Tuesday, February 28, 2012

APAM so far

I'm in Adelaide, during its buzziest time of the year, the Festival period. Huge thanks to Arts Projects Australia and the Australia Council for this one - they've invited me here for APAM, which is a "Performing Arts Market". At times, this is every bit as crazed, commercialised and un-creative as it sounds - with much talk of "buying" and "product" - but it is also a chance to meet some amazing artists and cultural workers, see some remarkable shows, and hold some very important conversations, particularly about the next Origins and indigenous Australian involvement. I've re-connected with some of our key collaborators and advisors from previous years, including Rhoda Roberts of Dreaming Festival fame, David Milroy, who is here with his latest piece Waltzing the Wilara, and Michelle Broun from WA's Arts team. Other people who've been on the radar for a while include Marrugeku - I met Rachael and Dalisa years ago in Perth when they were performing the great Incognita, and more recently saw Dalisa on her home territory of Broome (where the work is deeply rooted). They're currently creating a new piece for her to perform solo - which sounds more manageable than their usual vast-scale performances. And I've made some very exciting new contacts, including Rachael Maza from Ilbijerri, whose piece Jack Charles v the Crown is an exciting example of the autobiographical genre. Rachael is working with a really edgy political theatre group called version 1.0 on a new play about a notorious death in custody on Palm Island. I saw version 1.0's play The Disappearances Project, which deals with the effects on families of missing persons cases, and I cannot wait to see how they come together with indigenous artists.

The other highlight for me so far wasn't to do with indigenous work at all - although it certainly crosses a great many borders in very radical new ways. This is a company called Back to Back, which is built around an ensemble of people who are perceived to have a learning disability. When I told Rachael Swain how powerful I found their work, she said that she thought they were the most important company in Australia - which, coming from her, is one hell of a compliment. Their piece is called Ganesh versus the Third Reich (there's a "versus" theme here....), and it deals with the Indian god's need to re-appropriate the swastika for its original, sacred meaning. The story opens up all sorts of debates about rights of representation and self-representation, appropriation, perception..... It's coming to LIFT later in the year, and needs to be seen.

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