Every child who grew up in Sydney, or was fortunate to visit from afar, likely underwent the rite of passage that is visiting the Powerhouse Museum.
Its versatility has seen exhibitions celebrating the likes of The Lord Of The Rings, Star Wars, and most recently, that bastion of imagination, the humble Lego block – yet too often our appreciation for all the Powerhouse has to offer becomes lost with age. Now, however, the museum’s after-hours event, MAASive Lates: Super Heroes, promises to bring back that childlike sense of discovery around current exhibit The Art Of The Brick: DC Comics. As program producer Isabelle Kingsley explains, it’s time to dust off your cape and undies.
“I pop in as much as I can and play with Lego,” Kingsley laughs, proving that some people truly have stumbled across their dream job. “Some of the works there have over 30,000 pieces in them for the one artwork, so there are probably millions [of bricks] in there altogether. There are 120 sculptures in the exhibition, so I wouldn’t even be able to guess how many hours have gone into making them.”
Lest you be mistaken, these aren’t just any sculptures we’re talking about here. Kingsley is at pains to emphasise that while The Art Of The Brick is primarily a showcase of all things good and evil (in a super sense, of course), the work on offer is legitimately art, and with the rise of comic culture in the public imagination, it is an exhibition that is both nostalgic and completely contemporary.
“The exhibition was constructed by Lego artist Nathan Sawaya, who is from the US. We were really excited to be the only place in Australia that this collection of artworks is shown, and it really brings you back to when you were a kid, watching those cartoons or reading the comics. It’s very popular with kids obviously, but grown-ups get just as much of a kick out of it with that nostalgia factor. You get to see your favourite characters, plus we all remember spending countless hours playing with Lego. It really brings the child out of you.”
And for one night only, you can bring out that inner child without having to actually share the space with real-life children. Super Heroes is the first of a free quarterly program that allows adults to descend on the Powerhouse to enjoy a themed evening of performance, conversation and discovery. Not only will you get the chance to demonstrate your own latent superpowers, but the performances on offer promise to be quite dizzying.
“Making it adults-only is very attractive for a lot of people, because they get to take over the museum and not have to share with young people,” says Kingsley. “The first one, which I’m really excited about, is MAASive Lates: Super Heroes, which is inspired by the exhibition. We’re going to have heaps of fun by encouraging people to dress up as their favourite superhero, to wear their underwear on the outside; to be goofy kids again for a night. We’re working with Legs On The Wall, a dance company here in Sydney who do aerial performance, and they’re creating two performances for the night where they’ll be suspended from the ceiling, flying around doing some beautiful dance and fight scenes. That’ll be an amazing thing to see, and then we’ve got activities like the Phone Booth Challenge, where we’ve got an old-school phone booth and you have to get changed in there in the fastest possible time. And of course there’s food and drinks, all kinds of fun things. And then if you want to actually see the Art Of The Brick exhibition, you can by adding the exhibition to your ticket, which is $18/$15 on the night. The event is free, but there’s the discounted tickets for the exhibition for one night only.”
At its heart, the Museum Of Applied Arts And Sciences (which includes not only the Powerhouse, but also the Sydney Observatory and the museum’s Discovery Centre in Castle Hill) is passionate about curating exhibitions and experiences that will resonate across every walk of life – no small feat in a city as diverse as ours. Having been a part of Sydney since the late 19th century, it is one of our oldest institutions and will undoubtedly continue to entertain young and old for a long time to come.
“All museums all over the world, their main purpose is to collect. We’re collectors of history and objects and stories. We’re responsible for keeping those things safe, and sharing that knowledge. I think museums in Sydney are very conscious of that, of being relevant and accessible to everyone. There’s a lot of time and energy that goes into making sure we can attract and encourage as much visitation as possible. I often speak to people who say they used to visit the Powerhouse all the time when they were a kid but haven’t been in 20 years. That’s an audience that is really important to us, and one that we’re really hoping to re-engage. We’re trying to find ways to serve the community as best we can, [to] get them to come to the museum and realise that it may have been a great place to go when you’re little, but it’s still a great place to visit as an adult. A lot of our exhibitions are targeted at either kids or adults. This one is very much for everyone.”
MAASive Lates: Super Heroes is on Thursday March 24,MAASive Lates: Fashion is on Thursday May 19; MAASive Lates: Science on Thursday August 11; and MAASive Lates: Design on Thursday October 27, all at the Powerhouse Museum.