APAM Diary: Brisbane is the Australia of the world

Tobias Manderson-Galvin continues his reports from the Australian Performing Arts Market (APAM) in Brisbane last week

You can catch up on Part One here and Part Two here and Part Three here

I’ve reached Day Four of the Australian Performing Arts Market and Brisbane city has started to reveal itself to me. I’m waiting at Park Road Railway Station to catch the train to the Sofitel, which is to French hotels what frozen croissants are to, well, non-frozen croissants, when I see a sign (below) that epitomises everything Brisbane. A sign that states ‘Australia is the Brisbane of the world’. After all, nothing says ‘immediate risk of death’ like Comic Sans, bad grammar and a coy attitude to mortality.

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SESSION ONE  Zoom In: On Singapore

It would be remiss of me not to point out that I’m only going to the sessions that interest me, but at any given time there’s plenty of options. For example, while this occurs there’s a session of a recurring event called ‘Speed Dating’; where artists and presenters sit down and hope they like each other, and I can’t think of anything more likely to cause me anxiety.

Instead, I’m at a panel on everything in the performing arts that’s happening in a country that’s only 42 kilometres wide. Like Australia, Singapore is also a colony of the Commonwealth, but I’m conscious I’m chewing gum like the unsophisticated, convict-heritage monster they must see us as. The session is over in an hour. There is an enourmous amount of information. Also I’m still waking up, so instead of listening properly, I commit to travelling to see it first hand. The next Singapore International Festival of the Arts is in April-May, but the programming doesn’t look hugely different to my hometown Melbourne Festival’s usual programming. I figure I’ll hold out until 2019 or 2020.

SESSION TWO Talking Circles  APAM’S ROUND TABLE EVEN

The next session takes place in a massive ballroom, with almost the entire APAM delegacy. Twenty or so round tables are to be in operation for four short sessions over a two-hour period. I map out my journey over four tables with each respectively on: Queer Performance, Irish Theatre, Experimental Practice, and Performing Arts in the Nordic Region. I also get my self another complimentary Sencha tea, and promptly forget where the tables I’ve signed up to are.

Table 9: ‘Find Your People: Global Contexts for Queer Performance’

A buzzer sounds. The first short session is underway. The queer table spontaneously applauds. No other table applauds. By the time we’ve got around to introducing each other the buzzer has sounded again. No applause this time. Instead a plan is hatched for a more subversive means of continuing discussion. Probably just a Facebook group.

Table 11: ‘Introducing Ireland’

I’m at an advantage here as I did my undergraduate student exchange in Limerick, or ‘Stab City’ as it’s affectionately known. If there’s one thing I learned about the Irish, it’s that they’re from Ireland. With that in mind I pitch ‘Jack Taylor (TV Series): The Musical’ to the director of Galway International Arts Festival and tell him that the lead character will be ‘The Stork’ – a two-story pub near the River Corrib.

He tells me it’s a fine place. I’ve struck gold, and decide to ignore the representative from Dublin Fringe, because, to hell with it, I’m big time now. I tell him I’ll probably need to work with a Melbourne-based pub to develop the role and ideally we’d fly it over for the premiere. I also tell him I don’t do shows on Sundays, I always need a warm cup of ginger ale. And I won’t work with anyone who has the same face as me. He gives me his card. Yurt!* ( *Yurt is traditional Irish slang for… actually I’ve no idea, but it’s a fine exclamation.)

Table 7: ‘Starting From Scratch: The Future of Commissioning New Ideas and Emerging Artists’

The artistic directorof Bristol’s ‘Inbetweentime’ has some excellent ideas about developing innovative work and on the hows and wherefores of supporting those in less priveleged positions in doing so. I propose to her that I become associate artist of the Festival and pay for it all myself. She seems interested but I’ve no idea where the money is going to come from. Damn it. I’ve just got to think of something.

I excuse myself from the table and call a mate of mine who used to work for Bristol Docks. He tells me there’s money to be made in a little trade he calls ‘smuggling’. It doesn’t sound like my cup of tea, but he tells me there’s also money to be made in ‘corruption’ and ‘selling off state assets’. It’s all sounding very dreary and I think to myself, thank god they’ve got that experimental arts festival because Bristol sounds awful. By the time I come back to the table everyone’s left, but Next Waves’s artistic director, Georgie Maar, seems to have learned my name, which is hopeful because I’ve been rejected by the Festival continously for 14 years.

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Table 17: ‘North Facing: Exploring the Nordic Regions’

A friend I met at IETM Korea is waving to me – she’s running the Nordic Table! She gives me a bunch of insider secrets: names of festivals, companies, best places to cross borders. I can’t tell you about it all here, but she did show us a map and now I’m 90 percent sure I know what the Nordic Region is.

A Side Trip to Southbank

I’ve become a more discerning APAM attendee, skipping sessions periodically to jump over the bridge away from the central business district to experience all that the tourist-centric Southbank has to offer. Perhaps this is why I’ve now also taken to filing my APAM reports days after they happen. My editor seems calm, but with thousands of kilometres between us I’m not sure there’s any other option.

Southbank is a post-modern fantasy that was first invented for Expo ‘88. The theme hasn’t changed greatly. There’s seemingly too much to do. A jagged mix of artificial beaches, rainforests, temples, performance spaces, a university, and high-density living. It’s a respite for dissapointed foreigners who didn’t realise that Brisbane doesn’t have beaches. The whole district is like Poseiden was left behind after a flood, turned to concrete on the banks, his spine became a train line, and then they tried to cover it up by building a kilometres long casino lobby, right on top of him. The heat is stifling. I feel like I’ve just boiled up a sushi burrito and a diet coke and shot them into my blood stream.

The Streets Beach is only manned by life-guards during the day, so pick your time wisely.

The best three things to do in this weird wonderland are:

One. Ride the Wheel of Brisbane. Alone. You’re the lonely king of Bris Vegas.

Two. Flow in FlowState. What the hell is FlowState? What is flowing? I’ve no idea but the website about the cultural program is incredible. To me it just seemed to be a slab of concrete and uncomfortable seats, but did I mention how incredible the website is? Must see.

Three. Take a dip, face down, in the definitely sanitary and idle waters of the ice-cream-company-branded artifical beach, close your eyes amongst the fibreglass faux stonework and dream of drinking it all; of gulping down litres of tourists’ sweat and salt-chlorine.

By god, what a punch of paradise. This perfect place filling your body. An ibis in the bin, eating the chips, just over there. Tonnes of steel girders and textured cement and smooth, smooth glass and your own glorious potential! The Streets Beach is only manned by life-guards during the day, so pick your time wisely.

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A NIGHT ACROSS ASIA

Back at the Powerhouse a night of re-imagined traditional music from Asia has taken over the building. SsingSsing are some kind of radical Korean psycho-pop act and I have no idea what they’re singing about but I’m frozen before them as though in a curse.

Crowd favourite Senyawa, (also performing in Dancenorth’s new show), hit the stage for their usual provocative post-punk musical antics. Nat Randall (from 2016/17 performance art hit The Second Woman) is threatening to head bang. Cryptic/Sonica Festival’s Cathie Boyd is about to slam dance. Everyone else looks terrified, mesmerised or hypnotised. I don’t remember how I got home.

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