About The Foundation


The Keir Foundation was established by Phillip Keir and Sarah Benjamin as a Private Ancillary Fund to foster innovation and excellence in the arts. Our goal is to enable artists to make original work of a high order. The Foundation supports the work of new and emerging practitioners across art forms.

From the beginning, the Keir Foundation has supported works of contemporary dance, competition, theatre and visual art by partnering with festivals, producers and gallery spaces.  In addition to assisting work made by small and medium side companies, the Keir Foundation is committed to models of funding that ensures maximum assistance to artists and to putting the creative process at the heart and centre of grant making.  Our enthusiasm is in enabling artists to develop new work performed and shown for the enjoyment of audiences.

For twenty years, Phillip was CEO of Next Media, an Australian publishing house specialising in popular culture magazines. Earlier he worked as a theatre director in Australia and abroad.  Sarah has a background in Public Broadcasting.

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Mirrored Ziggurat by Shirin Abedinirad

Underbelly Arts Festival

August 6, 2015

The biennial Underbelly Arts Festival celebrates the work of over 100 early career artists. It is unique in that it supports exhibiting and performing artists with a program of residencies and workshops (The Lab) that culminates in a two-day festival of curated talks, tours and a program of music, food, kids activities and, for audiences, it’s the opportunity to experience dynamic new work by a diverse collection of bold new voices in contemporary art.

2015 will see over 35 works installed across the iconic Cockatoo Island, in the middle of Sydney Harbour. Audiences will experience live art, performance, sound, visual art, dance, animation, film and music that is immersive, participatory and site responsive from a collection of the best new artists in Australia and beyond. For the first time the festival will include an International Program, supported by the Keir Foundation, with work by artists from Switzerland, the Netherlands, the UK and Iran.

As part of this program, Underbelly Arts will welcome Gregory Stauffer and Bastien Gauchet through a programming partnership with Les Urbaines, Switzerland. Across their two-week residency, the artists will work site specifically to develop a spatial performance series in which they focus on process, measurement and anamorphosis.

Furthering connections with Western Europe, Underbelly Arts will play host to Josephine van Rheenen and De Dansers in partnership with Over Het Ij Festival. Across Cockatoo Island’s vast industrial terrain this performance will rework Betonder, developed site specifically at two previous locations—the industrial riverside upon Over Het Ij, and on the island of Terschelling for the Oerol Festival. Here De Dansers physically inhabit the uninhabitable, placing the vulnerability and softness of body against the harsh terrain of the Island’s docks.

Coming to Australia for the first time, UK rising star James Capper brings his interest in the aesthetics of mechanical power and hydraulics to a country built on the virtues of industry, and the historical homeground of that—the industrial precinct of Cockatoo Island. With his works HYDRA STEP and HYDRA SHUFFLE Capper draws influence from the Land art movement, dismissing traditional art materials to create a series of Earth Marking works that challenge art’s relationship to both the natural world and technology.

To complete Underbelly Arts’ inaugural international program, the festival will support the development of new work from Iran’s Shirin Abedinirad. Working across performance, video and installation, Abedinirad will build a pyramid of mirrors on Cockatoo Island, inspired by the Ziggurat in ancient Mesopotamia. The work offers a transformative view of the self, urging audiences to critically engage with the links between history and today.

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