Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Working out the logistics for the Awards ceremony for Eat the Streets Tasmania. Imagine trying to wrangle about 50 children, 12 restaurants, a choir, a group of children in a play, parents, teachers and audiences, techies, Mc's, Dj's, volunteers etc etc etc. As you can imagine it is a detailed meeting.

We had a great dinner last night at Flip Burgers, it was next door to a pub, that had a big dance floor and the kids had the best time. I also met some local arts folks and we even had a sword swallower that built the tension prior to dinner talking about his gag reflex, the kids loved to hate it.

More conversations this morning about risk and safety and how we could do something together about this exact topic.... going to spend a few days pondering - but it is clear when a good idea emerges it is time to do something about it.

It's dawning on me that the work of MDR really is a response to a "current climate" what ever that looks like. The team move with research and trends and /or lack of research and trends to locate their projects within a specific climate. This is a useful framework for understanding how work needs to be relevant, but I have not checked this theory with them, so will confirm or deny tomorrow.

Monday, October 26, 2009

back in Tasmania

Landed in lovely Hobart yesterday had the big 3 hour drive back to Launceston and got into some great conversation about balancing the work we do with young people and the work we do with adults. Different topics and content and how that can be managed and when it could become complex. Lots of thinking to do as artists who work across genres and population groups and themes.

Also will update more on the week ahead and my thinking about risk, and a new project idea emerging called "World without Strangers".

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

risk, risk and more risk

Since june 2008 when i started working at YPAA (Young People and the Arts Australia) i was handed on a project called Planning Safer Projects, which we delivered in Perth a few month back, and will be in Canberra in mid November. 

When i first saw this project I really had little idea what to do with it, I presumed most arts workers had this risk stuff covered. However during my time here in Tas i realise that in fact maybe this is a much bigger issues nationally than i had originally thought.

There was an article in the Weekend Australian a few weeks back about parents and children and the issues / media  / situations which have created more evidence for families and communities to be risk adverse - when it comes to children just "being" in the world.

Darren, Nat and I have been talking a lot about risk.
Asking questions like:
"what risks would parents / teachers / children consider acceptable?" 
"how can this conversation be built into our projects?"
"where are our own boundaries around what risks we would be comfortable with in our projects?"

I noticed Darren had linked some stuff on the Mowbray Heights blog about children's playgrounds and risk. I have cut and pasted just a small section of a larger quote.

"The problem is exacerbated by the American public’s increasing difficulty with assessing risk on a daily basis. The playground has become so safe that it no longer allows children to take on challenges that will further educational and emotional development"  American Playgrounds by Susan G. Solomon 

I have also noticed that a few other organisations are hosting workshops with similar topics and links into larger government departments whose job it is to avoid risk, of a large magnitude.

I have no answers about this yet but have been pondering the associated questions.

I have been wondering how to build into my work this type of conversation and during one of the workshops i realised in fact children like adults  have some big concerns about their own saftey in relation to strangers...

I will come back to this topic, as it is forming part of some larger questions:
what risk is helpful to human growth?
what risk is just plain dangerous?
what risk have we been made to fear and by which sources?
what does this mean for art making?
what does this mean for contemporary childhood?

links to the Mowbray Heights Blog


this shows you photos and comments by the judges and the overall vibe of the project.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

MDR and Portland.. linked

If you check out the MDR website you will their writing on Social Acupuncture:
Our Social Acupuncture wing houses ongoing work that induces encounters between strangers, blurs the line between art and life, and proves the generosity of the social sphere. We devise methods to increase our stock of social capital, bridging gaps between people who may not ordinarily have any reason to form relationships. Simultaneous to its impact in the community, it functions as a laboratory of sorts for the performance work of the company, inspiring new techniques and approaches, as can be seen in the development of Diplomatic Immunities.

In our Social Acupuncture work, we are exploring an aesthetic of civic engagement: the artistic use of the institutions of civil society - of community centres, schools, senior's centres, sports clubs, the media and public spaces. Civic engagement as an aesthetic uses the consensual participation of these institutions as material to create work that, seen from most angles, appears to be mostly not art, or even intervention, but that takes modest glances at simple power dynamics and, for a moment, provides a glimpse of other possibilities.

 Social Practice Masters details can be found at http://www.pdx.edu/art/graduate-programs

Dedicated to helping students understand and explore the ways that artists and their work function within a larger social context, the Department of Art offers a two-year degree program leading to the Master of Fine Arts, Contemporary Art Practice, with an emphasis in either Studio Practice or Social Practice. Studio Practice students engage in independent research and production, combining disciplines or concentrating on a single discipline, such as drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, digital or time-based media. Social Practice students work beyond the studio, engaging the public in projects that seek to transcend traditional boundaries between artist and audience

The Fellowship begins

I was awarded a Brisbane City Council Fellowship to explore an arts related practice called Social Practice.  I will be spending part of my time with Canadian based Mammalian Diving Reflex (MDR) - Artistic Director Darren O'Donnell and Producer Natalie De Vito while they are working on a project called Eat the Streets in Launceston, TAS. www.mammalian.ca 

I will also be traveling to Portland, Oregon to participate in his masters course he teachers focusing on Social Practice. www.harrellfletcher.com and then seeing his work in motion in Melb in 2010.

This is very exciting because I am looking into where abouts this kind of work fits with my own kind of work.... Ill be updating this blog during this time... also if you want to email me with any ideas, questions, or just get in contact about this fellowship, you can find me via lenineb@gmail.com

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Other useful links

Shire of Ngaanyatijarraku

Warburton Youth Arts Centre

Warakurna Art Centre

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

how to prepare?

So when an urban based practitioner, who manages a national arts organisation, ups and moves their place of work to one of the most remote places in the country - what happens?

Well this will be the next blog entry, but for now I am interested in documenting the many ways in which practitioners can prepare for this transition, how to maintain communication systems with staff, how to keep projects ticking along and also how to be present to where you are and not always rushing off to check your email. How is it possible for us to be working in different locations, having different life experiences and yet also working across multiple dynamics in these places as well?

So i gave myself the challenge of at least articulating the mental, physical and cultural preparation we need to do to work in a remote community.

This is a work in progress.. but at the moment looks like this..

Step 1 - research
It is ESSENTIAL to get as much info as possible from your hosts, find out about clothing, food, your accommodation, what essential services exist, flying doctors and personal health info, do you need to bring medicine, do you need a permit, what other local and / or cultural info do you need, where and when is it ok to take photos, is alcohol permitted, how do you address people, what happens between differently gendered people, the list goes on, Your hosts (like mine) should already have a briefing document ready to go, just ask and then imagine what you can't live without and plan for those uncomfortable times

Step 2 - change expectations
This is mostly to address any expectations your organisation, staff,  family and friends may have of you while you are away. When working in a remote place or on tour regionally, access to phone and Internet can be difficult. If possible preparing your home and work matters before you leave is a good idea. For example direct debits, message bank and automatic email reply is a good start. It is also important that you negotiate time during your working week, to be able to keep up with any ongoing projects or keep in contact with staff and board members while working away from home.

The pace of remote living will be very different from an urban lifestyle. For example in Warburton people went home to eat lunch, as take away meals are not really an option. This changes the days structure. Making set times for certain activities can be easy or difficult, therefore people in your life back home, need to understand that flexibility is important. 

An example I had made a time to have a phone meeting with a graphic designer. thinks where looking smooth, then a local artist and Elder appeared at my front door, inviting me to see her paintings. We had tried to do this earlier but plans had changed. Luckily the designer was able to change times and we planned for a new phone meeting. I was also able to start developing a more detailed understanding of the local art scene and see some new work at the same time as learning some basic language. Overall a successful negotiation. However I have experienced much more complex and tense moments.

Step 3 - quarantine your time in the remote location
Working in remote location is stressful for a range of reasons, language differences, climate extremes, living with new people, meeting a range of new people and learning community protocols. It is important to give yourself some time to adjust. This also means allowing yourself to spend time playing with local children, having cups of teas with older people, sitting in the shade while a mural is being painted. Not being interrupted with calls, emails and worries about back home is important. This will also help with de-stressing the experience.

Step 4 - understand people wont' understand
This is something I have had to learn very quickly. Apart from the fact that many photos I have taken while in Warburton are not for public release, such as this blog, it also means explaining my experience is challenging. The subtle moments, the hard times, the ongoing confusion and the great stories, hilarious jokes and complete creativity are hard to convey in writing.

Many people have never worked in a context like this, and so translating the experience is difficult. So I plan to use this blog as a way of unpacking what I was doing out there, professionally. 

Step 5 - be clear about your purchase
I was in Warburton to work as an artist in residency at the Youth Arts Centre, to provide professional development to local staff and also to undertake strategic planning. For Young People and the Arts Australia (the company i work for) I was also investigating how we could offer remote service delivery to professionals who work with children and young people.

What is your purpose for working regionally and remotely? don't get sucked into other agenda's and be clear before you arrive so you have some good boundaries in place about what is possible.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

photos kalgoorlie - warburton


After some gentle guidance from a person in Brisbane I thought I would document my working travels.

I am the Executive Director of an organisation called Young People and the Arts Australia. We are the peak body for artists and organisations that engage children and young people in the arts in Australia. Much of my work is situated around Australia in various cities, towns and communities.

Over the past 2 weeks I have spent a week in Perth, 3 days in Kalgoorlie and am now in Warburton. Warburton is a small Aboriginal community based in central Australia.

I firstly travelled to Perth to connect with YPAA members. We invite practitioners and companies to join our organisation. We provide a range of services and also represent the sector nationally. This was a very productive time and will write more about this.

My time in Kalgoorlie was great. I was able to meet many organisations, artists, actors, local town Council staff and being planning ways we could support artistic development with People in Kal.

Then I took a very small plane (6 seater) via one community and one outstation to Warburton.

I was invited here by the Youth Arts Centre and after a few days of orientating myself will begin work tomorrow.