News & Commentary, Stage

APAM Diary Brisbane Day 2: I am Lanyard

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Tobias Manderson-Galvin continues his report from the Australian Performing Arts Market (APAM) 2018 in Brisbane this week. You can catch up on Day 1 here.

I’ve been wearing my massive B5-size conference nametag around my neck for two days now. Besides the huntsman that’s as big as a plate that lives above the couch I’m sleeping on, my nametag’s my dearest friend. I am lanyard.

The first half of Day Two takes place at the Sofitel Brisbane Central. If you’ve never been to a Sofitel Hotel, they “embrace the quintessential French art de vivre” which, as far as I can tell, means there’s lot of chairs and all the conference rooms have names like Bastille, Lascoux, and Hommes. It turns out that last one was a particularly opulent toilet, but I seem to have got myself booked to perform a one-man show in the States thanks to a chat by the hand dryer, so ‘bon vivre’.

In the great local tradition of the Ekka (aka the Royal Brisbane Show), there are promotional stalls through the conference centre lobby. I can’t find the Coconut Shy or the show bags, so after filling my pockets with complimentary Sencha from the tea/coffee table I head in to the first session of the day.

Zoom In: On Residencies

The panel promises to be “Everything you need to know about arts residencies from those in the know.” I am not sure how people not in the know would know everything I need to know, but I’m glad the programmers have been thorough.

I’m learning so much! Did you know the biggest and most prestigious performing arts complex in New York, and thus easily the whole of the USA, is called the Lincoln Centre?

Now, I don’t know if any of you are history buffs, but while it’s true that Lincoln wasn’t unfond of going to the theatre, it’s also true that the last place he ever went to was the theatre, I’m not sure why anyone would necessarily want to commemorate that particular day in this particular way. Nor can I imagine it’s that relaxed a place for contemporary U.S. presidents to attend live performances, in light of the allusion.

I whisper the detail of Lincoln’s death to a nearby conference-goer who replies to me: ‘hey, at least he died doing what he loved’. But I don’t know about that. Like, I am sure that he didn’t love getting shot in the head. That’s a really weird hobby. Still, if anyone were going to have that, it’d be an American.

Ok, you got me. I’m still in the lobby with the American.

We head in to the Residency Panel slightly late. It’s hosted by Eliza Roberts of Res Artis – a worldwide artist residency network. She used to work for Christie’s auction house London. I’m not sure if it’s her tone, the enormous gold chandelier above me or the ordered rows of audience seating, but I keep raising my right hand, and subtly nodding with a slow blink to make bids on the spectacular international residencies she’s describing.

Rochelle Hum from the Canada Council for the Arts has some complimentary things to say about Australia’s investment in foreign residencies and we local delegates all look pretty proud of ourselves for a brief and rare moment of artsy, lefty nationalism.

John Bayliss from the Bundanon Trust – and OK, most of this report is completely unreliable, but this bit actually happened – John offers free wombats to international residency applicants. Bundanon is a beautiful and secluded artist residency in regional NSW on the site of Arthur Boyd’s family property. There are a lot of wombats there, so it seems unreasonable not to warn our foreign guests about the risk of mange.

Global Snapshots: Festival Edition

Next up is a pecha kucha session from eight festival directors from around the globe. They range from Norway’s unique grass roots, first nations festival Riddu Riddu, to the industrial powerhouse of Manchester International Festival.

Cathie Boyd from Scotland’s experimental art/sound festival, Sonica, notes that she won’t ever program political work. She illustrates this by telling us about her childhood, growing up in Belfast during the Troubles. She further illustrates this with a series of black and white slides of men in balaclavas, armed policeman  and upside down cars. I’m torn, because despite what she’s said about her programming, she seems to have just performed a very effective work of political theatre.

There are  some insightful divides between the guests. Francesco Casadesús (Grec Festival de Barcelona) talks about the importance of programming work that answers the questions raised by the city. In his case, that might include the tension between order and anarchy; or how much of the world still think of it as that place that had the Olympics that one time.

Similarly directed, but ending in a different outcome, Mark Ball from Manchester International Festival outlines the purpose of MIF as remaining true to Manchester’s history as an innovator;  this has meant the festival focusses on commissioning world premieres by elite international artists only.

Closer to home, Louise Bezzina’s story of the fast growth of Bleach Festival (Gold Coast) from small, surfy fringe to a partner in the Commonwealth Games cultural programming – is another tale of a festival responding to place.

Martine Dennewald from Germany’s Festival Theaterformen clears up any confusion about the festival name. It’s in German and doesn’t mean a theatre for men.

I think to myself that this festival malarkey doesn’t look so hard; I’ve got six hours to kill until the APAM party so I figure I’ll spend the rest of the afternoon making my own festival while riding the River-Cat (the Ferry) up and down the Brisbane River.

I seek out anxious APAM artists to participate and perform. I’ve decided the theme will be either cats or rivers, or formally innovative, locally responsive, culturally responsible, internationally exchanging, elite DIY, apolitical propaganda. Maybe just cats.

Everything’s going extremely well until I’m forced to postpone the festival when my funding application is knocked back (the credit on my MetroCard has run out and the ferry is cash only).

The Original People’s Party

The night closes with a hell of a party presented by Blakdance, Yirramboi, and Tri-Nations Curatorial Advisory Group. It features first nations artists from Australia, Aotearoa, Kanata and Taiwan pulling out stunning performance art, drag, live music and some extremely Dr Dre-era hip hop beats.

At one point, the outdoor stage is rained out so the whole venue is relocated inside, almost instantly. The intensity of the night hits its peak with almost the entire delegacy of 1200 packed in for the soulful and epic synthetic pop of Electric Fields.

I watch from the balcony and learn that the word ‘schmooze’ comes to us from Hebrew, via a Yiddish word, and originally meant ‘rumour’. I decide to take this literally and begin spreading rumours amongst the attendees that I’m a serious, undercover journalist. I miss the last bus home.

Tomorrow: Day Three of APAM, and more rumours/schmoozing.

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