Beyond the Biennale

Beyond the Biennale

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Welcome to Regional Arts Australia's Artlands conversation series. My name is Mary Jane Warfield. I am the regional arts fund manager with Regional Arts Australia. I'm joining you from Alice Springs where I live and work. Regional arts Australia acknowledges the traditional owners of land throughout Australia and we pay our respects to elders, past, present and e emerging. I'm delighted to welcome you to the fourth session of our artlands conversation Series Beyond the Biennale. All the Artlands programming is supported by

the Australian government's regional arts fund. Firstly, a bit of housekeeping. Today's session will be Auslan interpreted, and closed captioning is available. If you wish to enlarge the view of the Auslan interpreter, please scroll over their video screen. On the reasoned 6 right hand -- right-hand corner of the video there is a menu where you can see pin menu. There are two interpreters - Alyssa, who can see

now and Tanya. They will interpret for about 15 minutes each and then swap. You will need to pin each interpreter as... (AUDIO DROPS OUT For the larger screen. You should be able to see a Q&A button and a chat button. Please jump into the chat, say hello and let us know where you're tuning in from. The Q&A is reserved for questions for the fan # -- panellists. I will moderate those. You will be able to see other

people's questions and you can upvote them. If there is a question you want answered, push the thumb's up and that will put the question further up. We will have time to explore questions at the end but we probably won't get to all of them. The topic is Beyond the Biennale. Regional arts Australia will like to acknowledge the work of the Gareth Hart. Gareth proposed the topic in (inaudible) and worked with our

director to develop the topic. I want to acknowledge their work and thank them. Thank you, Gareth. The Art Biennale has seen a suite of ambitious works Australia. It has ties the cultural tourism and is grounded in the presentation of ambitious work. However, the almost monolithic scale of this evens makes them recourse intensive and poses a real risk to presenters. So, now we witness a moment of being beyond

this paradigm. We see a shift in the nature of ambition in our regional, culture ecology, embraced within practice itself, not necessarily within the scale or quantity of the work presented. So the panel today has been selected to bring three different visual arts voices together. An independent artist, Sian Harris, >> CLARE ARMITAGE: And

# fee owe -- Clare Armytage and Fiona Sweet. Think it -- it me energies from and resonates with place. The conversation will be facilitated by Sandy Collins. She is the artist service manager with Council for the Arts. More information about all of our

speakers and panellists for the whole series is available on our website. I will now hand over to Sandy to facilitate the conversation. Thank you, Sandy. The Arts. More information about all of our speakers and panellists for the whole series is available on our website. I will now hand over to Sandy to facilitate the conversation. Thank you, Sandy. >> SANDY COLLINS: Thank you very much.

Lovely to see everybody. Welcome to the Artlands Conversation series number 4 entitled Beyond the Biennale, as the lovely Mary Jane has outlined. I'm Sandy Collins. I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which I work and live, the Gadigal lands of the Eora nation and I would like to pay my respects to elders past and present. I'm joined on the panel by three fabulous women, Sian Harris, Clare Armitage and Fiona Sweet who work across regional geographies and in the contemporary visual arts space. Sian is an Indigenous woman from Wilcannia in far west NSW. She's a

contemporary Aboriginal artist whose body of work comes from the world view of the perspective. Welcome. Clare Armitage worked in public and private art galleries between Darwin and Katherine for the last nine years and is currently the assistant curator of art at the museum and art gallery of the Northern Territory. And lastly, but certainly not leastly, is Fiona Sweet. She is a prominent, highly respected

director, creator and director of the Ballarat International Photo Biennale. Thank you. Welcome, everyone. Welcome, all the attendees. So, this is a pretty big conversation, Beyond the Biennale. We want to focus on to how contemporary arts practice now really emerges from within our regional landscape, rather than being placed in it or just responding to a particular regional landscape. I would like to start with you, Sian. It is a simple one. Can you tell us how your work emerges from your regional environment? >> SIAN HARRIS: Thank you. I guess I will start by explaining a little bit about where I'm based. So I'm on the NSW-Victorian border. And I live and work on country. For me, the arts

and practice and narrative that I get to tell are very connected to country, are very connected to where I find myself working, where I find myself living, and also just belonging as well. So, it's very connected. And I think a lot of that shines through in the narrative that I get to tell. So, it's not like I know a lot of other artists who have had to move away, especially living in regional centres, who have had to move away so that their practice and their work could be seen and appreciated business wider audiences. I have the luxury of getting to stay where I am, work where I am, and still have that sent of belonging and my work emerges from that close connection to the local area. >> SANDY COLLINS: Thank you, Sian. It is interesting, the no

borders kind of situation. Yeah. Whilst you're on a border, but you feel like there is no border to you making your work and - well, consumed by it, I suppose, as well, within the landscape that you're in and the area that you live and work in. Which is, I'm sure inspiring. Clare, you're a curator. With broad experience across regional Australia. I just want to ask you - you've got an academic background in this area. Which changes have you noticed in contemporary practice that comes from and resonates with regional environment? Maybe as a Territorian. >> CLARE ARMITAGE: Thanks, Sandy. Yeah. Hi, everyone.

Thanks for having me. It is lovely to be talking to you all. Sandy, I'm sorry, can you just ask the end of that question again? I just lost the - lost the thread a bit. Sorry, you're still on mute. SANDRA COLLINS: That will be the last time you will have to say that to me, I promise! With your background, with your academic background, and also as a curator with broad experience across regional Australia, particularly I'm thinking about the Katherine and Darwin area, or the territory in general, have you noticed - or what changes have you seen over the last - you know, even if it's just recent in contemporary practice that comes from the landscape and - rather than being imposed upon it? >> CLARE ARMITAGE: OK. Thank you for going through it again! (LAUGHS One of the main things I have observed working in a curatorial space over the last probably four or five years in the Northern Territory is a - I don't know if it's - sort of a new thing or if it's, like, a reinvigoration of something that's already and always been present. But an interest in - in telling stories of artists

that have worked in the past or that are working now, but telling those interest stories or -- administrators through exhibitions or workshops or other projects, and those stories are kind of interested in uncovering - they are like untold stories. They are things that have happened in parts of the Northern Territory that haven't been told before. And that might take the form of simply just telling the story of an artist through an exhibition whose work's never been kind of properly explored or celebrated in the way that it should have been. Or it might be far more complex than that and sort of embedded in history and some of the very, very terrible things that have happened historically in the Northern Territory, in the course of colonial contact. But I would - I would say that's something that I'm aware of and something that really excites me as a curator, is working that way and working collaboratively with the inevitably kind of smaller communities that you end up working with in regional arts practice, in the process of uncovering and telling those stories that need to be told that, perhaps - yeah, haven't been told in a fully realised way or have never been told before. SANDRA COLLINS: Sian, I saw you nodding there. And in our previous session I just - maybe you

can just go on the story telling aspect. I saw you nodding quite vigorously. I just want to - you know - if you'd like to add anything to that? >> SIAN HARRIS: Sure. Story telling is a very important part of a lot of Indigenous cultures around this country. And it's really great that Clare touched on how - you know, giving a platform to people whose story hasn't historically been told in a way that is truthful or was meaningful or - sort of, yeah, gave somebody that voice to have their story heard. And I think with a lot of regional artists, if we're

focusing on art of place and practice coming from - you know, specific places around the country, there are so many people who have their own individual stories to tell, but there's also this collective narrative that sometimes it's difficult to discuss and it's sometimes difficult for audiences to see that. But ultimately it needs to be told. It's quite a truth-telling. And for me personally, that's something that I find to be necessary in my own practice. Yeah. SANDRA COLLINS: Thank you. We can touch become on a lot of these

things as we go. I will keep it going. Fiona, this is - I'm jumping to another aspect of the themes that we're going to be exploring. The presentation of ambitious work - I don't know whether to put that in inverted commas or not - but anyway, the presentation of ambitious work and the connection to cultural tourism is something that we want to - dare I say the word - unpack, but let's just say discuss. I just want

to share - get your thoughts and observations on the kind of changing landscape of ambitious regional arts practice and its connection to cultural tourism from the aspect of your current role and in previous roles. >> FIONA SWEET: Thank you, Sandy. Thank you, everyone, for inviting me to attend. Yes. As the director of a regional arts festival, which is a Biennale, to hell every two years - that is one definition of a Biennale! I'm quite cognisant of considering the place that I live which is Ballarat, which is Wadarim land. I have only been in

Ballarat for 4.5, nearly five years. My impression of the city, town, the community is from someone outside looking in. And I think that has influenced in many ways the way I look at how a Biennale or - let's be kind of simplistic - an arts event or a visual arts exhibition or a series of visual arts exhibitions can both inform the community that we live in, provide an incredible sense of pride for the community, and also the third part would be bringing often artists from outside the community into the city so that artists and other members of Ballarat can actually see work they would otherwise have to travel to see. So, those three components are quite important in the way that I direct the Biennale. And what that means is rather than being sort of on top of the town, coming in once every two years to have a series of exhibitions, workshops, public programming and education every two years, I've made the decision to come and live here, learn more about the people who live here, and actually extend the Biennale beyond the 60 days in the even year and actually try and develop projects over the two years, or possibly over the four years, so that we're engaging for a longer period of time in the thought processes and the narratives of the artists so that by the time the Biennale is exhibited, we've actually had lots of dialogue with the artists, adapted change and resolved it, curators come in and have those conversations with the artists as well. Our festival is very much driven by curators

engaging with the artists. I Bremer River to have it that way. And then what happens is that when you end up with the Biennale in its presentation stage, it's actually had quite a significant series of projects, events, activities and conversations. So... I suppose that's quite contrary to how the Biennale was before I started, which was very much playing to - which exhibitions were going to be on and then exhibiting them. So, that model, I think is quite passe and I don't think the needs and drivers of a local community. I mean, Sandy, you touched briefly on economic - no, not economic, cultural tourism. Certainly having a festival with... SANDRA COLLINS: (Inaudible) >> FIONA

SWEET: Having a festival within the city means that there's a strong economic impact to the town. And that's something that we are also very proud of in that we can showcase the idea that arts, artists, can actually have an impact economically on the city. And I think that's something that we should promote as artist, directors and curators more often than not to people who are not involved in our sector. SANDRA COLLINS: So, basically it is literally beyond the Biennale in the beyond that you have got this engagement with the local community or in your off year or on year, and I guess you are sort of promoting the space anyway or - well, all year around. So it's not

just this one thing for two weeks every two years and following on from that, Clare, would that - with the museum and gallery, I mean, in terms of cultural tourism, that would be a theme really in Darwin I would imagine? What are the - you know, are there more local people going to exhibitions and, you know, what are the sort of visitations? >> CLARE ARMITAGE: Cultural tourism is absolutely a thing in the NT. I think the current government would like it to be more of a thing, which is fantastic in some way, although I do think that is something that needs to be carefully thought about and man -- managed sensitively with the right kind of consultation and all of that. I suppose the best example I can think of that happens in Darwin is sort of the month of August where you have the Darwin Festival, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art Awards, the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair and a whole lot of satellite exhibitions and events that sort of go on in amongst that. In a normal non-pandemic world that would

attract - that sort of suite of events would attract an enormous number of people to Darwin and tourism there's very dependent on the weather. It's in the middle of the dry season. So, it's a time when the numbers are greater anyway. Last year, being what it was, we certainly didn't have the same influx of interstate and overseas visitors, and in some ways that was hard for a lot of businesses. But in other ways, in the cultural sector, it was really nice, because it did give local audiences a chance to reengage with their own scene, if you like, and the people who are creating visual arts and music and theatre and dance and all of that stuff right there in Darwin and they are people that the Darwin arts community know well and it was sort of, um, felt like a very positive opportunity to - for our arts community to sort of recognise our own beautiful creative spirits that - you know, have been making things for so long. So, yeah. Is that a

good - does that sort of answer your question? >> SANDRA COLLINS: Here we go! Thank you, that's great. I think it would be also a real sense of pride for local artists in the community when there isn't the drivers of tourism, tourism, where - you know, making work for tourists, and then... In a way, as you were saying, you know, telling stories and - well, making work for themselves for the community, basically. I would imagine that would be - you know, engender pride in the community, which instead of outside looking in at their work, they are being able to present it to the peers >> CLARE ARMITAGE: Absolute. It is talking about work emanating from region, community, rather than being superimposed on it in some way. >> SANDRA COLLINS:

Sian, where you live, which as you say is on the border in Mildura, in terms of - we see a lot of - this - again - this concept of cultural tourism. The regions are showing quite strong figures and there's a lot of advertising about getting and seeing your own region, staying in your own backyard, can't go overseas, you can't do this, you can't do that, and just the stats coming out of the Regional Australia Institute and anecdotally, people are saying, "Oh, I went to Coonabarabran", or, "I was in Wagga Wagga recently, just last year", because arts Day had the conference there. And it was like great! And we all just packed into Wagga Wagga. It was absolutely

fantastic! And to see - again - artists from Wagga Wagga and the surrounding area show their art to the - you know, people that have never - you'd never get to see their stuff unless you were in that town. So where you are, is there that kind of concept where you promote that kind of - art trails? Is there any sort of - I don't know, promotion with destination NSW about pockets of artistic communities where you are or in regional NSW and regional Victoria? >> SIAN HARRIS: I think, especially with regional Victoria, there is a lot of promotion. Mildura sees a lot of tourism all year around, I would say. Especially when we are having the arts events. A lot of people do come in from out of

town. It's really a tourist destination and has been for a long time now. Because we're on the border, it's a little trickier on the NSW side. So the Dan Wentworth community - a lot of promotion for the arts scene comes out of Broken Hill, which is about 300km away. So, they do amazing - amazing stuff that far out west. The NSW side where I

am does come under their jurisdiction, I guess, with whatever events or activities are going on. But we certainly don't get as much promotion and events on the NSW side as we do over in Victoria. Yeah. >> SANDY COLLINS: I understand. I won't comment on that. (LAUGHS) >> SIAN

HARRIS: Yeah. I think it's just... Yeah, a lot to do with - you know, local government boundaries, who's able to access funding and... Yeah. So, it's a little bit tricky. It's tricky being on the border, definitely. >> SANDY COLLINS: Yes. Thank you. This is still around the cultural tourism kind of heading, if you like. But from - again, from a Northern Territory's perspective - and we might have actually covered this off a little bit - but do you see a shift in the nature of what an ambitious work is in our cultural ecology sort of emanating from the territory? >> CLARE ARMITAGE: I mean, I do in the sense that I think - I'm also sort of completely biased, but I do think - in the sense that for me the work is - gets better and better, and the ideas get better and better. And as we work in better ways together, the different

- different communities that exist in the Northern Territory, then, yeah. I think... Like, the Northern Territory's just a really interesting... It is a really interesting case study, if you like, being just this very small number of regional and remote towns and cities and obviously a lot of people living on country outside of those places. But yeah. You are just constantly - all parts of the sector, everyone is navigating that distance and remaining connected and sharing what's happening in different parts even of the Northern Territory. It

is kind of like a model of the challenges that regional Australia or arts in regional Australia faces at large, just overcoming things like arbitrary borders, like Sian was saying, and distances and remaining connected. So, yeah. I think... I think - I have seen change in that I there the work being made is getting better and better across a whole lot of different artform, but particularly in the visual arts, I think. >> SANDY COLLINS: Fiona, what are your thoughts on that? On the nature of ambition and whether there's a shift in your... >> FIONA SWEET: I think that... I mean, the notion of the large big almost ceremonial piece in a Biennale that takes up, you know, 60 or 70% of the budget, I think that sort of narrative has long gone, which I think is very good. Um. However, I suppose with my - you know, director's hat on, trying to get audiences from the city - so primarily Melbourne is where we get our audiences. 71% of our audiences come from Melbourne - to get them to a regional centre and experience the artists from the region - not just Ballarat, from the broader region of the western part of Victoria - we often need to celebrate some significant perhaps more important - you know, more well-known artists in order to have that - I suppose the expression is arising tide floats all boats. So, the idea that if you have got this thing, this energy

coming along and you have got the momentum of getting people from the city to the regions through some - might I say celebrity art projects - not that they are celebrity but there might be a slightly more well recognised - it allows those audiences, if we do it properly - allows those audiences to engage with all the exhibitions that we have in all the different heritage buildings. All over the city. And we often find through surveys that actually a lot of the exhibitions that they like the most are the smaller, more challenging, more thought provoking regional artists who are expressing something more about their place and their community. So, with us, we don't have these enormous budgets to put on these very big visual arts exhibitions. And so the breadth of our program, that's nearly --

there's nearly 160 exhibitions over 60 days - allows for all that intertwined kind of engagement with people coming to Ballarat. And we've - you know, it's very important for us that we bring people to these exhibitions. It's critical. I don't know if that answered your question, Sandy? >> SANDY COLLINS: It is all answering my questions. They are

more - they are not really questions, I just want to - I just want to hear you talk! Basically all of you! I think it's probably fair to say that we have - you know, I think Ballarat's, what - it's not that - only a couple of hours' drive from Melbourne, isn't it? Federal Parliament that? >> FIONA SWEET: Yes. It isn't even 1.5 hours. >> SANDY COLLINS: There you go. Then you have Darwin with - actually a capital, but given where it is and distance from other centres, like Alice or Katherine or wherever, then that's a completely different situation. You're relying on people coming in as well. And then Sian, you're miles from both capitals, really. Closer to Melbourne but - you know, far... I mean, if you're 300 clicks from Broken Hill, you're

miles from Sydney. So, again, it's where you draw - if you are exhibiting in Victoria, in regional galleries, or online... I'm just tying to get a sense of... Fiona and Clare have places, actual buildings. And you have your relationship with online or... >> SANDY COLLINS: Just try and flesh out how you - how you get your audience. >> SIAN HARRIS: I >> SIAN HARRIS: # -- >> SANDY COLLINS: Just try and flesh out how you - how you get your audience. >> SIAN HARRIS: I guess it

is a lot about having access for places to show my work. And I know it's a case for a lot of artists who are in the regional centres. It was interesting that Fiona had mentioned had - like, a big name sort of person or group that would come in and would be the - you know, the draw to bring everybody else in. And then people who are less established get to have their work shown and their stories told. So, for me, it's a lot about taking opportunities as they are presented. So, in the

climate we're in now, there is a shift to doing a lot of your work and presenting a lot of it online. Reaching different audiences. But in saying that, because we, as regional artists feel connected to where we are, you know, ultimately we want to be able to have our work shown where we are and - yeah. So a lot of it for me is about having galleries that are willing to show our work. If we were talking about - you know, sort of building that identity around regional arts, who are the people who say yes to - whose stories are being told and whose work is being shown. For me, it's a lot about - you know, decolonising

spaces. So that we - we can involve Indigenous artists more in the decision making and the discussions, the - and even as - you know, as talent - as artist boss -- artists who are going to be shown. So there's a lot... It's a little difficult when - yeah - you are still - when you're not someone who's an established artist that everybody knows and who all the tourists are coming to see. Even though the platform's changed a little, there is still a lot of us working on the ground to get our stuff out there and shown locally. >> SANDY COLLINS: Thanks, Sean. When you talk about -- thanks, Sian. When

you talk about access I will get to that. I didn't realise how much time had passed. We could flat # -- natter about this all day! It is interesting what you were saying about the online thing. You want the connection with your work in art space. It's - I think it's really important. And I think in these pandemic times, everybody's, "Whack

it online, whack it online, whack it online", forgetting that it... That's a - it's - you want to touch it with your eyes, if you know what I mean? I think. You don't want necessarily to just look at some flat image on - online. But that's actually how we have all had to do it or listen to it - music - whatever. Let's pray these we're all coming out of this particular situation. I want to talk about access participation and engagement, and maybe - and sort of going forward. So the new ways to create and to present new work and

experiences and, you know, new models. So, Sian, what would you like to see Beyond the Biennale? >> SIAN HARRIS: I guess... Yeah. I would like to see more inclusion of a different - like a wider variety of artists. Which means that there are is a variety and diversity in the stories that have been told and the work that's been presented. If we look at the panel now, we're all women. So... Yeah. In some spaces there's not a lot of diversity with who is - you know, taking the stage, who's having that platform. So, for me, I would like to see a wider

variety of artists and narratives. . >> SANDY COLLINS: A slight aside, but are you an Australian Council peer? >> SIAN HARRIS: Are you speaking to me? >> SANDY COLLINS: Are you an Australian council peer. Do you assess for us? >> SIAN HARRIS: No! >> SANDY COLLINS: OK! Well I'm going to contact you after the show. OK. If I can, if you don't

mind! Sorry! (LAUGHTER Fiona, in your - we're staying on access participation and engagement and you have talked about engagement and a little bit of participation as well. But you have got experience with other models overseas as well. How would you - what do you want to see? In terms of how your directing the your own Biennale, but also in the other work that you do? >> FIONA SWEET: I suppose I'm really keen to see more regional communities, not necessarily cities. Not even necessarily towns. But I'm certainly really interested to see and help support other regional cities, towns and communities to create - let's call it a Biennale or let's call it an arts festival - I don't mind what we call it - but when I was overseas on a grant in 2018, part of the exploration that I was doing was looking at arts festivals. They were

specifically Biennale, but let's call them arts festival in small towns. I wanted to see how communities engaged. It was that was although the larger big cities like Hamburg, Berlin, Paris and London had the money behind them to have these very, very big shows, they were less significant - much less significant to the community because they were one of many projects that were happening within the city. This is all pre-COVID, of course. COVID's changed a lot. When I went to small cities, I found the engagement within the community was really, really strong. The percentage from audiences from the local community were much higher. The notion of wandering through a town or a landscape by audiences was just - you know, really part of the experience. So when it comes to what Sian is talking about - engagement with artists - there was so much more of that because you weren't just engaging with the physical art, you were engaging with the community or the landscape that that artist comes from. I think Darwin - I know

it's a city, but being very much an identifiable region would have a similar effect in terms of those kinds of festivals. I know Darwin Festival particularly. So, interestingly, during COVID, which - there is a few messages in the chat about COVID. I have many peers who are directors of festivals, photographic - this is specifically photographic - around the world. Yes, Sian, they are mainly women, which is very interesting! (LAUGHS) And they completely pivoted last year and particularly Singapore and Cairo to in Japan -- Kyoto in Japan, they very much changed their programming because they were only going to have local audiences to actually shine a light on their local communities. So these were actually big cities that changed or

pivoted completely from an international representation of what photography is today in their cities and showcasing that to their communities, and encouraging tourism, they actually just focused internally on their own environment. They were quite surprised at the number of local audiences who had never been before but who were captivated and inspired by the stories that were being told by their communities. >> SANDY COLLINS: Thank you. We have just got a couple of little minutes left. So, Clare, what do you want to see? How do you feel that we're coming through this particular period and whether - you know, we clearly don't want to go back to these big - you know, expansive extravaganzas basically? >> CLARE ARMITAGE: Yeah. One of the things that happened at the museum and art gallery NT last year was that we developed an online version of NATSEA, of the national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art awards as well as putting on the physical exhibition, which was a really interesting process in and of itself. But because all of the finalists - I mean almost all of the 60 finalists in that show weren't able to travel to Darwin to participate in the award ceremony or any public programs in the way that they normally would, all of their presence and their voice went into the online version of the exhibition. Ultimately the artists who won awards were filmed by family

members or people in art centres where they work on their own country, accepting their prizes and some ways it was like the most heartfelt event - like there's been quite a few award ceremonies over the years. In some ways it was sort of like the best one. Or there was like this emotional depth to it that the others didn't have. And the point of what I'm trying to say is that there's perhaps some balance - moving forward, there is perhaps some balance we might be able to strike between... I mean, those peep weren't physically able to come from the places that they live for various reasons. But because they were able to stay where they live and express themselves in relation to this project, because of technology, you did in some way, as an audience member, get some experience of that place as well as the Darwin NATSEA place as well as the diversity of this national picture. So, perhaps - yeah, there's a way of learning from how we've integrated so many things in the last 12 months, how we've figured out so well in so many instances how to integrate so many things that we can continue to - yeah, to think about how to do that and that that - you know, potentially gets better. >> SANDY COLLINS: I think term is

the "hybrid model". Perhaps? Thank you. We would any of -- would any of you like to say anything else that I may or may not have touched on? Because we're right on time for the Q&A, which the lovely Mary Jane is going to curate for us. But thank you very much! I have really appreciated that. Humbly appreciate it. So, thank you. I guess we'll - Mary Jane, if you want to drive the bus home? >> Yep. Absolutely. Thank you, Sandy, Fiona, Sian and Clare. It's been really informative. Lot as I have different topic, bits and pieces I'm now going to see if we can get conclusion. It is a big topic. Let's see. I have two

questions that I want to merge into one. It is about community and location. So, I will read it. Sandy, maybe you can help me work out who we should go to or if anyone wants to volunteer. >> SANDY COLLINS: Yep. >> This is the first question that came through Q&A. Sorry if I

mispronounced you. How do you manage telling the uncomfortable truth without upsetting the community? This came through when Sian was talking about sharing stories. So, that's one part of the question. How do you manage telling the uncomfortable truth without upsetting the community. The other part of the question I would like to

add coming from Alana. She is in WA. I would love to hear panellists about the most memorable experiences having challenging yet important conversations about their own locale - place - within their own locale. What was difficult, what worked, what did you learn? Two big... >> SANDY COLLINS: Yes. >> What do you reckon? >> SANDY COLLINS: I would like to... Fee -- Fiona had her hand up. The uncomfortable question I would like

all three - I am sure they have different perspectives. >> Yep. >> SANDY COLLINS: Fiona, you politely put your hand up, so go you! >> FIONA SWEET: Sorry, everyone! I just couldn't find the button! I spoke earlier about being new to Ballarat and, of course, there's - there was a huge inquiry and shame about abuse of young children, particularly in institutions in Ballarat. And so when I came to this town I really wanted to know more about it from the perspective of the community. So, I spent quite a bit of time trying to nut out what was going on. There was a lot of silence. There was sad people shuffling around the streets during the day who would always go to the same coffee shop to share their experiences as survivors. Many of their friends did

not survive and took their own lives. And this continued. I thought in 2017 for my first festival I would do something about that. I found I didn't have enough information. In 2019 I did an exhibition about children in churches. So, it wasn't about abuse of children in churches. It was just about the role of society and how it

informs the lives of children. I put them into two churches. Both of them were Anglican. One was Lauren Greenfield who talking about the abuse of children in America, overreading, overindulging kind of almost overadulting children. Which is a very interesting exhibition. And many people cried in that exhibition and found that it was really quite traumatic for them. Again, it was not specific but it was about place and it was about the narrative of the city. So, say really enjoyed putting that on. I felt that it was important for me to

tell - for me to sort of say in a way that was not... Too specific, but it was actually very, very clear to the local community, particularly to the parishioners who actually - unfortunately - needed counselling after the exhibition, which the priest gave them. So, I think I will leave - that's it for me. >> SANDY COLLINS: Both parts of that question, because - Sian, do you want to add to that? >> SIAN HARRIS: So, just speaking about work that broaches uncomfortable sort of upsetting narratives, for me the way that I navigate the difficult truths that need to be told - like in the introduction that you gave about me - is coming from my world view. So, while there have been a lot of horrible things that have happened in community, you know, across the country, I can only speak to it from my own personal world view. The things that have happened to me or from the world

view of a woman. A lot of my work focuses on dismantling the white male gaze, especially as it pertains to Indigenous black women, and looking at our representations, how our voices are rarely heard, but we were - you know, collected and studied and a lot of the settlor artwork that's - you know, was coming out years and years and year ago was from the white mail gaze. A lot of my work -- what it male gaze. A lot of my work seeks to reclaim our voice and puts perspectives and representations of Indigenous women but from my point of view. So, that's sort of how I navigate the upsetting and difficult truths that need to be told. I put it on myself. If it upsets somebody, that's their issue. I only tell my story, give my narrative, and I - you know, take it

on the chin if there's backlash. That's fair enough. But, for me, it's - art is about pushing boundaries, it's about - you know, not having these sanitised views of what other people think Aboriginal women are, who we are. >> SANDY COLLINS: Thank you. Thanks, Sian. I think - they are two very powerful examples of work that might be uncomfortable for the viewer. But - yeah. I'm not going to make any

further comments on that. Does that answer Allannah's second part of the question? In terms of being in your - exhibiting or have you in your locale? Was that the... Not exactly, but really important words there from Sian and Fiona. So thank you for sharing. That really answers the first part of the question around things that might be difficult for community or how do you (AUDIO DROPS OUT Expose work that might, for example,... The other part of the question is around challenging conversations about place, in place. Maybe this could - sometimes this is to do with environmental or - it can be tricky with - with topics where you're talking to people who aren't necessarily versed in the arts. I

think that's what Allah may is pointing toward -- Allannah is pointing towards. >> SANDY COLLINS: So, maybe we're talking... OK. Clare, so, given that you have got a bit of a mixed kind of audience from a tourism point of view and obviously the - it's a capital city and what have you and we're talking about untold stories, have you got an example of that? Is it... >> CLARE ARMITAGE: I... I do. I suppose - I just wanted to say, just with Allannah's question which I think is a really good question - and it makes me think about the time that I spent living in Katherine and the really - the unique kind of experience you can have in small communities in Australia where there aren't enough people around to insulate yourself with like-minded souls all the time, and you often come up against and interact with and talk to and - you know, you can have these sort of unlikely friendships with people who have very different opinions about all different kinds of things. And that was certainly something that I experienced in the years that I was in Katherine and had a lot of big - because of having to live in such close physical proximity and there's sort of no, like, degrees of social separation, I found I was able to have conversations with people who think some things that I don't agree with and actually ask them why they think those things. They often had -

yeah, life experience that had led them to form particular world views. And that was really interesting for me, and challenging to my kind of ethical and professional values and principles, things like tolerance and when you call someone out for something, you think is wrong and then when you find out why someone thinks the thing that they think and then you have understanding for them and what that does to all of those boundaries. So, yeah. Without going into if specifics of those conversations I had - I feel a bit uncomfortable doing that - I certainly had those experiences in Katherine and I've had them to a lesser extent in Darwin. And I suppose I learnt that - yeah. The best thing you can do is try and listen to people if you can find a way to understand what's going on for someone - yeah. I don't really know how to sum that up. It's something about those things. >>

SANDY COLLINS: Thank you so much. It's very powerful. That's what artists do best - tell a story and they make someone feel uncomfortable along the way - yay you! Keep the conversations going. I'm not meant to be talking any more, am I? >> That's alright. We have gone a couple of minutes over. Not sure if everyone would still be with us. We will have this available as a recording. So, that usually goes up

on our website within a mere of days so people can catch the rest there. I want to take the opportunity (AUDIO DROPS OUT Thank you all very much. Thank you so much for sharing and it felt genuine and we appreciate it. So, we will wave good bye to all our people who have tuned in. And thanks for coming F the panel lists could stay on the line, please. >> SANDY COLLINS: Sure! Thanks to the Auslan interpreters.

2021-02-12 00:27

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