Interview: Sugaryama curator Pete Keen

Chela 2

The ‘little sister’ of Melbourne’s Sugar Mountain Festival has a Japanese-influenced name, is heading to a music festival in Mexico next year and is holding an epic party in Melbourne this week, featuring the likes of Chela (pictured above), Andee Frost and Edd Fisher. I don’t know about you, but if that was my little sister I would be a bit jealous that her life was cooler than mine.

“Sugaryama” is Australia’s newest international music and arts partnership program, orchestrated and curated by Pete Keen. He is keen (yeah, okay, that was cheap) to immerse select visual artists and musicians in cross-cultural artistic exchanges – starting with Mexico’s Festival NRML in early 2014, where he will travel with a handpicked selection of Melbourne based artists and musicians.

I had a chat to Pete about the program and living the vida loca (not really, mainly just tacos):

Sugaryama sounds like a really exciting project. How did it grow from Sugar Mountain? What was the motivation to start the program?
Where my partners of Sugar Mountain Festival have their own creative outlets (TWO BRIGHT LAKES, and WING & GILL), SUGARYAMA is my own personal creative journey outside of the festival. I am constantly overflowing with ideas, new and old, that I have not yet found a place for with Sugar Mountain. However, I felt it necessary to give life to these ideas and more, within the housing of a new project – Sugaryama.

More importantly, I wanted to help our more obscure local acts achieve the attention they deserve abroad. Whilst doing this with a creative spin and collaborating with international peers, in interesting locations.

Yama is Mountain in Japanese, yes? Any story there?
That’s correct! Tokyo was the birth place of early ideas for many of these creative projects, and so running this international music and arts partnership program under the title of Sugaryama is my own personal way of paying my respects.

SUGARYAMA_poster_1I like that the program is open to both visual artists and musicians. It’s a wide umbrella of creative exchange. How do you curate your artists for the program? What do you look for?
I usually just come across an act or a visual artist by accident. I don’t exactly hunt down anything specific. Once this ‘happy accident’ has arisen, then on comes the lengthy sessions of internet trawling, scrolling and page flipping. Tangents upon tangents of ideas, that come from a larger string of ideas, of which develop into (in theory) a simple end concept. The starting point is never the end result. That’s the beauty of producing art and, for me, in this case curating. I realise this may sound ridiculous. Though that just seems to be the way things unfold for me. For example, I would never have placed choreographer Antony Hamilton with electronic act Forces, if it weren’t for tangents of interest that involved a love for neon lights, spending extensive periods of time in dark night clubs, and a having stirring interest in narrative through dance and movement.

Festival NRMAL in Mexico will be the first stop for you – what are you most looking forward to? And how many tacos are you hoping you’ll be able to fit in daily?
I may be slender, but I’m a bottomless pit when it comes to tacos! They had better be ready! I’m excited to see the live music and art collaborative performance I have been conceptualising come to life. To run havoc amongst a crowd at a festival in Mexico, that’s going to be a whole lot of fun! After that. Defffffinitely some sort of UFO hunt! LOTS of food! I love Mexican foods. I can’t wait to explore Mexico. I will be co-directing a music video clip for an NYC band in Mexico also. So, it’s straight back to work once the party is over.

I’m sure you already have enough on your plate (tacos aside) with the launch party and Mexico – but what can you see next for Sugaryama?
I’m currently trying to juggle working towards Indonesia and Japan in 2014 too!

The SUGARYAMA launch party features a secret headline act, along with Chela, Andee Frost, Edd Fisher and others. It takes place this Friday November 1 from 9pm at BONEY, 68 Little Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000. $10 on the door (no presales). More details here.



Interview by Vinisha Mulani