Joey Ruigrok van der Werven talks with Perth creatives!

Posted by Morgan Leek, April 20th, 2011

Words: Tom Cramond Images: Sarah Rowbottam

Last Wednesday, the 13th of April saw a talk by Joey Ruigrok van der Werven a Dutch born, Sydney based artist specialising in large scale site specific works and theatre production. Held at The Bakery in Northbridge the presentation allowed over 80 Perth creatives to experience Joey’s unique blend of creative drive and technical skill giving him an opportunity to fully explore the creation of a new genre of theatre within Australia.

The night began with a discussion of ‘site specific, performance based visual arts’, or as Joey calls it ‘theatre of the unlikely’. Joey provided the audience with a number of examples of this ‘renegade theatre’ from the art forms anarchistic roots, to the modern day mainstream embrace into popular culture. From Joey’s own work with Holland’s Dogtreop Theatre Company through to the work of European based performance organisations such as  La Fura dels Baus, Romeo Castellucci and Vis-à-vis the audience was treated to a whirlwind tour of some incredible art pieces from across the globe.

Set Design by Joey Ruigrok van der Werven for Gravity Feed’s Monstrous Body

From the outset Joey preached the importance of staging performance based art away from traditional areas of production. Instead, he believes it is an artists responsibility to engage with the general public in locations not commonly associated with any type of art form. The work should work seamlessly with it’s surroundings, and be designed to exploit the natural or man made infrastructure currently occupying the space. Everything from the middle of a salt lake to the side of oil refinery plant should be fair game to artists.

The performances must as well seek to break through traditional notions of practicality and the expected. Joey detailed the work of subversive artists across Europe using everything from hundreds of kilo’s of chicken feathers fired from air cannons, to giant walls of collapsing microwaves, ‘smell cannons’ and entire performances staged in the back of a converted WWII bomber planes. At it’s core the renegade artist should seek to delight all the senses, with wild and ambitious performance pieces, transforming landscapes and creating powerful experiences for all those present.

It is this spirit of rebellion and creation that has transfixed audiences across the globe for decades and a type of performance that Joey believes has largely not been staged in Australia…

Image courtesy of Joey Ruigrok van der Werven

Following a short break, Joey continued his talk by discussing the current state of site specific spectacle work in Australia. Despite the increasing popularity of such work within our borders it is readily apparent that much of this work is being conceived and executed overseas with the performers only touring for short bursts at a time. As Joey argues there has not been a artistic climate conducive to such productions, nor has there been organisational support for such endeavors. He would go on to suggest that with most arts funding in Australia today, the emphasis is placed heavily on pre-planned performances leaving little room for experimentation in the more extreme ideas of performance and production.

It was against this background that Joey wrapped up his talk with a series of ideas about how best to cultivate such artistic endeavors in Australia. Albeit a difficult propositions, Joey believes that such an art form can flourish in Australia and that we already have the talent to do so. From an opening of urban spaces to artists to allow for more advanced productions, right through to re-envisioning of government and private funding practices Joey implored us as creatives to be ambitious in our ideas and fearless in our creations!

Image courtesy of Joey Ruigrok van der Werven

For the past 6 years Joey has been working with a variety of theatre and performing artists within Australia on a variety of site specific performances and installations. One piece that I found particularly captivating Dream Masons a performance piece run for the opening of the 2007 Ten Days On The Island festival in Tasmania.

Joey and his team transformed the side of the Salamanca Arts Centre building with a series of massive water pipes, projectors, giant screens and cabling to create a giant ship like vessel. It was then filled to the brim with performers, a band (or two?), acrobats and at one stage a giant wall created with the help of lots of overhead projectors and some very careful planning. The spectacle attracted over 14,000 people over 4 nights setting a standard for accessible site specific performance rarely seen in Australia.

My descriptions can hardly do this work justice, check out the video and images below:

Dream Masons, Salamanca Arts Centre. Images courtesy of Joey Ruigrok van der Werven

Dream Masons (youtube)

From all of us at Performing Lines WA we would like to extend a huge thank you to Joey for presenting such an engaging and inspiring work. We would also like to thank all of those who attended the talk and hope you remain as energised as we do!

Written by Tom Cramond, Arts Management Intern, Performing Lines WA

Performing Lines announces new CEO appointment

Posted by Morgan Leek, April 13th, 2011

Performing Lines today announced the appointment of Fenn Gordon as its new Chief Executive Officer following the retirement of its founder, Wendy Blacklock, after twenty-one years at the helm.

The Chair of Performing Lines board, Robin Hughes, said of the appointment: “Under Wendy’s leadership Performing Lines has become an indispensable part of the performing arts landscape in Australia. In Fenn Gordon, the board has found the energy, commitment and judgement to lead the company in its next phase of development. Fenn has dedicated herself to the support of artists and their work and has the experience and flexibility of mind to respond to changing needs and opportunities, with imagination and enterprise.”

Fenn Gordon comes to Performing Lines from the Australia Council. As Director of Market Development she has led a team implementing strategies to develop audiences for Australian artists and organisations nationally and internationally. Prior to joining the Australia Council Fenn worked as an independent producer in New Zealand for eighteen years. She moved to Australia in 2007 to work as a senior producer at Performing Lines responsible for international projects.

In her twenty year career Fenn has produced and toured the work of many artists through the UK, Europe, Central and North America. She developed and delivered courses in arts management at both undergraduate and graduate level and is the author of The Touring Manual.

Fenn Gordon will take up her new position on 1 June. “I’m excited and honoured to take up Wendy’s extraordinary legacy,” Fenn said. “In Performing Lines Wendy created a company that plays a pivotal role in contemporary Australian performing arts. She and her staff have realised the vision of many significant contemporary artists and are recognised for their key expertise in many critical sector issues. I look forward to leading Performing Lines into its third decade.”

Wendy Blacklock commented: “Fenn Gordon will bring great experience in producing and touring artists of many different genres nationally and internationally. I am confident her judgement and expertise will extend the range and capacity of Performing Lines.”

Antonia Seymour,

Towards a New Australian Theatre Genre in Australia with Joey Ruigrok van der Werven

Posted by Morgan Leek, April 8th, 2011

WEB_Dream Masons, Salamanca Arts Centre











Photo: ‘Fire Water’, Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority. Courtesy of Joey Ruigrok van der Werven.

If you had the chance to make a large-scale spectacle in Perth, what would it be about, what would it look like and where would you put it?

These are some of the questions 16 eclectic WA-based directors, choreographers, performers, lighting designs and all-round artists will be tackling next weekend as they enter a two day intensive workshop on creating European style spectacle and site-specific theatre for Australia.

Leading the group is an artist whose set and performance designs are more than just backdrops. Sydney-based Dutch director, designer, inventor and contraption maker Joey Ruigrok van der Werven creates performances and invents environments. His worlds perform and transform, conveying story through images and sensory experiences.
Photo: Dogtroep, Holland. Courtesy of Joey Ruigrok van der Werven.

Prior to moving to Australia in 1996 Joey was key artist and technical manager of Dogtroep, one of Europe’s renowned site-specific theatre companies, where he created images and facilitated the ideas of large groups of up to 25 professional sculptors, performers and inventors.

Marking the end of his Australia Council Theatre Board Fellowship, investigating European and Australian spectacle and performance making, Joey is now touring nationally, presenting a series of lectures and workshops which attempt to shed new light on Australia’s impasse with creating wild and epic theatre.

Volta 2, Performance Space
Photo: ‘Volta 2’, Performance Space. Courtesy of Joey Ruigrok van der Werven.

During the workshop, the group will identify an existing location in or near Northbridge where a fictitious performance could be created. Working in response to the site, Joey will teach methods of site research: its physicality, community and situation, and how to develop multiple performance possibilities relating to these.

The Perth workshop will take place in Northbridge after an invite-only lecture presented by Joey on Wednesday 13 April, in the evening at The Bakery.

For those keen on attending the lecture and hearing Joey’s vision for creating large-scale spectacles in our hometown, we have room for a handful of people to join us on the night.

To win a seat at the lecture, simply answer the following question in the comment box below or on our facebook wall.

“If you had the chance to make a large-scale spectacle in Perth, where would you put it?”

Written by Sarah Rowbottam, Communications Manager for Performing Lines WA.