Adelaide Fringe Review: GlamAdelaide for Sam Kissajukian Museum of Modernia at ILA



Museum of Modernia is a one-man stand-up comedy like nothing you’ve ever experienced.

An easy and well deserved five out five stars, Sam Kissajukian’s Museum of Modernia is a clever and cohesive mix of engaging comedy, contemporary art exploration, palatable mental health education, and fascinating storytelling through a high-end, Hollywood-style interpretation of a powerpoint presentation presented on ILA’s The Light Room Studio’s 150sqm of immersive LED screens.

When first entering the show, the audience are personally greeted by Sam who encourages them to first have a wander round his art exhibition, Paintings of Modernia. The audience is then ushered into an intimate space with a giant curved screen, which wraps around the room and becomes the immersive backdrop to this impressive one man performance. The journey then begins, with Sam having created an exciting experimental performative artist statement (information that you would normally find at the beginning of an art exhibition) that provides his fascinating life experiences as context to the works you’re about to experience.

The journey the audience is taken on is a whirlwind, mimicking the mania that Sam encountered throughout his painting process, which took place over roughly five months of untreated Bipolar. From spontaneously quitting his job in stand-up comedy, which represented a significant chunk of his life, and moving into the world of visual art as a painter and manic entrepreneur of excitingly bizarre ideas. He even confidently reached out to hedge-fund managers and international financiers, and managed to receive decent amounts of funding money from some of them.

He also delves into the challenges of being an artist, both in the sense of crafting comedy and painting. From the terror of a blank canvas staring you down, and the power of overcoming the fear of putting brush to canvas, to the stage-fright of being judged by an audience of strangers expecting you to make them laugh – he’s raw and honest about it all.

Sam confidently owns the stage, and it’s clear to see that he has over 10 years of performing stand-up comedy both around Australia and the world. With this confident stage presence, he doesn’t just knock-down the barriers of talking about mental health – he blows them up! His journey explores the original fear and overwhelming emotional chaos of the diagnosis, followed by the gradual evolution of not only learning to live and work with Bipolar, but to succeed because of it.

The show is linked to Sam Kissajukian: Paintings of Modernia, an exhibition of large-scale works at The Light Room Gallery at ILA that is free to visit and also open outside of the show times as a part of Adelaide Fringe. It is, though, definitely best to experience the exhibition of his more recent works (created in the last 18 months) through the show rather than just by themselves, as Sam provides an intimate and emotional amount of depth to the works in a post-performance mini tour, such as explaining the creative titles, or that two pieces next to each other represent a deep, calming breath.

Sam debuted the first iteration of the show, 300 Paintings in lockdown, in 2022 and took out “Best Comedy” and “Directors Choice Award” at the Sydney Fringe Festival that same year. The well-deserved awards have continued to flow and include ‘Best Comedy’ again at the Sydney Fringe in 2023, the ‘NZ touring award’ at Melbourne Fringe 2023, the weekly ‘Comedy Award’ at Perth Fringeworld, and many more.

This is a one-man stand-up comedy routine like nothing you’ve experienced, as it also embraces futuristic visual technology, discusses the complicated artistic process, and includes an engaging and entertaining exploration of mental illness through retellings of Sam’s own experiences. Make sure not to miss this (multiple) Fringe hit.

Reviewed by Georgina Smerd for Glam Adelaide, read the full review here. Find out more about Sam Kissajukian’s show as part of Adelaide Fringe at ILA, Adelaide’s Centre of Immersive Light and Art here.

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