Three years in the making, Melbourne’s Rising Festival unveils 2022 program with 225 events

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Three years in the making, Melbourne’s Rising Festival unveils 2022 program with 225 events

The Wilds, 2021

Rising returns with a huge 12-day program featuring 225 events and 801 artists.

The ambitious cultural being within the shadows of Melbourne’s expansive arts landscape will finally make its proper debut this year with the highly-anticipated return of Melbourne’s Rising festival.

An amalgamation of the Melbourne International Arts Festival and White Night, COVID crushed the blockbuster citywide multi-arts festival’s planned 2020 debut, which returned last year to cancel all but opening night of its 2021 program in light of Victoria’s worsening COVID situation at the time.

With high hopes that third time is a charm, Rising is back with a huge 12-day program and it’s abundant to say the least.

Keep up with the latest music news, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

Descending on Melbourne on the first night of winter from Wednesday, June 1–Sunday, June 12, artists, musicians and creatures of the night will pulse through a city reawakened, inviting auidences to get lost, go deep and shake loose. RISING will comprise 225 events—including 22 commissions and 14 world premieres—featuring 801 local and international artists, who will take the city as their canvas, transforming its streets, gardens, carparks, waterways and rooftops in an explosion of culture aimed squarely at the heart of Melbourne’s night-time scene.

Across the 12 nights, Melbourne will come alive with an array of free and family focussed events; transformative public art installations; large-scale performances; intimate works of theatre; dance that redefines the form; and a music program that traverses the globe from Japan to Switzerland, South London to Saskatchewan—the program also marks the city’s first international music festival line-up in over two years, well and truly making a statement about the festival’s return. 

“In such tumultuous times, the privilege and necessity to gather, dance, sing and celebrate artistic expression is not lost on us,” said RISING Co-Artistic Directors, Hannah Fox and Gideon Obarzanek. “Melbourne is back and we’re over the moon.”

While we couldn’t possiblity list all the events – 225 events remember – here are some of the highlights from the 2022 Rising program:

The Wilds

Returning after beguiling audiences for just one night in 2021, The Wilds will once again spring to life at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. A fluoro fantasy of art, sound, taste and ice, this year’s iteration has leapt from the minds of acclaimed New York-based Australian artists Tin & Ed, who have created an all new technicolour world in which science and nature co-exist in a multicellular meadow.

In a transformation that will render the Bowl—as we know it—indistinguishable, sprawling structures and eccentric performances blur the lines between the earthly and otherworldly. Cult snacks—from the likes of 1800 Lasagne and Smith & Daughters—and multi-course feasts will provide fuel for new leaves to bud at pop-up kitchens and a glowing glasshouse bistro, The Lighthouse, helmed by celebrated chefs David Moyle, Jo Barrett and Matt Stone. Punters can then complete their night by ascending the Bowl’s stage to zip around an ice-skating rink, while our caterwauling Night Chorus belts out reconstructed ‘80s and ‘90s hits.

Golden Square

Melbourne’s Chinatown, in the city’s epicentre, will become the setting for a bountiful exhibition of experimental video, performance, installation and large-scale projections.

Through a festival-long takeover, Chinatown’s Golden Square carpark will become a winding vortex of contemporary art from Australia and abroad, boasting three levels of art, performance, parades and rooftop bars. Cultures, religions and identities overlap with new iterations of centuries-old folklore. Rough concrete pillars, glowing pyramids and a capitalist mega-church are the architecture of our multi-level exhibition of ritual, mythology and digital spirituality, featuring artists including Paul Yore, Su Hui Yu, Scotty So, Tabita Rezaire, Jason Phu and Atong Atem.


Around the bend from the Bowl, a giant laser beam, almost one kilometre long, will shoot blazing light down the Birrarung (Yarra) river, coursing above the water to a nexus at Princess Bridge in MONOCHORDaudio-visual artist Robin Fox’s luminescent public artwork. MONOCHORD radically alters the city’s landscape and makes visible the invisible lines that connect us—a mammoth moment of iridescent unification.

Melbourne Art Trams

The Melbourne Art Trams return for 2022, with six trams once again featuring designs by First Peoples artists. Curated by artist Jarra Karalinar Steel (Boonwurrung/Wemba Wemba), Peoples), the collected works each respond to the theme “Unapologetically Blak”.  And more than three decades later a design by acclaimed artist, painter and sculptor Lin Onus (Yorta Yorta) hits the tracks for the first time since 1991—a harmonious symbol of balanced opposites: circles and triangles, day and night, black and white cockatoos.

The 2022 Artists are: Louise Moore (Wamba); Patricia Mckean (Gundijtmara/Kirrae Wurrong); Dr Paola Balla (Wemba-Wemba/Gundijtmara); Tegan Murdock (Duduroa); Darcy McConnell / Enoki (Yorta Yorta/Dja Dja Wurrung); and Lin Onus (Yorta Yorta), who’s 1992 Melbourne Art Tram will be reproduced for this year’s festival.


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This one’s a big one! Curated by Woody McDonald, RISING’S sprawling music program takes over The Forum Theatre, Max Watts and Melbourne Recital Centre with a forward thinking line-up of luminaries, innovators, trailblazers and tastemakers from around the world and closer to home.

With 26 international acts—including Moses Sumney, Kelly Lee Owens, Baxter Dury, Lucy Dacus, Arab Strap, Masego, Shabazz Palaces, Andy Shauf, who will make his Australian debut, and many more—this heralds the bonafide return of international music to Australian festivals at long last.

Cementing Melbourne and Japan’s close musical ties is RISING’s Japan in Focus program. The Forum hosts iconic pop experimentalists from Tokyo’s mid-’90s, “cut-and-paste” Shibuya-kei scene, Buffalo Daughter and CHAI; and seminal percussionist from the ‘80s Avant Garde, Midori Takada. Over at Max Watt’s  there’s Tokyo doom rock veterans, Boris; and DJ Nobu and Kenji Takimi close out the festival with a day party by Melbourne’s own Animals Dancing.

This year RISING hosts a special Artist in Residence—the lauded drummer and Dirty Three co-founder, Jim White. Across multiple venues, White will bring his decades behind the kit to a series of collaborations and improvisations with artists including Ed Kuepper, Giorgios Xylouris, Jo Lloyd and Marissa Anderson.

An Afro Future is Sampa the Great’s triumphant return to Melbourne, her first show in her one-time hometown in over two years. Expanding on her ARIA Award-winning 2019 album The Return, the visionary rapper returns from Zambia with a 15-strong band of musicians and dancers.

Rising international superstar, Tkay Maidza, will play her first Melbourne show in over two years as part of the RISING music program. Maidza is a fountain of positivity and empowerment; a rapid-fire lyricist and rapper staking her claim. Now lauded by taste-making music publications across the globe, Maidza’s graduated from the beloved stage of Meredith Music Festival, to opening for Billie Eillish in across America February. The Zimbabwe-born artist won’t wait around, catch her at The Forum while you can.


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Spend a night soaking in the prophetic post-punk sounds of The Good Sax who mark their return to Melburne at RISING. In their first Australian shows since the release of their acclaimed 2021 record ‘Mirror II’, the Brisbane trio will amplify their stylish, gothic anthems of youthful ennui into the night’s outer reaches. The Goon Sax wield three-minute weapons that’ll shred your heart to ribbons.

Producer, bandleader and synthesist Harvey Sutherland will present Neurotic Funk—a one-off live show in celebration of his long-awaited debut album, Boy at the Melbourne Recital Centre. Sutherland will transform Elisabeth Murdoch Hall into an intimate and immersive dance space performing in-the-round, in quadraphonic sound. No seats, just dancing. The band and audience share the stage surrounded by surreal audio and visual elements uniquely configured for this RISING exclusive.

From the minds of DJs Chris Gill and Stick Mareebo and artist Jason Maling, Heavy Congress is a major live music event representing Melbourne’s own thriving sound system culture. Sprouting from proud Jamaican roots, crews of DJs and MCs across the world have now built their own monolithic stacks of custom-designed, intricately adorned speakers.  Set up to surround the audience, the unique sound systems of Melbourne crews will drop bass-heavy dub, roots reggae, drum and bass, hip hop, techno, and party tropical soca tracks pressed to vinyl, taking turns to win over the crowd.

Jurrungu ngan-ga

In a powerful and mesmerising multimedia dance production, Jurrungu ngan-ga reflects on the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in custody, and the years-long detention of refugees. Literally translating to English as “straight talk”, Jurrungu ngan-ga takes its inspiration from the words and experiences of Yawuru leader Patrick Dodson, Kurdish-Iranian writer and former Manus Island detainee Behrouz Boochani, and philosopher Omid Tofighian. With characteristic dedication, the dance and performance company Marrugeku bridges Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures, working with urban and remote communities and identities in this lauded production.


Scaling a deceptively simple toy to epic proportions, Kaleidoscope allows you to step inside a constantly shifting illusion. From the creators of House of Mirrors and 1000 Doors, the 20-metre cylindrical labyrinth is an elementary fusion of light, colour and sound.  As you navigate the mirrored maze, corridors and rooms fracture at each turn. Kaleidoscope plays with motion, sound, gravity and revolving prisms to create phosphorescent tricks of the eye. Sparking memories of childhood wonder, Kaleidoscope disorientates the senses, creating a new engagement with beauty and tranquility in a colour field of ever-changing light.

The Invisible Opera

The Invisible Opera is a contemporary performance work for public space. Amongst the bustle of Federation Square it unfolds as a hypnotic observation of the ambient patterns of everyday life, The Invisible Opera gradually leads us to see the city—and our role within it—in a completely new light. Created by Australian multidisciplinary performer Sophia Brous with celebrated performance-makers Lara Thoms, Samara Hersch and Bessie-Award winning US choreographer Faye Driscoll, the work utilises immersive sound design, electroacoustic orchestration and live vocal performance beamed in through a network of CCTV cameras and hidden microphones that map each movement of the square in real-time.

Fart Fabulous

A farty party for grands and grandkids alike. Fart Fabulous is a playful, punk variety show bursting with circus, drag, dance, visual art and live music. Reverberating with the rock and roll spirit, the cast remind us that bodies have folds, make noises and come in all sizes, shapes and genders—all of them are valid and all of them fart. Fart Fabulous is a jam-packed hour of queer celebration, rebellious performance, comedy and joyful anarchy.

The Hole

Sure to be a highlight, The Hole is a hole. Pick up a shovel and dig. Then fill it back up. Job done. 

Yes, really.


In Stephanie Lake Company’s Manifesto, nine dancers twist with the motions of ballet, contemporary dance and hip hop as thunderous percussion rises. In front of a watermelon velvet background, on a grand elevated set, are nine drum kits and drummers. In precision concert, they unleash rebellion, command obedience, radiate wonder and show tenderness. A tattoo to optimism—its Busby Berkeley opulence meets pounding percussion in a rallying cry for solidarity. Manifesto is a tornado of movement, sound and will.

Ancestors Are Calling

Conceived for RISING as part of MOVING OBJECTS (a collection of new work by First Peoples artists curated by RISING Artistic Associate Kimberley Moulton) wurukur djuanduk balag—Ancestors Are Calling makes its debut over two performances on Woi Wurrung, and Dja Dja Wurrung Country. Composed in multiple First Peoples languages by Dr Lou Bennett AM (Yorta Yorta Dja Dja Wurrung), the song-based work responds to the cultural belongings of First Peoples held in the Melbourne Museum collections. It speaks to the living culture of the objects, which are alive with the spirit and energy of the Country and people from which they came.

With cigarette smoke curling through the air, and Jatz cracker crumbs settling on the carpet, Maureen sits before you. You’re her guest, so you’d better sit up and listen. It’s in this bohemian living room, accompanied by minimal props or costume, that writer and performer Jonny Hawkins transforms into Maureen: a razor tongued doyenne with stories to tell, inspired by Hawkins’ friend and self-described “working class glamour queen”. Co-created with director Nell Ranney, Maureen: Harbinger of Death, is a celebration of the rich lives of older women. A night of wit, imagination and storytelling.

Single Channel Video

With Single Channel Video, Geelong’s pioneering Back to Back Theatre cracks open the archive, conjuring an op-shop of the soul filmed live onstage. Behind a huge projection screen lies a museum of the everyday. Its shelves are stacked with objects both meaningful and absurd, from a Britney Spears poster to a precious journal passed down through generations. Each seemingly insignificant treasure however, holds a story: ridiculous, banal and profound. Single Channel Video unboxes our relationship to objects, and their ability to act as totems of memory and experience

And that’s barely scraping the surface. We told you it was abundant!

RISING has been conceived and commissioned to become the Asia Pacific’s preeminent cultural festival. An event like no other; an experience uniquely tethered to place. It may have taken three years, but it will be worth it.

RISING will electrify Melbourne from 1—12 June 2022. Tickets on sale from Friday, March 25 at 12pm via the website, where you can find the full program.