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Festival pops up to disrupt your perception of North Queensland


PUNQ Festival is used to reclaiming space, starting as a series of artist activations in Wulgurukaba and Bindal Country’s (Townsville’s) empty shopfronts. Now they’ve set their sights on reclaiming history.

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Pop Up North Queensland (PUNQ) Festival is expanding with a critical programme based on spaces and places in North Queensland, resulting in crop circle installations to a sculptural exploration of Yunbenun’s (Magnetic Island’s) pandemic history.

In its third year, PUNQ Festival is expanding from its home of Wulgurukaba and Bindal Country (Townsville) to include Yunbenun (Magnetic Island), Gudjal Country (Charters Towers) and Warrgamay, Nywaigi & Bandjin Country (Hinchinbrook), and with this expansion comes a huge new programme of artistic endeavour.

For the first time, the festival has invited 11 interstate and local artists to respond to the past, present, and future of the spaces and places in North Queensland.

The result is a multi-disciplinary set of pieces which tackle themes from environmental conservation to pandemics to decolonisation.

Kate O’Hara, PUNQ Festival’s Artistic Director, said that with an expanded scope of location came an expanded ability to artistically and critically explore North Queensland.

“We wanted to look at developing the festival and making it more critical,” she told InQueensland.

“We were looking at spreading the festival out across North Queensland, and really celebrate the voices of the artists, of different cultures and specifically First Nations’ cultures.

“Also, we aimed to delve deeper into some of the interesting histories of the region. Some of them are quite rough and some of them quite amusing.”

The commissioned piece Site #272 by David Rowe explores the rural folklore of alien abductions.

The installation invites visitors to explore a ground zero crop circle beset with debris and discarded objects from a UFO landing in a Warrgamay, Nywaigi & Bandjin Country (Hinchinbrook) Cane Field.

“Our major commissions programme is a new thing to the festival where we approached the artists to create a commission by getting them to choose a site and ask them to think about the history, present, and futures of the place,” said O’Hara

Preserve/Conserve – Invocation #3: Openness – Going with the Flow by Jill Chism (Image: Supplied)

The commissioned works include The Mark by Jenny Mulcahy, an installation on Yunbenun (Magnetic Island) which invokes the history of the island as a 19th century quarantine hub, used as a defence against shipboard diseases such as Cholera and the Bubonic Plague.

O’Hara said the festival was looking outwards this year, with aims to engage a wider national audience.

“This edition of the festival has an expanded vision and an interest in engaging national and state audiences, not just our local community,” she said.

“In doing that, it gave us a focus on North Queensland by asking what we want to share about where we live and work.”

In invoking space and place as a guiding theme, PUNQ Festival is elevating First Nations perspectives through extensive consultation, programming, and the language used by the festival.

Both Ways by Tony Albert, Gail Mabo, Libby Harward and Jupiter Mosman subverts commuter advertising to display Indigenous histories and perspectives of the region via roadside billboards.

“This year we have introduced Indigenous place names to the festival programme. Language defines what people think of our region and so we have put the Indigenous country first in each programme and that enables people to explore the diversity of culture and voices here,” said O’Hara.

Townsville Mayor Cr Jenny Hill said PUNQ festival is a wonderful opportunity to support North Queensland’s arts communities.

PUNQ 2021 is a great way to celebrate artists from across the country as well as creatives who have honed their craft right here in North Queensland,” she said.

PUNQ 2021 runs from Friday 30 July to Sunday 8 August 2021 at various locations around North Queensland. View the full PUNQ 2021 program on their website

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