We had lofty aims for our weaving of three strands of artistic participation in the International Women’s Day 2016 exhibition at Project Art Space, Wollongong. This conversation is about the personal impact of this adventure on us as artists and the success of our IWD 2016 installation in meeting our desired objectives for ethec.
My response to the IWD 2016 exhibition was multi-faceted:
1. The exhibition itself was a great collection of strong art with some really outstanding pieces of work. Walking into the gallery was a feast for the eyes, mind and soul. The range of media and styles was exciting and the curator had made them work together to fit into a whole, much as a quilter fits many different patterns into a quilt.
2. Knowing that this combination of visual delights had been created by my local community of women artists was energising, especially as I began to realise that many, although not all of the pieces, were designed to convey a message about the status of women in a creative artistic way.
This meant there is a community of us who are trying to use our artwork to convey our social concerns, but keeping the art part alive and vibrant, to make work which is good to look at, not just good to know the intent/content.
3. I felt really proud to be part of that group, and being exhibited with other widely-recognised artists was also a boost to me personally. As a composer I am often working quietly away in my studio making music that is not always available to be heard by my local community. I felt that this exhibition helped me become a bit more of a real person as part of the local arts scene.
4. Having our local female MP open the exhibition, and she gave a really strong pro-woman speech, not in electioneering mode, which is what we usually get served up by politicians in general. I was really heartened to know that she is much stronger and more thoughtful than I get to read in our local papers. She stayed and listened to our performance smiling and cheering us on. A well-received generous encouragement for our work!
5. Being part of an event to mark International Women’s Day was an important boost to my personal morale as a feminist activist. The circumstances of my life over recent years has seen me sitting on the sidelines watching others actively contribute to commemorating the day in a variety of ways ranging from demonstrations to expensive fundraising lunches. I am not always positively inclined to the expensive lunches, so this year it was personally empowering to be authentic to my own philosophy, as I felt that I was able to make the kind of contribution that I believe in.
6. At the opening, I met an acquaintance who has achieved success in academia and visual arts, a strong woman with clear ideas of where she is going and who is going with her, which I have often known is not me. Yet she stopped to talk to me about how my music career is progressing, cheering me on, telling me to keep on going as we need more women composers, knowing how hard it is for many of us to keep on going. It was an inspiring motivational boost.
Much of these personal responses is about the energising effect of being part of a group of supportive artistic women and getting to know them better too. This group of women was a breath of fresh air. As a composer of experimental music, I work in a strange domain of remembered echoes: the intangibles of sound and the ephemerality of performance. I am mostly surrounded by men who seem to be wondering how they also got to be in such a strange place, so now justifying themselves by taking their work far too seriously and be seen as individually tech-savvy and up with the latest. There is lots of competition even to get music performed, let alone to get funding to pay for creative time, and in that environment not much positive feedback for anyone. Here, the other artists gave us feedback on our installation, which meant they took our work seriously, and again, I was really heartened at how engaged the audience was with our performance at the exhibition opening. They also stopped and listened intently and responded warmly.
So 7. is about our artwork, which truly was multi-media. This was a big step forward for me creatively to work with our three strands of live performance, an installation in physical form, and also in virtual form that invited and required audience participation to be fully realised. This was big risk in terms of the end result, but the trust was met and we got good responses. These steps into the virtual world have been a great learning, bringing me, closer to the 21st century seamlessness of online and physical life of our young, and it now seems, our not-so-young people.
8. In here I want to, and need to acknowledge that without our ongoing collaborative ‘ethec project’, this presentation at IWD 2016 would have been a very different experience all round. As we worked together over the preceding months getting our various materials organised for the tripartite media extravaganza, it was great to have someone artistic, intelligent and adventurous, to share ideas and get feedback, along with soul sustenance, cups of tea, swims and some great food, and the energy and motivation to manifest the work in its current state.
Wendy, your responses were great. I wasn’t expecting such an expansive set of thoughts, yet all comments seem relevant and important.
My response to the 2016 IWD Art Exhibition at Project Contemporary Art Space draws on two instances that left an impression. Both were on Opening Night. I have been drawn to revisit these memories on a number of occasions so I know they have been highlighted for a purpose.
One, I am extending the conversation from a comment I made to Jane on this blog:
“I was heartened when at our exhibition a young dad brought his daughter over to fill out a flag, taking time to explain women’s rights to her. That is change, and that same man would be willing to stand up for what is not fair in his work place.”
It doesn’t take a revolution to cause change but we need to trust that actions come as conviction hits home.
His action was to encourage his daughter to speak in community and it had an immediate influence on an even younger person who was listening and observing who then wrote her own comment on a flag.
I couldn’t help but wonder what sort of influences create healthy community mindsets; and what don’t. I thought of the stupid saying when I was little that ‘real men don’t cry’ or ‘little boys don’t cry’ and remembering at the time, as I still do, how that sick thought may influence and usurp healthy emotional responses from males. I was grateful to see a young dad that had been brought up to have, or was choosing to have, healthy emotional responses in setting his daughter on her own pathway to safety.
My second lasting impression was that of a young, timid, teenage girl presenting me with her flag. Yet her stance became forthright as she shared with me what she had written: “Imagination Unites. It is important.”
It seemed a spiritual response as she expressed it from her whole being, her shyness loosening, as she came forward to share. She didn’t just hand the flag to me, she spoke it while engaging me eye to eye.
I felt that at one level, through presenting an opportunity for people to share freely, we were honoured with a gift of purity of thought and intention by this young lass. ❤️
Pondering on all these things I wonder what our world would be like if we had imaginations erased of all negativity, lies and deceit, permeated only by love. Yes, dear one, imagination is important, for we could be united in creative adventures.
We both consider that our venture beyond the virtual out into the physical world for International Women’s Day 2016 was a great success and provides a template for our future work. This installment of our collaborative work delivers on our intended outcomes. We wanted to provide a productive and interactive opportunity for the community to extend the conversation about the status of Australian women in the 21st century, and we made an artwork that stood on its own merits.
What could be a follow up to this?
What could we be invited to do next?
What are your thoughts?
Join the conversation….