the word psychedelics left his lips.

In a refreshingly uncensored talk Mishor spoke of the existence of organizations such as Kosmicare. Volunteer run initiatives that endeavor to provide a safe haven for those under the influence of psychedelics and other illicit drugs in festival environments.

I watched an older women shift awkwardly in her seat at this point, unsure how to react. The lady beside her began nodding enthusiastically; finally someone was addressing the charade.

With the United Nations 2014 Drug Report naming Australia as the highest proportionate of recreational drug users in the world, Mishor’s points were progressive and on point.

He spoke of the movement from prohibition to harm reduction. Testing facilities for drugs at festivals so patrons can be aware of what they are taking before they do so. Signs carrying warnings like “may cause serious burn to your throat, dilute with lemon juice or coca cola.”

Grassroots organizations like Kosmicare are offering an alternate to the medical tent for individuals undergoing challenging trips. However as Mishor noted, to allow these groups into festivals is the acknowledgment of drugs within them, and that is where the issues arise.

At this point Ross called fifteen minutes and Merrill, donning a more conventional shade of blue and white plaid, opened with a sound poetry performance that comprised a string of strange noises.

Like he said, “Some sounds can’t be written down’.

Underpinning Merrill’s talk was the use of artistic expression to aid in community development. He spoke of his work with Aboriginal teens and his efforts to help them find value in their personal experiences and explore them through poetry and other forms of artistic expression.

Merrill captured the audience with witty anecdotes of his life as a poet. He got the crowd to purr along with him as he performed poetry about rats with wings rising from the sewers, and as everyone relaxed into his act he shared some tips for budding spoken word poets: good writing and theatrics.

In Workshop, Ross has found the perfect venue. The white brick walls and graffiti murals lend an air of cool-ness to the space. It is an opposition to the bare insides of a lecture theatre or seminar classroom. Combine this with her endearing thousand mile-a-minute introductions and the obscure expertise of the speakers and you have an engaging and offbeat talk series.

Two Up: provides all the knowledge you need to combat those uncomfortable lulls in conversation.

Round 1: Reviewed

TWO UP by Emrys Quinn

How best to encapsulate something so familiar and yet irregular as Two-Up? Have you ever tried building a lunar module whilst watching a Eureka Stockade documentary? Have you ever prepared sautéed Haggis during a deep sea diving tutorial? Have you attended a fresh, informal dual lecture series where two charismatic young speakers present on divergent but enthralling topics? Well the third of these scenarios comes closest to summarising Two-Up (though don’t discount the formers as apt analogies), anachronism and duality seem to be a lot of what this Lecture event series is all about. The event embraces incongruity, curating one lecture on ‘Trash Cinema’ (delivered by PhD student Josh Wheatley) and another on ‘Southern US cooking’ (delivered by chef  Andrew Levins) the latter immediately following the former.

It is, upon entering the charming Redfern space ‘work shop’, the energy and vitality of the event which first draws attention. The entirety of the crew involved are under 30, including both speakers (not that being over 30 insinuates a lack of vitality), all volunteering their time, enthusiastic about creating a forum space for the spreading of ostensibly esoteric knowledge. Without question, the event was jovial throughout, each speaker clearly relishing the chance to share the irregularities of their fascinations with a group of attentive and supportive people.

Wheatley began his presentation summising the oddity which is ‘trash cinema’ – put bluntly it is cinema so bad it’s good, the movies we love to hate to love to hate. It is the ‘Sharknado’, ‘The Room’ and grindhouse in all their glory. Showing his amused audience snippits and trailers of his various references, Wheatley then explained the smut-addled origins of Trash Cinema, an unexpectedly apt connection being made between the earliest forms of movie pictures, courtesy of the Lumiere brothers, and the sensationalist depictions of Trash Cinema. Smutt sold, sleaze was worshipped, and Wheatley argued convincingly the importance of the body’s role in Trash cinema, much akin to the early lumiere depictions of erotically undressing women. Wheatley’s appreciation of the genre is not based on any misinterpretation, Trash is sleaze, and Trash, in his words ‘liberates audiences from the constraints of having to watch a good film’.

Levins’ presentation made up for what it lacked in trailers with heart, Levins is a former icon of the Sydney restaurant and expert in the burger culture. Southern US cooking, encompassing every variety of enormous meat-dish one could fathom,  mostly of the smoked variety. He told engaging tales of how enormous shacks were turned into makeshift smokehouses, and how many smokehouse restaurants on his ‘Southern Food’ tour of the US would open at 11am and be sold out at 11:30am, with lines stretching around the block. His own experiences of attempting to recreate the flavours fell short, he humbly admitted, and lamented the fact all the true vunderkind southern smoke-chefs were too patriotic to come set up shop here, or anywhere else for that matter.

The night was unquestionably a success, with the onslaught of new information ranging from the ideological connotations of poor cinema taste, to the best way to prepare ribs. It’s a wonderful evening coordinated by Nerida Ross, who accurately addresses the theme of the night when she states “Whether you’re mechanics or surfing or photography it’s great, it’s exciting. So I really wanted to pull the stick out of the arse of education. When did it stop being fun? When did we stop asking questions?!” It was all the best parts of education, without the education system getting in the way. Those parts were then boiled in thick smoke-laden Tennessee stock pot.

I can’t wait for the next one.


What’s the deal with Two Up?

I have long held onto the idea that the arts have this unique power to connect with all people on a very individual, yet universal level, all in the same moment. But I have begrudgingly come to the realisation that this idealistic vision of artistic power and communication is definitely not the reality. Most of the time, artists are just speaking to artists. Effectively, preaching to the converted.

I started noticing people around me saying things like

‘I am not an arty person’
‘That’s not for me’
‘I just don’t understand that.’

Young, educated people, have already managed to build up walls between them and artistic experiences because they’re too intimidated. It just seems too hard.

When I heard about Adam Lerner and a series of talks called Mixed Tastes, which he ran at The Lab in Denver, a city in the US, which was, as he referred to it, devoid of any civic culture, I was inspired.

The way I see it, everybody loves learning
Whether you’re mechanics or surfing or photography it’s great, it’s exciting. So I really wanted to pull the stick out of the arse of education.
When did it stop being fun?
When did we stop asking questions?!
Why should you have to enroll in a course to learn about cooking or trash cinema?

That’s pretty much the idea that got the ball rolling, and now with Work Shop on board, here we are. Less than month out from our first round of Two Up!