Interviewer by forrests

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									Department of Culture and the Arts

MATTHEW LUTTON
Umbrella Policy Forums

I’ve only been told I’ve got ten minutes to speak, so I just want to touch on some issues briefly and start a conversation, get the ball rolling on three areas that I think might be worth discussing. Firstly the way isolation gave impact on us as artists, secondly the role of the critic, and thirdly audience building. And I’m going to speak about these areas mainly from the perspective of the performing arts, because that is my area of experience. We all know already that Perth is an isolated city and with it brings a range of advantages and disadvantages. It has been proven that isolation can brew unique imagination. That it can encourage exploration without pressure and that in a smaller isolated community it’s easier to identify individuals and support those artists, build momentum and allow people to be recognised. However, isolation can also mean that we turn inwards. That we start to circulate amongst ourselves. That we start to lower our standards. And that we start to become too

comfortable and that we start to become artistically naïve. I think we are in the danger in Perth that of our disadvantages outweighing our advantages. I think artists grow when they become stimulated and when they become provoked. But where is this stimulation and provocation coming from when we are so isolated? We want Perth to be producing artists that could have major impact around the country and even around the world. But maybe some of our artists aren’t ready for that yet? Maybe our artists need more stimulation. Maybe we need more opportunities to develop our own individual artistic voices before we embark on these projects of scale. We need to find ways that will allow our artists to join the national community. So that we can benchmark our work nationally. So that our artists can have impact outside of our own city, so that we can collaborate and be inspired by some of Australia’s most forward thinking artists working in Perth, and so that we can experience the productions and works that provoke artists in other cities in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.
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Department of Culture and the Arts

When bold innovation occurs, when bold inventions happen, it sends a tremor through an artistic community. In the last 18 months, I’m talking from a theatre perspective here, you sort of can’t question that Benedict Andrew’s Season at Sarsaparilla, Michael Gowes Toy Symphony, or Barrie Kosky Lost Echo, or the Tell Tailed Heart, had impact. They caused a tremor. Whether you loathe the productions or not, that can’t be debated. But the tremor I don’t think made it across the Nullarbor. I think our isolation meant we missed out on the debates that these tremors stirred. And I think it’s important that when events like this happen around our country, would it be more important if they could infiltrate into our own circle? Wouldn’t it be important, surely we would want these tremors to be able to stimulate the creativity of our own artists in Perth? Maybe it’s about documentation. Maybe it’s about making sure when these tremors occur, that they are recorded insightfully. At the moment there is only one publication really in our country that reports on contemporary art nationally, Real Time. But perhaps Perth artists need more than that? Perhaps we need to find a way to facilitate more extensive reporting? Or maybe it’s just thinking more nationally about collaborating more regularly with artists from around the country and allowing Australia’s leading artists to work in Perth. It’s not about taking away jobs from WA artists, because it ought to benefit us all. It’s about keeping us on our toes. How can Perth improve its position in the National community? I think it’s simply about participating. I think it’s about rubbing out state boundaries and I think it’s about supporting WA artists to be working around the country. I think it’s about supporting the growth of national artists that live in Perth. And maybe it’s about providing opportunities for artists to develop where there is no need for an outcome, but about commitment to craft and creativity. To enter into a workshop where there is no destined outcome but with a goal to rigorously explore. A free, wildly creative environment that means creative

process can be thrashed around without an end point. I think this is where true creativity can be fostered. And I think this is how we invest in the growth of unique artists. I’ve only got time, I’ve got ten minutes, and I just want to share one story with you that brought me to some of these thoughts. Last year, I had a really fortunate experience to go into a workshop environment that had no outcome. I was interested in how to make new contemporary opera. That is something that certainly does not happen in Perth and

certainly something that is very difficult to get experience in as a Director.

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Albra New Music in the UK, last year held a one off program where they got 20 artists together from around the world who wanted to make contemporary opera, but never been given the opportunity to. And they gave us the freedom and the resources to explore. We met three times throughout the year, two weeks each time and we worked in groups of twos and threes basically thrashing around ideas to try and make a 15 minute opera each time. We were given access to a symphony orchestra, we were given access to conductors, to singers, to a stage, to mentors, and told go for it. Sometimes this process meant that people actually didn’t produce anything as a result at the end of two weeks. Their

exploration had swerved, it had fallen apart, and it was abandoned. And this process was praised, this was encouraged. Others would actually produce works, short works, all

varying in standard, and then we would rigorously discuss each others works and processes. We would argue over the point of opera, we would argue why sing, we would argue do you have to sing to make it an opera. We’d be throwing things at each other, we would sort of be screaming and leaving the room, it was really really beautiful, beautiful creative chaos. And then we would come together a few months later, and do it all again. It was about exploring craft. Albra New Music had invested in our development. And it certainly wasn’t cheap. It was a bold investment by them and they had no product to show for it except the artists involved. I was working with a [inaudible] from Amsterdam, composers from Prague and these people were doing things with words and music I’d never heard before. None of us knew each other before we arrived in Albra, but Albra’s now forged artistic partnerships which they can, and now others can invest in. Now some of us returned to Albra to make our first full length opera’s on the main stage. We are going to be baptised by fire again. But Albra gave us the initial time to explore and develop before asking for an outcome. Now I also want to talk about the role of critics in the Arts. This is a really really important position within any artistic community and unfortunately an area that Perth severely is lacking. In fact, it’s a position that we lack in most cities around Australia. We need journalism and critics that firstly have the skills, and secondly have the opportunities to report on trends and tremors that are occurring within our community. We need critics that can see a pocket of artists over here and see a pocket of artists over there and can see that they are exploring the same ideas and that they are using the same, and are exploring
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Department of Culture and the Arts

uses of form and can then comment on this. And then bring it to the attention of the arts community and to the general public. This type of observation can open up debates, it encourages discussion and it fuels creativity. The critics should be able to recognise a trend and an overarching creative idea within a community that perhaps the artists involved can’t actually see it themselves because they are inside the process. A critic needs to be able to smell when something new is emerging and link the dots for us. When something is different the role of the critic is not to dismiss it, but to ask why. If we want our artists to be bold and more creative and more daring, then we need our critics to be able to understand this and to respond insightfully. Finally because I’ve got the flash, that means I need to wrap up, I want to touch briefly on the idea of audience building from an artist’s perspective. This is also something I think needs discussion and to be considered carefully. In a city that is small, we are always searching for ways to increase our audience sizes. This can often mean the creation, again I’m using theatre as an example, of theatre that pleases everyone, which I think ultimately kills our creativity. Theatre can’t please everyone. And nor should it ever. And when we have small audience pools, its way to easy to think that if we give our audiences what we want, then we’ll keep them returning. It can encourage our artists to stay inside barriers. It comes down to the age old idea of financial success becoming more important than artistic standards and creditability. A creative community gets bored to be frank when everyone does exactly what you expect them to. There is a will to change, I really believe that. And new artists are emerging. There are artists in this room that are emerging and making wonderful work. And new resources are becoming available. But this will mean nothing unless we can foster and stimulate the creativity and the imagination of our artists. So if we want to be a creative capital, we keep talking about this, let’s think up ways to stimulate our artists and ensure that our isolation doesn’t mean our artists get left behind. Thank you.

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