Make/Shift @ Dance City, 19th May 2016: Sharing Practice- Led Research (i)

This half day event as part of the Dance City Ignite programme  was a first opportunity to share some of the research, practice and thinking that we had done so far and to include more people in the Make/Shift discussion.

It was also a chance to explore how we might create an event that would frame and create a context for the Make/Shift practice- led research . The shape of the afternoon  offered opportunities to engage and participate through watching, listening, discussing and dancing. The event became both workshop and forum.

Shape of the event:

Welcome and Introductions

Improvisation (i) by Tim and Claire including an extract of Writing from Improvisation

Workshop (i) Warm Up leading on to Strategies for Adapting (in pairs)

Group Discussion (i) Facilitated by Christo

Improvisation (ii) by Tim and Claire with Christo’s film  and objects

Group Discussion (ii)

Notes on the concluding discussion:

The following is an attempt to articulate some of the topics, concerns and questions that arose through the group discussion. The conversation was wide ranging and the notes below can be seen as sketch map of the territory that was covered but not the details of the conversations.

Christo opened the discussion with a quote from a check list of ’10 things you need to consider if you are an artist – not of the refugee and asylum seeker community – looking to work with our community’ published by RISE – Refugees, Survivors and Ex-detainees – the first refugee and asylum seeker organisation in Australia to be run and governed by refugees, asylum seekers and ex-detainees.

The check list opens with the statement ‘We are not a resource to feed into your next artistic project’ and suggests that you should critically interrogate your intention.

This established the themes and territory of the ensuing discussion.

The workshop participants shared views about subjecting intentions to critical and reflexive analysis and questioning motivation.  It reflected that participation is not synonymous with empowerment and that sharing stories can just as easily be dis-empowering.

Two questions that emerged were:

  • What frameworks might be devised so that stories and experiences are not borrowed or colonised?
  • What power dynamics might be reinforced, limiting and condescending?

From the understanding that art practice is not neutral and any artwork is inherently political the discussion ranged over the following subjects:

  • the didactic versus the opaque
  • the hierarchies of the observer and the observed
  • detachment and outrage
  • the politics of context and the hierarchies of space.

In reference to one of the exercises in the workshop that involved witnessing and copying, discussion also developed around process and product and the following question arose.

  • Who is the provider when processes of learning, copying and assimilation are experienced?

Reference was made to ‘Sullivan’ – a full-size anatomical skeleton brought from Claire’s studio to Dance City which was present in the space and referred to in the opening dance improvisation and group warm up.

Tim and Claire had their own understanding of its presence but had questions about how this might be perceived. It is clearly a signifier of mortality but beyond this also points to shared origins – that beneath the skin we all share the same bony structure. The skeleton became a poignant representation of a shared humanity.

It was acknowledged that the refugee situation is an emotive topic and questions arose around

  • should we defuse that?
  • why would you step away from the emotive agency?

Conversation ranged through ownership – home, place, culture, society – and the legacy of empire (Where are we in relationship to imperialist behaviour?)  to the imperative of European nations to take ownership of the situation and to adapt and accept responsibility.

There were specific responses to the counterpoint relationship between the film animation and the dance – the way the animation presented a theoretical modelling of data and the dance was a personal act.

There was a general fascination with the tyre and rope both as the formal relationship of the circle and the line and as a poetic accumulation of objects that allowed different images to emerge.








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