By Ghenoa Gela
AUGUST 7, 2014
Hey hey peeps!! So, since the end of the Next Wave festival I had some (what seemed to be long awaited) down time. I can’t believe that the pressure of being apart of the Next Wave’s Kickstart program is actually what other established choreographers just do all the time. I’m surprised that they’re all not rocking-in-a-corner somewhere (not being experimentally artistic) drawing attention. I swear I found myself looking at many corners and good couple of times, pondering the rocking scenario and it was over the course of just ‘one year’! I know, poor effort, but be sure to know I had enough strength to keep myself dancing or sitting still (possibly too still sometimes) while going through the processes. A BIIIG SHOUT OUT to my right hand girl Melinda Tyquin! I don’t know how I would have gotten through the other side without her help and commitment. It’s definitely something I’m thankful for, that support that keeps everything from falling to the way-side and just tucked in the book at the bottom of the book draw waiting for the ‘right time’ to be opened again. Thanks Mel! You are truly an amazing being! & while I’m on shout outs, big shout out to Pippa Bailey, Cyrus Carandang, Sonny Dallas-Law and Performing Lines, Andrea James and Carriageworks and Alexandria Park Community School for ALL the on ground support here in Sydney. You guys are AMAZING!! :D THANKYOU!!
But yeah, the amount of appreciation and respect I have for established and soon-to-be established independent choreographers who have been slogging out all those grants one after the other is paramount! I don’t know how you’s do it, but I’m sure with all your expertise it’s probably just like smashin up a status on social media! Lol… (#cansomeonewritemygrantforme)
After the down time, I was back into it. I had the great pleasure of working with some of the kids at Alexandria Park Community School and created a short dance routine for there NAIDOC Week celebrations. For those of you who may not know what NAIDOC week is – (well technically) National Aboriginal and Islander Day of Observance Committee Week, but some of us (Indigenous Australians) like to call it National Aboriginal and Islander Days Of Celebration. I’m not sure when the acronym definition changed – I have no doubt there are many different versions - but the jist of it is a massive celebration of Australia’s Indigenous (Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders) peoples cultures! It’s a time of pride and confidence within ourselves, and coming together to celebrate our identities. So I had a good 40 kids or so, both indigenous and non-indigenous, eagerly willing to bust out some flavorsome moves and Torres Strait contemporary with me for their NAIDOC Week celebrations. All of which was fun and stressful and fun and cute (luckily) and very fulfilling. All and all, it was a great week to come back into and made me appreciate what the magic of dance can do for people of all ages. The way the kids were carrying on, anyone think they weren’t allowed to dance… anywhere AT ALL. Lol… It makes me remember why I do what I do and why I’m in this industry. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I sure as hell don’t have a ‘savings’ account. I’ve got a ‘waiting’ account and ‘broke… again’ account, cause we all know this ain’t where the money’s at. But, geez when you see the rewarding results, it makes all the other things not really matter. Appreciation at it’s maximum! Till next yarns, be good to each other.
Peace, love and respect
Ghenoa is Carriageworks and the Alexandria Park Community School’s inaugural artist in residence. Ghenoa is also currently participating in Force Majeure’s creative lab Culminate, showing at Carriageworks 13 - 16 August.
By Jane Albert
6 AUG, 2014
Some of Australia’s leading performers, choreographers and sound artists have gathered at Carriageworks for Score, a five-week festival celebrating music, dance and movement.
At Performance Space: Score, audiences can see exciting, large-scale new productions alongside emerging and evolving studio-style works, all in a single visit. During the five-week festival – curated by Performance Space artistic director Jeff Khan – Score will celebrate the innovative choreographers and creative artists currently working here and abroad.
Much loved electronic artist Julian Hamilton will perform for the first time with his brother Anthony, who is a choreographer with Melbourne contemporary dance company, Chunky Move.
They will present Keep Everything. It is a fusion of dance and performance set to electronic beats and spoken-word composed by Julian and Kim Moyes – half of the ARIA-award winning duo The Presets.
“Anthony has a very precise, pared-back style and he’s very influenced by street art and graffiti. There is a really interesting connection with Julian’s music. It’s really exciting they’re working together,” says Khan.
“There’s so much brilliant dance and creative choreography going on, but often they’re invisible and there’s no big platform for audiences to access work,” Khan says. “Especially since the cancellation of Spring Dance last year.”
There will be two free installations on display throughout the festival. Psychic Synth by Pia van Gelder is a multi-sensory interactive installation that examines connections between nature, mysticism and technology. Gossip, by Belgium’s leading digital performer Kris Verdonck (who will also give the keynote lecture), is a major, interactive video work projected onto a wall.
Bay 20 will host the larger-scale works including Hiding in Plain Sight, a new full-length work by acclaimed NSW choreographer Narelle Benjamin. It is made up of two, overlapping solos performed by Kristina Chan and Sara Black. It will also be the venue for Ghan Tracks, the debut work by new music pioneer Jon Rose with Ensemble Offsping and Speak Percussion. It combines music, installation and multimedia.
Culminate is one of the smaller works-in-progress. It is the result of a two-year lab run by Kate Champion and her dance-theatre company, Force Majeure. It collaborates with three emerging indigenous choreographers (Ghenoa Gela, Victoria Hunt and Jason Pitt) who are creating exciting, culturally-diverse new work. Maximum by Natalie Abbott, who performs in unison with a bodybuilder, explores the similarities and differences between the two, pushing their bodies to the limit with fascinating results. One Thing Follows Another applies the chicken-and-egg test to the relationship between dance and music. Devised by the recent Keir Choreographic Award people’s choice winner, Jane McKernan, it is to a musical score inspired by the Fluxus movement and 1960s sounds composed by Gail Priest. The result is a performed negotiation between dance and music.
“There are so many fantastic dance and sound artists here in Sydney. This festival aims to shine a light on them and present them alongside their peers,” Khan says.
Performance Space: Score runs at Carriageworks until September 7.
Performance Space’s Score is the biggest festival of dance and sound works in Sydney this year. Artistic Director Jeff Khan speaks to Garrett Bithell.
By Garrett Bithell
AUGUST 3, 2014
“This is the biggest festival of dance and sound works in Sydney this year.”
So says Performance Space Artistic Director Jeff Khan about Score, a festival of live performances and installations that place emphasis on the body in motion – where dance, movement and music come together. Featuring some of Australia’s leading choreographers, composers, and performers, Score is for lovers of dance and sound-based works.
“I have the good privilege of seeing so much extraordinary work by dancers and sound artists here in Sydney and around Australia, and I think we’ve been lacking a gathering ground to celebrate that talent here for some time in one concentrated moment,” Khan tells SX. “Score is really about that celebration – bringing together artists who are at the forefront of experimentation with the form.”
The festival boasts the return of Chunky Move to Sydney, the premiere of Narelle Benjamin’s latest full-length work, Jon Rose with Ensemble Offspring, Kris Verdonck (Belgium), and a new psychedelic installation from Pia van Gelder.
“The reason the festival is called Score is because each artist is literally building their work using the notion of scoring,” Khan says. “For musicians and choreographers this is somewhat different, but they are all driven by what a score is, and how we use it to make work. A composer sits down a writes a score, but how does that work when someone like Jon Rose is ‘composing’ for a cement mixer? Choreographers use scoring to ‘write’ shows, but when we challenge dancers to work in an improvised space for two hours straight, how do they score on the run, so to speak?”
Dancers performing beside bodybuilders, symphonies emerging from metal saws, and multi-sensory experiences emanating from transcendental synths – these are just some of Score’s many highlights.
“I think you’d be mad to miss the return of Chunky Move to Sydney with Keep Everything, by this incredible new choreographer Anthony Hamilton, who is really making waves,” Khan tells. “The soundtrack is by Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes [of The Presets], and it’s a cracking show. Fans of physical extremity can’t miss Maximum, which is a choreographic duet between a dancer, Natalie Abbott, and a bodybuilder. There are also lots of free exhibitions and events throughout the season as well, so there’s no excuse to not come down to Carriageworks.
“A gathering of talent like this, for specific art forms like dance and sound, is happening less and less here in Sydney, and I hope people take advantage of the incredible artists we’ve amassed for Score. There’s something incredible about seeing bodies move through space, in person and in the moment. It’s a joy to watch.”
Performance Space: Score, Carriageworks until September 7
Image 1: Maximum, Natalie Abbott, part of Performance Space: Score
Image 2: Keep Everything, Chunky Move, part of Performance Space: Score
Image 3: Hiding in Plain Sight, Narelle Benjamin, part of Performance Space: Score
By Clive Paget
JULY 29, 2014
New Australian opera celebrates revolutionary Russian poet in style.
The presentation of a new opera in Australia is an all too rare event and Michael Smetanin and Alison Croggon’s Mayakovsky, unveiled last night at Carriageworks, has been a good while in the baking. While the work may lack the populist edge of Mayakovsky’s own writing (Smetanin’s music for all its tonal variety and imagination makes relatively few concessions to accessibility from the aural perspective of the man on the street), it’s a rather brilliant construct, dramatically taut and graced with writing that understands the critical function of the libretto in opera. The text is poetically inclined (Croggon is first and foremost a poet), but it’s efficient and good at telling you what’s up with minimal fuss, and full of memorable verbal incident. If at times it’s hard to tell where Mayakovsky ends and Croggon begins, that is intended entirely as a compliment.
On the one hand a tribute to the poet who came to define the Russian Revolution, Mayakovsky is also an exploration of the artistic legacy of those turbulent times. Croggon’s savvy text manages to take in issues such as the artist’s place in society, censorship (to ban or not to ban), and the function of poetry in our own times (“poetry is dead”… “poetry will be wherever the heart rebels”). The opera is a relatively chronological journey though Mayakovsky’s life, starting with his early career as the clangourous poet of futurism, a movement initially embraced by the Bolsheviks (“we don’t understand a word but he’s a cut above the bourgeoisie,” sing three acolytes). We follow his subsequent decline in acceptability post-Lenin, his inevitable clash with Stalinist dogma, and end up with his tragically early suicide in 1930. Ironically Mayakovsky was denounced in his lifetime for his supposed formalist errors, only to have his reputation further degraded when he was declared the poet of the Revolution in later years by Stalin himself!
Smetainin’s fine score reflects the brutalist edge of Soviet futurism, revelling in motor rhythms and crashing electronica (at times the amplified electronics are simply too loud preventing you hearing the wood for the trees). But it’s also redolent of the jazz-age with echoes of the Stravinsky of Renard. It’s a flamboyant, imaginative palette (especially considering he only uses piano, two saxophones, horn, trumpet, trombone, electric guitar and percussion) and his method of sufficient fragmentary repetition ensures that enough of it stays with you. Highlights include the declaration of the Revolution by two female workers and later on the political espousal of Stalinism. If it has a fault it is its relentlessness – at an hour and half it could use some more moments of repose.
Kat Henry’s smart, stylish production for the impressively ambitious Sydney Chamber Opera sits perfectly in Carriageworks Bay 20, the five concrete pillars that comprise Hanna Sandgren’s simple set melding with the brutal walls of the building. Guy Harding’s basic but atmospheric lighting design is enhanced by a range of video projections. Locating the musicians behind the action, a tactic that has paid dividends in immediacy for this company previously, Jack Symonds leads a first-rate band of six plus electronics.
The cast are generally excellent, coping admirably with Smetanin’s musical demands. The three women are probably the best here, led by Jessica O’Donoghue’s sympathetic Lilya, into whose marriage Mayakovsky insinuated himself, reportedly shocking contemporary sensibilities. The trick in contemporary opera is to find the heart of the music while getting the notes right and she manages both well. Lotte Betts-Dean is a warm vocal presence and has a touching moment as her friend Elsa while Sarah Toth makes a fierce Zveryeva, spitting out her increasingly blinkered dogmas as the representative of a proletariat intellectually seduced by the party line.
Simon Lobelson plays Mayakovsky, his strong, warm baritone handling the demanding music well. He captures the sense of the poet’s arrogance, but he’s given too few opportunities to show us his charismatic side and as a result ends up a rather hectoring figure. He gets some of the best lines though – “you smell of cabbage and despair”. A brief burst of Mayakovsky reading his own work, though, is enough to show us what we are missing. The lyrical tenor of Brenton Spiteri is engaging as the Author, Mayakovsky’s self-serving alter ego, called out of the audience and taken to task in an early scene (just one of several clever devices that Croggan employs to echo the dramatic schools of the times). Mitchell Riley makes an enjoyable Lenin and a grim Stalin (“I am Stalin and I live in every gut”), deploying a range of moustaches for clarity of differentiation.
Another feather in the cap, then, of one of Australia’s most adventurous opera companies. At one point a voice declares: “here in the future poetry doesn’t matter”. If you’re looking for an advocate for the opposite point of view, Smetanin and Croggon’s Mayakovsky might just be it.
Mayakovsky is at Carriageworks until August 2.
By John McCallum
JULY 30, 2014
Mayakovsky. By Michael Smetanin and Alison Croggon. Sydney Chamber Opera, Carriageworks, July 28.
THIS wonderfully urgent new piece by Sydney Chamber Opera takes up the central tension of one of the most interesting times in 20th-century art and politics — when for the first and last time modernist artists were engaged actively, and finally tragically, in a revolution supposedly in the service of the people.
Vladimir Mayakovsky was a poet and playwright — and a lover and enjoyer of decadent bourgeois pleasures — who embraced the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. Like the great director Vsevolod Meyerhold — who, after a series of major revisioning of the classics, needed just such a Russian writer to justify his work in the face of the increasing pressures of the new regime — Mayakovsky endeavoured to serve a revolution that, with the rise of Joseph Stalin and socialist realism, ended up not wanting him.
Mayakovsky, in love with all his hapless women and betrayed by the revolution, shot himself in 1930. Stalin anointed him after his death. Meyerhold was murdered by Stalin’s police.
Michael Smetanin and Alison Croggon have created an opera that reflects that time and its great tragedy — the ultimate conflict between the personal and the political — and then takes us into the contemporary world. Their work is framed to resonate now, using references to the best play Mayakovsky wrote for Meyerhold, The Bedbug. This is a play that imagines, half comically, from the point of view of Soviet Russia in 1929, what might have happened if someone had survived the rise of Stalin to reawaken in the future. In this production the future is now, evoked by a re-creation of Mayakovsky’s Phosphorescent Woman, done here as a video projection by Design Davros.
Smetanin’s music is thrillingly theatrical, performed by an orchestra made up of James Nightingale, Nicholas Russoniello, Rainer Saville, Michael Dixon, Matthew Harrison, Stefania Kurniawan and Joe Manton. Mayakovsky is sung by Simon Lobelson and there are fine performances by Mitchell Riley as Lenin and Stalin; Jessica O’Donoghue as Mayakovsky’s lover; Brenton Spiteri as the author who comes down from the auditorium to comment on the action; and Sarah Toth and Lotte Betts-Dean.
Croggon’s libretto draws on Mayakovsky’s poetry and plays but it is also intensely poetic and sparely lyrical in its own right. Every word counts.
Kat Henry’s production, on an impressive set by Hanna Sandgren, lit by Guy Harding, has tall panels that the characters move happily around and through when they are playing in their decadent bourgeois way at the beginning but then turn sternly to the front as the great revolution begins to oppress its artists.
This is a splendid work.
Tickets: $35. Bookings: 1300 723 038 or online. Duration: 90min, no interval. Until August 2.
By Matthew Westwood
JULY 25, 2014
Vladimir Mayakovsky was the proletarians’ poet, the bard of the Bolsheviks. With his 1915 poem A Cloud in Trousers he became the celebrated voice of Russian futurism. Another of his famous poems, Conversation With a Tax Collector About Poetry, reads in part like a communist manifesto in verse: “The working class / speaks / through my mouth, / and we, / proletarians, / are drivers of the pen.” When Lenin died in 1924 Mayakovsky eulogised him in a 3000-line poem.
He was a hugely energetic artist, a one-man Soviet cultural industry: poet, playwright, actor, graphic designer, propagandist, even a writer of jingles.
A well-known image of him, a photomontage by Alexander Rodchenko, has Mayakovsky’s domed cranium overlaid with a globe, orbited by planes like electrons or sputniks.
Sydney composer Michael Smetanin discovered Mayakovsky in the mid-1980s, some time after his return from studies with Louis Andriessen in Amsterdam, and before a symphonic standoff over his orchestral work Black Snow. Smetanin, born in Australia to Russian parents, had come across the poet at the former Soviet bookstore in Sydney.
“I liked the really interesting bag of contradictions,” Smetanin says. “He’s an artist, he has the Russian melancholia, he has the futurist ideas, but on the other hand he adheres to traditional values … He wrote propaganda for the Soviet bureaucracy, but he was never a member of the party. He despised apparatchiks and the idiocy of the bureaucracy.”
Perhaps it was only a matter of time before Smetanin wrote an opera about the poet. After a couple of false starts, his opera Mayakovsky, with a libretto by Alison Croggon, will be given its first performances next week by Sydney Chamber Opera.
Mayakovsky follows two previous biographical operas by Smetanin and Croggon: The Burrow, a “psychological profile” of Franz Kafka, and Gaugin: A Synthetic Life, about the painter. Baritone Lyndon Terracini, now head of Opera Australia, had the idea for both operas and sang the central roles.
The opera is a portrait of Mayakovsky in 18 scenes. Croggon’s libretto is a theatricalisation of some episodes from Mayakovsky’s life, including his affair with Lilya Brik, and his suicide at 36. It imagines the figures of Lenin, who was indifferent to Mayakovsky’s poetry, and Stalin, who wasn’t. Croggon has created the figure of the “Author” as a kind of shadow to Mayakovsky, who condemns the poet with the bureaucratic charge of formalism: art that is “unable to free itself from thoroughly bourgeois forms alien to Soviet art”.
Mayakovsky died — one theory claims he was assassinated — before the worst persecution of Soviet artists. Stalin would praise him as the greatest Soviet poet, a recognition that Boris Pasternak regarded as a “second death”.
“In a way, Mayakovsky is a vehicle to get to the issues that touched him, which are issues that touch all of us,” Smetanin says.
“The way that bureaucracy and government influences us and controls us and can to some extent ruin our lives … Those kinds of simple frustrations of life are the problems that Mayakovsky had in his.”
Croggon has included quotations from Mayakovsky’s poetry and drama in her libretto, with the Russian works read in recordings by actors Alex Menglet and Natalia Novikova. “Because he was so famous, there have been all sorts of things said about him, and all sorts of claims made about him,” Croggon says.
“I felt it was important to have a sense of his own voice, of his poems read in Russian.”
Mayakovsky is also embodied in the musical texture of the opera. Smetanin has used a 1914 recording of Mayakovsky reading his poem Listen. The audio clip, less than a minute long, was put through a spectral analysis and stretched to the 90-minute duration of the opera. It provides the “harmonic pathway” for the music. “The musical material is imbued with Mayakovsky’s own voice,” Smetanin says.
Just as Mayakovsky can be heard, through the hiss of a century’s noise, reading Listen in his declamatory baritone, Smetanin has cast his operatic protagonist as a baritone. To be sung by Simon Lobelson, the character’s vocal part is set in a “fairly heroic area” of the voice.
“I tried to make much of his material quite strident and forceful, the way I imagine him to be,” the composer says. “He was a funny guy, a bull in a china shop most of the time. In many ways he was socially clumsy, but he was also very charming and alluring. He was big in stature, women found him attractive. He was a kind of a movie star, really.”
Smetanin, senior lecturer of composition at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, has written chamber and orchestral music, including an award-winning piano concerto for Lisa Moore called Mysterium Cosmographicum. His 1987 orchestral work Black Snow caused a ruckus when it was subjected to a vote by musicians in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, some of whom deemed it too loud. Amid front-page headlines, the performance of the 15-minute piece went ahead. “It was overwhelmingly supported, in fact,” Smetanin says. “The sad thing was that the hands that shot up, to have it deleted from the program, were (those of) the youngest members of the orchestra. That was quite disappointing.”
He previously used texts by Mayakovsky in his 1992 song-cycle Skinless Kiss of Angels, which included settings of poems by Croggon, Daniel Keene and Jacinta le Plastrier.
By 2005, Smetanin was thinking seriously about an opera on Mayakovsky. At first, it was to be a project with Melbourne’s Chamber Made Opera, then it was commissioned by Victorian Opera’s founding artistic director, Richard Gill. When Richard Mills succeeded Gill at VO last year, he cancelled the commission.
Smetanin says Mills “canned the thing because it didn’t suit them”; Mills says the opera was not ready in time, adding the decision to cancel was “no reflection on the quality of the work”. Smetanin’s commission fee was paid in full, and VO has no claim on the work. (Croggon has another project with VO, an adaptation of Tim Winton’s The Riders, with music by Iain Grandage, which opens at Melbourne’s Malthouse in September.)
Mayakovsky was picked up by Sydney Chamber Opera, the outfit started by Louis Garrick and Jack Symonds in 2010. The opera for six singers has a small, stringless, amplified ensemble of nine, including electric guitar, saxophone, brass and electronics. (When conductor Symonds asked Smetanin about dynamic markings, the composer said “loud”.) The production is directed by Kat Henry with set and costumes by Hanna Sandgren.
“It’s a bit different from what SCO has done before,” Garrick says. “We have done that ultra-refined British thing” — recent productions have included operas by George Benjamin, Peter Maxwell Davies and Benjamin Britten — “but this is very in-your-face, which is appropriate for Mayakovsky.”
Mayakovsky is presented by Sydney Chamber Opera at Carriageworks, Sydney, July 28 to August 2.
Image: Michael Smetanin, front centre, composer of an opera based on the life of Vladimir Mayakovsky, surrounded by his cast. Picture: John Feder Source: News Corp Australia
By Melody Teh,
JULY 17, 2014
There are over a hundred awards for the arts in Australia, but there is not a single one dedicated to the art of choreography. It was this realisation that inspired philanthropist Phillip Keir to create Australia’s first major award for the sometimes overlooked and underappreciated contemporary art form. With the partnership of Sydney’s multi-arts organisation Carriageworks, Melbourne’s independent dance centre Dancehouse and the Keir Foundation, a private ancillary fund Keir established with his wife, the Keir Choreographic Awards was born.
“When I got to a certain point of setting up the [Keir] Foundation, dance was one of the first areas that I started to look at,” says Keir. “I think it’s vital and it’s very strong, and there are lots of people innovating in all kinds of form, but I felt what I could bring is to help give some of these artists and this community a higher profile.”
Keir’s two decades of experience in the media helped direct him. “What I’ve noticed is when there are cash awards, all of a sudden you get a different type of coverage and a different way of talking about these things,” he says.
Competitions bring audiences and certainly one with a generous $30,000 cash prize for the winner, as well as an additional $10,000 awarded to the audience’s favourite choice.
While there can only be one grand winner, Keir was determined to make it an award where everybody wins. Eight artists chosen from entries submitted earlier this year were commissioned to develop their ideas into 20-minute works with support from Carriageworks or Dancehouse.
For finalist Jane McKernan, who isn’t normally a fan of competitions, the experience has been wonderful. “It’s great to have money to make your own work without going through the process of writing grant applications and everything else, and to be able to rehearse at Carriageworks.”
With time and help to delve into their ideas, the eight artists then had a platform to showcase their work to judges and audiences in the semi-final performances at Dancehouse over two weeks. Out of the original eight, four finalists emerged – Atlanta Eke, Jane McKernan, Matthew Day and Sarah Aiken – and they will battle it out for the top prize in the finals held at Carriageworks on July 19.
Carriageworks director, Lisa Havilah, is excited to be hosting the finals, particularly as she’s been impressed with the bold new works by the artists. “[While choreography] does come from that form of contemporary dance practice, there’s been really experimental work that moves between sculptural practices, video practices and contemporary dance practices,” says Havilah. “It’s really great that the award is a new thing so it doesn’t have any parameters around it.”
Strict parameters and rules is precisely what Keir doesn’t want.
“We’ve taken the broadest possible definition of what choreography is,” he says. Keir wanted the awards to be as open as possible so artists from all disciplines, not just a conventional dance background, would be inspired to create original works. “People have come from visual arts, from music, as well as from dance,” adds Keir, although the “choreographic question” of concept and process is still key.
The judging panel includes Swedish choreographer Mårten Spångberg, New York curator Matthew Lyons, director of Melbourne Festival Josephine Ridge, Australian choreographer Becky Hilton, as well as Keir himself. The mix of international and national judges coming from different disciplines is again a measure to ensure the process is fair.
“By having two international judges, it meant there were people from outside who wouldn’t necessarily know the local artists,” says Keir. The diverse judging panel would hopefully help artists concentrate on their own ideas and not be constrained by the thought “if I want to be successful I need to make that sort of work to fit in with that kind of judge,” says Keir.
It’s not just the judges’ opinions that matter, though, with the audience getting a say in the audience choice award. It’s a prize that Keir hopes will create a public conversation around contemporary choreography.
“We wanted to make it a way of talking about choreography. When people see four pieces in an evening, they can decide if they like one because of that or didn’t like that one so much because of that,” he says.
McKernan, a choreographer and dancer herself, encourages audiences to ask questions and speak to all of the choreographers. “It’s good to hear feedback,” she says.
With eight new experimental works coming out of the Keir Choreographic Awards, it is an award less about the prizes and more about experiencing the many possibilities in the independent dance sector.
“I hope that these artists go on to bigger and greater things, and I hope the pieces extend to larger works,” says Keir. But most of all, Keir hopes the awards will initiate new audiences into the sometimes strange but always fascinating world of contemporary choreography. (MT)
Jul 17-19, Carriageworks, 245 Wilson St, Eveleigh, $35, carriageworks.com.au
Image: Angela Koh and Lizzie Thomson from Jane McKernan’s entry. Photo: Chris Peken
By Philippa Hawker
JULY 10, 2014
“Awards are a little bit like executions in the 18th century,” says Marten Spangberg. ”They bring in an audience.’’
Spangberg is a member of the judging panel for the Keir Choreographic Award, a new biennial prize in the contemporary dance area. He has come from Sweden to take part in the penultimate stage of the process. Eight works are now being presented in front of judges and audiences at Melbourne’s Dancehouse. Four semi-finalists will be announced on Sunday and the finals will be at Sydney’s Carriageworks from July 16 to 19.
This might sound like a So You Think You Can Choreograph situation - but talking to Spangberg and a fellow judge, Melbourne choreographer and teacher Becky Hilton, it becomes clear that they are taking a broad view of where the award might lead.
When she became involved, Hilton says, “to me the appealing thing was that eight people would get resources and money to start making something’’.
The award is funded by the Keir Foundation, set up by entrepreneur and philanthropist Phillip Keir. He came up with the idea, he says, ‘‘because I wanted to give a much higher profile to contemporary choreography. I noticed that in Australia alone there are about 150 prizes of various sorts, and it suddenly occurred to me that there wasn’t a single award in the contemporary choreographic space” - apart from broad-based performing arts awards.
He wanted a national award with an equitable judging process. From this came the idea of commissions, so that works could be judged in the same place at the same time. ‘‘Is competition a good message to send to artists?’’ he asked himself, and decided that if it were in the form of new commissions, with financial support, then the answer was yes.
He also decided that the process should take “every two years, which seems more sustainable - if you did it every year, the cycle would be too tight”.
The award includes a cash prize of $30,000; there is also an audience choice award of $10,000.
Submissions were invited earlier this year: they had to come from professional artists with an established practice, who were asked to provide a five-minute video pitch with a choreographic idea of 20 minutes’ duration.
Seventy-seven applications came from dancers, choreographers and visual artists around Australia. In April, eight finalists were announced, a mixture of dancers, choreographers and visual artists: Matthew Day, Atlanta Eke, Shaun Gladwell, James Batchelor, Sarah Aiken, Brooke Stamp, Tim Darbyshire and Jane McKernan.
The submission process was very open, Hilton says, compared to the narrower restrictions that funding bodies require - and that undoubtedly encourages creativity.
Having seen the first four performances, she says, “There is an energy about what I’m seeing. You can feel that the work is really new and unsettled.” She would like to think that longer works could be developed or commissioned from the award performances.
The judging panel is a mixture of local and international names: alongside Spangberg, Hilton and Keir, are Matthew Lyons, a curator from New York’s culture hub The Kitchen, and Josephine Ridge, creative director of the Melbourne Festival. The international presence is important, Hilton says, ‘‘because we get really hermetic here. We are an island, we are a long way away, we get the same people on the same panels.’’
As to the competitive aspect, Hilton and Spangberg are keen to put it in a context. For Spangberg, “evaluation and jury work can be seen as a kind of mode of production rather than selection. What I am doing here, since I have nothing to lose, is also passing over bits and pieces of a canon from Europe, bits and pieces of knowledge that I think can be relevant and interesting for people here.”
The Keir Award is a unique event, but there is also an element of continuity with what he does every day, he says. First of all, he started out as a dance critic and spent six years filing reviews for a newspaper: secondly, “in the studio we make decisions, selections, choices all the time”.
The judges’ decisions, Hilton says, will emerge “not by a coming up with series of scores that someone goes away and tallies. It’s going to happen in conversation, in relationship to each other and all our different histories.”
And judging by the lively to and fro between Spangberg and Hilton, it is going to be an interesting, intense, wide-ranging conversation. They range over, among other things, the nature of choice, the exercise of judgment, the essence of a competitive situation, the timing of decisions, the importance of intuition and the difference between a choreographic award and the World Cup. And they come back, more than once, to what that hope the enterprise can lead to.
“Normally what an award does is that it produces mainstream stuff - right?” says Spangberg. For the Keir Award, “it would be great if it could produce experimental work”.
The Keir Choreographic Award semi-finals run until July 13 at Melbourne’s Dancehouse. The finals are at Sydney’s Carriageworks from July 16 to 19.
Image: Dancers James Batchelor and Sarah Aiken with philanthropist Phillip Keir, founder of the Keir Choreographic Award. Photo: Paul Jeffers
By Matthew Westwood
JULY 8, 2014
Artists and their friends will not have failed to notice the rapidly shifting dynamics of arts funding in this country. In the next month or so, the Australia Council for the Arts will publish its new strategic plan and grants model, intended to be more responsive to novel ideas and practice.
It follows a 2012 review of the agency that identified plains of “unfunded excellence”, meaning artists whose work was formally excluded from more strictly defined funding streams.
At the same time, governments are increasingly leaning on the private sector to supplement state subsidy: the first Coalition budget in May revised down Australia Council funding from $218.7 million to $211.7m. The biggest arts companies — those with the largest artist payroll and audience share — are likely to be affected less by these changes than independent artists. How the new funding model plays out won’t be fully known until the first new-look grants are awarded next year.
So it is encouraging — and in many cases inspiring — when private money takes the initiative to support individual artists.
Private philanthropy is like the venture capital of arts funding. It seeks opportunities for investment, is moved by passion and entrepreneurial instinct rather than policy outcomes, and its effects can be rapid and transformative. Witness the recent work of some philanthropic families in the cultural sphere, such as the Mordants in Sydney, the Wheelers in Melbourne and the Forrests in Perth.
An interesting dimension of philanthropy is the way its acts of benefaction may resemble or differ from the state subsidy system. Private foundations may choose to offer support through discretionary grants or a competitive round of applications.
They may free themselves from the bureaucratic acquittal process that many artists find an onerous aspect of public grants. And bodies such as the Keir Foundation and the Sidney Myer Fund say they can be more nimble than government funding agencies, better able to respond to opportunities.
“Philanthropy generally is much more comfortable at the cutting edge, dealing in the area of innovation, in tackling new models in social welfare, for instance, that if they are proven successful, the government might in subsequent years pick up,” says arts identity Carrillo Gantner, chairman of the Sidney Myer Fund.
“It sometimes deals with things that some might think are politically controversial, because it doesn’t have to worry about the democratic process and getting votes for what it does.”
The Sidney Myer Fund — named for the retail pioneer who left a tenth of his estate to the community — several years ago reorganised its arts programs and in 2011 established the Sidney Myer Creative Fellowships.
The fellowships come with an income of $160,000 over two years, intended to motivate mid-career artists to keep at their creative work and not disappear into more financially secure careers.
The Myer fellowships are peer-assessed in confidence and in this way resemble government grants: Gantner says the formal adjudication gives the fellowships rigour and legitimacy.
The two-year income, he says, allows artists “time to pause, think, create, to go down an avenue” without tying themselves to a specific project.
The fellows are indeed a diverse bunch, including composers Eugene Ughetti and Paul Stanhope, theatremakers Chris Kohn and Matthew Whittet, and multidisciplinary researcher Danielle Wilde. Wilde — whose fellowship has involved her ongoing multidisciplinary work with the body, neuroscience and design, as well as a motorbike — says the Myer fellowships allow deep thinking without the pressure to produce a defined outcome.
No wonder she has found the experience so liberating.
The Keir Foundation, set up by former Rolling Stone publisher Phillip Keir in 2004, is another philanthropic body doing creative work in the arts and with human rights projects in East Timor.
Typically, Keir chooses the arts projects he wants the foundation to support, and thereby avoids the cost of processing applications. Among the ventures he supports are Geelong’s Back to Back Theatre and Ahilan Ratnamohan’s theatre piece about African migrant footballers, Michael Essien I Want to Play as You… (both of which have recently appeared at the LIFT theatre festival in London, where Keir is a director).
Keir started his latest project, the Keir Choreographic Award, because there was no other cash prize for contemporary dance-makers. There were 77 entries, and the shortlisted eight were each commissioned to make a 20-minute performance.
The short works are being shown in two separate programs at Melbourne’s Dancehouse, before a final round at Carriageworks in Sydney. The award comes with a $30,000 prize and a $10,000 audience prize.
Before he embarked on his publishing business, Keir was a theatre director and studied for a time in New York in the late 1970s; there, he observed the collaborations between such figures as choreographer Merce Cunningham, composer John Cage and artist Robert Rauschenberg.
With the choreographic award, he wants to encourage a similar meeting of genres and disciplines: hence the surprising entry of video artist Shaun Gladwell in a competition ostensibly for dance-makers.
Keir also wanted the award to be a catalyst for collaboration between funding bodies and venues. He has provided $80,000 for the award, matched by the Australia Council, and with admin and technical support from the two venues. Dancehouse artistic director Angela Conquet says the Keir award is the first private investment in such a project for contemporary dance.
Keir, who will sit on the panel of five local and international judges, says he generally likes to bring his expertise to the projects he supports.
He would like the biennial award to produce danceworks that could be developed to full length. Indeed, some of the entries are already being eyed for possible future seasons.
“One of the desires to come out of the choreographic award is that we bring in practitioners from outside conventional dance, who would not normally be funded by the (Australia Council) dance board,” Keir says.
“That’s hopefully where the foundation can be a bit more nimble, because we don’t have to work in a silo.”
The Australia Council also offers a fellowship program, with $100,000 for established artists and $60,000 for emerging artists. Similar to some of those projects supported by the Myer fund, recent Australia Council Fellowships have tended to go to artists who work in multi-art form projects; indeed, this may be indicative of the new grant structures being implemented at the Australia Council.
But the use of taxpayers’ money is necessarily controlled, and grants are awarded according to clearly stated objectives.
Private philanthropists can in some ways be more adventurous in the way they support artists. Indeed, many are highly imaginative players in this area, investing in projects and individuals that in turn bring benefits to the creative sector and its audience.
As governments retreat from subsidy, the smart money is watching savvy cultural entrepreneurs like these.
The return on investment? Just watch how many artists being supported by the private sector turn up in major festivals and exhibitions.
Says Keir: “People fund things because they want something to happen. I am not involved in arts philanthropy because I am trying to fill a gap; I am interested in the work itself.”
Program two of the Keir Choreographic Award is at Dancehouse, Melbourne, July 10-13. The final round is at Carriageworks, Sydney, July 17-19.
Image: Phillip Keir with judges Matthew Lyons, rear left, and Marten Spangberg and dancers Tim Darbyshire, Atlanta Eke and Matthew Day during rehearsals at the Dancehouse in Melbourne. Source: News Corp Australia
By S. Shatkhidharan
JULY 8, 2014
These last few months we have finally gone into production for Rizzy’s Maharajah’s 18th Birthday Party. This artwork combines the experience of attending a cinema screening with attending a live music concert - so it’s a production heavy work.
We shot the film component of the artwork - the equivalent of shooting a feature film - in just 9 (very, very long) days in May. About 50 people came together for the shoot - approximately 20 cast and 30 crew. Professional actors, cinematography and sound were supplemented by an amazing batch of young people from Western Sydney who filled up all the other roles with a professionalism well beyond their years. Here are some images from the final day of our shoot - which showcase a street football scene that opens the film.
Costumes and Catering Station
Aimee Falzon, Production Designer (foreground) and S. Shakthidharan, Co-Writer and Director (background)
Guido Gonzalez, Co-Writer and Director
Vincent Tay, Cinematographer
Our second camera being manned by Adam Mcphilbin, a young filmmaker from our CuriousCreators community group
Cast and Crew
Straight after the shoot, Aimee and I went into Carriageworks to built the musical framework for the show. Over two weeks, we composed the songs and assembled the structure for the work from an audio point of view. Here are some images from our time there:
Needless to say, it’s been an intense ride!
After a well deserved rest, I am now following a parallel post-production path: editing the film and the music in tandem, so as to prepare for a balanced, audiovisual performance.
I’m really happy with the images and sounds we’ve created thus far, and I can’t wait to share the show with you this October!
Images: Kristina Savic
S. Shakthidharan is the inaugural Carriageworks Associate Artist. Carriageworks will support and collaborate with Shakthidharan over the next three years to undertake a diverse program of professional development and mentorship that will underpin the development of a series of new Australian works. Shakthidharan’s practice focuses on collaboration with some of Australia’s most marginalised communities and the telling of Australian stories from ancient to contemporary migration from South and South East Asia to Australia.
Sarah’s recent work has dealt with representation, exploring metaphor at its most obvious and often at its most absurd. Her piece will be a development of this ongoing research, navigating the body and objects in relation to the myriad of actual and socially constructed meanings that exist. The Body interacts with objects, costume and abstract and representational movement. By considering how we value and revalue the inanimate, the work brings attention to how we read the animate body.
Sarah Aiken is a Melbourne based dance artist originally from Bellingen, NSW. Aiken graduate from VCA with a Bachelor of Dance in 2009. Since graduation she has pursued a wide range of experiences to develop her practice as a dancer, teacher and maker, drawing inspiration from choreographic and somatic practices, travel, conceptual and visual arts. Sarah has performed in a wide variety of shows including Natalie Abbott’s PHYSICAL FRACTALS (DanceMassive 2013 ) and Jo Lloyd’s 24hr NOISE (2013) and work by Shian Law, Carlee Mellow, James Welsby, Brooke Stamp and Aphids, Deanne Butterworth/Linda Tegg & Ben Speth. Aiken is a recipient of Australia Council for the Arts, ArtStart, and Ian Potter Cultural Trust Fund. Choreographic work includes Set (Lucy Guerin Inc. Piece’s for Small Spaces, 2013), Now Something Really Final (K77, Berlin 2012), JurassicArc (Dancehouse, Melbourne Fringe 2012) and DanceMusic (Dancehouse, 2010), as well as a range of collaborative and interdisciplinary projects across music, film, fashion and visual arts.
James’ piece is a hybrid dance and visual arts performance, aiming to determine how movement and structural design can evolve and develop simultaneously as a live performance piece. The process will investigate how the body inhabits its environment and responds to physical boundaries of space. The audience will witness a dialogue between movement and structure as the performers and the visual artist respond to the dynamic process as it unfolds.
James Batchelor is a performer, choreographer and installation artist from Canberra now based in Melbourne. His choreographic practice hybridises performance and visual arts, working site specifically to create dynamic and multisensory environments. He has developed and presented works in Australia, France, United Kingdom and Thailand and has been supported through grants from Arts ACT, Arts Victoria, Australia Council and City of Melbourne. He is the 2014 Dancehouse Housemate and is currently devising a new series of work called Island combining dance with architecture. As a performer he has worked with choreographers such as Sue Healey (Inevitable Scenarios, Sydney Opera House and Arts House), Antony Hamilton (Black Project 2, Dance Massive) and Stephanie Lake (Aorta, Chunky Move). He completed a Bachelor of Dance at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2012. He was the recipient of the VCA Graduate Mentor Scholarship, Joy Nicholls Scholarship, Dr Phillip Law Travel Scholarship, Lionel Gell Scholarship and the Friends of VCA Award. He has also been awarded Canberra Young Citizen of the Year for Arts.
Tim’s piece will examine grey areas between thought, representation, dialogue and emotional manipulation of the audience. His artistic team will work closely with texts from poetic, academic and theatrical realms and will experiment with dialogue techniques used in cinema and theatre such as spoken word, subtitles, voice-overs and dubbing. These explorations around text will coincide with visual and choreographic languages drawn from the sport of fencing, exercise classes such as yoga or pilates, body languages and recognisable facial expressions which have been developed through theatre and cinema.
Tim Darbyshire graduated from Dance at Queensland University of Technology (2003). His education has continued through programs including DanceWEB (Scholarship recipient in 2006 and 2009), Formation d’artiste Chorégraphique at Centre National de Danse Contemporaine (France 2006-2007) and Victoria University’s Solo Residency program (2008). In Europe he has worked for choreographers including Vera Mantero, Emmanuelle Huyhn, Nuno Bizarro, Shelley Senter, Meg Stuart, David Wampach, Marianne Baillot, Antonio Julio, Christine de Schmedt and Eszter Salamon. Since 2009, Darbyshire has developed his projects through several residencies including the Dancehouse Housemate program. In 2012 he presented More or Less Concrete at Arts House in Melbourne, a project that he remounted for Dance Massive and has since attracted international interest for further presentations. He recently undertook an Asialink Residency in China and is currently collaborating as a performer on Matthew Day’s MASS (working title) and developing his new work Stampede the Stampede, which will premiere in Dance Massive 2015. Later in 2014 he will undertake opportunities in Europe including an IETM residency program and an exchange project between Australian and Finnish choreographers.
Matthew and team will work on a solo interpretation of the Rite of Spring where all the different elements and intensities of the score are mapped onto his body to imagine a kind of schizo-body, one that is capable of becoming many things at any one moment in time. Using Stravinsky’s score and the few remaining fragments of Nijinsky’s choreography, the research will focus on the tension between discontinuity and fragmentation on one hand, and the forces of repetition and continuity embedded in this work on the other.
Matthew Day is interested in the potential of choreography to imagine unorthodox relationships and propose new ways of being human. Utilising a minimalist approach Day often works with duration and repetition, approaching the body as a site of infinite potential and choreography as a field of energetic intensity and exchange. Day’s work is invested in the proliferate potential of choreography to contribute unique forms of knowledge to cultural discourse and enable affective experiences. He draws heavily from the visual arts, in particular painting and cinema that challenge traditional notions of image, object and body. Raised in Sydney, Matthew was a teenage ballroom dancing champion. He went on to study Dance and Performance Studies at the University of Western Sydney and at the Victorian College of the Arts, before collaborating with students at the School for New Dance Development, NL. Day has been artist in residence, and presented his work extensively in Australia and Europe. He is currently based in Melbourne.
Atlanta’s piece aims to operate as an allegory of how to be ‘present’. To be in the ‘here and now’, is often to be corrupted by traditions from the past and strategies aiming at success in the future. The work will explore the paradox of how the ‘present’ is a point of transition from the past to the future as well as a place for the permanent rewriting of both past and future. It will do this through exploring the tension between a performance and the documentation of a performance, by making them one in the same.
Atlanta Eke is an Australian dancer and choreographer. Since 2006, Eke has presented her experimental work throughout Australia and Europe in a variety of formats. She has worked with artists such as Xavier Le Roy, Ros Warby, Lucy Guerin, and Deborah Hay among others. In 2010, Eke received the DANCEWEB scholarship at ImPulsTanz Festival Vienna. She performed for Sidney Leoni in Undertones at Tamz in August Berlin and Mårten Spångberg’s Page 74, ImPulsTanz Festival Vienna. In 2011, she was a Melbourne Next Wave Kickstart Program recipient and was commissioned by Lucy Guerin Inc to produce a new work for Pieces For Small Spaces. In 2012, the artist was the 2012 Dancehouse Research Housemate resident with Swedish artist Emma Kim Hagdalh and was an Australia Council for the Arts 2012 ArtStart Grant recipient. Atlanta Eke has recently been nominated for a Green Room Award for her performance in her work MONSTER BODY that has been presented at the 2012 SEXES Festival Performance Space Sydney, 2013 Dance Massive Festival Melbourne, MONA FOMA Festival Hobart, 2013 MDT Stockholm, 2013 BACKFLIP Feminism and Humour in Contemporary Art, Margaret Lawrence Gallery and the Fierce Festival in Birmingham.
Shaun’s piece is directly informed by his experience as the Australian War Memorial official war artist in Afghanistan in 2009. The piece will analyse and meditate on the gestures of soldiers operating under pressure within the field and in training. The piece will also subtly incorporate forms of ‘Attan’ dance found in Afghanistan and specifically the Warziro and Khattak (in which performers dance with their weapon). The work will paradoxically attempt to articulate the ineffability of war and associated trauma through movement.
Shaun Gladwell is a contemporary artist working within a wide range of mediums. Key concerns of all Gladwell’s activity is the way human beings critically and creatively respond to their immediate environments. Gladwell’s artwork critically engages emerging languages of movement such as skateboarding, BMX riding, break dancing and parkour. An ongoing concern of Shaun’s practice is to consider these activities and others (soldiering) as forms of dance. Shaun Gladwell critically analyses and celebrates the body in a wide range of media such as performance, video installation, film (for cinema), painting, sculpture, printmaking and photography. Most of his artworks are generated from a direct involvement and ongoing personal relationship to urban movement and he often performs in his own work. Recently, Shaun Gladwell has collaborated with Zambian, Belgian choreographer, Lindy Nsingo. He also developed a live piece with Branch Nebula titled Paradise City in 2007. Gladwell has exhibited extensively throughout Australia, Europe, Asia and the Americas. His work has been included in many internal survey exhibitions.
Jane’s piece is an exploration of the concept of unison. It will have an emphasis on ‘liveness’ and the live transferal of choreographic information between four dancers. It will work with the notion of a ‘group body’ but with a sense of agency for the individual dancers. It will seek to destabilise the established understanding of unison in dance, and instead focus on making an agreement.
Jane McKernan is a choreographer, performer and member of The Fondue Set. Recent projects include a research residency through Critical Path based on ideas of group movement; a Dance4 residency in Nottingham, UK; One Thing Follows Another, a collaboration with sound artist Gail Priest; Opening and Closing Ceremony, a site specific dance solo presented by Performance Space; and a collaboration with US choreographer Miguel Gutierrez and The Fondue Set presented at Carriageworks. McKernan was the 2011 Robert Helpmann scholar, and spent six months in Europe working with Kate McIntosh, Antje Pfundtner and Wendy Houstoun. She also too part in the Matchpoint Asia Pacific exchange, and presented her work at HAU, Berlin. Jane edited the first edition of the Critical Dialogues journal.
Brooke’s piece examines the legacy of modern dance in current live performance practice. It will act as a ‘conceptual re-embodiment’ of the important transition guided by prominent early modern dance pioneers such as Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham. This work will dissect her innate instinct to move forward and ‘tear away’, as they did, from the burden of information embedded in her body and practice, which is paradoxically bound by these womensʼ legacy.
Brooke Stamp maintains a rigorous practice as a performer, choreographer and teacher, while continuing the development of her own solo practice and interdisciplinary collaborations throughout Australia and overseas. She has been collaborating with Phillip Adams BalletLab since its inception and most recently presented her inaugural commission project for the company, And All Things Return to Nature. She has also performed with Gideon Obarzanek for Chunky Move, Shelley Lasica, Rebecca Hilton and visual artists Lane Cormick and Agatha Gothe-Snape. Her solo work includes Orbit Score for Yoko for Lucy Guerinʼs Pieces for Small Spaces (2009); Venus Devotional 2010 at the MCG as part of the 2010 Next Wave Festival; Metaverse Makeover, curated by Thea Baumann for the LʼOreal Melbourne Fashion Festivalʼs 2011 cultural program; and Unified Field for fifteen VCA students (2011). In 2005, Stamp was awarded a Professional Skills and Development Award from the Australia Council for the Arts, and lived in New York from 2005 to 2007. In 2010, Brooke spent two months in residency at the Performing Arts Forum in France, supported by Besen Family Foundation. With Luke George, Stamp curates dance discourse event “First Run” at Lucy Guerin Inc.
THE JURY OF THE INAUGURAL KEIR CHREOGRAPHIC AWARD
Entries for the Award closed in February with an overwhelmingly high calibre of entries from all over Australia.The international and national line-up of judges includes a range of voices from the artistic community, from visual art through to dance from Australia and around the world including:
Mårten Spångberg, the acclaimed ‘bad boy’ of contemporary dance pushing the boundaries of the art form in polite society;
Matthew Lyons, curator at experimental cultural hub The Kitchen in New York;
Josephine Ridge Creative Director of Melbourne Festival and one of Australia’s most experienced arts identities;
Becky Hilton a leading Australian choreographer, director and teacher for festivals and companies nationally and internationally;
Phillip Keir, The Keir Foundation Director and founder of the Award.
These artists will perform at Dancehouse Melbourne 3 - 6 July & 10 - 13 July, where four chosen works will then be selected to progress on to the finals at Carriageworks.
This project is presented by Carriageworks, Dancehouse, the Keir Foundation and has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.
KEIR CHOREOGRAPHIC AWARD
17 - 19 JUL 2014, 8PM
By Ghenoa Gela
JULY 1, 2014
Helllllllloooo!! I’m back with another update to the happenings the last month or so. It started getting real hectic, end of April time, when I had my two last solid rehearsal chunks before heading to Melbourne to perform in the Next Wave Festival. Thanks to the school holiday’s falling in my rehearsal period, the Alexandria Park School let me use their High School assembly hall as my rehearsal space. It was awesome!! It was really spacious, had lights that worked and even had a car park. The rehearsals went really good, the only thing that was frustrating me, was my process. See, I had the middle – think I got that one made itself to be honest! Lol..- then soon after I figured out the start. The only thing that had me scratchin’ me head and lying on the floor was the ending of the show. Well, not that I didn’t have one, I think I had many! With help from my many-a-floating mentors I found myself having conversations about the show looking for solutions and at the end of it have more questions! This being my first full show (well.. 45mins show) I didn’t know you had to leave people with ‘something to think about’. All I wanted to do was just create a show of my own and it seemed to me, at the end of the day, I was meant to create a show for other people.
So, with the rehearsals over, we (Andrea Adidi, Melanie Palomares, Mel Tyquin and myself) flew down to Melbourne. Still with no idea on ‘what to say’ or whether I really wanted to say ‘anything’ I still had no real ending. As a recipient of the Speakeasy program through Darebin Arts at the Northcote Townhall (phew… mouthful) we were able to get in a week before show time to rehearse in the space. Fortunate to say, throughout the processes of rehearsing in the space, time closing in around me with pressure of show time and the fear of not having an ending… It finally happened. It’s hard wearing so many ‘hats’! I mean, gees, it was hard to be the outside eye and critical and be ‘in’ the work as well. But, hey, you do what you do and you learn what you learn right? So, with the end of the show at hand we were ready for some show time. Opening night was AMAZING!! Had packed house and my Mum and little brother managed to fly down from QLD for it!
All ’n’ all, the week was successful! We had people at every show, learnt about things that you never realize you need when you’re performing for someone else and made some real good mates and memories! I’m hoping the next one I make will – with some of the processes - be easier. My work ‘Winds of Woerr’ that premiered at the Next Wave Festival, with my amazing team, I am happy to finally realize and say… It was a success. Where it goes to from here, well.. hopefully someone saw it and found it interesting or exciting enough to want it go on to future endeavors. So, here’s to hoping, but not to waiting. I’m already wanting to create some more.
Ghenoa is Carriageworks and the Alexandria Park Community School’s inaugural artist in residence.
By Carmen Cita
JUNE 22, 2014
Talk of protest and civil disobedience usually conjures thoughts of distant ideologues like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. Unbeknownst to many Australians we have our own rich and unsung history of civil rights activism right here in Sydney.
In an homage to the founding heroes of the Aboriginal civil rights movement, a provocative new exhibition arrives at Carriageworks.
Programmed to coincide with NAIDOC Week, Hereby Make Protest explores and celebrates the spirit of activism that ignited and now propels the quest for Indigenous self-determination and equality.
Featuring archival documents, letters and petitions alongside new works by contemporary Indigenous artists, Nicole Foreshew, Jacob Nash and Karla Dickens, the exhibition honours the legacy of the Australian Aboriginal Progressive Association (AAPA) and the Aborigines Progressive Association (APA).
Wiradjuri artist Karla Dickens has produced two installations for the exhibition: Assimilated Warriors, a salute to the early faceless warriors who fought for Aboriginal equality and Demanding a Voice is Tiresome, an acknowledgement of the unseen women of the movement.
Dickens says, “My work pays tribute to my forefathers and mothers, who worked towards a fair deal. It takes great courage to scratch at the shadows of silence within a dominant discourse of denial, betrayal and abuse.”
Reflecting on the motivations of these pioneers, Dickens adds, “There is a power in asserting objection, in disapproving of the obvious injustices, pains and truths of those who are unheard. Protest is about giving voice, standing shoulder to shoulder.”
Established in 1924, the AAPA fought tirelessly for Indigenous self-determination. Influenced by the Black Nationalism teachings of Marcus Garvey in the United States, AAPA president Fred Maynard campaigned against the New South Wales Aborigines Protection Board (NSWAPB) and its practice of removing Aboriginal children from their families.
Petitions and protestations from the AAPA gained wide media coverage and public support. At its peak, the association comprised eleven branches with more than 500 active members.
Unable to withstand an NSWAPB-sponsored smear campaign and frequent police harassment, the AAPA dissolved in 1927. But the groundswell of support did not die with the association.
Ten years later, civil rights activists Jack Patten and Bill Ferguson joined forces to form the APA. The top three items on the APA agenda were full citizenship rights for Aboriginal Australians, Aboriginal representation in Parliament and abolition of the NSWAPB.
In 1938, APA marked Australia Day with a protest, declaring the sesquicentenary a National Day of Mourning for Aboriginal Australians, bereaved of their land and cultural identity.
The new Carriageworks exhibition takes its name from the official resolution made at the Day of Mourning Conference on January 26, 1938.
Carriageworks artistic associate, Andrea James explains, “On that day, the APA took a stand against unfair treatment of the Aborigines of Australia, declaring, with firm and solemn voice, ‘We are gathered here today and we hereby make protest’ – it was a fantastic rallying cry.”
Ms James is a descendant of the Yorta Yorta and Kurnai Aboriginal nations. As exhibition curator, she sees Hereby Make Protest as an important nod to the founding organisations of the Aboriginal civil rights movement.
“Both organisations sparked off here in Sydney. We want to put people in touch with important local knowledge. The iconic Day of Mourning happened right here in our backyard,” she says.
Hereby Make Protest is the third in a series of social history projects that all aim to connect visitors to local Aboriginal history by engaging and educating people through contemporary Aboriginal art.
Though not always intentionally, the theme of protest inhabits much of artist Dickens’ work. She explains, “I’m not a politician, I’m an artist, a storyteller. With my art, I talk about my personal experiences. I don’t set out to make political statements. I am political, simply because I am who I am – a single mother, a lesbian, a first Australian.
“I am at a point in my life where I have a hell of a lot to say. Art is my voice – art is how I protest.”
Dickens was awarded the prestigious 2013 Parliament of NSW Aboriginal Art Prize for her work, Day of Mourning. The work is comprised of a salvaged Australian flag embroidered with crosses, representing the sense of loss and pain that the artist feels each year on January 26th.
Before winning the $40,000 prize, Karla’s artwork drew criticism from social commentator Andrew Bolt on 2GB.
“After Andrew Bolt and Steve Price mentioned my artwork, I was targeted by white power rednecks. I started receiving abusive emails. Somebody hacked into my computer, forcing me to take my website down.”
Just as the APA had stirred the NSWAPB with their protestations in 1927, Dickens touched a nerve with her art.
“When this happened, I realised the breadth and the impact of the political, social and ideological statement that I had made with my art. The hostile response validated the sense of grief that inspired the piece of art in the first place,” says Dickens. (CC)
Until Jul 18, Carriageworks, 245 Wilson St, Eveleigh, free, carriageworks.com.au
Image: Hereby Make Protest, 2014, Carriageworks, Sydney. Works by Karla Dickens, Nicole Foreshew and Jacob Nash. Photo: Zan Wimberley
By Larissa Behrendt
A new exhibition mixes historical documentation with modern interpretation of key Aboriginal activists
In the old rail yards of Carriageworks, one of the more interesting venues in inner-city Sydney, Hereby Make Protest is an exhibition that mixes historical documentation held by the NSW State Library and new work by Aboriginal artists Karla Dickens, Nicole Foreshew and Jacob Nash.
Jack Patten, Fred Maynard, William Cooper and William Ferguson should be household names. They established the Australian Aboriginal Progressive Association in 1924 that became the Aborigines Progressive Association in 1937. These organisations gave Aboriginal Australians their first national voice, established the first Indigenous newspaper and ran political campaigns, including the now iconic Day of Mourning held outside Australia Hall in 1938.
Included in the exhibition are neatly typed letters to premiers and mission managers, petitions and meeting minutes. This material shows strong objections to the policy of removing Aboriginal children, the racial segregation that dominated their lives and claims to equal citizenship rights. There are also clearly articulated seeds of subsequent political movements, namely, the modern land rights movement and self-determination.
This eloquent articulation, from the strongest voices of their generation, of social, economic and political aspirations, has an almost haunting ring in that they mirror contemporary claims, reminding us that we have only gone so far in finding the rightful place of Aboriginal people and their rights in a modern Australia.
Just as interesting and provocative as these documents are the contemporary reflections on the legacy of this political movement by Dickens, Foreshew and Nash.
The dominant image in the space is the installation by Nash. A sea of ochre-painted shoes builds his Walk in Protest and pays homage to the street marches of the 1920s and 1930s and their link to current protests. It is a stark reminder that large political movements are made up of individuals walking as a crowd and in the same direction. The second-hand shoes are haunting reminders of lives lived and now passed, a salute to a past generation that left its own legacy behind.
Nash’s installation points towards Foreshew’s new media work that loops stark landscapes with lone figures. Evocative of Ricky Maynard’s wild but fecund photography of the Tasmanian landscape, there is an unsettling moodiness in the terrain and the occasional lone figure that walks it. The positioning of the two pieces create an atmosphere of one meditating on the other.
Dickens has also produced two significant pieces. Assimilated Warriors is a complex but powerful installation. Bejewelled, feathered and encrusted masks appear warrior-like but also feel ceremonial and celebratory, sitting alongside suit jackets on empty hooks, adorned with feathers and woven possum. They have a sombre dignity as they express the tensions and the difficulties of being caught between two worlds.
Demanding a Voice is Tiresome is an elegant piece. A quilt with printing and embroidery, it is a tribute to the often forgotten work of women in the movement. They are the quiet achievers sitting behind the scenes, supporting male leaders.
Redfern has always been a hotbed of political activity and, under Lisa Havilah’s directorship, Carriageworks has worked to engage in the local history as part of its engagement with and contribution to the local community. Hereby Make Protest is a fitting acknowledgment of Redfern’s political influence and roots. It is also a reminder of the rich cultural and political history around the city of Sydney and an opportunity to pay tribute to a long fight for justice.
Image 1: A modern meditation on political activity from the past. Photograph: Zan Wimberley
Image 2: Artwork from Hereby Make Protest. Photograph: Zan Wimberley
By Sarah Thomas
JUNE 16, 2014
Esther Carroll was three when she was photographed in this groundbreaking image from the first Day of Mourning in 1938.
Now a spritely 78, what does she think of her family’s involvement in this controversial moment in Australia’s history? ‘‘I just thought they were cheeky buggers,’’ she says.
The image, taken outside the Australian Hall on Elizabeth Street, is part of the exhibition Hereby Make Protest that aims to highlight the fighting spirit and challenging voices of the Australian Aboriginal Progressive Association from the 1920s and the Aborigines Progressive Association from the 1930s.
The day the photograph was taken, January 26, 1938, was the 150th anniversary of the First Fleet arriving in Australia. ‘‘It blows my mind to think, did I live that long?’’ says Carroll, a retired healthcare worker who lives in Enmore. She doesn’t remember the day, but she remembers the era, the conditions on the mission stations and how Aboriginal people were controlled.
The protest was organised by the APA to coincide with the anniversary “of the whiteman’s seizure of our country” and protest against “the callous treatement of our people”, calling for education, recognition as full citizens and equality. It is thought to be the first Aboriginal civil rights gathering.
Carroll is pictured with three of her siblings and her mother Louisa Agnes Ingram OAM. Also pictured are campaigners William Ferguson, Jack Patten and Jack Kinchela.
‘‘To me, they were brave men [and women],’’ says Carroll. ‘‘They could have been deprived of their rations, they could have been jailed, been ostracised. Mother was told by the police that she had a big mouth… the gameness, the insight they had to continue with that.’’
‘‘If this country can now look at that side of it and pay respects to it, I would be pleased about that.’’
Hereby Make Protest is part of a continuing social history program at Carriageworks. Curator Andrea James says places such as Australian Hall are locations people pass every day but have no idea of the historical significance ‘‘and what an audacious and very brave protest [this event] was at that time’’.
‘‘It’s an opportunity for us to really give thanks to the bravery and strength, and the fighting spirit of those men and women and to reflect upon for Aboriginal people, what we’ve gained, but also what is yet to come, what is still to be achieved,” says James.
‘‘So many people know about Malcom X and all those American civil rights activists that are so well known, but it’s an absolute travesty that in Australia there were similar actions and similar men and women who are just not known about, and there’s so much for people to learn about their local history.’’
There are about 20 historical documents on show, on loan from the NSW State Library, but the main focus is on three commissioned works by indigenous artists. Jacob Nash has an installation featuring 700 ochre-dusted shoes, symbolising a protest march. Karla Dickens has embellished quilts and suits with traditional string and other items. Nicole Foreshew has created two video pieces, It Came From Them and Has Come From Somewhere.
Foreshew says: ‘‘It’s really important to have a continual dialogue and also a contemporary response, and to keep reinterpreting and questioning history.’’
Hereby Make Protest runs Tuesday, June 17-July 18, with an artist talk on July 12, see carriageworks.com.au
Image 1: Challenges: Esther Carroll at the National Day of Mourning in 1938. Photo: State Library of NSW
Image 2: ”I thought they were cheeky buggers”: Esther Carroll. Photo: Brendan Esposito
By Ghenoa Gela
MAY 9 2014
Hey hey guys! I’m back for another blog yarn. So, the last few weeks have been pretty hectic. As, some of you may or may not know, I have a work in the ‘Next Wave Festival’ called ‘Winds of Woerr’ and we were in full swing in rehearsal mode at the Alexandria Park Community School Assembly hall. While the young people went on their holiday, the ladies, (Melinda Tyquin, Melanie Palomares and Andrea Adidi) and I moved in and redecorated their hall. Well, we just moved the exam desks, swept the floor, put a sweet scented candle in the toilet and then we marked out our space with some colorful tape. It was a massive journey! All coming together for the first time in this one unfamiliar space, where the floors were cold, the stone walls were beautiful to touch and the fabric covering the windows was vintage! It was very exciting!
Every morning, Melinda and Melanie would start with Traditional Torres Strait Islander dancing. It’s by no means an easy technique to learn, but the girls picked it up with determination and grace. It was great to hear Mel and Mel (Yes! I did get confused sometimes, where nicknames or ‘nope, the other Mel’ came up a lot – well… it still does! Lol…) But, it’s been an interesting process for me sitting down giving the instructions for the exercises and listening to the duo talk biomechanics about the traditional steps and figure out how to ‘be strong! But relax…’ all at the same time.
After the two weeks of structuring the show we flew here to Melbourne – last week - a week before show time. Northcote Town Hall is our new temporary home for the remainder of the week and has been a cosy place to be. We’re occupying ‘Studio 1’ in the West Winds Studio of Northcote Town Hall and with a $20 heater from Kmart, we’ve been rehearsing, tweaking, cleaning and re-tweaking and really making ‘Winds of Woerr’ come to life! We had our opening night on Tuesday night just gone and it was AMAZING!! People hung around afterwards to have a yarn and my mum and my brother made the trip from Queensland just for the night, so people got to yarn with them too.
Things would’ve been A LOT harder to get done if we didn’t have that access to the Alexandria Park Community School assembly hall. Big thanks to Alexandria Park! (You went on holidays at the most opportune time! Lol..) Anyways, we’re currently in season with the work ‘Winds of Woerr’ at Northcote Town Hall.
Alrightly peeps, till the next few weeks!
Love, peace and respect
Ghenoa is Carriageworks and the Alexandria Park Community School’s inaugural artist in residence.
By S. Shatkhidharan
MAY 9, 2014
My key project this year as Associate Artist is Rizzy Maharajah’s 18th Birthday Party. It’s an audiovisual work that sways between the live film screening and live music concert forms.
The story centres around a group of boys from Western Sydney navigating their way into adulthood - and learning that friendship, even when undermined by betrayal, can be worth more than revenge.
Rizzy is built out of a long-term collaboration between communities in South-Western Sydney and arts company CuriousWorks, where I am Artistic Director. Rizzy is a work of fiction, but is inspired by real stories from a group of young people who grew up in the areas we’re working in. The work itself is being co-written and directed by Guido Gonzalez, someone who grew up in the area – Guido came up through our community program and now works at CuriousWorks part-time as a professional artist.
We have been engaged in intense pre-production for the film components of the work, and start shooting in a week (eek!). It’s been a fascinating process, balancing the script between accountability to the community and accountability to the story and its dramatic arc. You start out thinking that both factors are working together nicely; after all, that’s why you chose to embark on the project in the first place. Then you have a period where these factors seem to be in competition with each other; diluting and confusing the essential artwork, the essential story at hand. Then, finally, you have a period of development in which you realise that the compromises you have seemingly made between each factor are actually synergistic elements. The piece is that much stronger for finding a way to sit perfectly at the intersection of accountability and aesthetics. It’s a process that can be tiring at times, but its so rewarding. Its what I love about community arts, and its overlap with the contemporary art process in particular. The balancing act forces the art into new directions, new formats and concepts – and the work is better for it.
I’m thrilled to announce here the cast for Rizzy. We’ve managed to find a fantastic ensemble who are sympathetic – in many cases empathetic - to the kinds of stories and places this art work is centred around. Big shout out to Aimee Falzon, who put in an extraordinary effort securing talented young people from a wildly diverse set of places for our auditions.
Rizzy: Varun Fernando
Kylie: Sophie Hawkshaw
Brendon: Jamie Meyer-Williams
Jose: Firdaws Adelpour
Sam: Patrick Uy
Viet: Henry Vo
Alejandro: Cristobal Olguin
Elias: Karim Zreika
Alfredo: Danilo La Grassa
Andrew: Matthew DeOliveira
Martin: Anthony Rodriguez Rojas
Simon: Tom Molner
Tony: Teko Win Win
Jason: Gavin Knewman
Vijay: Ahilesh Satchitananda
Sheriff: Lance Rice
Wish us luck for the shoot… in the next blog we might even be able to share tidbits of footage!
Images: Auditions for Rizzy Maharajah’s 18th Birthday Party. Crew are all from Curious Creators, CuriousWorks’ South-Western Sydney weekly film community program.
S. Shakthidharan is the inaugural Carriageworks Associate Artist. Carriageworks will support and collaborate with Shakthidharan over the next three years to undertake a diverse program of professional development and mentorship that will underpin the development of a series of new Australian works. Shakthidharan’s practice focuses on collaboration with some of Australia’s most marginalised communities and the telling of Australian stories from ancient to contemporary migration from South and South East Asia to Australia.
JULY 19, 2013