In the middle of a crowd sits a horn player in a wheel chair, behind him stands a clarinet player and two dancers are linking arms
Dance, Features, Lectures and Talks, Music, News, Performing arts, Perth Festival

Disabling the boundaries

English conductor Charles Hazlewood will be in Perth in February with the British Paraorchestra. He talks with Rosalind Appleby about disabilities, the haptic baton and disrupting classical music.

When was the last time you saw a stage with disability access? Or a professional orchestra that included musicians with disabilities? In 25 years of conducting the world’s top orchestras, English conductor Charles Hazlewood had seen neither.

“If music is the great universal language how can it be that an orchestra – which is the beautiful large evidence of that – how can it be it doesn’t have people of disability in it? It’s a no brainer,” says Hazlewood.

We are talking over the phone ahead of Hazlewood’s visit to Perth with the British Paraorchestra as part of the Perth Festival. In 2010, inspired by his daughter who has cerebral palsy, Hazlewood founded the world’s first large-scale professional ensemble for virtuoso musicians with disabilities. The British Paraorchestra made their debut at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics.

“Most people don’t put disability and musical excellence in the same sentence,” Hazlewood says. “We need to take the same seismic leap in music that has happened in world class sport. Look at what the Paralympics has achieved.”

Conductor Charles Hazlewood. Photo Paul Blakemore

But Hazlewood’s dream is not just to provide musicians with disabilities the opportunity to play in orchestras. He wants to disrupt the barriers around our experiences of traditional orchestral musical.

Hazlewood and the Paraorchestra are bringing to Perth their adventurous dance and music theatre work The Nature of Why. The immersive all-age experience involves four dancers and the Paraorchestra musicians supplemented by the string players of the Perth Symphony Orchestra. The work was created in 2018 in collaboration with Australian choreographer Caroline Bowditch with music composed by keyboardist Will Gregory from the electro-pop duo Goldfrapp. Their inspiration came from the Novel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman and audio excerpts from his lecture Why underpin the work. The Nature of Why erases the boundaries between audience, music and movement with musicians and dancers performing in and around the audience.

“I wanted to create one space where the performers and the audience are immersed in the piece,” Hazlewood explains. “We are putting everyone in a glorious pit together, with sound bombarding you at every side. It is a deeply exciting environment to be in.”

It was exactly this kind of immersive experience that first inspired Hazlewood to pursue a life in music. “When I was seven I was a choir boy watching an orchestra rehearse in Cheltenham town hall. The conductor said ‘You look lonely, come and sit with us’. I sat in the middle of the orchestra and there were sounds fired at me from all directions. At that moment my life shifted in its axis. It was a tremendous and addictive moment to understand and experience this large team working in an astoundingly evolved way, working together but with each individual having freedom and flexibility.”

Performers and audience mingle in The Nature of Why. Photo Paul Blakemore

The blurring of genres and boundaries in The Nature of Why reflects the British Paraorchestra’s goal to re-invent the orchestra for the 21st century.

“The orchestra is the guardian of a great and noble tradition; Mozart, Brahms and Beethoven are our birthright on this planet. But as an artform it has stood still for a long time. It still has the same instrumental make up of a century ago which is incredibly unadventurous especially in the light of the new musical worlds we’ve uncovered through technology.”

The makeup of the Paraorchestra includes a Baroque lute, a Celtic harp, lap steel guitar and conventional instruments. The performers are people with hearing impairment, spina bifida, cerebral palsy and other disabilities, often using technology assisted devices to enable them to play their instruments. Hazlewood says the recent invention of the Haptic Baton means for the first time in history vision impaired musicians will soon be able to perform in an orchestra. Wireless transmissions from the conductor’s baton will transmit to a radio pack worn by the performer and the buzzes on their body will indicate the beat plus the space between the beat, enabling the performer to follow the ebb and flow of the music.

Hazlewood’s dream of a level playing field is one step closer.

“One day it will not be surprising for world class orchestras to include people of disability. These are musicians who play brilliantly, at the top of their game. It is the most thrilling journey.”

Charles Hazlewood will present a keynote address Building an Orchestra for the 21st Century on 18 February. The Nature of Why runs 21-23 February at the Heath Ledger theatre.

Pictured top: performers from UK performance of The Nature of Why. Photo Paul Blakemore

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Lydia Edwards
Calendar, Lectures and Talks, November 18

Lectures & Talks: Festive Fashion: A History of Christmas Clothing

25 November @ The Grove Community Centre ·
Presented by Lydia Edwards ·

Have you ever wondered why red and green scream ‘festive’, or how the Christmas-mad Victorians dressed for the season? What about the origin of the infamous Christmas sweater?

This illustrated talk, which will include examples of original antique garments, considers the role that Christmas has played in fashion past and present.

Fashion historian Dr Lydia Edwards, author of How to Read a Dress (2017) and headline speaker at this year’s Perth Writer’s Festival, will delve into hundreds of years of sartorial history to uncover why and how Christmas remains such a prominent inspiration, and beyond this, how fashion has embraced ‘the holiday season’ from the nineteenth century onwards.

Light refreshments including mince pies will be provided.

Sunday 25 November at 1.30 pm at the Grove Community Centre, 1 Leake Street, Peppermint Grove.

More info:

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Networking Night II
Calendar, Dance, Lectures and Talks, November 18

Lectures & Talks: Networking Night II with Simon Stewart and Ian Wilkes

14 November @ King Street Arts Centre ·
Presented by Ausdance WA ·

Join us for a discussion on where traditional aboriginal dance sits in the contemporary setting with Simon Stewart and Ian Wilkes.

Join Ausdance WA for a night of wine, cheese and of course DANCE!  Our Networking Nights are a great opportunity to connect with the WA Dance Community and expand your knowledge. Following multitudes of requests on this subject, we decided to base the talk on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dance.

Learn about the respectful use of Indigenous cultural material and information about life experiences with the basic principals of: respect, Indigenous control, communication and consultation. This is a timely opportunity to question our perceptions and expand our knowledge on how best to integrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures. This is a great night for all individuals interested in dance.

About our guests:
Ian Wilkes is a traditional Noongar dancer, writer, director and actor who has performed recently in 3.3 and Kwongkan [sand] with Ochre Contemporary Dance Company. He is pictured in the above image with performers Nadia Martich and Isha Sharvani.

Simon Stewart is a celebrated Aboriginal contemporary choreographer, who is a Sessional Lecturer at WAAPA and regularly works with Ochre Contemporary Dance Company. Recently Simon worked with High School Students directly in a residency at All Saint’s College.

Limited spaces are available for this night so get in quick!
Wednesday, 14 November from 6:00 p.m.   Doors open 5:30 p.m.
Large Meeting Room, Level 1, King Street Arts Centre
There will be wine and cheese on the night!
Members $10.00 | Non-Members $15.00

More info:

Networking Night II

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Fast Art Talks
Calendar, Lectures and Talks, October 18

Lectures & Talks: Fast Art Talks

18 October @ King Street Arts Centre ·
Presented by Community Arts Network ·

CAN (Community Arts Network) presents
Fast Art Talks
Short / Sharp / Creative / Community / Art / Projects /
$10 // FREE for CAN members
Ticket includes drinks and nibbles.

Join us for a relaxed sundowner as we unpack three creative projects celebrating diverse voices in our communities. Find out about the process and practice driving these projects and the role of the creative producer to platform these voices.

King Street Arts Centre is at 357-365 Murray Street, Perth. Fast Art Talks is from 5pm-7pm.

Presenters: Caroline Wood, Director for Centre for Stories, on ‘Bright Lights, No City’ project. Ashley Yihsin Chang, Turner Galleries, on ‘Guanyin in the South West: A Portrait of Taiwan in Perth’ project and Jessica Wraight, CAN on ‘Clay Boodjar Exhibition’.

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Pictured: Fast Art Talks

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Calendar, Lectures and Talks, October 18, Visual arts

Visual Arts: Let’s Talk Shop with Mrs Potter Pots

24 October @ Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery ·
Presented by Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery ·

Join us to hear Sue Baker, aka Mrs Potter Pots, discuss her backyard process for creating her unique super light-weight concrete pots and candles. Sue’s pots are all hand-painted, each one unique, and can be used in a variety of ways – for plants, kitchen utensils, candles and desk accessories. Sue’s work will be available for sale at this event.

Wednesday 24 October, 1 -2 pm

More info

Pictured: Pot by Sue Baker

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Symposium So Duchamp
Calendar, Lectures and Talks, October 18, Visual arts

Visual Arts: Symposium: So Duchamp

6 October @ Woolnough Lecture Theatre, UWA ·
Presented by Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery ·

Is Duchamp relevant to the significant challenges that contemporary art addresses today? Join artists, researchers and curators in examining the omnipresent legacy of Marcel Duchamp within contemporary art.

Speakers include Marcus Moore, Lara Nicholls, Robert Cook and artists in HERE&NOW18: Besides, it is always the others who die – Perdita Phillips, Alex Spremberg, Peter & Molly, Carly Lynch, Julie Dowling (via dial-in) and Bjoern Rainer- Adamson.

6 October 11 am – 4 pm

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Pictured: Bjoern Rainer-Adamson, Freedom of Choice, 2008, kinetic sculpture, 100x100x120cm. Photo: Robert Pupeter.

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Art and Artificial Intelligence
Calendar, Lectures and Talks, October 18, September 18, Visual arts

Lectures and Talks: Art & Law, Art and Artificial Intelligence

Art & Law: Appropriation art, authorship and copyright law ·
22 September @ Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery ·

In plain sight: Artificial intelligence and the arts ·
16 October @ Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery ·

Art & Law: Appropriation art, authorship and copyright law
Appropriation artists are seen to re-use the work of other artists, or re-contextualise ready-made objects, making claims of both art and authorship. How does or how should copyright law respond to this artistic practice?

Join panelists Jani McCutcheon, Associate Professor at the UWA Law School and HERE&NOW18 artists Dr Alex Spremberg and Dr Perdita Phillips to discuss the concept and relevance of authorship in contemporary art, and how it aligns with copyright law’s understanding of authorship.
This event is the first of a series of Art + Law discussions held in collaboration with the Law School at UWA.   22 September, 2-4 pm.

More info

In plain sight: Artificial intelligence and the arts
Have you considered the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the arts? Did you know AI can now evaluate, synthesise, and create its own versions of many artistic media?

In this presentation, Ezrina Fewings, Educational Development Adviser from the UWA Educational Enhancement Unit, will reveal pioneering case studies on the state of the arts influenced and integrated by AI.   Be prompted to question the authorship of any artwork, and hear about the many exciting AI projects transforming our engagement with the Arts.

This event is part of The Big Draw Perth, a week-long series of events at LWAG that celebrate drawing.  16 October, 1 – 2pm

More info

Pictured: Bjoern Rainer-Adamson, Moments of conflict (mechanical contention) (detail), 2018, plywood, deconstructed 7 Victor mechanical calculator from 1969 parts reassembled with additional electric motors, 97 x 200 x 85cm. © the artist

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Friday Talks
Calendar, Lectures and Talks, November 18, October 18, September 18

Lectures & Talks: Friday Talks

21 Sep to  9 November  @ Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery ·
Presented by Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery ·

21 September 1 – 2pm: Aboriginal photographies: Documenting Gibb River Station by Jane Lydon, Professor and Wesfarmers Chair of Australian History at UWA
More info:

28 Sep 1 – 2.30pm:  Curator and artists in discussion: Reflections on the ARTEMIS Women’s Art Forum
More info:

19 October 1-2 pm: Truth and Representation: Goddesses, mistresses and the tradtion of sixteenth century French portraiture by Jane Southwood, UWA Honorary Research Fellow
More info: 

26 October 1-2 pm: What is good and bad art? by Emeritus Professor Richard Read
More info:

2 November 1-2 pm: Curator’s Talk and Tour by Vanessa Russ, Associate Director of the Berndt Museum, to learn about the forming of the exhibition and the stories depicted in the rich array of photographs, most of which were taken by her uncle Colin Russ on a box brownie.
More info:

9 November 1-2 pm: Duchamp, computing, collaboration and friendship by Tom Picton-Warlow
More info:


Pictured: Opening night, Stockyards and Saddles: A story of Gibb River Station, LWAG.

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Disrupted Festival of Ideas
Calendar, Exhibitions, Festivals, July 18, Lectures and Talks, Performing arts, Visual arts

Disrupted Festival of Ideas 2018

28 – 29 July 2018 @ the State Library of Western Australia ·
Presented by: The State Library of Western Australia ·

As we become more embedded in the 21st century, technology has begun to move faster than we can keep up with. Technological advancements created for the military and space exploration are now accessible to everyone and infiltrate our daily lives.

How do we navigate this ever-changing world? Have we forgotten ethics or are we now better human beings?
How does technology impact the way we communicate, form relationships or develop as a society?

The 2018 Disrupted Festival of Ideas considers technology in its different forms, from the simple to the complex, gathering experts from around the country to discuss the state of the world through panels, conversations and keynotes.

More info:

Photo by Jessica Wyld

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JR Brennan
Features, Lectures and Talks, Music, News, Performing arts, Theatre

The crossover between art and crime

From artist to parole officer to criminal justice activist, JR Brennan is an independent performance and music maker who’s not afraid to take risks. This fascinating Australian artist is a panellist at this year’s Disrupted Festival of Ideas, for the topic Taking Art out of the Gallery. Brennan has a busy schedule but Nina Levy managed to pin him down for a Q&A ahead of his visit to Perth.

Nina Levy: Your work is characterised by diversity, weaving in and out of the arts and in and out of different artistic disciplines. Tell us about the path your career has taken…
JR Brennan: I graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts’ School of Drama (Acting) in 2000 and have been making performance and music independently since then, in Australia and overseas. In 2007 I returned to Australia from Berlin, where I had been making music as Theatre of Disco, and I took on a job as a parole officer in Sydney. At the time I was pretty jack of the artistic environments I was working in and I jumped at the opportunity of working in community corrections. With the exception of some pretty tedious training, there was an intensity and depth to the work that had been lacking in my artistic experience. The work had purpose and there were real outcomes as a result of what I did or didn’t do. For three years I worked as a parole officer in Long Bay Prison, Sydney, assessing men for release from prison and reporting to the State Parole Authority.

Three years into my job working in Long Bay, I received The Keith and Elizabeth Travelling Fellowship and so I quit and went overseas to work and train with some of my art heroes. This included Brasilian theatre company Teatro De Vertigem, Wooster Group in New York and choreographer Deborah Hay. In August 2010 I attended a ten-day workshop with renowned avant-garde Polish theatre company Gardzienice, under director Włodzimierz Staniewski. This guy, along with his team of extraordinary actors, is one of the wildest and most brilliant directors alive. I was blown away. The aesthetic was very different from what I had been making but they were the most impressive artists I had ever come across; disciplined, capable artists working as a team to make soaring, epic performance works, with incredible live music woven throughout. The first time I watched one of their performances I didn’t know what had hit me. It was thrilling.

A month later I was invited to join the company as core member and instructor. I became the only non-Polish person in the core company. The other actors had all been with the company at least 10 years, the eldest for 35 years. For the next three years I lived and worked with the company in their compound in a small village near the Ukraine border, acting in their repertoire of performances and working on developing new works. In 2011 was invited by Staniewski to be the first outsider to direct for the company in its 35-year history. I created a large scale work The Mark of Cain, involving a cast of 40 actors, musicians and singers, which was my directing debut on a European stage.

In 2014 left Gardzienice and returned to Australia. Since then I have focused on making artistic work around criminal justice: performance, workshops, research and film. In my role as board member of JusTas, an organisation based in Hobart (where I now live), I also advocate for incarcerated people and reforms, promoting justice, best practice and valuable outcomes for returning citizens and the community.

NL: How do these various experiences – as an artist, a parole officer and criminal justice activist – influence one another?
JRB: One of the most interesting areas of cross over is risk.

As a parole officer, part of the job was to assess and manage risk, with an eye towards community safety. As an artist, one of my main tasks has been to cultivate and tend risk within my work. The conceptual cross over between art and crime is compelling: ideas of transgression and consequence vary dramatically between these two worlds and the assumptions we hold around each of them can inform new ways of perceiving our own self-imposed limits and potential for transformation. So it’s important to understand our history of thinking around crime and punishment. It informs our ability to dismantle the influence of moral absolutism.

Understanding crime and punishment in society is like a mirror. It shows us how we see ourselves and each other. How we are prepared to treat those who transgress societies rules is a powerful indicator of how we see ourselves and what state our communities are in. By challenging existing models of criminal justice and understanding their roots, we become better artists and communities.

In my most recent performance work The Chat, I collaborated with ex-offenders as performers and consultants. We had a set of aims that were spread across the artistic and the social. At times these aims were at odds, which posed some challenges for us in making sure each of these priorities were balanced: for example, experimental performance invites a level of risk that some might consider problematic when working with ex-offenders. We instinctively approached these challenges with a great deal of humour and care, two factors that have embedded themselves as key aspects of our developing methodology.

NL: Tell me more about the work you make…
JRB: Since 2014 I have worked on The Chat. It has been presented at Arts House, Melbourne and La Boîte in Brisbane and is being presented at a main Australian festival in 2019. It’s a big project that took years to develop with a number of streams to it. Its research arm, which I have been presenting at criminology conferences, will be published in a book co-authored by Dr Anna Eriksson from Monash University and collaborating artists, later this year.

Making theatre takes a lot of time and effort so I usually make a theatre work every three to five years and in between I am making music. As composer and producer I move freely between electronic, death metal and various forms of classical and folk music. At the moment I am focusing on a new project called Axon Breeze which had its first outing at MONA FOMA this year. It’s a hybrid death metal project with gamelan prodigy Willyday Onamlay Muslim, from Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

I have recently completed an experimental documentary that was five years in the making. It was made in partnership with Białołęka Prison in Poland, a large detention centre on the outskirts of Warsaw. It’s a three-channel video work with an original operatic score, which I co-wrote with my Polish collaborator, Szczepan Pospiszalski. The work be shown inside and outside the walls of prisons in Australia and Poland and also, hopefully, at my favourite music festival Sacrum Profranum in Poland next year, if all goes to plan.

NL: You’re speaking on the panel for Taking Art out of the Gallery at the Disrupted Festival… what draws you to that topic?
JRB: There is both a threat and promise embedded in the image that this theme conjures up. There is threat to both artist and institution depending on who’s doing the “taking”, and there is also the promise of transforming the relevance and access of our art works to a broader and more diverse audience. It holds the promise of a rich ecosystem of bio-artistic diversity, one that that can weather the sort of set backs to funding and appreciation that we have seen in recent years, and survive due to having taken root in too many and too varied locations and contexts. I like that image. Perhaps by expanding our understanding of art we would see that this is already the case. Our culture also holds our artistic expressions, and the survival and flourishing of Aboriginal cultures, despite everything, shows us that this is the case.

I have just begun work on a new Virtual Reality project around suicide prevention for Big Anxiety Festival in 2019. I’m looking forward to applying some pressure to my thinking around the project and learning a thing or two from the excellent other panelists who work in the field.

NL: You’re also the key collaborator on Artefact, with Aphids, at Disrupted. Tell us about that project and your role in it…
JRB: Artefact is a film and performance project led by my partner in crime and art and life, Willoh S Weiland. Willoh won the illustrious Anti International Prize for Live Art in 2015 and was invited back to make a new work for the Anti Festival. We spent six months in Finland making the work, which explores the death of obsolete technology. It’s a big sprawling art film. There are epic moments of nonsense mixed with some real depth of feeling and beauty.

As well as building the performance with Willoh, which we performed in a church in Northern Finland, I composed the music. It’s a work for church choir, organ and death metal choir which I wrote while living on an island of Helsinki. The piece is a deconstruction of the original Nokia ringtone, which is a fragment of a guitar work by Francisco Tárrega. It’s showing on the Perth Cultural Screen at 5:15pm on July 28. Bring your phone because it’s an interactive film which encourages you to keep your phone on and sends you text throughout the screening.

NL: What’s your favourite piece of playground equipment?
JRB: The merry-go-round.

Big spinning platform with steel bars around the edge. You don’t see them much these days – probably because they are properly scary. It uses rotary motion to spin around and can clock some serious G force. I’ve seen kids fly off this thing hard. It actually makes me  feel horrible when it gets speed up but I just love how this wild whirling thing was considered suitable for kids.

The “Taking Art out of the Gallery” panel discussion takes place Saturday 28 July at 2.15pm, in the State Library of WA.

Artefact screens on Saturday 28 July at 5.15pm, on the Perth Cultural Centre screen.

All Disrupted Festival events are free. 

Pictured top is JR Brennan.

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