Experimental arts fest SOFT CENTRE at Carriageworks in Sydney this long weekend


The now annual precinct-takeover from evocative, DIY-arts tastemakers: SOFT CENTRE is happening this long weekend (part of Sydney’s Vivid festival) and it looks set to bring climax to Australia’s awareness of the industrial arts scenes.

Building on its successes from 2022 the ‘one-day-only’ festival promises a carefully selected program which heralds a mix of cutting-edge creators from the local and global underground. It’s an eclectic lineup that boasts the likes of Finish duo Amnesia Scanner performing a live audio visual show with Freeka Tet, industrial doom band Bract, the strange and beautiful electric musings of UK Hyperdub artist aya, and the new metal rap and noise of US outfit Deli Girls, amongst numerous others.

“Every artist is very intentional,” explains Jemma Cole, one third of SOFT CENTRE’s director-collective behind the acclaimed experiential event. “We want to curate mood shifts and punctuation points to spin people out; and inject these moments of high emotion and then catharsis,” she continues.

A week out from the onslaught that organising a festival of this calibre elicits, Jemma spoke with Cyclic alongside her co-directors Thorsten Hertog and Sam Whiteside. They forged their friendships on the industrial dance-floors of various disused and abandoned party locales circa 2014 – 2017, where each was a dedicated protagonist driving the underground chapters of Sydney’s DIY scene .

Yet, empowered by a shared vision for subverting what the boundaries of a traditional arts festival encompass, this synergy sees them now together and traversing the globe – sourcing and scoping for the next wave of experimental artists and commissions. From frolicking in the all-night rave scene that Krakow’s UnSound festival affords to exporting Australian artists to the epicenter of Shanghai’s futuristic, electronic scene via label: Svbkvlt, audiences can feel assured that this curation team has sought the most eclectic array of artists and collaborations (across all arts formats) for SOFT CENTRE 2023.

For instance, this year’s line-up features Iranian electronic musician: Sote. Back for a second time, touring his album: “Majestic Noise Made in Beauitiful Rotten Iran” and he’s teaming up with a well-known A/V Installation artist discovered by the group while they were on-duty ‘cool-hunting’ in Amsterdam.

Jemma reflects: “Sote, yes, he’s one of our all-time favourite artists and we did a partnership with Fiber Festival last year where we saw Tarik Barri, present “Majestic Noise” at that festival and it literally brought all three of us to tears – it was such a beautiful work.“Afterward we all got together and looked at each other and thought we’ve got to bring this to Australia.”

Possibly one of the unofficial secrets behind the successful formula for this festival is its founders commitment to programming in a non-hierarchical fashion. An awareness that all artists are equal and an almost open dissing of the concept of hosting main headliners; means the time-slot chronology for seeing certain artists just doesn’t exist. Leaving the emphasis instead on exposing the audience to previously undiscovered artists.

“We’re continuously keeping our ear to the ground and talking to people. I think it’s just a huge part of what we do is collaboration and trying to work with a lot of artists from all these different scenes bringing them together,” offers Jemma.

Thorsten adds: “The underground scenes in Australia are super active and innovative and they generally exist in silos and SOFT CENTRE is this huge day where we kind of try to bridge the gap between all these little subcultures, like this kind of cross-pollination of scenes for a day which is really something special.”

Take synth-maestro TraLaLa Blip’s Lydian Dunbar who will showcase his recent Room-40 album release: “Lose Sleep” against the backdrop of resourceful cinema specialists: Garden Reflexxx, Eora/Sydney based artists Jenn Atherton and Andre Shannon.

According to Thorsten the filmmakers are big proponents for the slow-cinema genre using lo-fi tech and non-actors (mainly their friends) to create cinema that is very immediate and responsive to their environment. “We found that would be a nice pairing with Lydian’s approach to his ambient and deep listening album which is inspired by a day he spent on the beach in Ballina.”

Likewise when it comes to designing how to make maximum use of the spaces on offer at the festival site a lot of direction is also invested in this process. For Sam he’s head down strategizing how to ensure delivery of awe-inspired moments for audiences.

“Something that we do at Carriageworks, is that we really like to utilise the foyer there for performances and works. We really we kind of like to play with the format so that’s it’s not just like one stage, two stage, we really try to map it out and say alright we’re going to have something in the foyer and nothing on the other stages and how that flows across all the spaces.” he says.

He teases that this year what’s going on in Bay 17 with artist: Body Crisis will be something for the audience to interact with willingly as well.

Carriageworks will be transformed with daring performance art, experimental genre music, and a monumental 22-metre projector screen that will be activated for immersive A/V performances. Renowned for their unique collaborations, SOFT CENTRE will also showcase a suite of newly commissioned cross-disciplinary works. Jemma sums it up when she mentions the overall experience audiences can look for this year.

“People are coming for one artist but then by chance there is another artist that you wouldn’t typically see on the same line-up.”

SOFT CENTRE is on 11th of June 2023 at Carriageworks as part of Vivid Sydney. You can find the full lineup here. Tickets can be purchased via the Carriageworks website here


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