Words by Brooke Zanco
Under Oh Hello!’s famous sea of lights, RAW: Natural Born Artists offers up their fourth Brisbane showcase, Ensemble, on September 27. Raw is an important event for new and emerging, independent artists; it gives them the opportunity and get a foot in the door of a ruthless, bloodthirsty world — the creative industries.
What exactly is RAW? It’s an independent arts organisation that’s been having a continual growth spurt since 2005, following its birth in Los Angeles. RAW now runs events in more than 50 cities and counting, with Brisbane being the first and only city outside of the USA to host it. (As artist Alex Gee says, “Suck it, Melbourne.”)
The night’s ongoing event involved featured works by visual artists Natasha Cordwell, Cassandra Ladru, Fleur Callaghan, Emily Nelson, Meghan Lumley, Jessica Olorenshaw and Kahlia Litzow, all of whom had prints splashed across the walls of Oh, Hello.
I’m not going to lie, I have a soft spot for anything Burlesque, so I couldn’t help but buy a print by the lovely photographer, Kahlia Litzow. Her work captures the compelling personas of her subjects by highlighting both their beautiful and more sinister facets. Litzow has photographed performers such as Rita Fontaine and Lola the Vamp, an apprentice of Dita Von Teese herself. Litzow has been photographing burlesque dancers for years but has never had such an opportunity for exposure before. “RAW has been amazing and I feel so privileged to have been involved,” says Litzow.
After we’d taken in the art, and begun thanking DJ Harvey Satan for keeping our ears happy, the wonderful Chantel P. gave welcomed us to gather around the instrument-dappled stage and elegant runway.
The night kicked off with a screening of “Apotheosis”, an unsettling, powerful film by Alex Gee, followed by a live performance by The Better Mousetrap, a five-piece band whose music is the essence of yin and yang, described by RAW as “both mature and exuberant, thoughtful and spontaneous.” Unlike RAW artists, The Better Mousetrap has already tasted success; their single “Sidewalk Glass” received airplay on Triple J in Australia prior to the event.
After a short break, a few more drinks and a dip outside where several models were practicing their cat-walk, Pink Fur and the Black Coats were up, a freshly formed, two-piece rock ‘n’ roll outfit. I was blown away by Sambaliscious who quickly painted the stage with their feathery, sequined bikinis and hypnotic tribal drumbeat belly dance.
After another brief break and a few conversations, I understood a whole lot more about graphic design, vines and the difference between stripping and burlesque. Before I knew it, the night was heading towards its climax when Chantel P. announced RAW Ensemble’s last performance: a dazzling fashion show featuring designers Ayashii, Nicki Derrick and Zanee. Their models were all turned into masterpieces by makeup artists Rebeckah Wurzbacher, Amanda Saville and Claudia Cranford and hairstylists Cara Robinson and Dusty Moulden. The whole show was impressive and each designer offered a distinct and individual style to the audience.
All of this — combined with cocktails served in jam jars, fun and good company — amounted to an inspiring night out. Robert Frost once wrote, “Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.” Thanks to events like RAW, those who have something to say to the world are finding opportunities to do so.