Musicians playing
Calendar, Music, October 19, Performing arts

Music: Parallel Resonance: Piñata Percussion & UWA Guitar Studio Collaboration

31 October @ Fremantle Arts Centre ·
Presented by Fremantle Arts Centre ·

Parallel Resonance will be a spirited night of music for marimba, vibraphone, guitar and percussion  influenced by the energetic rhythms and harmonies of flamenco, tango and jazz. The program will feature joyful instrumental music from a diverse range of composers including Rodrigo y Gabriela, Julia Wolfe, Emmanuel Séjourné as well as lesser known gems from Joe Duddell, Terry Riley, Robert Davidson, Olga Amelkina-Vera and more.

Tickets $24 Adults; $15 Concession & Students from www.fac.org.au

More info
W: www.fac.org.au/whats-on/post/parallel-resonance-pinata-percussion-co-lab-uwa-guitar-studio/
E:  artscentre@fremantle.wa.gov.au

Pictured: Parallel Resonance, credit: Olivia Davies

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Children, Features, News

Spring Gig Guide for Kids

Recently I attended a concert by the WA Symphony Orchestra with several eight year olds and their mothers. We sat in the choir stalls behind the orchestra where we could see the percussionist preparing the crash cymbals and watch the conductor’s face. It was such an exciting experience; the sound was so immediate and enveloping it made the skin tingle. The children were utterly transfixed and had animated discussions amongst themselves as they left the concert hall.

The experience reminded me that we don’t need to wait for special ‘children’s’ events. Children lap up mainstream exhibitions and performances right alongside their adults. If you want to try something similar over the holidays WASO are doing two very exciting programs which would be perfect: Symphonie Fantastique with a young star conductor Fabien Gabel, and Beethoven Eroica. Try the $30 choir stall tickets for a truly vivid experience.

Peter and the Wolf
The story of Peter and the Wolf will be presented by both WA Ballet and WAYO. Photo: Frances Andrijich

That said, there is also something wonderful about art made especially with children in mind. One of the highlights of the October school holidays is AWESOME Festival, an event which over it 23 year history has firmly established itself as the premier event for families and schools in Western Australia. The arts festival has been ranked as one of the top 25 events in the world for young people. The program this year is bursting with world class shows and workshops including a free performance of Peter and the Wolf by WA Ballet. Read an overview from artistic director Jenny Simpson who gave Seesaw the low down on this year’s programme.

If you want to dive deeper into the story of Peter and Wolf you can also check out the orchestral version with narrator which – in lovely synchronicity – will also be performed by the WA Youth Orchestra on October 12 and 13, perfect for children aged four and above.

More music treats (for those under seven) can be found at the WA Youth Jazz Orchestra’s Jazz for Juniors concerts on October 1st and 2nd.

In the world of theatre get ready for a hands-on, participatory experience at Spare Parts Puppet Theatre’s world premiere season of On Our Beach. Be transported to an imaginary beach where strangers become friends and you have a chance to ride a surf board, be part of sculptures by the sea, play a game of beach volleyball and swim in a sea of shimmering balls.

Fully Sikh
Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa in Fully Sikh.

Older youth might take interest in a world premiere by Black Swan State Theatre and Barking Gecko which opens October 10. Fully Sikh is a new Australian work by one of Australia’s most talented and celebrated spoken word artists. Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa made headlines around the globe when she performed a poem confronting racism on Australia’s Got Talent and went on to tour her poetry across Australia and overseas. Fully Sikh is Sukhjit’s story, features a Punjabi meal cooked live on stage and marks her highly anticipated theatre debut.

There is more theatre later in October when Eric Hill’s beloved puppy Spot arrives at the State Theatre Centre with a show full of puppetry, songs, and puzzles, suitable for children from 18 months old and their adults.

The Art Gallery of WA are offering several free workshops to coincide with Botanical Beauty and Peril. The exhibition explores the abundant beauty of the botanical world and the threats that assail it. After your visit draw a magnificent winged beauty or a frightening flight of feathers in response to the exhibition, or visit the Imagination Room and contribute to Conversations with Rain, a project exploring poetic responses to weather and our relationship to the environment and climate change.

Fremantle Arts Centre offers a variety of arts courses for kids

AGWA will also host Artmaking Workshops with Eveline Kotai. The multi-generational workshop involves constructing your own creation or working as a group. Let your imagination run free and take home your own unique piece of recycled art. And don’t forget the Fremantle Arts Centre which is a hub for art workshops for five year old through to teenagers, offering everything from anime and photography to film making and pottery.

Keep an eye on Seesaw Magazine as there will be dozens of reviews coming in over the holidays, many from our junior critics who will be keeping you informed. And don’t forget to share your own responses on our Facebook page.

 

Picture top: Awesome Festival features art events curated especially for children.

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Abstract in shades of terracotta
Calendar, November 19, October 19, September 19, Visual arts

Visual Arts: Fremantle Arts Centre Print Award

19 Sep – 10 Nov @ Fremantle Arts Centre ·
Presented by Fremantle Arts Centre ·

Now in its 44th year, the Fremantle Arts Centre Print Award returns with a spectacular new showcase of prints and artists’ books from a selection of established, emerging and cross-disciplinary artists from across the country. In 2019, Australia’s premier printmaking prize continues to present works which celebrate traditional printmaking alongside those which look towards the future of the medium.

Join us at the exhibition opening, Thursday 19 September from 6.30pm to 9pm for the announcement of the 2019 winners and to view all of the finalists’ works.

More info
W: www.fac.org.au
E:  artscentre@fremantle.wa.gov.au

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News, Reviews, Visual arts

A galaxy of ideas in sci-fi show

Review: Erin Coates and Jack Sargeant, ‘Other Suns: Cult Sci-Fi Cinema and Art’  ·
Fremantle Arts Centre ·
Review by Miranda Johnson ·

Embracing the non-human, the historical, the retro-futurist and the impossible, “Other Suns” imagines alternative futures through an examination of the science-fiction genre.

An expansive exhibition featuring works from 20 local, national and international artists, “Other Suns” is curated by Erin Coates and Jack Sargeant, and continues as part of Revelation Perth International Film Festival’s 2019 program, which otherwise wrapped up last month.

With a particular focus on the alternative, undiscovered or unfamiliar narratives of science fiction, “Other Suns” places the limitless bounds of artists’ individual imaginations at the centre. This shines through in the exhibition, with a broad range of different worlds created through each artwork that feel exciting, fresh and accessible, regardless of the viewer’s knowledge or interest in sci-fi.

Jess Day and Joanne Richardson’s geodesic half-dome is a playful examination of what space exploration might mean, and who it might be for. Expanding notions of space travel beyond masculine tropes of conquering other worlds, the work is filled with thoughtful eccentric details and embellishments regarding the pleasure of exploration for its own sake. Revelling in the excitement of the unknown without needing to possess the outcome, the journey and the experience are pushed to the fore, rather than the navigators’ glory or personal gain.

Soda_Jerk’s 4-channel video installation ‘Astro Black’.

In a similar manner, Sydney art duo Soda_Jerk’s Astro Black interrogates who and what space exploration, science fiction, and other futures might encompass. Their video cycle samples a diverse range of video and music sources, pointing to an Afro-futurist world. Elsewhere, Dan Bourke’s work presents sentences from cyborg scholar Donna Haraway printed on T-shirts, propagandist slogans that sit alongside the works of key sci-fi writers from curator Jack Sargeant’s personal collection. The personal, private worlds of these books is writ large across objects made for bodies, a literal embodying of the possibilities of alternative ways of living, or of being in the world.

Alongside the range of other works in the exhibition, including the hand-decorated rocks of Oliver Hull – remnants of the natural world reframed as alien beings – and the large-scale installation of Lisa Sammut, whose work A Monumental Echo leverages planetary exploration to remind us of the hubris of anthropocentric thought, the “Other Suns”‘ revolutionary possibilities become clear.

Whilst some people may not feel that sci-fi is for them, everyone can understand the exciting horizons of new worlds, alternative systems, and different futures. When these prospects are harnessed to critique, re-imagine, or simply enjoy, the possibilities are endless.

Also on show at FAC is Stuart Elliott’s new solo exhibition, whose centrepiece, Fremantle 1988, is an imposing cabinet of horrors which takes visitors on a “fakeological dig” through 200 years of recent WA history. Fremantle 1988 was recently donated to the City of Fremantle Art Collection by Spare Parts Puppet Theatre.

“Other Suns” and “Fremantle 1988” are showing until September 14.

Pictured top: James Doohan & Bianca Sharkey, ‘Ascension’ (from ‘Astro Morphs’), 2018, single channel video, 11:50.

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August 19, August 19, Calendar, Exhibitions, July 19, September 19, Visual arts

Visual Arts: Other Suns: Cult Sci-fi Cinema & Art

26 Jul – 14 Sep @ Fremantle Arts Centre ·
Presented by Fremantle Arts Centre ·

Celebrating the optimism of space travel and a diversity of voices, view works by 20 local, national and international artists who embrace the science fictional imagination. Artists explore the detritus of the future, the ecologies of other spaces, and the polymorphic technologies of tomorrow.

The human imagination unveiled on digital screens, in junkyard sculptures, and at all points in between. From terraformed suburbs to ancient landscapes, the pleasures of the limitless flesh to alternative manifestations of space travel. The universe and dreams, dreams and desires, the surrealism of science fiction and minds unleashed: Other Suns engages with the individual imagination as the key element in the science fiction vision.

Opening: 6:30-9pm. Friday 26 July
Exhibition runs Sat 27 July – Sat 14 September

More info
W: www.fac.org.au/whats-on/post/other-suns-cult-sci-fi-cinema-art/
E:  artscentre@fremantle.wa.gov.au

Pictured: Jacob Pander and Marne Lucas, Incident Energy (film still), 2013, 4-channel infrared video, duration 20 minutes. Courtesy and copyright the artists.

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Gabriella Munro as May and Sally Clune as Cousin. Photo: Susie Blatchford.
Immersive Experience, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

A deep dive into the heart of darkness

Review: Feet First Collective, S-27 ⋅
Fremantle Arts Centre ⋅
Review by Steven Cohen ⋅

There’s something about dystopian reality that bites, that shakes and shudders at our sensibilities. And when that “something” manifests itself in the theatre it leaves a discerning mark on the audience.

From Orwell’s’ 1984 to The Handmaids Tale, we’re used to dystopian thrillers. Audiences seem drawn to alien settings and alienated characters. The stories are riveting, the dialogue terse and the scenes dramatic.

But dystopian drama is much rarer because the style is founded in science fiction. And a theatre, by its very nature,  is a forum for collective reflection, drawing out participation and expression of popular concerns.

Good dystopian theatre will illuminate the urban and reflect the irreparable. Perhaps more than that, dystopian theatre gives us a chance to recall the true horrors of horrors so that we might learn something and begin again.

Sarah Grochala’s play S-27, first produced in London a decade ago, is better than good.  It is both tense and disturbing in recounting the tales from Khmer Rouge Cambodia.

Aptly staged in the historical asylum of the Fremantle Arts Centre, local producers Teresa Izzard and Lauren Beeton successfully manage to immerse the audience into a universal atrocity, balancing the cultural intricacies of Pol Pot’s ruthless ideology with the indignation of his horror.

To begin, we are stripped of our belongings, given numbers, separated from our partners and hoarded into a small slither of a room.  Violence is within earshot and sometimes seen.  Posters illuminate the blankness of the walls – English renditions from Pol Pot’s Little Red Book – illuminate the extremism of the revolution.  Some of the audience are pulled away. Most stay in situ and in line. Quiet and following.

Eventually we arrive in a cold dank old hall, replete with a single line of facing parallel seating with a single forward fronting chair perched alone in between. An old-style camera, the type my dad used to carry, sits on a tripod aimed at the empty chair. The theatre space is more a thriller scene. The audience become intimate witnesses.

Then we meet May, cold and tearless, whose job is to photograph the living dead. As May’s story slowly unwinds, so does she and we become witness to the frailty of human emotion and what it takes to survive a holocaust. Compassionately played by Gabriella Munro, May is the protagonist whose interactions with those she photographs underpins the production.

The seven supporting cast members are nameless. Sheathed either in black police garb or for a few, they serve as photographic fodder. Their acting is tight and well-controlled, blending erratically into the catastrophic nightmare.

Balancing the well-constructed performances is original music by Rachael Dease, haunting sound by John Congrear and claustrophobic lighting by Andrew Portwine, who successfully encase the audience’s senses in a confronting maelstrom.

This is a story that must be told.  It is uncomfortable, horrific and bloody, but important for our own humanity.  S-27 is a gem of a play.  We are lucky to have such wonderful talent in our city.

S-27 continues until July 21.

Pictured top: May (Gabriella Munro) and Cousin (Sally Clune) as photographer and subject. Photo: Susie Blatchford.

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Actress hugging toy robot
Children, Features, News

Kids Winter Gig Guide

“Bring your rain poncho and wear noisy shoes,” the instructions read. Now that sounds like an intriguing art installation.

Contemporary artist Marnie Orr is running school holiday workshops at the Art Gallery of WA and they are all about rain. From July 10-19 children will use their bodies and found materials to brew up a storm in an immersive exploration of rain. The AGWA workshop is one of many art activities for children launching as Perth’s creative community gears up for school holidays.

The State Theatre Centre  is brimming with events. On July 13 the building will come alive with Aboriginal art, poetry, films and culture to celebrate Naidoc Day.  And between July 6-14 the theatre will be overrun with robots as Barking Gecko take over the building. A season of Finegan Kruckmeyer’s show My Robot  (read Seesaw’s review here) will be complemented by some very cool free classes. Kids can flex their engineering and design skills by building a Lego robot, then fight it out in the Battle Arena with other young programmers. In the Super Heroes Workshops kids and adults work together using drama and creative thinking to solve problems.

Robots battle it out at Barking Gecko’s Robot Workshop

From August 13  – 16  the State Theatre will present a production of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts.  Roald Dahl’s classic reworking of The Three Little PigsCinderellaLittle Red Riding HoodSnow WhiteGoldilocks and Jack and the Beanstalk  is being brought to the stage by Shake and Stir Theatre.

There is an enormous range of art classes at Fremantle Arts Centre for children and teenagers: photography, cartoons, pottery, anime and mosaic to list just a few. And you can check out the work of 2018’s Year 12 students in Pulse Perspectives, (reviewed by Seesaw here) in an exhibition at the Art Gallery of WA.

Don’t forget to include some musical magic in your school holiday fun. The WA Youth Jazz Orchestra will present Jazz for Juniors at His Majesty’s Theatre July 9 & 10. These fun-filled concerts introduce young children to the concepts of jazz music and the instruments the musicians play. Best of all, everyone gets the chance to try out some instruments built for small hands.

Be inspired by some of WA’s best young musicians as the WA Youth Orchestra and conductor Benjamin Northey perform a concert of Australian and Russian music, including the world premiere of a piece by Australian composer Melody Eötvös. Tickets don’t come much cheaper than this for a full symphonic concert and you can be guaranteed a passionate performance.

At UWA’s Conservatorium of Music kids can leap into the world of percussion at the Discover! Percussion workshop at UWA on July 10, or a saxophone bootcamp with Emma McPhilemy on the 12-13th.

A fusion of dance and puppetry in Spare Parts Puppet Theatre’s Fox. Photo supplied.

And of course Spare Parts Puppet Theatre will perform puppet shows in Fremantle throughout the holidays. Their show this time is the story of the unexpected friendship between a magpie and a dog. Fox is a fusion of puppetry and dance that will take you on a journey through scorched scrub and ochre desert where the true meaning of friendship and loyalty will be discovered.

WA’s performing and visual arts companies are reaching out this winter to engage young people with the arts. There’s no better time to dive in!

Pictured top: A real robot is part of the cast in Barking Gecko’s My Robot. Photo supplied.

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Calendar, Immersive Experience, July 19, Performing arts

Theatre: S-27

12 – 21 July @ Fremantle Arts Centre ·
Presented by Feet First Collective ·

Feet First Collective presents the WA premiere of S-27 by Sarah Grochala cocooned within an immersive experience that unfolds inside the rooms and winding halls of the iconic Fremantle Arts Centre as part of the 2019 Fremantle Festival.

Winner of the iceandfire/Amnesty International ‘Protect the Human’ Playwriting Competition in 2007, the play was inspired by the history of Cambodia’s S-21 prison under the rule of the Khmer Rouge and draws on prison records and interviews.

S-27 is an opportunity to imagine a dark and disturbing future. This work will be of interest to theatre lovers, history buffs and Fremantle businesses looking for a really different team experience in their City. Numbers for this performance are strictly limited so early bookings are encouraged.

S-27 contains adult themes and is recommend for 15+ years. Fremantle Arts Centre is a licenced venue: 15 -18 year-olds must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Please visit the website to check mobility requirements.

12-14 and 16-21* July
*Additional late show on 20 July (Doors open 8.30pm – Performance at 9.30pm)

Doors open: 6:30pm (Drinks available,  meet in bar area in the Cell Room)
Performance begins: 7:30pm (Cell Room and Pavlich Room)
Running time: 80mins (approximately) Ticket Price: Standard $25 +bf
Bookings: fac.oztix.com.au/default.aspx?Event=100846

More info:
https://www.fac.org.au/whats-on/post/s-27-sarah-grochala/

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News, Reviews, Visual arts

The strength of resistance

Review: ‘Revealed: New and Emerging Aboriginal Artists’ and ‘To Be Continued: Photography from Indigenous Australia’ ·
Fremantle Arts Centre ·
Review by Miranda Johnson ·

“Revealed: New and Emerging Aboriginal Artists” and “To Be Continued: Photography from Indigenous Australia”, currently at Fremantle Arts Centre, are two exhibitions that display the breadth of talent of Aboriginal artists in Australia as well as the strength of their active resistance to ongoing colonial practices.

“To Be Continued” is a survey of contemporary photography from remote, rural and metropolitan based Aboriginal artists. In contrast to “Revealed”, the show is quite contained, spanning just two rooms. Within these rooms, however, dreamlike memories and historical narratives are retold and reimagined, examining Australia’s colonial past – and present – to undermine accepted narratives.

“To Be Continued” somehow feels speculative, towards not only the past but the future. Lavene McKenzie’s works draw out pivotal memories from her childhood of discovering and cementing her cultural identity through the relationship to her country. In Grandfather, a tableau beautifully draws out the mundane details of a childhood afternoon – chicken flavoured chips and a bottle of coke – to contrast with the landscape of the Stirling Ranges peeking tantalisingly through the screen door. McKenzie’s grandfather gestures towards their country to reinforce their spiritual and cultural connection to what’s out there.

Fiona Foley, ‘Protector’s Camp’, 2017, Fujiflex digital print, 45 x 80cm.

McKenzie’s dreamlike images speak closely to the centrepiece of the first room, Fiona Foley’s fictionalised retelling of the Aboriginal missions in Queensland, and the power relationships between the men of the clergy and government, and the Badtjala people. Drawing on the historical records of the time, Foley does not turn away from the dark narratives of sexual abuse, slavery and addiction. In her images, Aboriginal people and white colonialists are photographed side-by-side, their deliberate gazes and conscious poses belying the seemingly historical tableaux, conscious of their presence as performers rather than subjects. Looking to a dystopian future – as well as a historical land grab – Michael Cook’s speculative images of native Australian fauna invading 1960s London on spaceships provides a humorous yet pointed consideration on the violence of invasion, inverting narratives of power.

Michael Cook’s speculative images of native Australian fauna invading 1960s London on spaceships
Michael Cook, INVASION (UFO Possums), 2017 digital print on paper 120 x 81cm. Michael Cook, INVASION (Finale), 2017 digital print on paper 120 x 81cm. Photography by Jessica Wyld.

Comprising of an art market, exhibition, artist talks, mentorship programs and curatorial placements, “Revealed” is an annual program that brings together Aboriginal art centres from around Western Australia as well as a number of independent Aboriginal artists, to display the expansiveness of Indigenous art practice.

A corridor of works from Nagula Jarndu.
Various works from Nagula Jarndu. Photography by Jessica Wyld.

The biggest “Revealed” exhibition to date, the 2019 iteration certainly feels expansive, as the corridor lined with block printed linen from the women of the Nagula Jarndu Aboriginal Women’s Art and Resource Centre encloses the viewer in the narrow space, then gives way to the airy galleries of FAC’s South Wing. Here, works by established Aboriginal artists are placed alongside emerging artists, with strong themes of mentorship and generational knowledge providing links between individual works as well as individual art centres.

This year, a focus on experimental use of materials and ways of making shines throughout the exhibition; Amanda Bell’s teabag-stained fabrics alongside a projection of her making process sits next to a vibrant fabric map of Langford. Denim patches with – variously – gum nuts, bird feathers, pebbles, bark and felt, embroidered painstakingly onto the fabric, create a visual map of country that marks the memories, emotions and cultural traditions embedded in the land.

Teapots and cups
Amanda Bell, ‘Yoka yaakiny’, 2018, mixed media (tea bags, natural and vegetable dye, marri gum), dimensions variable. Photography by Jessica Wyld

It’s not only personal relationships to country and culture that are on display here, but a strength of resistance against the commodification and appropriation of said culture. This thread  runs through both ‘Revealed’ and ‘To Be Continued’.

Questions of what culture means, on both a personal and a community level, and how it is abused by settler colonialists, capitalists and big corporations, are everywhere. It’s in asking these questions and telling these stories that the importance of exhibitions such as these – and the role played by Aboriginal art centres in creating and sustaining cultural knowledge, art practices and community – becomes clear.  These are not just local initiatives, but sites of resistance.

‘Revealed’ runs until June 1.

‘To Be Continued’ runs until June 1.

Pictured top: Lavene McKenzie, “Grandfather”, 2017 digital print on paper 116 x 79cm.

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Adults and children making a shelter out of brightly coloured yarn and wire.
Features, Installation, News, Visual arts

A space for children to explore

“Manguri Wiltja”, an interactive play space/installation by FORM in collaboration with Polyglot Theatre and the Tjanpi Desert Weavers, brings experiences of remote community life to city kids.

With a focus on the creative and community-building possibilities of collaboration, and a strong commitment towards leaping into the unknown, project curator Andrew Nicholls gave Miranda Johnson some insights into the background of the project and what to expect when the installation is opened to the public at Revealed: WA Aboriginal Art Market, Saturday 13 April.

Miranda Johnson: How did the relationship between Polyglot, Tjanpi Desert Weavers and FORM originally come about?
Andrew Nicholls: FORM has worked with Tjanpi on numerous exhibition projects over the past two decades we are huge admirers of their work in general, and well-aware of their artistic significance at a national level. Although we had not previously worked with Polyglot, they came to our attention a few years ago when we were looking to incorporate some more children-and-family-focused programming into what we do. It was actually my colleagues Amy Plant and Mollie Hewitt who first came up with the idea of bringing the two organisations together, as they recognised strong aesthetic similarities between the work made by both organisations. The three of us just had a gut feeling that there was the potential there for a really exciting collaboration.

I then approached each of the organisations (back in 2016) with an exceedingly vague invitation to collaborate, which was a bit daunting because at that stage we really didn’t have any clear idea what we were pitching! Luckily it turned out that Tjanpi had been thinking about exploring performance for some time and had just been waiting for the right project, and that Polyglot were huge fans of Tjanpi and also had been looking for a project that would allow them to collaborate with Aboriginal artists, so everything just fell into place. There’s been an extraordinary amount of serendipity and good luck as the work has come together over the past three years.

A man and a woman listening to headphones
Polyglot’s Justin Marshall and Tjanpi artist Dianne Ungukalpi Golding at ‘Manguri Wiltja’ third development workshop in Perth, November 2017. Photo: Bewley Shaylor, courtesy of Tjanpi Desert Weavers, Polyglot Theatre, and FORM.

MJ: How were the project’s artists selected?
AN: Tjanpi Desert Weavers engage artists from numerous communities spread across hundreds of thousands of kilometres of central Australia, so to make things manageable they suggested we work with four highly respected tjanpi artists from Warakurna, in remote Western Australia: Cynthia Burke, Dianne Ungukalpi Golding, Nancy Nanana Jackson, and Dallas Smythe.

Polyglot similarly recommended some of their most innovative performers, Justin Marshall, Justine Warner, and Tamara Rewse, with their phenomenally talented artistic director and co-CEO Sue Giles leading the development workshop sessions.

A circle of tents in the bush.
Bush camp as part of ‘Manguri Wiltja’ second development workshop in Warakurna, July 2017. Photo: Bewley Shaylor, courtesy of Tjanpi Desert Weavers, Polyglot Theatre, and FORM.

MJ: How has the collaborative process rolled out?
AN: We held our first workshop at Polyglot’s premises in Melbourne in November 2016, to get to know each other and throw ideas around. Again, it was quite daunting for everyone because none of us had a clue what we were actually going to do together, or if a collaboration would even be possible. Thankfully everyone very quickly realised that we wanted to work together to make something really special. It has been an absolute joy to develop the work together, and to draw inspiration from such a talented and professional group of creatives.

The initial workshop was followed by a trip to Warakurna, where all of the non-Tjanpi artists were introduced to the Tjanpi artists’ Country. This was a transformative experience for everyone involved and allowed the artwork to really start to take shape. Further workshops followed in Perth and then in Warakurna again, and now in Fremantle during the lead-up to Revealed.

MJ: What are the similarities and differences that you noticed between each arts organisation’s artistic practices? 
AN: The project came about because everyone involved recognised similarities between what Tjanpi and Polyglot do. Both organisations make very sophisticated work from simple materials and techniques, and both of them have a joyously playful aesthetic and a highly mischievous sense of humour. In terms of the working methodology, the content of the project was primarily driven by the Tjanpi artists and how they wanted to share a sense of their Country, which was then shaped by the Polyglot team into something that would work as an experience for audiences. Throughout this process, FORM played the role of facilitator.

But the joy of tjanpi weaving is that the techniques are so easy to share, so within a couple of hours of meeting everyone at the first workshop in Melbourne we were all making tjanpi creatures that will be travelling across the country to be part of the work in Fremantle.

Women sitting in a circle, weaving colourful objects
‘Manguri Wiltja’ third development workshop in Perth, November 2017. Photograph by Bewley Shaylor, courtesy of Tjanpi Desert Weavers, Polyglot Theatre, and FORM.

In terms of differences, Polyglot allows everything they do to be driven by input from children – kids are involved wherever possible throughout the development of their projects. This isn’t necessarily how the Tjanpi artists work, but children are always a strong presence in remote community life, so this felt like a very natural thing to incorporate into the process, and we worked with children in each of the workshop locations. The Tjanpi artists meanwhile are primarily inspired by culture and their connection to Country, and everyone got a taste of this in Warakurna. While non-Indigenous visitors to Warakurna are never going to have a comprehensive understanding of what this means, the creative team were given an extremely warm and generous introduction that really crystallised the project for everyone involved.

A child, manipulating a tyre.
Manguri Wiltja third development workshop in Perth, November 2017. Photograph by Bewley Shaylor, courtesy of Tjanpi Desert Weavers, Polyglot Theatre, and FORM.

MJ: Can you tell me more about the interactive nature of the installation?
AN: The installation is a space for children to explore at their own pace. The artists will all be present to guide this, but as with most of Polyglot’s work it is the participating children who will take control. They will get to climb over and explore the installation, discover tjanpi creatures hidden throughout the space, listen to the sounds of Warakurna, and sit inside the wiltja (a traditional shade structure) and learn how to create a tjanpi object of their own. We have tried to make it a work that children of almost any age, and all levels of physical ability, will be able to enjoy.

MJ: You’ve spoken about the wiltja as a literal safe space created from collaborative labour, which became central to the project. Tell me about this idea of a safe space, and what it can provide in terms of creativity…
AN: Something that I think resonates with everyone who learns tjanpi weaving technique is how incredibly meditative and soothing it is to do – spending an hour or two in the company of those artists, hand-making something and sharing conversation simply makes you feel fantastic. I think the technique itself is a “safe space” and the wiltja was an organic extension of this. As an object in its own right it’s very clearly hand-made and it’s something you can sit inside, so it has a very cosy feel.

Everyone involved in “Manguri Wiltja” has had nothing but respect toward everyone else for the duration of the project, and this trust was able to build up over a solid length of time, which has given us all the confidence to work at our best and take a few creative risks with each other. That’s an incredibly rewarding space to be in as a creative. Ten days out from the world premiere we still don’t entirely know exactly what the experience of the final work will be, but we trust each other enough to know it’s going to be marvellous.

MJ: Do you see collaboration as central to cross-cultural learning and communication? Do you think this is something that would be beneficial to adults as well as children?
AN: Absolutely. At FORM we always strive to try to achieve a level of collaboration in most projects we undertake with artists – we are passionate about placing artists in conversation with Western Australian communities and seeing what can happen as a result. However, co-creation is not something you can force. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. The great joy of “Manguri Wiltja” is how the various collaborators “clicked” almost immediately on our first day together in Melbourne. Given how vague the parameters of the project were to everyone initially, and how disparate the various creative practices and cultural influences were, it could easily have gone the other way.

We have always intended for “Manguri Wiltja” to be a work that children can experience with their parents (or other relatives) so we absolutely want people of all ages to share in the joyous spirit of the project and learn some more about life in remote Australia.

“Manguri Wiltja” will be at Fremantle Arts Centre, as part of “Revealed”, Saturday 13 April, 10-12pm and 2-4pm. Entry is free.

Pictured top: “Manguri Wiltja” third development workshop in Perth, November 2017. Photo: Bewley Shaylor, courtesy of Tjanpi Desert Weavers, Polyglot Theatre, and FORM.

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