the fiona winning interview

keith gallasch

Fiona Winning opening Live Works

Fiona Winning opening Live Works

Fiona Winning opening Live Works

KG In your role as director of Performance Space for nine years, you were obviously a nurturer of emerging work through workshops and various schemes and the promoting of new work programmed annually into the venue. You were also a negotiator dealing with funding bodies, government departments and your board of directors, not least in the transition from the old Cleveland Street venue to CarriageWorks. And you’ve been a collaborator in a variety of partnerships on behalf of Performance Space. And above all you’ve been a leader. You had to make things tick. How would you describe your role?

FW I think it changed over the years. Certainly it was all of those things. In the first instance it was about listening to what people’s needs and ideas and grievances (to some extent) were. And making sense of that to try and build a context that was better for artists. I was always interested in connecting dots between the temporary communities that build through making art and how to find more opportunities to build those communities. I think of it as a boiling pot and the bubbles that emerge are this energy that needs to exist and be released but it also needs to be held together. What I began to realise, not terribly long into the job, was that part of my role was to be responsive but part of it was to be strategic and to really try to make sense of the bigger picture and to build opportunities for artists. So it was a mixture of advocacy, strategic planning and partnering, bringing our own projects as interventions or opportunities, again to build temporary communities that wouldn’t otherwise make themselves.

KG On the one hand you were responsive, reading the scene; on the other you were saying we’ve got to lead the way. When you arrived, what sorts of needs were there?

confidence, communities & generations

FW I think there was a real lack of confidence within the community and indeed among the audiences about the organization and, so, it was a matter of rebuilding what we thought we were. I remember doing a lot of talking with artists who had a long history with Performance Space (yourself included and many other artists and arts workers who had been around the space for a long time), to try to get a sense of what its strengths had been. Of course, I had my impressions of that but I didn’t have a long history at Performance Space. I’d had a fairly long history as a punter and I had made a few shows there but I didn’t see myself as being deeply familiar with the history of the organization. So it seemed to me that we needed to create more consistent opportunities for people to make work, to develop work and to discuss it—and to actually be a community together.

KG There had been various periods when we had that sense. And I suppose that it’s almost inevitable that there are times when those things dissolve, when funding patterns change and, for example quite a lot of senior artists in performance pulled out in the mid-90s, which thinned out the living legacy.

FW And certainly one of the things that interested me in those early years—and I’ve never lost interest in it—is actually taking an inter-generational approach to everything. Part of that was about exchange but part of it was also about being aware of the lineage because I think that’s a powerful and important thing. And it’s probably re-emerging. This is another moment when I think it’s deeply important again. Not that it ever lost its importance but all of these things take work and you sometimes have to focus on something else. And obviously we’ve been concentrating on our new context at CarriageWorks most recently, but we need to bring all that stuff back in.

KG So what kind of things did you engage in in the first three years?

building a residency program

FW Building the residency program into something that was more structured, where people knew what they were getting—space, a little bit of dramaturgical support, a little bit of technical support and a context in which to test the work or show early drafts. Also opening that up to a national call. In the early days what we did with the residency program was to call for “mixed teams” and that could be mixed inter-generationally or mixed inter-culturally. It was important to me and it was mostly inter-generational and it was actually really successful. Version 1.0 got one of those early residencies to make The Second Last Supper (2001), along with a number of other interesting groups. We learned that space was critical and a little bit of support was necessary, though there have never been fees paid to artists in the residency program, People could use the residency then as leverage to get funding for their fees. The work was mostly at the creative development stage. But we also learned that people were really able to use that time and space if they had carved it out for themselves as really invaluable research and development for which, of course, it’s really difficult to get funding. And then they would do the R&D and from that would emerge the clearer idea that they wanted to pursue into creative development.

KG That’s been maintained?

FW It’s probably been one of the most successful parts of the program.

KG How many residencies do you deal with over a year?

FW About twelve of several weeks each. And since we’ve moved to CarriageWorks, because we’re now operating in blocks, we’ve established partnerships with Critical Path and UNSW and the University of Sydney so we can do several off-site residencies throughout the year as well. That’s really about creating a space for people to play, to develop work. In the early days, they were mostly performance residencies but they’ve become more and more diverse; they can be media-based like George Khut’s Cardiomorphologies (2004) which was originally partly developed and tested here and, in that same year, Transmute Collective’s Intimate Transactions and Gravity Feed’s Monstrous Body. Occasionally we would cluster works together that had different approaches to, say, this thing called ‘interactivity.’ Again, that was completely responsive in terms of what was around.

programming, presentation & deals

KG Performance Space has always been a venue for hire but then again you rent space and program work that’s relevant to your brief.

FW I had to move very fast. I was appointed late in 1999 and we didn’t really have a program for the next year. So I programmed three-months in advance rather than 12 months in advance, which is what we do now. We took some rentals that weren’t necessarily things I’d normally curate but I think it was important to do that to get a sense of who was out there doing what, because the networks had collapsed a bit. And of course, we also did some of our own projects. In 2000 we did unBecomings, which was a collaboration with PACT Youth Theatre and Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras—a kind of mentoring project for young queer performance-makers. We did a series of these over the years and then moved more into platforms of short works. Meanwhile artists like The opera Project, Nikki Heywood and Tess de Quincey were self-producing their work at Performance Space in our presentation programs. And that was really instructive for me, watching their work. Our role was to create the house around it in logistical terms but also to network the audiences into those projects as well. While people sometimes had publicists, sometimes didn’t, we tried to work to build audiences and connect dots between the works. We continue to do this and it’s a continually shifting set of challenges.

Within the presentation side of things we were working towards having La Pocha Nostra here to do Museum of Fetishized Identities (2001 & 2003) or doing particular shows for Mardi Gras each year. We had no capacity to buy in work whatsoever. It was all about people self-presenting and us either renting them the space (even though they were curated into the program) or doing deals because so many people were only getting funding from either one or other of the funding bodies. In the days before Road to Harmony (although that’s only for triennial clients), there was this incredible schism between State and Federal government, even at project level. So in order to support people to make work, but also have a program ourselves, we would do whatever deals we could to ensure that people could get their work up. So I guess in that sense we became more and more involved not in producing the work but having a hand in the “producing discussions.”

KG It’s not quite co-production.

FW It’s co-presentation, but because it’s not an existing work but is being produced for the first time, it was really about having a little bit more hands-on involvement in the producing, but not actually…

KG And has that improved to some extent with the funding situation, or is it still the same that there are certain shows you’ll need to assist and others can look after themselves?

a new model of co-presenting

FW Absolutely, although the way we now work at CarriageWorks we’ve done a complete shift. In the old days artists paid the rental and they got the box office and we created the context around it: the technical support, front of house and all that kind of stuff. We are now co-presenting in the sense that we offer the space, the front of house, a certain amount of tech support and we are partners in a 60/40 split of box office. So the risk is actually shared. But what’s changed most recently has come with the Presenter Program grants that the Theatre Board of the Australia Council has just given out. Performance Space received one of these, as did Arts House in Melbourne, PICA in Perth and a number of other organizations around the country. That’s $50,000 a year for three years just for artists’ fees. So that means that from next year for the first time we’re actually completely presenting My Darling Patricia, Version 1.0 and Rosie Dennis.

KG So Performance Space will carry most of the risk?

FW We’ll carry all of the risk.

KG And take most of the box office. Companies will get…

FW They’ll get their performance fees paid by us. It’s not a commission. It’s simply a presentation, but it means that the artists know what they’re getting paid. They don’t have to try and balance any books or cut any costs post-production. Partly that’s the Australia Council responding to something that I realised very early in my job, how difficult it is for artists to self-produce, self-present and make the work. And of course it pushes the relationships and dialogue between makers and presenters to another level, which is useful. We also do a lot more auspicing now than we used to do, a lot more management of money and grants, and this of ocurse involves us more in the producing side. It’s something we’ve got a lot better at and it’s a really important service I think, predominantly delivered by Julianne Campbell, our general manager.

dialoguing

FW One of the things we did early on was to collaborate with RealTime on a series of industry forums, sometimes about artform developments and sometimes about industry links or issues. We did a few with other partners. They were really important in bringing people together, again inter-generationally. As we know, some were more successful than others in terms of the content and flow of discussion, but people really did value those events, which is important when you’re trying to cohere ideas and people.

KG They demonstrated a need…I remember the first one we did on Sound at Redfern Town Hall in 2000, there was a great turnout. At none on the series was there ever less than 40 people. For the one on video art IN 2004 there were 100 people. It demonstrated the diverse reach of Performance Space.

FW So as well as presentation, residencies, forums, there were the event-based and platform programs such as unBecomings (2000 & 2001), Eat My Shorts for Carnivale (2001), Antistatic (2002), Pacific Wave Festival (2001 & 2003), Accidents & Alchemies (2004, 2005, 2006), the Lily Shearer-curated Ngal-lo-wah Murrytoola and Nangami Indigenous Performance Events (2007) and, of course, Balir French’s Video Spell, a series of video exhibitions and events over 2003-04. InterSections (2000, 2002 & 2005) was another of these—a series of performances, short works, workshops, forums and we’d do a group lunch together every day for two weeks. They were very modest but really useful events that, again, brought inter-generational and inter-disciplinary practitioners together.

a self-producing new wave

KG We seem to be in one of those interesting periods where there’s a new burst of talent and this one seems stronger than any we’ve had for a while. It includes the likes of My Darling Patricia, Spat & Loogie, Brown Council, Janie Gibson, Matthew Prest, the PACT performers in The Speech Givers and others.

FW Absolutely. PACT has been instrumental in nurturing and continuing to support that group. And the other thing that’s exciting about them—and Spat & Loogie are a great example of this—they’re makers first and foremost, but they’re also curators and producers. They’re so interested in the whole picture. And that’s very exciting because I think there are some artists who continue to see Performance Space as their main kind of place and I don’t think anybody can afford to do that, quite frankly. I think it’s important that Performance Space remains a home and hub but everyone needs to think a lot more rhizomatically than that and have multiple relationships with other partners, producers and presenters out there—and of course with Arts House in Melbourne and Brisbane Powerhouse as well as the Casula. Blacktown and Campbelltown contemporary arts centres now flourishing. There is a better network than there has ever been for artists to tap into.

KG To look to Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and beyond.

FW The people who are doing that are the people who have thrived. It’s the Version 1.0s, The Fondue Sets and My Darling Patricias, to name a few. And it’s this generation including groups like Post who are at Next Wave in Melbourne one minute, at This Is Not Art in Newcastle the next, in then Brisbane at Under the Radar and at Performance Space, even though their home is perhaps somewhere between PACT and Performance Space. We also have Lara Thoms co-curating the NightTime performance series for Performance Space and she and her peers have set up Quarter Bred at PACT. I think that sort of approach is so exciting.

do it yourself culture

We started Accidents & Alchemies in the last few years we were at Cleveland Street. Then associate director Caitlin Newton-Broad developed NightTime as a series distributed across the year at CarriageWorks. She brought in Rosie Dennis, Trevor Brown and Lara to co-curate each one. It’s worked out on a very simple basis. We pay for the infrastructure and the artists’ fees are based on a door split. It maintains the open call for platforming short works, which is important to bring in people we’ve never heard of, or people you mightn’t think of if you were curating a program in your own head. What NightTime does that’s different is that we decided to work in the public spaces [of CarriageWorks] and to work in the cracks between the program because we want it to be a fast in, fast out. You know, JUST DO IT!” NightTime maintains a DIY culture which has been part of our struggle at CarriageWorks, of course, when you go into that scale of building with a very different infrastructure. NightTime brings different parts of the community together and people either have to bring their own technical apparatus or they’re given a very small technical palette. It takes artists back to a very stripped back set of practices, which is good—fast and furious.

Quick & Dirty is another venture that I think is really fantastic and it’s on at least a three-year pathway. It’s a series of queer performance events working with people who have, since the demise of the funded Mardi Gras festival, struggled to create alternative venues to show that work. A lot of performers have been moving into burlesque but also into self-producing, including Gurlesque, Man Jam AND 34B. So, last year we brought them together. Victoria Spence was a key driver and we did two nights of Queer Performance. Next year, there’ll be three nights and it will morph into something else in the third year. But it’s really about collaboration with those artists and producers. It’s not a Performance Space project as such but it’s a really collaborative one into which we’re hoping to build in an element of sustainability over time. I think that’s an exciting development.

carriageworks: working the building

KG You’ve also hosted some big shows, which have used the foyer space and other parts of the building very successfully. Tess De Quincey’s The Stirring and Joey Ruigrok van der Werven’s Volta, both in 2007. They also offered that sense of occasion, which takes you beyond the normal spaces at the venue.

FW Volta was a project that Joey brought to us, which we produced. It was very specifically about sharing his vision of making work and bringing people who are normally servicing other people’s visions (the lighting and design people) to come in and be the co-creators. It was a great skill-sharing and art-making project. I think when you move to a place like CarriageWorks and you’re learning those physical spaces both technically and artistically and from the audience’s perspective, it takes time. I was fairly naïve…and naivete is quite useful sometimes. I thought that we would be a little bit more progressed into our settling into CarriageWorks than perhaps we are. And I don’t mean to say we’re not settled. It’s fantastic and we love those spaces. But there are sets of negotiations around everything. The foyer is a classic example of that because it’s shared space. So doing the Volta project involved a whole lot of learning curves—as well as being a great project in itself.

KG Yes, you can walk into that foyer and run into two very different events.

FW It was designed as a performance space but if people are flowing in and out of the other performance spaces in the building, it’s really problematic. So you either have to take over the entire building, which was the idea of LiveWorks (though we didn’t quite manage to include Bay 17) or you have to work in between the other programs. That’s essentially why we work in a block structure there, so that we at least know what’s coming in and out of all the other spaces. And, of course, Bay 17 is the thing because it holds up to 800 people who could be walking out into your performance. But I think both CarriageWorks and Performance Space are getting much clearer about how to deal with those issues.

memorable bodies of work

KG What do you see across those years as some of the important works that stayed with you? Obviously Guillermo Gomez-Pena had an impact with Museum of Fetishized Identities (2001 & 2003)

FW Absolutely. Everyone still talks about that. And I guess I’d talk about the emergence of companies like De Quincey Co and version 1.0 with their incredibly dynamic bodies of work. One of the things we do is to take an interest in artists across a trajectory of practice or time. It’s hard to think of specific shows as much as the bodies of work. Watching The Fondue Set grow over the years has been fantastic, and Martin Del Amo—to see his work unfold over the years with key collaborators, Gail Priest in particular, creating those beautiful works very regularly. Tess De Quincey, Julie-Anne Long, Nikki Heywood and Sue Healey are all artists who not only create their own work but also are offering an enormous amount to the younger artists in the community. Then there’s The opera Project, with a new work in the pipeline for 2009, My Darling Patricia, who kicked off at PACT and Branch Nebula—whose Paradise City was developed as part of a residency and to see that commissioned by the Opera House and tour to Brazil and then around Australia was very gratifying.

One of the exciting moments most recently, coming out of a body of work, was Alan Schacher’s The Bland Project. Alan and Jeff Stein and Denis Beaubois, formerly members of Gravity Feed, are all making their own work. Alan’s decision to direct and produce The Bland Project was just one of those moments when I went “Aaah!” It was exciting to see a really lucid set of collaborations between languages: I loved the filmic, the broader visual, the performative and the musical aspects of the production. And, of course, there have been the commissionings of artists like Sussie Porsborg, Sean Cordiero & Claire Healy, and Ruark Lewis & Jonathan Jones that have created both social spaces and great installations for the foyer at CarriageWorks.

live works

KG In a way the LiveWorks festival in September looked like the apotheosis of your career with Performance Space. I don’t know if it was your biggest moment but it seemed like a timely celebration and paralleled the moment of leaving very nicely. We’ve long been desperate for a contemporary performance festival. There hasn’t been one here since the Contemporary Performance Weeks that Don Mamouney used to run out at Sidetrack. How long were you harbouring the plans for Live Works?

FW Ever since we knew we were moving to CarriageWorks, we wanted to do a festival. We didn’t raise the money we wanted. We’d wanted to take over the whole building and use Bay 17, not so much as one huge venue, but as a space you’d walk through to encounter something tiny. When we did Volta at the end of the first year at CarriageWorks, I remember saying we couldn’t have actually done it any earlier. We didn’t know enough about the spaces, we didn’t have the relationships to test some of the things that that show tested. I feel the same about Live Works.

For LiveWorks we turned two of the tracks [large rooms usually used only for rehearsals, residencies and workshops] into theatre spaces which is not what I would normally want to do with them but that’s what the cultural need was. I love the Bay 20 theatre space but it’s big, it takes a long time to rig, so it’s expensive to put work in there. This means it suits highly produced works (or bigger works with more resources). So for emerging companies like Team Mess and artists like Georgie Read whose work we want to feature but we want to show in a quick and dirty or fast and furious way we need to use the tracks. So the POPE (Places of Public Entertainment) licensing of those spaces is really important. For LiveWorks, to get that through, to increase the capacity and use those spaces for performance work that didn’t need as much infrastructure, was really important. And, of course, artistically, it was crucial for us to bring together a whole lot of new work and some existing work, some works that had been tried but not seen in Sydney—Matt Prest’s The Tent being a good example and Paul Dwyer’s Bougainville Photoplay project. And it was really good to bring Panther and Aphids up from Melbourne and PVI from Perth, because it’s very easy to only read about them in RealTime. It’s also about the wider performance community being able to talk to each other in a context that allows the space for that.

KG LiveWorks had that nice inter-generational feel as well—Martin Del Amo and Rosie Dennis and a lot of younger people. And it had a sense of occasion. And you had Pacitti Company from London.

FW Yes. It was great to have them in residence. Finale was a little bit controversial; some people from our community felt that the Australians had not been used well in that work. But actually the people who made the work and collaborated with Robert Pacitti, while they were very clear about some things they did and didn’t love about the process, actually did not necessarily feel badly framed.

KG I thought it was variable. Some people were very visible, others barely there, but that depended in part on where you found yourself in a big space amidst a mobile performance, and a mobile audience.

FW And it was a two-week process. I think one of the problems, and this was logistical for us, was that we had to put Finale in the theatre and we needed to do it over three nights. It was a big work, so it looked like the centrepiece of the festival which, in turn, put a lot of pressure on it, It was a collaboration running alongside the other things that were happening during the week—a peer-to-peer exchange and local artists who had never worked together got the opportunity to play together in a process driven by Pacitti Company. Again, this seeded new relationships and created another temporary community exposed to Robert’s particular way of working.

KG It was certainly worth doing, having that UK presence: the two Pacitti shows (Civil and Finale), Duncan Speakman working on his audio walks, Helen Cole’s collection of performance memories, along with Rosa Ilgen [Norway/UK] making her shoes of hair.

FW Yes, I loved those works too. It was partly the closing chapter of the Breathing Space collaboration with Arnolfini in Bristol. And when I say “closing chapter” I don’t mean there aren’t more things to do, it’s just that Breathing Space has run a cycle. There are Australian artists whom Helen Cole has programmed regularly and her interest in and knowledge of Australian work is really astute. So there is a flow-on for people who weren’t part of the Breathing Space project itself but could have been. I think she has a really strong commitment, wherever she will be as a programmer in the next year or in ten years. It’s the same with me. That’s partly what those collaborations are about. I now have a much clearer picture of a whole lot of UK practice that I didn’t have before.

live art and other beasts

KG The term Live Art is starting to be used in Australia. We know there’s contemporary performance and performance art and there’s this other thing called live art, which has aspects of both. It can be more informal, or theatrical. It can involve works where the artist doesn’t appear but sets puzzles for the audience to solve. It’s fast becoming a blanket term. When you think of My Darling Patricia and shows like The Tent, they’re pretty sophisticated shows of a certain scale and do require money. But then there are the shorter, more mobile works. An artist like Rosie Dennis has found it difficult to find a niche in Australia but she can find it in the UK and Europe. Do you see it happening here, that Live Art dimension?

FW I think it does happen but mostly in galleries, though we are co-commissioning Rosie Dennis’ new work with Arnolfini. One of the things we’re hoping to do for Mobile States is to tour a module of four or five shorter works. One work might be durational, one might be 20 minutes, one might be full length, one might be more installation-based. We always wanted to do that and we didn’t get around to it, we always ended up making a choice to tour works that belonged in a theatre, started at 8pm and finished at 9.15 and might have been dance or hybrid performance or contemporary performance or theatre…And I’m really proud of that body of work that we toured over the last five or six years because I think it is a really interesting survey of work. But, of course, what’s left out is the work that’s not made for a theatre that starts at 8 and finishes at 9.15. That could be short work, the kind we showed at LiveWorks. And that was another reason for doing the festival, to capitalise on those fantastic spaces and try to find intimate moments within that massive architecture. It was also to create a context for beautiful work that sits outside either the theatre or gallery. As presenters we have to create the context for that work and LiveWorks was about doing that.

The Australia Council have opened Mobile States to tender and we’ve pitched a tour around a module or cluster of work so that the spectrum of work that can be presented is wider. It actually comes from understanding the dilemmas of people like Rosie and from me having seen some of those UK festivals like InbetweenTime and the National Review of Live Art. I think that work exists in Australia but it doesn’t prosper. So it’s a matter of us creating special contexts for it. Events like NightTime and indeed EXIST 08 in Brisbane have provided a context for that work. And, of course, Daniel Brine (the new Performance Space director) has a deep knowledge and understanding of live art so that will be a bonus to the contemporary arts community in Australia.

indigilab

KG As well as the Time_Place_Space hybrid arts laboratory [see below] Performance Space ran Indigilab.

FW We piloted this laboratory last year in partnership with Bundanon and next year hope to do it there again. Performance Space initiated the project. That was really about bringing what we had learned from Time_Place_Space [TPS] as a structure to create a black space because we’d always found it quite difficult to attract Indigenous artists into TPS. When we did, we got very clear feedback as to why it was not quite what people needed. So we created Indigilab. Wesley Enoch, Lily Shearer and I brainstormed the way it might work. We didn’t get the money to do the laboratory for the two weeks but we did it for one week with eight indigenous artists from around the country and it was really great. Djon Mundine, Wesley Enoch and Genevieve Grieves were the three facilitators and we’re very keen on seeing a future for that project but, again, we need to build some self-sustainability into it. Sandy Saxon, our Giving Manager is doing some philanthropic work around trying to get that supported.

a collaborative programming team

KG As well as performance, the visual arts and new media arts, dance and dance on screen are strongly represented in Performance Space programming.

FW I would say that one of the most exciting developments in my time at Performance Space has been about the growth that we’ve been able to negotiate and that means that we can officially have expert programmers across a range of forms. I remember talking to Stephen Armstrong at one stage about feeling really isolated in programming and didn’t know what to do. He suggested thinking about the associate director model. So we created that position and Blair French was the first person in that position and then appointed another associate director around performance and media-based work, Caitlin Newton-Broad. And then, the dance producer, Rosalind Richards, is effectively another associate director, but we needed for political reasons to put dance into the title. IN 2006-7 we also, too briefly, had Lily Shearer as our Indigenous Performance Broker, which brought another important dimension to the program. So for me that’s the most exciting development professionally: that we were able to create a truly collaborative programming team that was interdisciplinary, that had great expertise in different areas. We sit down and we talk about the work and what’s driving it and everyone has a desire to understand more about the other art languages that are around the table. For me, that’s been the most fantastic thing.

KG So who are the team at the moment?

FW Rosalind Richards is dance producer. Bec Dean is associate director looking after the installation program specifically but, of course, Bec has an extraordinary background in performance and the performative and an interest in media arts. Rebecca Conroy is also an associate director. She’s a theatre and performance person with very strong inter-cultural connections and experience in running artist-run spaces and public space events. She co-created the Gang Festival [in 2005, a creative exchange with Indonesian artist run spaces].

In the job description for each of these positions is the requirement they bring in new communities of artists and audiences to extend the current world of performance space at any one moment. It’s a fantastic team and a great model because it actually means you have expertise in a range of areas. Where we don’t have expertise, we try to bring people in. So our collaboration with Liquid Architecture is very specifically about that, or getting Gail Priest to curate the What Survives: sonic residues in breathing buildings at Cleveland Street (2006) before we left there. It opens up the possibility of having different people in the program at the same time. Blair French as our first associate director successfully rebuilt our visual arts profile and carved out a particularity within the visual arts culture of Sydney. He was very strategic and I believe led us to secure Visual Arts & Craft Strategy [VACS] funding. We couldn’t do the visual arts program that we’re doing at CarriageWorks without that support. Of course, the integration of One Extra and ReelDance into the Performance Space program has also been important. We were very lucky to be able to support ReelDance—and now they’ve got their Emerging Triennial funding. The funds for dance and ReelDance are separately accounted for from other Performance Space programs.

challenges

KG Integrating Performance Space into the CarriageWorks structure must have very particular challenges—for both organisations.

FW I think the biggest challenge for both our organizations really is the successful realisation of the business model which is for the commercial side to bring in enough money to support CarriageWorks to (a) be able to run itself and some programs themselves and (b) be able to subsidise the small to medium sector. This is the big challenge and it is still very early days.

KG Especially in a tough financial climate.

FW That’s right. It’s extraordinary that we’ve got CarriageWorks at all really. So now the challenge is what is actually happening to the nine hectare site it is part of and what is happening to the commercial bays. Anna Schwartz Gallery is there and that’s fantastic. But, with things like the building’s roof having to be fixed it’s been really difficult for CarriageWorks. I don’t know the exact details but there were funds to subsidise the first three years of activity, which runs out half-way through next year and that’s their challenge and, therefore, our challenge because our destinies are somewhat intertwined.

The other thing I wanted to say is that one of the main constraints is the situation in NSW. On the one hand we’ve got this beautiful building that Arts NSW invested in and created five years ago. On the other hand Arts NSW is pulling away from supporting independent artists through project funding and encouraging them to work as organisations or through existing organisations, but with no extra money. If the government was flush with money and there was more being invested, this might possibly be a good set of moves policy wise. But in this context, it feels really tricky. I think that’s going to be a major issue. Federally the Theatre Board has been moving towards putting more resources into presenters and producers but they still need the independent artists to bring the money for their projects with them. So on the one hand we’ve got this new big picture being presented by the Australia Council and it’s just simply not able to be matched at a State level. So I think over the next 5 years, this is going to create a big tricky world for us all.

the next stage

KG Most artistic directors leave not only a long term legacy but often programming for the coming year. Presumably with your program managers you’ve set up things for the new director, Daniel Brine, to work with?

FW The program is predominantly in place for next year, which gives Daniel the opportunity to concentrate on public programs, an area of particular interest for him. Our first 18 months at CarriageWorks was a major learning curve involving a major re-thinking about ourselves, about getting the work in, about how to support artists in the CarriageWorks spaces, about our presentation model and about our technical realisation in those big spaces. The second 18 months has been more around profile and marketing and audience development. And the public programs are really about that. So that’s the next focus. Daniel, of course, also has to write a business plan by the middle of next year, so we agreed that it would be a good thing for us to do most of the programming for next year so he could concentrate on the public program, the orientation and the business plan, which is big enough really.

what’s next & time_place_space asia

KG And for you, what’s next?

FW I actually don’t know. We’re doing Time_Place_Space no. 6 which I’m co-curating with Sarah Miller, Teresa Crea and with Margie Breen as project manager. That will happen in January-February next year in Brisbane. Time_Place_Space [TPS] is something that I’m very proud of. I was talking earlier about the importance of building temporary communities. There have been really substantial collaborations that were seeded at TPS. It’s so necessary because so many artists still feel quite isolated, particularly if they think of themselves as a hybrid performance maker or new media artist in Townsville or Perth, or even Sydney sometimes. So one of the strategic things we were doing with TPS was to work with the Australia Council and with Asialink to do an inter-cultural, interdisciplinary lab call TPS Asia. (That’s just the working title.) This TPS is inviting a number of delegates—curators, artists, producers and funding people—from various Asian countries to see the model in action in the hope that we can then create partnerships to do TPS in a number of Asian countries.

KG You’re probably not suffering separation anxiety yet, about leaving Performance Space.

FW No, but I do feel incredibly lucky to have had that job. Now I’d like to do some writing. And I know what my passion is. I love programming. And I love working with artists through that trajectory of concept development, through to production and touring. Performance Space does all those things, not with each work all the way through, but dipping in and out of different parts of that process. So finding another context in which to be able to do that is going to be my greatest challenge.

RealTime issue #88 Dec-Jan 2008 pg. online

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 December 2008