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APAM Diary Day 3: Spies among us

Tobias Manderson-Galvin continues his report from the Australian Performing Arts Market (APAM) in Brisbane.

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

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I start the day by vox-popping some locals on the train about the impact of APAM on Brisbane.

Lyle, South Brisbane: What? What? I’ve got my- sorry I’m on a call. APAM? Sorry mate, I’ll have to call you back. Now, what is it? Nah, mate. I don’t know. Have a good one, eh.

Peter (not his real name), Yeronga: Don’t they have that on the Gold Coast? I’ve never been into car racing.

Mari, Currumbin: Oh yes! I know a Pam, she’s the sweetest woman, runs the tuckshop at my children’s school, and had soft drinks banned.

Undeniable impact.

It’s day three, and I’m back at the Sofitel. People are still squinting at my belly button while talking to me in an attempt to read my name tag.

People have also taken to asking if I’m from here (meaning ‘Australia’) because I’ve started to absorb everyone else’s accents. The result is something like if Matt Berry lived in Germany and managed a boutique dance festival.

Session One: The Big Anxiety Long Table

Our first session of the day takes a less pedagogical approach than a standard panel. Instead of sitting, the host and guests gather around a long dining table and the audience form an outer circle around them.

We’re told we can join any of the spare seats at the table at any time. Given the guests include Wesley Enoch (Sydney Festival), Helen Medland (Sick! Festival), and Angharad Wynne-Jones (Arts Centre, Melbourne), it is looking like my idea of a perfect suite of dinner party guests.

The lack of food at the dining table is heartening, because it’s not like they were going to cater vegan for me anyway. This way we can all go equally hungry. Truly the inclusive session I’d been hoping for.

Session moderator, Professor Jill Bennett introduces the topic: ‘Can Art Saves Lives?’ and immediately answers: ‘Yes’.

Then we moved on to suggestions of mental health action plans, mental health first aid training, discussions of art versus therapy versus art therapy, what constitutes good art, and methods of inclusivity for audiences, artists and participants with mental illness. There was also a two minute break where we discussed if fridge space should be requisitioned from young children in family homes and given to real artists.

Best session of APAM so far.

Session Two: Softly Spoke, Loudly Heard: The Power of the Arts in International Diplomacy

It’s now an established fact that the CIA funded visual artists including Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, jazz musicians including Dizzie Gillepsie and Hollywood films and television as part of the so-called Cultural Cold War.

It’s also no secret that various US security and defence agencies continue to do so.

The guest lecturer of the second session I attended – the mid-week Keynote – managed to mention this cultural output without mentioning the word ‘war’, nor indeed the phrase ‘cultural imperialism’. And she didn’t sing The Star Spangled Banner either, so I guess it could have been worse.

Professor Cynthia P. Schneider (Georgetown University, USA) had – at least from my neo-Commie perspective – a very system-friendly attitude to the role of the performing arts.

The room was filled with artists and producers – some willing to sell out to the Empire and presumably some who genuinely believe in fuelling ideological conflict with art.

At one point, Schneider showed slides of politicians shaking hands with some foreign underprivileged who’d been supported in art making by the US. It seemed like part of the lecture was also a sales pitch to the representatives of DFAT in the room, demonstrating the great PR that can be generated by supporting the arts.

This got me wondering who else was in the room and who were they working for? I spent much of the 90 minutes playing a game that I named “Which of the better dressed arts workers in Sofitel Ballroom 2 is a spy?”

While the guest speakers talked, (the DFAT rep was suddenly called away for something more important than art. Suprise, surprise,), I tried to join the secret service online but my earlier terrorist ranking has always been a bit of a problem. And my browser keeps crashing on the ASIO application website. I’ve downloaded Java, ASIO! What now?!

The Evening

I saw two shows, first heading to Paddington Skate Park for Snake Sessions by Branch Nebula (main picture, above); a free-form, street-style performance made with the company drummer and local skaters, bmxers, and a small contingency of parkour/physical theatre types.

At the close of the brief show they asked if any of the audience wanted to join them, but they lacked any old school, single kick decks (Vision Gator / Psychostick being my preference). Instead, I joined the APAM delegacy in piling into chartered school buses to get back to the Powerhouse for Attractor by Dancenorth – a review of which will be up in coming days.

A Litany of Broken Prayer and Promise

The night closed with A Litany of Broken Prayer and Promise, a multi-sensory performance event by Cake, and then a banging DJ set, all supported by the National Arts Council of Singapore.

I found myself chatting to Gold Coast Commonwealth Games musical director Katie Noonan who would not reveal if she’d be ascending from a steel cable a la Nikki Webster, nor did she promise that Strawberry Kisses was being ruled out either, so we can live in hope for the next 40 days.

Three nights of drinking at the same bar and standing at the same catering table, and not one has served non-alcoholic drinks. I’ve grown accustomed to it, and am unsure how I’ll fare drinking water out of anything other than a lager glass again.

A delegate tells me she’s recently come to the arts from the corporate world. I tell her – on behalf of the entire arts sector – that we’re glad to have her here.

She says, she is too, and says she won’t miss the egomaniacs.  I tell her I know what she means, then give her my business card, a signed headshot and an invoice her for my consultation.

Another successful day at APAM 2018.

Main image: Snake Sessions via Branch Nebula

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