It was a very invigorating day two for me. At the Free Range dinner last night, each provocateur brought with them a question to the table as a way of provoking dialogue between the different artists.
The night left me feeling very charged, with adrenaline, conviction and more so, affirmation, that the Transparency Collective is the community of artists I want to be in and with.
On Tuesday afternoon, I had a very illuminating conversation with Shannon, the visual arts coordinator at Metro Arts. He had spent two months in Singapore just a while ago and there were mutual things we were beginning to identify and name in our experience(s) in and of Singapore and Brisbane – the beginning of the confirmation of the resonance I had initially responded to. But in the conversations about my wanting to be based in Melbourne, and my apprehensions of building my practice as an emerging independent artist in Singapore, he offered me a thought that best fulfilled my thoughts.
He said, “You can spend your time and energy being a political innovator about your artistic practice, or instead, be innovative about your art.”
Last night though, whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations, I felt like there were many in the room still in the space of being politically innovative with their artistic practice.
The questions that the provocateurs brought with them were actually very open-ended, and very much free to interpretation, but somehow the responses always came back to the industry – the creative professional, the economics of things, the audience and do we give them what they want, how do we sell our works and the likes.
Even Brit’s very simple question of “why am I an artist and why do we do what we do?” easily became a functional discussion of the creative industry and artists as creative professionals – the career of an artist.
Where was the philosophising of the question? Or rather, wasn’t that a philosophical question in fact?
How can we think of our art as a practice if we had not thought of our art as a belief? And how can we pursue our art as a practice (and then career), if we do not first pursue Art as a belief?
Then there were discussions about the audience and what they want, and if we should give them what they want – basically market research for the sake of programming and ticket sales? And so I asked, what about the invitation of the audience into a work and how do we frame the context for them to enter and engage in a performance? Let us return to the art making process and not the art-making product.
But I did have extremely vivacious exchange through these questions. With Wesley, we started to understand the broader, ecological perspective of artistic practice and the artist him/herself. And I asked if we could begin to present unfinished work? Can we begin to broaden the platter of subscribers and audience members by beginning to feed work that is in context of that larger, broader ecology of artists and their work? That the aim is to have audience members participating in the process, attending our performances in the perspective and curiosity of wanting to discover what we have been up to and where and how we have developed?
The Free Rangers and the artists present last night were and are hungry for the freedom to make – to shift expectations of hierarchies in the working relationships between each other, looking for terminologies such as the Creative Producer instead of simply Producer, the Realiser; of not knowing the form of the work to be created but to engage in collaboration, equal collaboration; interrogating the “selfishness” of an artist because we want to make what we are interested in…
I dig up my thoughts and research from last year at VCA, and I share the word “Animateur.”
“To make happen,” is not that all there is?
Of course it comes from the Self, but it does not mean it is selfish. Because the Self transcends; and through the process of research, expansion and distillation, craft and skill, dialogue and exchange, it becomes relevant for the viewer/participant/other.
Of course we want equal collaboration, because we are excited about offering, giving and making, and this more than having made. This more than marketing, selling and earning the money that our ticket sells.
We are tired of having the business point of view of things tell us we can or cannot do certain things, or that we should or should not. We want a facilitator to provoke our creativity so that we may utilise, out of economy, wit and charm – so that we can make. We want exchange, we want dialogue and in Wesley’s terms, we want a culture of ideas; To be critical about the process but non-judgemental; to be open with another’s opinions because we have clarity of our investigations; to seek clarity with our investigations but not necessarily directions.
Because an artist is to ask questions, as a philosopher does. Because art is indeed a philosophy we first believe in, and have belief for. And in the philosophy of Art, we create in order to ponder and contemplate the Questions.
Artistry and the industry are all necessary things to understand sure, because they are in the context of which we artists exist in, fortunately and unfortunately. And sure, the dialogue around subjects such as the economics of the industry, funding, censorship, viewership and programming…these must still happen, and more so, happen in an open dialogue between artists, arts managers, government bodies and even the audience community.
But at the start of a two-week developmental residency where the artists congregate socially for the first time, aren’t we being a little too harsh on ourselves, a little too navel-gazing, cutting ourselves short even before we have even begun? Instead, let us be excited about the ideas, the creating and the developing. Let us begin the questioning and pondering. Let us begin the process.