Fringe Picks Interview: An Absolute Idiot’s Guide to Art 2017

Jonathon Davidson

In January this year, Michael Winsall, our resident punk reviewer of all things good, reviewed Sylvia Sippl’s I Owe My Parents $65,000 for Fringe 2016, a performance which ultimately offered a mostly lighthearted look at the tribulations of a professional fine art degree – and high school arts teaching.

Out of interest, before we got onto her new show, we asked Sylvia how much money she owes her parents now. The answer is more, due to the success of I Owe My Parents $65,000.

The humour isn’t lost on her, and this same sense of humour looks set to exude from the pores of An Absolute Idiot’s Guide to Art. Which is fitting, because Sylvia is a high school arts teacher by day but by night she’s a comedian, on the nights she isn’t masquerading under a burlesque pseudonym or being involved in the occassional high art event.

“In this show I’ll delve deeper into the weird word of art, whether it be art-making, art analysis, or art history – all of which have hilarious and juicy secrets to share”

Because teachers are a busy bunch we flicked off some emails back and forth and got Sylvia’s perspectives on her upcoming show for Fringe 2017 which we reckon is guaranteed to send her off around the state touring once again (and racking up more debt for a sequel).

What has occupied your time since Fringe 2015/6?

In March I road tripped down to Busselton for their Fringe Festival which was a lot of fun – I MC’d the burlesque show and performed my own solo show, as well as painting a live model for a body paint parade.

I was an MC and performer at the South Perth Fiesta, and more recently was the guest speaker at my old high school’s specialist music graduation. It was really thrilling to get to speak to a large group of young people and have them actually listen – as you can imagine, as a high school art teacher, this is a novel experience for me, haha.

I have continued my day jobs of teaching and performing with Lady Velvet Cabaret as ‘Lucinda Panties’, the resident loudmouth MC, as well as at the Perth International Burlesque Festival 2016. It’s been a fun year jam-packed with work in both visual art and the performing arts, so I’m ready to wrap it all up and reflect in another solo Fringe show for 2017.

Sylvia Sippl isn’t afraid to lay down the law, and an Absolute Idiot’s Guide will both entertain you and school you in art history.


Your next show promises a lot of art student banter – should contemporary or classic art students get excited? Both? 

Everyone should get excited! In IOMP65K, I discussed a few key artworks in the context of my high school teaching and the crowd seemed to really enjoy seeing works both familiar and unfamiliar.

In this show I’ll delve deeper into the weird word of art, whether it be art-making, art analysis, or art history – all of which have hilarious and juicy secrets to share. There should be something for everyone, whether you laugh out loud at jokes about body fluids, love art world ‘in jokes’, or are genuinely confused about how a giant cactus can be considered art and are the kind of person who starts arguments in the comment section on articles about public art.

My point of view is of course positive – I love all kinds of art, and am passionate about sharing that with others – however I also see the art world for what it is at times – obnoxious, sheltered, and silly – I’d like to think I have a balanced opinion and can help people see the best in art and culture.

Sylvia’s shows offer a treat for all the senses. This is her with an accordion down south. There is no accordion in An Absolute Idiot’s Guide to Art, though. We politely requested that she include an accordion but our calls were eventually blocked. Artists, right?

Has anything changed about your approach to Fringe for this year? 

Yes for sure. The point of IOMP65K was to showcase all the parts of my arts career – which meant bringing 5 instruments and a projector with me to every show – a charming idea at first, but it got old pretty quickly!

This time it’s just me and my powerpoint, much like most days at school for me! It’s also exciting to be in such a central venue – I’ve never visited the new City of Perth Library yet but I’ve seen it from the outside and it’s beautiful!

What’s the most important thing about this show that didn’t make it into the final press release? 

The most important thing… hmm.  I hope that whether audiences love art or hate it, they’ll come away from the show with a new appreciation for it – and there’s a chance that they may actually come away with better drawing skills too, at no extra cost! 😉

Free art education is definitely a plus. Our verdict? Well, we didn’t come up with Idiot’s Guide either, truth be told. So no bad blood.

Get to your Fringe ticket office ASAP and support amazing local artists!