No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Kumuwuki: Democratic Set

Back to Back is a Geelong based theatre company which works with a core ensemble of six performers with intellectual disabilities. Speaking at Kumuwuki, artistic director Bruce Gladwin spoke about how the company’s work is “a continual exploration.”

One of the key things the company explores is “theatre’s relationship to the architectural frame work where the work is presented. […] What is the architectural structure? What is the frame in wich we place the performance?”

These questions, he said, are asked in the support of the actor. One of the first works which made this exploration was a 2002 work called Soft, a performance work which occurred in a large inflatable structure housed inside another building.

Another exploration was in “an aural architecture.” Gladwin described using headphones to create “a type of performance that didn’t need a physical space but was requiring on the sound to create an aural architecture”, which resulted in their work Small Metal Objects.

“All of these ideas” he said, “are all about trying to find a different performance space, a different frame work for the actor.”

Back to Back theatre, Galdwin said, “also have an arm to our practice which is about engageing with community: with our own community in Geelong, and as artists with other communities, undertaking residencies and so on.”

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Kumuwuki: what about the youth?

 Young folk talking about the young style

Alysha Hermann is an artist from the Riverlands in South Australia. She is currently working for Country Arts SA in her local area, and her current artistic practice is in playwrighting, where she is doing a mentorship with Caleb Lewis and participating in the JUTE Theatre Company‘s Enter Stage Write Program.

She started talking by asking questions of the audience to get a feel for the different demographics: are you from a regional area? Is its population less than 50,000? Less than 5,000? Less than 500?

“I find it really interesting how diverse it is to be a regional artist and what it means to be from a regional area,” she said.

“There are regional communities which are absolutely thriving” she said, “and there are communities where there is lots of great arts stuff happening but it’s not connected to it’s wider community.”

Hermann spoke about how there is so much diversity in the ways young people have access to the arts, and her passion is for young people to have opportunities to be engaged with the arts: “the arts are a powerful agent for change.”

Responding to the program blurb saying “young people are communicating globally on digital platforms,” Hermann said “I think it’s a really dangerous assumption to think that young people are engaging internationally on digital platforms across the board.”

Not only are there still issues with the quality and access to internet connections in regional areas, she said, but “we’re using it to connect with our friends and family, who might only be in the next town over, but we don’t have public transport to go visit them.”

Hermann warned against assuming all young people have access to these technologies, because we can leave people out of the equation.

“We want our young people and our young artists to be awesome, and to have these opportunities, so we need to know how to talk to them.”

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Kumuwuki: international creative recovery

Creative Recovery: An international perspective

Talking from a slightly sketchy skype connection, was Coralie Winn the co-founder and creative director of Gap Filler, “a post quake project in Christchurch, New Zealand.”

The project began about “what we can do now in the direct aftermath in the earthquakes.” Talking about the quakes, Winn said “every place has its natural disasters, for us it’s earthquakes.”

“Our city will never be the same again.”

As a part of the necessary response after the earthquakes was the removal of buildings which couldn’t be repaired. As these buildings and rubble were increasingly removed, said Winn, the city was moving towards an “increasing sense of erasure” with various gaps and various vacant lots of land where buildings used to be. With 10,000 aftershocks, it’s been an on going trauma for the city.

Gap Filler was “started by creative people with no money who wanted to do something.” The first project was in a site which used to hold a restaurant and auto-technician, where Gap Filler created “a public space, a garden where people could come and eat their lunch. In the afternoons and evenings we had music, and we used the space to screen films.”

In the early days of the project, there was a lot of talk about the rebuild. Gap Filler was a way of showing that temporary use of space could also activate the city, and a rebuild didn’t need to be rushed through with “really crappy architecture.”

Winn also spoke about how the early 1900s Christchurch had the second highest number of cyclists per capital after Amsterdam, but it has since become car-dominated. There has been much talk in regards to the rebuild if the city will build bike lanes to again become more cycle friendly.

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Kumuwuki: Riding the new digital wave.

The first morning plenary was on digital culture. Hosted by Amanda Duthie, she opened the plenary noting how as a new South Australian she has noticed “how connected the communities here are and of course we’re hee to make all of that better.”

Fee Plumley is an artist whose practice is based around digital technologies and the internet – she is a self confessed geek, and self described technoevangelist. She went viral earlier this year, Amanda Palmer, Hugh Jackman, and Neil Gaiman tweeted about her project Really Big Road Trip. Not only did this crash her own website, it also crashed the Australian crowd-funding website Pozible, all on the way to her raising $25,000 towards buying a bus to travel around Australia. On her RBRT, Plumley will be travelling to communities throughout the country, showing people how they can create work online – a practice which will prove to be even more critical with the advent of the NBN.

“When i was first asked to come and do this key note,” Plumley started, “I thought I was going to do my usual thing, which is a bit ranty.”

When she was preparing the speech, Plumely looked back on a piece she wrote in 2003, when she had reaslised  “there was an incredible opportunity for mobile data space that was mostly empty, and artists should take over this space.” Nearly ten years on, she realised many of these issues are coming up again: “You could replace a lot of the things I was saying then with the NBN.”

Plumely first meet co-key note speaker Sara Diamond in 2001, when Diamond “basically changed my life” when Plumley went to the Banff New Media Institute. There she was “surrounded by people that were all a little bit wacky, too.”

“I suddenly felt like I belonged. Like everything I was doing was actually okay. And it was really beautiful to have a lot of people around you saying ‘I really like your products.'”

“We were the niche […] but I was no longer alone.”

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