Editorial Friday 10 December 2019

In this edition, a focus on anxiety. At worse, it’s the kind triggered by a dictatorial Australian Government’s sudden erasure of the Arts from the title of a new mega-department (see below). At best it’s in the form of The Big Anxiety. It’s a bold, even risky title for a festival that “brings together artists, scientists and communities to question and re-imagine the state of mental health in the 21st century” (website). But far from inducing anxiety, the recent UNSW event is liberating, bringing to bear new thinking, strategies and technologies with which to address trauma, depression, panic and pain across a broad spectrum of physical, mental and cultural conditions, not least in the event’s The Empathy Clinic (image above). Curation by Jill Bennett and Bec Dean is superb, as is the spacious yet intimate exhibition design by Anna Tregloan. Focusing on r e a and Judy Atkinson’s listen_UP, Eugenie Lee’s Breakout My Pelvic Sorcery and a selection of other challenging creations, Keith recounts his experience of immersive artworks that test preconceptions, heighten the senses and expand the capacity for empathy, often in works made by sufferers themselves. Also in this edition, Ensemble Offspring supports bold new Australian compositions with inventive staging, and Branch Nebula brings spectacle to public space with DEMO.

Very big anxiety. With Stalinist verve, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has disappeared the Arts, calculatedly refusing to name them as part of the new Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications; instead they are buried in the latter portfolio. This is perfectly in sync with secret trials, a secret Senate deal over Medevac, increasingly limited Freedom of Information access and suppression of unions and a free press. A government that cannot say to the world, proudly, we have a Ministry of the Arts, is in denial of art, possibly in fear of it. Let your anger be heard. Have a safe and happy holiday season. Keith & Virginia

Top image credit: Entrance to The Empathy Clinic, The Big Anxiety, design by Anna Tregloan, photo Jessica Maurer

6 December 2019