News & Insights

Celebrating our time together in 2022

From Co-Artistic Directors, Nithya and Emily

Arts House is an engine room of experimental practice, contemporary performance and polyphonic storytelling.

In 2022, we presented 19 works across 91 performances in 2 seasons.

We welcomed over 22,500 people to our venue and digital platforms.

We created contexts for artists’ urgent ideas to meet their fullest potential and reach the communities the work was created with, by and for.

We did all of that with a team of 17 fully committed and passionate staff, a whipsmart 11 members of the Creative Advisory Group, 17 leading artists and curators advising our curatorial processes for residencies alongside so many other critical friends.

We feel very lucky that our work is supported by City of Melbourne, the Australia Council for the Arts, the Taiwanese Ministry of Culture and a vast galaxy of co-commissioning and sector partners, including YIRRAMBOI, Blakdance, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei, Taipei Performing Arts Centre, Arts Access Victoria, RISING, Playking Foundation, Science Gallery Melbourne, ACCA, Basement Theatre Aotearoa, Dancehouse and Chunky Move.

Together, we realise culture as a shaping force of our collective futures.

Choosing highlights is impossible, but in a reflective time of year and because everyone loves a list, here are some moments that stood out for us:

Marrugeku’s pioneering Jurrungu Ngan-ga/Straight Talk responded to Behrouz Boochani’s text and drew solidarities between First Nations’ and displaced people’s navigation of borders and prison systems, through poetry, gesture, language and movement. A sold out season later, we had over 900 people on the waitlist for this show!

We welcomed Japanese artists Kazhuhiko Hiwa and Makoto Uemura for a new commission Running Machine with local talent Yuiko Masukawa, Harrison Hall and Sam McGilp. This was an electric, pixelated, irreverent experiment and visual commentary on the inevitable doom of the industrial revolution.

Through our disability-led residency model, The Warehouse Residency, Catherine Dunn and Sam Martin along with five Deaf artists reimagined the future of storytelling, Deaf accessibility and sign language inclusion in More Than Words Can Say. Set in a sharehouse dinner party in a Deaf household, the evening illuminated for us the huge opportunity and calibre of work unlocked by this new program stream.

We finished the year strong with Joel Bray and Chunky Move sharing GARABARI, a contemporary day corroborree made with Joel’s Wiradjuri Elders in Wagga Wagga, a project on which he collaborated with Indigenous and non-Indigenous dancers (and his dad!), It was wonderful to dance the evening away with you all.

Whether online or in person, it was so moving to gather with intention again.

Now – presenting work is just one part of what we do.

As individuals, we forayed into a shared leadership co-Artistic Director model in step with our friends at RISING, Next Wave, Western Edge and Liquid Architecture to name just a few.

We constituted a transgenerational, transcultural, trans praxis outfit of artists and cultural leaders through our Creative Advisory Group. This is an intentional effort toward governance by community. We are proud that we’ve been able to work in decentralised and reciprocal ways, with thought leaders in our ecology across various stages of life and embodied practice.

Our latest callout for EOIs garnered a huge interest with 196 applicants for our residencies and semi-structured development programs. 129 of these applicants were first time applicants to Arts House, and we saw a clear increase in First Nations, CALD and d/Deaf and disabled artists applying to our program. While identity is not the endgame, we are very mindful of the curatorial correctives our sector needs to make to respond to the clarion calls for cultural change over the last few years.

So keeping this in view, justice-doing and solidarity practices have informed much of our thinking this year. We believe attending to less measurable outcomes is necessary to resist burnout and build better institutional environments. So now and into 2023, we are currently working on our first ever Equity and Justice Action Plan, our refreshed Disability and Inclusion Action Plan and a Care Framework as structural overlays to inform our core program.

As we are located in a town hall, we often straddle the line between an arts institution and a civic space. As part of our ongoing commitment to climate justice, we hosted an Exercise torrent at Arts House with Emergency Services – the first of its kind to be led by artists in creating the building blocks for a localised neighbourhood emergency plan with North Melbourne as a case study and a specific focus on understanding emergency needs for multiple marginalised peoples. In this case, we looked at a significant flood in the area.

And through this, we ensured 12 key cultural leaders in the Victorian arts community were supported to fully investigate and sustain their practice in the aftermath of the changed context that two years of lockdowns have wrought, through Makeshift Publics.

To face the unknown with great courage is the inherent working method of an artist. At Arts House, our artists do that with a keen sense of experiment. They engage in transgressive forms of inquiry. They plough past resistances into uncharted terrain. They chisel this collective future we hurtle toward. Our task is to witness, and reward, their bravery.

Our heartfelt gratitude to our staff, artists, advisers, audiences and the North Melbourne community. Thank you for journeying this year with us. We hope the holidays are a time of cocooning and nesting. We look forward to seeing you in the new year.

Nithya Nagarajan and Emily Sexton, co-Artistic Directors, Arts House

Hero image: Garabari by Joel Bray Dance and Chunky Move. Photo by Tiffany Garvie