Recollections of the Midnight Cabaret
From April till September in 1983 a group of Brisbane anarchists and artists hosted fortnightly alternative music and performance nights. The venue was the One flat gallery at the Roma St end of George St Brisbane.
One Flat was an independently run art space housed in a disused bank premise, a large 3 floor building, basement, ground floor with large shop front window and a gallery level looking down onto the main floor space.
The Midnight Cabarets began around 11pm and continued until everyone had run out of steam, usually between 3 & 4 am Sunday morning.
I have no clear recollection of how I came to attend my first Midnight Cabaret or if I took photographs on that first night. I do know that from some time in April until September 1983 I was regularly attending the Midnight Cabaret, photographing performances and making portraits of performer's, artists and the occasional member of the audience.
On my first night of photography 24-4-83 I shot several rolls of film on my 6x6 Yashica mat camera of the Tapeloops performing. The 'Loops' were the Cabarets organising anarchists and their line up consisted of bass, tiny keyboard, and some drums. On the same evening the 'Loops' manager Malcolm took an interest in my photos and a friendship was begun. With good first night images and the organisers support I was set to start documenting the Midnight Cabaret.
One of my great regrets twenty years on is that I didn't make more written notes about my subjects; just basic stuff like names would come in very handy now. As a result of my knowing many of my subjects at the time, at least casually, I did not often bother to make notes of or really worry about something as pictorially unnecessary as people's names! As such many of my images are sadly lacking in background documentary detail.
By making a point of shooting both portraits and performances using only the light that was available in the venue I have been able to convey the ambience of a night at the cabaret. Portraits were set up where light was interesting and sufficient, sometimes several sitters were photographed with the same light.
As a working gallery artworks occasionally feature as backgrounds to performances. Projections, 16mm experimental films or Malcolm's favorite, the overhead projector with swirling inks (step right up and give it a go) were often running concurrent to readings or musical performances.
While the 'loops' were I suspect pretty much the House band, other Independent Brisbane bands that performed at the Cabaret are most likely to include, Pork, Zero, The Pitts (in disco disguise) and exhibiting One Flat artists doing their own take on industrial (SPK, Cabaret Voltaire) type grinding on metal etc. type performances.
One performance that to this very day still sticks in my mind was a flute and guitar rendition of The Jams 'That's Entertainment'. This acoustic performance, the guitarist in mime makeup, contained such a raw and powerful energy I was immediately convinced that this was the way this song was always intended to sound.
Of course one mans memories of the cabaret are sure to be at least a little flawed. I do recall vegetarian food on sale occasionally but I can't seem to remember if alcohol was on sale or if we took our own.
Finally, thanks to Jeanelle Hurst the Director of One Flat. There are at least two images of Jeanelle in this series of images. Quite clearly a powerhouse woman, Jeanelle sported a shaved head the only woman I've ever known to do so (she's wigged in a couple of shots) and was a good person to know back in 83. By taking pictures at the Cabaret I came to meet the artist's of One Flat and see a lot of work that would almost certainly passed me by. The Midnight Cabaret and One Flat became for me a window on the very diverse and creative world of art.
Additions to my remembrances of the Midnight Cabaret, other images, names! Performers etc are more than welcome.
Kent Johnson Sydney 2004