Enlighten’s monumental moment

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WHEN I catch up with Deb ‘n’ Dave, they’re submerged in a pile of booklets on 1970s Canberra, but they’re dressed to the nines.

“Deb ‘n’ Dave have to look their best,” the pair explain as they prepare to take unsuspecting Canberrans on an architectural tour of the national capital as part of the coming “Enlighten” festival.

Deb ‘n’ Dave...  tall tales of Canberra’s architecture.
Deb ‘n’ Dave… tall tales of Canberra’s architecture.
We’re not talking about a couple of hay-chewing yokels from beyond the black stump. Deb is Deborah Clark, senior curator at the Canberra Museum and Gallery and Dave is David Broker, the relentlessly witty director of Canberra Contemporary Art Space.

He’s focusing on the monuments and buildings of Canberra, while Deb looks at the houses.

Both are experts on contemporary art, but are of the “same mindset” when it comes to the buildings of Canberra, part of a futuristic vision of the past in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, when Canberrans were actually proud of their city’s architecture.

Deb is threatening to add a few architectural gossip tales to Dave’s analysis of the great monuments. Dave worries that his explanations of Brutalism and raw concrete might not be nearly so funny, so he’s amassing entertaining “stories from the vault”.

Both agree that the buildings of Canberra reflect connections between people, arts, science, showing Canberra as a centre of ideas, a city of scholars.

Deb ‘n’ Dave won’t be driving the bus, a 56-seater Murray’s vehicle that will “fang” (a ‘60s expression) them around the national capital.

You probably won’t get into the first tour on March 2, but there’s still the second one on March 9 (bookings to ticketek.com).

The pick-up point will be Old Parliament House, thence to Parkes, the Australian-American War Memorial, Robin Boyd’s Campbell suburb, and the Currong flats in Braddon, the ANU, Enrico Taglietti’s public and private buildings, and the daunting Cameron Offices in Belconnen. Then it’s off to the Shine Dome, Forrest and Deakin, ending up at the great monumental buildings, the National Gallery and the High Court, just in time for the sun to go down and the buildings to be “enlightened” from the inside.

The mighty bus trip is matched by 52 equally exotic and often ridiculous events to “light” up the capital everywhere from the zoo to the gallery, until March 9.

The Famous Spiegel Garden will settle into the Senate Rose Gardens at Old Parliament House for three weeks of decadent entertainment, a mixture of free and paid events (bookings to www.spiegeltent.net).

The normally respectable National Library of Australia will transform its foyer into the Red Letter Lounge – a speakeasy bar with live jazz, talks and tours, while the kids can enjoy free shadow puppet-making, word games and book dominoes in the Bookplate Café. Amazing colourful scientific images by artist Eleanor Gates-Stuart, will be projected on to the library’s Parthenon-like exterior.

Eccentric performance hairdressers, Sienta La Cabeza, from Barcelona, will make your hair stand on end, if you let them.

You can even play with 200 “dolphin torches” and shine your own light on the city.

“Enlighten”, March 1-9 in the Parliamentary Triangle and selected national buildings. Full program at enlightencanberra.com

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Helen Musa
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