Kamarra Bell-Wykes: An Artist’s Guide to a Manifesto
[00:00:23] Hi, my name is Kamarra Bell-Wykes, I'm a
Yagera / Butchulla woman from south east Queensland.
[00:00:28] I'm very proud to live and work
here on Kulin Country. Sovereignty was never ceded.
[00:00:36] I'm a multi-disciplinary theatre maker.
[00:00:39] I am a playwright, performer, director,
[00:00:43] Education consultant and workshop facilitator.
[00:00:47] I've got a degree in education, but
no formal training in the arts at all.
[00:00:53] I've learnt most of my skills on the
job working with companies like.
[00:00:58] The amazing Ilbijerri Theatre Company.
[00:01:00] Who I've worked with for a really
long time, probably over 20 years.
[00:01:04] I've been associated with Ilbijerri in many different
[00:01:08] And I also worked for them five years on wage, first as the education manager.
[00:01:14] And then went on to be their creative director later on.
[00:01:17] I like to look at my practice as very collaborative.
[00:01:20] I could like to combine all of my skills working on
[00:01:23] And I prefer to see the process of making art as a combination of everybody's skills and knowledge,
[00:01:28] And it's the magic that we create in the room
when we bring those things together.
[00:01:32] And that's the way that I'm really interested in
[00:01:35] Working in the old-fashioned Western paradigm of a playwright.
[00:01:39] Sitting down and writing a story
itself doesn't really interest me.
[00:01:43] I'm much more interested in finding the magic and
the work in the room together on the floor.
[00:01:52] So I'm currently engaged with quite a number of
projects across a range of organizations,
[00:01:57] As I mentioned, it will be a
theatre company and Malthouse Theatre.
[00:02:01] I'm currently at Malthouse.
We actually have been, during this time of covid,.
[00:02:09] Trying to take advantage of
what this sort of new normal means.
[00:02:13] And we've got a very exciting project that
I won't spill the beans on yet.
[00:02:17] But we are doing a bit
of a Malthouse takeover next year.
[00:02:20] I've been working with Matthew Lutton and
Ra Chapman to create a work that will be
[00:02:26] Premiering at the Malthouse next year.
[00:02:28] So stay tuned for that one.
[00:02:29] And I'm also working with the phenomenal Carly
Sheppard, bringing her character, Chase, back to
[00:02:35] life, which will be premiering at Malthouse
in November next year, as well.
[00:02:41] They're both really exciting works.
[00:02:43] And I think the reason why they're so
exciting is because they push the envelope.
[00:02:48] But also it's not just about the content,
it's about the process that we're utilising to
[00:02:53] create those works.
[00:02:54] Carly is one of my favourite theatre
makers because of her interest in creating work on
[00:03:00] the floor, on taking risks, on using different processes
in the room to discover work
[00:03:06] that you just don't find in
the traditional ways of making them.
[00:03:10] So I'm really excited about that work.
[00:03:13] I'm also working with Ilbijerri on a
number of different projects I'm curating this year,
[00:03:18] the Black Rights Programme.
[00:03:20] It's the second year round
that we're doing this.
[00:03:22] We've been taking advantage of the online space.
And we've got three amazing First Nations
[00:03:27] Writers that are all writing radio plays, which
will be premiered at the end of next year.
[00:03:32] And we've also taken a really great step
in that program by formally training up three
[00:03:38] First Nation dramaturges, trying to recognise the
gap that exists within the sector.
[00:03:45] We just don't have enough Aboriginal dramaturges that
are putting their hands up and they actually
[00:03:49] have the skills.
[00:03:50] They just don't have the confidence
or the language of power.
[00:03:53] So one of the things that I'm really about in
my practice is recognising where the gaps are
[00:03:59] and creating solutions. Figuring out
how we solve that.
[00:04:03] What do we do?
[00:04:04] How do we make sure that there are enough
First Nations dramaturges? Instead of saying there's not
[00:04:09] enough First Nations dramaturges.
We know that. Let's solve that problem.
[00:04:12] So that's one of the things that I'm really
big on in my practice and black rights.
[00:04:17] We've got amazing three writers,
[00:04:20] Three First Nations dramaturges that are all
working together to create this original work from
[00:04:24] the ground up.
[00:04:25] So that's really exciting as well.
[00:04:28] I've also been working with Ilbijerri on developing
their social impact model, which has been a
[00:04:34] huge part of my lifelong career.
[00:04:36] When I firs started as a playwright in my
early twenties; one of the first professional jobs
[00:04:42] that I had was writing a play called
Chopped Liver, which was educating the Aboriginal community
[00:04:47] about hepatitis C.
[00:04:49] And that play went on to have huge successes
across Australia and toured for about four years to
[00:04:56] almost thirty five thousand people across
prisons and schools and communities.
[00:05:00] And that program is funded by the
Department of Health and Human Services.
[00:05:04] And fifteen years later, we're still
making work funded by DHS.
[00:05:10] And so what we're actually doing now, rather than
just taking plays out to communities
[00:05:15] and to sort of fly-in fly-out model where we were
there for an hour, we do a show about.
[00:05:21] "whatever the issue is" And then we leave.
[00:05:24] Leaving the community thinking "that was a great show'.
[00:05:26] We're now looking at developing a model
where we're going to have a trained ensemble
[00:05:32] working within a framework, to actually go out to
community groups and create the work with that group.
[00:05:38] And then that performance will
then be taken into other communities.
[00:05:41] And it's actually looking at how do we create
participatory models of work to maximise the impact
[00:05:48] that it's having on communities.
[00:05:49] So that's a really exciting development
that we've had in that program.
[00:05:53] And we're doing a huge evaluation practice
of the last fifteen years, and then using that
[00:05:59] research and findings to then inform the ensemble,
[00:06:03] And the model of work that we then develop to take out into the community.
[00:06:06] So that's also a really exciting piece of work that
I'll be working on over the next couple of years,
[00:06:16] A very exciting piece, which is also quite dear to
my heart, because a lot of the time
[00:06:22] My practice is about working
with other people's stories.
[00:06:26] That's a huge part of what I like to do.
[00:06:28] I like to facilitate and
give a voice to other people.
[00:06:31] But I am also a writer that
has my own experiences and ideas.
[00:06:35] And it's been a really long time since I've
written something that I wanted to write,
[00:06:40] That wasn't actually a commission about an
issue or about somebody else's idea.
[00:06:46] So I'm writing a piece
called 'Who's Going to Love Them?'
[00:06:49] That has been funded by the city of Melbourne.
[00:06:52] And also having amazing support from Footscray
Community Arts Centre, to really explore this
[00:06:58] devising process on the floor, and take risks, and
a little bit of 'not knowing what I'm doing',
[00:07:05] but be really supportive of that 'unknown',
and allowing me to really.
[00:07:10] Push the envelope in my own process.
[00:07:12] And I think that in a very content and outcome-driven
sector, it becomes harder and harder to take
[00:07:21] risks when we're making work because of
this pressure to succeed and deliver.
[00:07:25] So it's so exciting for me to know that
I've got the support and the space and the
[00:07:31] opportunity to say
[00:07:32] "I want to make work in another way."
[00:07:34] And that Footscray Community Arts Centre,
are so on board and supportive.
[00:07:39] So that is called 'Who's Going to love them?'
[00:07:40] I will be working on that throughout 2021 and
really excited to see where that ends up.
[00:07:48] [Soft background music playing].
[00:07:52] I find that linear narrative storytelling
doesn't actually match up
[00:08:00] with the way that First Nations people, culturally
want to tell stories, and the way that we engage,
[00:08:08] And connect, and express art.
[00:08:10] Performance, and song, and
music, and dance, and words are not separate things.
[00:08:17] They all come together.
[00:08:18] I think the Western paradigm has
really segregated those things from each other.
[00:08:22] And so I'm really interested in bringing those
things back together,
[00:08:25] But also exploring ideas in a different way.
[00:08:29] For me, it's about the experience,
not necessarily the linear story.
[00:08:33] And so I think the Western
term for it is post-dramatic theatre.
[00:08:36] I'm coining the phrase post-traumatic theatre,
[00:08:40] And it's about expressing or exploring
[00:08:43] What does love mean post trauma?
[00:08:46] How do we, as First Nations people, that have
had not only our language, and culture and country
[00:08:50] taken from us, but also our capacity to
love, and to love safely and receive love.
[00:08:56] So it's an exploration of that idea
and we'll see what happens.
[00:09:03] [Relaxed Music]
[00:09:08] Even though I have been a professional
working artist for maybe fifteen to twenty years,
[00:09:16] I feel like the last five years to seven
years have been a huge learning curve for me.
[00:09:24] And my career has reached another
level that I never expected it to.
[00:09:28] I think one of the reasons why that happened
was I actually left Melbourne for seven years;
[00:09:34] went away and I did other things.
[00:09:36] I got my education degree.
[00:09:38] I had other experiences.
[00:09:40] I lived in other worlds.
[00:09:41] I worked in other jobs.
[00:09:42] And I knew that I always wanted to come back to
the arts, but I felt like I wanted to have
[00:09:48] something deeper that was
anchoring my arts within that.
[00:09:52] I didn't know whether education was the right way
to go, but that was sort of what I ended up with.
[00:09:57] And it's actually been quite phenomenal how much that
degree has informed the way that I work and my career.
[00:10:05] I suppose my tip number one for you
guys would be
[00:10:09] Don't just be an artist.
[00:10:11] Don't let being an artist define you.
[00:10:13] I think the most interesting artists to me are
people that are bringing the other lived and world
[00:10:18] experiences into the art that they're making.
[00:10:22] And so it's so smart.
[00:10:24] If you want to keep working in the arts and
other ways, you have to have more than one thing
[00:10:30] that you do.
[00:10:31] I mean, there are people that do hit the big time,
can just perform,
[00:10:37] And that's what they want to do.
[00:10:37] But I think every working artist that I know
that stays in employment is because they have a
[00:10:43] bunch of tools in their tool kit.
[00:10:46] And I cannot recommend that enough.
[00:10:48] If you get a chance to study, study.
If you get a chance to go and do other jobs, work other
[00:10:53] jobs, have life experiences, travel, be around other
people go and make bad decisions.
[00:10:59] Do things that are going to make you stronger as a
person so that when you come back to your
[00:11:04] artistic practice, you really have something that you
want to say and that you've got a bunch
[00:11:09] of different ways of being able to say that.
[00:11:12] That, I think for me, has
been a really big learning curve.
[00:11:15] [Soft music]
[00:11:19] When I first started to go and work in an organisation,
I think I was struck with major imposter syndrome,
[00:11:27] I think as artists we all do that.
[00:11:28] And we tend to jump into jobs that we maybe haven't
[00:11:32] But we know that we can figure out as we go.
[00:11:35] So there's definitely a level of faking
it until you make it within the arts,
[00:11:39] But I think the way to make that work is
that you also have to be super willing to learn and
[00:11:46] do the hard work. To pick up that lack
of skill set or knowledge that you might have.
[00:11:50] So you can close it for a little while.
[00:11:52] But then comes the
"how am I going to get that knowledge?"
[00:11:55] "Which person in the office has that thing that I
don't know, that I need?
[00:11:59] Go and make time with them.
[00:12:00] Find a mentor.
Get a professional mentor.
[00:12:03] I cannot recommend it enough.
[00:12:05] It's so important to have someone to be able
to talk to, to recognise opportunities, to be able
[00:12:10] to offer you an outside eye
on your work.
[00:12:13] Do part time study.
[00:12:15] If there's an organisation that's doing work within prisons,
and you want to do work in prisons,
[00:12:20] ring them up.
[00:12:20] Find out if there's a way that you can volunteer.
There are so many different ways.
[00:12:24] Be an arts groupie.
Hang around the people that are doing the things,
[00:12:28] And making the kind of art that you want to do.
[00:12:30] Because most artists are really cool and they
love people that come to see what they're doing.
[00:12:34] So I just can't recommend enough to reach
out to people that are doing the type of art
[00:12:39] that you want to do, or have the skills
and knowledge that you're lacking,
[00:12:43] And develop yourself.
[00:12:46] Working within Ilbijerri as an organisation
meant a lot of challenges for me,
[00:12:51] But it also had a lot of advantages.
[00:12:53] And one of those things is getting an opportunity
to participate in programs, or have access to
[00:12:59] mentors and organisations that you
might not have otherwise.
[00:13:03] Working in an organisation is one thing.
[00:13:07] It's probably a simpler matter to
have those things in place.
[00:13:10] And if your organisation doesn't have those things in
place for you, then it's your right to
[00:13:14] advocate for those things and ask
for them for yourself.
[00:13:17] There are also programs available through places like
Creative Victoria or the City of Melbourne.
[00:13:22] So it's always good to look
out for those kind of things.
[00:13:25] But also ask people. You can't know everybody
and you also don't know what you don't know.
[00:13:31] So if you're someone who says
'I really feel like I need a mentor.'
[00:13:35] 'I don't know who that person is.'
[00:13:37] Ask someone that you do trust.
[00:13:39] 'Who do you think would be good?'
[00:13:41] And ninety-nine percent of the time someone will
[00:13:44] give you the name of your
match made in heaven mentor.
[00:13:48] It's just a matter of asking people.
[00:13:50] And if people aren't up for it and they decline,
then ask somebody else.
[00:13:53] You have to advocate for yourself.
[00:13:56] You have to ask for the things you need.
[00:13:59] People aren't mind readers and we're adults.
[00:14:03] [Soft music]
[00:14:05] I would highly recommend at
one point, at least in your career,
[00:14:13] I think it's really important if you're a
[00:14:16] To do some work within an organisational context.
[00:14:20] I learned so much about the sector,
the way that things operate behind the scenes,
[00:14:25] The deadlines, the fundings,
the network opportunities.
[00:14:29] There was a lot of stuff that I learnt within
that space that I just would never have known otherwise.
[00:14:35] I was exposed to, and had
access to, networks that I wouldn't have had.
[00:14:40] If I hadn't worked with an organisation,
[00:14:42] And all of those things have fed back into my freelance career.
[00:14:46] It's also really clarified for me that I don't
like working in organisations,
[00:14:50] But it's also been a real advantage to my freelance career.
[00:14:54] I think that's really important.
[00:14:56] If you get a chance to work in
an organisation, do it at least once.
[00:14:59] [Soft music]
[00:15:02] I think one of the things that I really
learnt during my education degree, was the importance and
[00:15:08] value of being a reflective practitioner, because that's
something that you have to do in every
[00:15:13] single lesson that you teach.
[00:15:14] And it's not something that we're necessarily
encouraged to do as much as artists.
[00:15:20] I think that having a plan, being
able to work off that plan, change that plan,
[00:15:28] Go back and look at what you did, what
you didn't do, what worked and what didn't,
[00:15:34] And then, actually writing down a reflection on
[00:15:38] And then incorporating that into your next day's work,
is such an essential thing that we don't do
[00:15:43] as much as we should in arts practice.
[00:15:45] Things just kind of happen
[00:15:47] And then we just keep on doing things.
[00:15:49] Writing them down formally, really helps.
[00:15:52] But then you get to a point where it's
like that's just automatically happening all the time.
[00:15:57] And I find myself, even when I'm in a
room moment by moment, I'm constantly assessing.
[00:16:02] "What just happened? Does that need to change?
[00:16:04] Is this working?
[00:16:05] How can I pick that up?'
[00:16:06] And I think that it also helps to look for
learning moments, we call them in education.
[00:16:12] The moments of magic when we're making theatre,
of where there's a clue or a hint or a
[00:16:19] gold coin, or something
sparkly that you didn't expect.
[00:16:22] Then if you pause, meaning you have to stop
and go off your plan following that white rabbit
[00:16:27] down the hole; that is where
the rewards are and the magic carpet.
[00:16:31] But you can't find those opportunities, unless you
have some type of plan that you're working towards.
[00:16:36] I just think it's a really
undervalued, underestimated skill set in life in general,
[00:16:43] It's just reflecting on what we've done, what
worked, what didn't work, how can we do it
[00:16:48] better? But then also having the ability and the
trust and the guts to realise that the plan's
[00:16:55] not working, or there's a better idea available here
and then you can come back to the plan.
[00:17:00] So I think that's a really important practical tool.
[00:17:07] A part of my role at Ilbijerri Theatre Company
was to develop a series of workshops to go
[00:17:13] out to primary and secondary schools to educate,
[00:17:18] First Nations, but predominantly non First Nations
students about First Nations concepts and
[00:17:25] perspectives –I get really wary about using
the term issue in relation to First Nations–.
[00:17:32] So that was really hard, because
designing a workshop is a big thing.
[00:17:36] I think people underestimate what a huge
skill set, planning and delivering successful
[00:17:43] workshops are, particularly with students that you
don't know, that you've just met.
[00:17:48] When you've got reluctant learners, it's a real skill
to come in and deliver a workshop.
[00:17:53] And win people over, actually for them
to get something out of it,
[00:17:57] But for you to also feel like
you've achieved what you've wanted.
[00:18:00] That was a huge, scary challenge for me.
[00:18:04] That gave me a lot of anxiety.
[00:18:07] But again, I used my own tips.
[00:18:10] I reached out to people that had the skills
that I felt like that I didn't have.
[00:18:14] I partnered up with people that were able to support me
in the spaces that I was unsure about through that process,
[00:18:22] And also ordering lots of
process drama books online,
[00:18:26] There are so many things out there available for
us to be able to develop our things.
[00:18:31] And then used those to combine my own
knowledge, to develop a really amazing set of educational
[00:18:37] workshops that went from basically
prep up to year 12.
[00:18:41] And then there were also the
teachers part of it as well.
[00:18:44] And most of these workshops were like
forty five minutes to ninety minutes long.
[00:18:48] And what I discovered in that space was frameworks
are pretty much everything,
[00:18:56] for all artistic practice and educational practice.
[00:19:00] It's not actually about what you're
doing with inside the framework.
[00:19:04] It's the framework that is
the key within the framework.
[00:19:08] You can do anything as long as you understand what
the outlines are and what is holding
[00:19:14] this thing that you're delivering.
And then you can change the details.
[00:19:17] That's something that I
learnt through education, as well.
[00:19:20] I found that it applies to my
creative practice in a lot of unexpected ways.
[00:19:25] There are so many different frameworks.
[00:19:27] There are so many different ways of thinking.
[00:19:29] It's a way to help you structure your thinking.
[00:19:32] So I really highly recommend
that you look into frameworks.
[00:19:35] I developed a really strong
framework for these educational workshops.
[00:19:41] And what I discovered was the power of art
was able to take very dry educational historical
[00:19:50] information, and transform it into a lived,
[00:19:56] With students that by the beginning of the workshop, were
coming in being quite stuck-up,
[00:20:01] because they don't want to learn about Aboriginal
[00:20:04] And thinking that maybe they were going
[00:20:06] to watch me with other people, playing a didgeridoo or doing these weren't cultural workshops.
[00:20:11] I was there to teach them about our social
issues and about our histories and perspectives.
[00:20:17] And so by the end of these workshops,
I watched these students transform from being quite
[00:20:23] ignorant and cynical, to having really vulnerable, exciting, challenging and empowering moments.
[00:20:30] By the end of it, leaving
the workshops almost transformed young human beings.
[00:20:35] And I knew that that was because
I had discovered the right framework.
[00:20:39] So I just think that frameworks are really,
another practical thing, that we don't apply
[00:20:45] enough within our artistic practice.
[00:20:48] When I'm doing rehearsals, always start with
a circle where we have to share about not
[00:20:55] only who we are and where we come from, but what
we perceive as to be our strengths and also what
[00:21:00] we perceive to be as our triggers and our
weaknesses, so that we're developing a language with
[00:21:05] each other, so when we go into rehearsals
and things start getting tense or something comes
[00:21:10] up, that we've got the shared language
and framework that we can go:
[00:21:14] 'Remember, this is that thing
that we spoke about.'
[00:21:17] 'I feel like I've just been triggered and
you've got that framework to lean on.'
[00:21:21] And so it's an overarching structure.
[00:21:25] Every room, project, experience will
require a different framework.
[00:21:30] And they don't have to be laborious things.
[00:21:34] They're just ways to help
you organize your thinking.
[00:21:36] So it might be a lesson plan on a table.
[00:21:39] It could actually be a theory
and a way of thinking.
[00:21:42] So I think frameworks have a scale,
it really helps you to organise and
[00:21:49] identify your thoughts and your
stages of your process.
[00:21:54] 'What am I doing at the beginning?'
[00:21:55] 'What does this middle part consist of?'
[00:21:57] 'What's happening there?'
[00:21:58] 'Why is that happening there?'
[00:22:00] 'That needs to happen down here.'
[00:22:02] 'What's this next part by this point?'
[00:22:04] And so it's just really helps you to take a
step back and have an analytical look at your
[00:22:11] creative process to make sure that you're actually hitting
the mark in the way that you think
[00:22:16] that you are,
[00:22:16] And when things aren't working,You can just go, "oh, it's because I've stepped outside of my framework",
[00:22:22] And so then you go back to the framework
and you find the answers there.
[00:22:28] I think most people probably know this and it
[00:22:29] probably goes without saying.
[00:22:31] I definitely found that when I was working
in an organisation, as much as there was some
[00:22:35] really amazing experiences that I got to have, you
also tend to lose your creative autonomy a
[00:22:40] and you often are working with people
that you might not work with otherwise, working
[00:22:46] on projects that you may not
normally choose to work on otherwise.
[00:22:50] That is a really amazing thing to do for yourself, because
I think that we need to be able to get
[00:22:55] outside of our comfort zone and to be able
to work with people that we don't necessarily always
[00:23:00] work with.
[00:23:00] That's a really important thing in
terms of my artistic practice.
[00:23:05] I have come to discover, however, if we as
artists and as people haven't spent extensive time
[00:23:14] outside of the room together, hanging out, laughing,
getting to see each other's spirits, getting
[00:23:20] to know who we are as people beyond artists,
then we're probably not ready to make art together
[00:23:26] because making art is hard.
[00:23:28] It's really challenging and rewarding and amazing, but
it's also really vulnerable and can bring
[00:23:34] out things that are triggering.
[00:23:36] And we have to go to deep, dark places,
[00:23:39] And we have to put our ideas out there for them to
[00:23:41] Sometimes not work.
[00:23:43] So we are really like soldiers in the war
in some ways.
[00:23:48] If we don't know who each other are,
how are we going to make work together?
[00:23:53] And when I have done that, when I've tried to
deep dive into work with people that I haven't
[00:24:00] spent time with.
[00:24:02] It's been really hard, it's been really
problematic, it's created unsafe situations
[00:24:09] for all of the artists
included and for the work.
[00:24:12] And then you end up going back and having to
put spot fires out and deal with things that you
[00:24:18] wouldn't have otherwise.
[00:24:19] So I just think it's so important to know
and have a connection with the people that you're
[00:24:23] working with or at least have a framework of
language that you're going to use when things don't
[00:24:28] work out, and that you've
all agreed on that framework.
[00:24:32] Art doesn't pay very well.
[00:24:35] We're doing art because we love it, and we want to
do it, with the people that we love doing it
[00:24:39] with and that are making ar for
the same reasons as us.
[00:24:42] I think having an arts crew, and people that
are on the same page, with the same vision and
[00:24:48] have the same way of doing things, that's the way we should be doing things.
[00:24:53] It took me a while to learn
[00:24:56] It feels like the people that I hang out
with on the weekends, are all artists.
[00:25:02] So if you can work that one out
a little bit earlier than I did, then you'll be
[00:25:06] doing yourself favour.
[00:25:09] For me relationships represent 90 percent of what's
actually happening within a room,
[00:25:15] When we're creating work.
[00:25:16] And I think you can really tell when there
have been issues in the creative development room,
[00:25:21] It reflects in the work.
[00:25:23] So it's very important that relationships
are nurtured, and that creative rooms are
[00:25:30] made safe for everybody involved
and for the work,
[00:25:33] Because ultimately we're here for the work.
[00:25:36] That's what we're there for.
[00:25:37] in fact, I become very wary of people whp seem like
[00:25:43] their artistic identity has taken priority over the
[00:25:49] Because that becomes a challenge
to working collaboratively.
[00:25:53] Ego is for me a little
bit of a dirty word.
[00:25:57] I tend to avoid people that I think,
[00:26:01] Aren't willing to flatten the hierarchy and
work in a collaborative way, which is really important,
[00:26:08] But in saying that, there is also
a time where someone needs to take artistic
[00:26:13] leadership, and be able to make the decisions needed
so that we can then move on to the next thing.
[00:26:18] There are many ways of doing that.
Everybody's voice is valuable.
[00:26:21] Everybody is an expert when I'm in a working
room, I want to hear from everyone,
[00:26:26] And then I'll tell them when I don't want to.
[00:26:31] Another very recent learning for me,
that has saved me so many sleepless
[00:26:39] nights and has actually given me back peace
in my soul,
[00:26:45] Is that at least once, and probably more times,
we as artists have crises,
[00:26:51] 'Why are we doing this?'
[00:26:52] 'Are we actually achieving what
we think we're achieving?'
[00:26:56] 'I feel dirty. I feel like I'm being exploited.'
[00:26:59] 'My art is being exploited.'
[00:27:00] We all go through these things and, it often
comes off the back of having a negative experience
[00:27:06] where you've seen things that
you don't want to see.
[00:27:08] Part of that is about working with the people
that have the same vision and integrity as you.
[00:27:14] So it's really, really important to know
what you value, who you are as an artist.
[00:27:22] Why are you doing this?
[00:27:24] What are the things that aren't acceptable for
you? and keep the bar at that level.
[00:27:30] Because if you don't know what you value
and if you haven't really articulated for
[00:27:36] yourself what that deal breaker list is,
you will find yourself ending up in situations
[00:27:44] where that deal keeps on getting broken.
[00:27:47] So then, the only person that's having to deal
with that and manage that fallout, is you.
[00:27:52] And that is one of the most
soul destroying things that can happen.
[00:27:55] But until you know what that list is, there's no
way of saying 'these are the things that I won't
[00:28:00] accept' and recognising them when
they come up.
[00:28:04] Also note that the negative experiences are
the things that help us define that list,
[00:28:08] because until you see something in action,
and your response is,
[00:28:11] "Whoa, I'm really not OK with that".
[00:28:13] "I'm going to add that to the list."
[00:28:15] Knowing what you value, who you are
as an artist, why you're doing it, is really
[00:28:21] really important and it helps
you make decisions about projects.
[00:28:24] It's very easy to say no to things when,
[00:28:26] first of all,
I know those people aren't great collaborators.
[00:28:30] and if you've got your checklist, it becomes really
easy to say
[00:28:35] Yes or no to projects, as projects start
coming your way.
[00:28:39] Knowing that has been really, really
valuable to me in my recent career.
[00:28:44] The last thing that I'll add about
articulating your artistic values and what your deal
[00:28:52] breakers are, is that once you do start saying no
to projects, you will find the projects that you
[00:29:01] Do want to do are able to come in more.
[00:29:04] But until you start clarifying that, and articulating
that out loud to the universe, to yourself,
[00:29:11] you will continually find yourself in rooms
that you don't want to be in.
[00:29:14] It's really important and it's hard because as artists,
work is work.
[00:29:19] And this stuff happens as you as you develop your
[00:29:24] name and reputation, and understanding what it is
that you want to do as an artist.
[00:29:29] It's really important to realise
we don't have to say yes to everything.
[00:29:34] And sometimes by saying no, we allow space for the
thing that we're supposed to be doing and we
[00:29:39] really want to do.
[00:29:40] So I think that's important to keep in mind as well.
[00:29:45] Do what you are good at, do what makes you happy.
[00:29:48] Follow your Joy.
[00:29:49] Life is too short and
that's the reason why we're in the arts, obviously.
[00:29:55] But if you try
to do something, and you realise:
[00:29:59] "Actually, no. I don't enjoy that that much"
[00:30:02] Or "I find that hard"
or "it doesn't invigorate me"
[00:30:06] then try out something else and keep trying
things until you find the thing
[00:30:10] that is your language,
[00:30:11] that is your art spirit animal.
[00:30:13] I mean, I have been put in a playwright box for
most of my career, and I kept saying to people,
[00:30:17] I'm not actually a playwright, I want
to make plays in different ways.
[00:30:20] I want to do it like this.
[00:30:21] And I just had to actually start doing it
for people to see that.
[00:30:26] But it took me ages to realise that writing
stresses me out and I don't want to do it in
[00:30:32] the same way that you guys
are asking me to do it.
[00:30:34] And so I kept on trying different things, until I
found a way that I want to do it.
[00:30:38] So I think it's just really
important to do what you love.
[00:30:42] And if you're not having fun or having
life changing experiences while you're making your art,
[00:30:49] then you probably, more often than not,
need to do something differently,
[00:30:55] Because we are in the arts, as
I said, not for the money, but for the
[00:31:00] internal reward and satisfaction.
[00:31:02] And so we need to keep a really high bar
and standard about what we're getting out of our
[00:31:07] artistic practice and how it's
being appreciated and responded to,
[00:31:11] And I think that's really important as well.
[00:31:16] Ok, so here is a little exercise for you guys
to try at home, you might want to just think
[00:31:23] about it, but writing things down is always a
really powerful way of manifesting and
[00:31:29] articulating things, and bringing
them into existence.
[00:31:31] So have a go at writing
them down, if you'd like.
[00:31:34] And this links back to
all of the points that I've been talking about.
[00:31:41] I was having a conversation with two very dear
friends of mine, and they are both amazing artists
[00:31:45] in their own rights, but they were feeling really
empty and hollow about what they were doing, and
[00:31:51] they weren't getting the responses or even
the internal satisfaction that they thought that
[00:31:58] they should be getting from their work by now.
[00:32:00] And they couldn't understand why,
[00:32:02] they felt really disheartened and were
both talking about leaving the sector.
[00:32:06] So I asked them,
why are you doing this?
[00:32:11] Why are you doing the arts?
[00:32:12] And they both had different answers,
but they were both really clear answers.
[00:32:15] And I said, 'who are those audiences?'
And they told me.
[00:32:19] And I said, 'I'm sorry, but who
are you currently doing it for?'
[00:32:22] And the answers didn't match up.
[00:32:24] It was like this penny drop
moment for them, that the reason why they weren't
[00:32:28] satisfied is because, what they wanted to do with
their art wasn't actually what they were doing.
[00:32:34] And they were clearly able
to realign that.
[00:32:37] One year down the track, they're both
in very different places and making really different
[00:32:42] choices about their artistic practice.
[00:32:44] They're not choices that fit the
mainstream standard of success, but the choices that
[00:32:51] fulfill each of their
individual artistic values.
[00:32:56] These are the questions that I
asked those guys, and hopefully you will get
[00:33:00] something out of it as well.
[00:33:02] I just call this an artistic
order to interrogate yourself and your practice.
[00:33:07] 'Why are you doing it?'
[00:33:08] 'Why are you doing this?'
[00:33:09] 'Why did you become an artist?'
[00:33:12] 'Who are you doing it for?'
[00:33:13] Obviously there's ourselves, but generally most of
us have an audience that we want to
[00:33:19] reach, be that the mainstream Australian
audience, be at your specific community that
[00:33:25] you're from, be at prisons, be with homeless people.
Know who your audience is and then know where
[00:33:30] those audiences are and take your art to them.
[00:33:33] It's no good saying that you want to help
your community with your arts and then keep
[00:33:36] performing to middle class
white people in Fitzroy.
[00:33:39] It won't match up, so
it's going to feel empty.
[00:33:42] 'Who are you doing it with?'
[00:33:43] 'Who are you making your art with?'
[00:33:45] 'Are they the people that match up with your kind
of artistic crew?'
[00:33:48] 'Do they have the same views and values as you do?'
[00:33:51] 'Are you doing it for the same reasons?'
[00:33:53] 'How do you want to make art, and
is that the way that you're making it?'
[00:33:59] 'Where do you want to do it?'
[00:34:00] Because not all art has to happen in
theatre spaces or in galleries.
[00:34:05] Most of my career has existed within prisons, and
they are the best audiences that you will ever
[00:34:11] get. It doesn't always
have to be the traditional road.
[00:34:16] Think specifically about where you want your work to be
seen and where is it going to have
[00:34:21] the maximum impact, because isn't that the
reason why we're doing it?
[00:34:25] 'What's going to happen when you do it?'
[00:34:27] 'What impact do you want it to have?'
[00:34:29] 'Do you want people to leave feeling elated?'
they've had an hour out of their life.
[00:34:33] That's amazing.
[00:34:34] That's the type of
work that you want to make.
[00:34:37] 'Do you want people to leave feeling gutted?'
[00:34:38] 'Do you want people to be educated?'
[00:34:40] So know what impact
you want and then interrogate your work.
[00:34:44] 'Is that the impact that my work is actually creating?'.
[00:34:47] 'what's going to happen when you do it in the long term?'
[00:34:52] I suppose that's a bigger question,
[00:34:55] But if you are able to tick all of these boxes and achieve all of these things,
[00:35:01] Where do you see yourself being?
[00:35:05] What type of artist do you want to be?
[00:35:07] What spaces are you going to be taking up?
[00:35:10] How are you going to
activate those spaces for other people?
[00:35:14] What is the long term vision?
[00:35:16] If you could fast-Forward to ten
years, where would you be?
[00:35:19] And then these other questions are the steps that are
going to help you get to that long term vision.
[00:35:24] So do the audit, see what comes up,
[00:35:27] Do it every five or ten years, at least, because often
[00:35:31] we change as we develop; as young artists
developing, learning and seeing things as we go.
[00:35:37] It's just really important to just keep taking
a pulse of where you're at with your practice.
[00:35:42] And are you on track to reaching the things
that you said that you want to be?
[00:35:47] And if not, then change the list!
[00:35:49] Thank you.
[00:35:49] [Soft Music]