Makeshift Publics: Week 2 Intensive
Reflections by Tara Prowse, Creative Producer
Makeshift Publics is Arts House’s year-long research program investigating artistic practice through pandemic disruption. In June 2021, our artists and facilitators gathered again for an intensive week of ideas, discussion dialogue and presentations that explore the impact of 2020 and 2021’s events on creativity and public space.
Makeshift Publics’ artists hail from a broad range of disciplines: dance, writing, installation, performance making, urban planning, sound, social work and more – but share deep connections in the way they consider community, organising and public dialogue.
It was a generative week that covered a broad range of inspiring and thoughtful themes. Some highlights of their discussions included community responsibility and accountability, as well as power (re)distribution and the legacies of white saviorism in times of rapid cultural change. They also explored the significance of failure and refusal as important strategies in an arts policy setting that can focus on outcomes.
Artist and architect Joel Spring proposed how we might deconstruct the materials of our practices and ourselves. The group discussed: could we create something different – a mutually assured reconstruction? DJ and dancer Alexander Powers spoke about intensity, urgency and obsession in her work and highlighted how dancefloors create a space for embracing and expressing risk. Writer Timmah Ball shared insights into the ways that considering and facing failure can inform practice and process, and along with sound artist Madeleine Flynn asked how can we reimagine gathering, being, caring or making to find greater connection to the local, immediate and a slower pace for all of us.
Hanna Cormick is a curator and performance maker whose practice looks at care, and links anti-extractivist methodologies with access awareness, both aesthetic and practical. Hanna presented the artists with insights that examined the nature of barriers, boundaries and access in public space. Considering these spaces as internal, external, virtual, sensorial, Hanna challenged us all to imagine the ways in which these spaces are created, claimed, defended and reclaimed. She also asked what methodologies of safety and dignity can be created within public space.
Known for making work about and under the conditions of climate crisis, Latai Taumoepeau shared ideas on sustainability of arts practice, and the ways in which this can be located in the body and each other, as well as in materiality. Exploring the material embodiment of culture through story, dance and physical knowledges in oratory cultures, Latai brought a deep contemplation of the absolute urgency of climate change work, and art-work itself as action.
Finally, Paola Balla’s assertion of circular, woven, quiet and deep listening led the group to consider softness and the leadership of Aboriginal women and Elders. She described how this approach has held her, her practice and community through and within change. Highlighting how the current disruptions are far from new or temporary, she reminded us of the need for different approaches and strategies for thriving, including Dr Chelsea Watego’s “joy of nihilism” amidst all the upheaval.
We are deeply grateful to all of the artists for their wisdom and generosity. Their research continues, and will be shared in December 2021. Watch this space!
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