Tuesday, 26 June 2012

This Big Wide World

Hello from wintry Adelaide! 7-ON is spreading its geographical wings. Last year Ned Manning moved himself and his incredible energy to Melbourne (that dust storm you’ve noted rising out of the cold south is the remains of his bike tires as he vrooms around the city); this year Vanessa moved back to her home town, Newcastle, a place which has birthed the careers of so many notable practitioners, a place where an artist can still buy a house, and where there is a thriving community of working artists; and I (Verity here) have moved back to Adelaide, where I’d lived for all of my life before a 12 year stint in sunny, glamorous Sydney.

Adelaide is a great town to live in, a great town to get stuff done in because the mechanics of living are straightforward. It’s a well-structured, well-resourced place where you feel as if, if you bring some thought and energy to the job, you might be able to make a difference. There’s a definite mood of upswing here. I came to adulthood in Don Dunstan’s time, and I remember what a buzzy place it was then, what an intoxicating sense of possibility it carried. I’ve noted what warmth there is within the community here towards each other and each other’s work. Respect, as they say. So I’m hoping that the Dunstan years were not an anomaly, but a template for the place that can emerge – or, even better – is emerging - again.

The 7s are facing the question of how to keep in touch and alert to each other’s work over this vast landscape we all inhabit. I’ve missed Noelle’s recent reading of Good With Maps and I’ll miss Vanessa’s new production of porn.cake at the Griffin. I still haven’t read Ned’s recent book, Playground Duty. (I have bought it!). And none of the rest of us saw Hilary’s production, The White Divers of Broome or Vanessa’s production of The Magic Hour, both on show in Perth.

It’s a problem common to the whole community of Australian artists – how do we stay across the exceptional work that is done in each of the diverse major locations? How do we avoid parochialism or being sidelined if we are living in what is seen as a more regional place? If we’re working on the Eastern seaboard - how do we avoid the inverse parochialism of assuming that because something occurs in one of the two major Australian cities it is automatically better, sharper, more interesting or more edgy?

A self-help book I once read (I know, I know…tragic…) suggested that one should make a point of attending at least two conferences or industry get-togethers per year in one’s chosen field. In other words – go somewhere else, immerse yourself in what’s going on in that other place in a spirit of free enquiry. We’re most of us either time or resources poor, but it’s not a bad aim.

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