PROXIMITY: Interview with Renae Coles, creator of THE UNION

Posted by Morgan Leek, January 12th, 2012

It’s a brand new year and a brand new beginning for a rather unique and intimate venture in Perth. Proximity, Australia’s first micro-festival of one-on-one art, is set to take over The Blue Room  in Jan/ Feb 2012 during Fringe World and The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights. Forget the crowds and whether you are seated in A or F row. Proximity = a performance made just for you.

Proximity artist Renae Coles gives us the low-down on this fascinating genre of performance custom-made for an audience of one and tells us about her latest work THE UNION,  a live-art performance for those who have suffered a small injustice and have a minuscule axe to grind.

Untitled (PICA Residency) Renae Coles

Words: Renae Coles (RC) and Performing Lines WA (PLWA)

PLWA. First up, briefly tell me about yourself.

RC. I grew up in both Perth and Albany, studied at ECU and am currently working on three projects for FRINGE WORLD. In addition to THE UNION for Proximity, I’m co-curating an exhibition calledThe Conservatorium and performing with my collective SPATULA. I also manage PICA’s Front of House affairs and at the moment am really enjoying embroidery and bicycle riding!

PLWA. What is it like being a part-time artist / part-time arts administrator?

RC. It’s a constant negotiation, of both time and of two entirely different head spaces. I’ve found the admin side of my work has unlocked an organisational side of myself that I didn’t know existed- this has been invaluable in better organising my own practice.

PLWA. Your latest work THE UNION is an interesting amalgamation of your ‘two lives’. How has your work as an administrator influenced your practice and vice versa.

RC. I think I’ve become a little enamoured with the interpersonal exchange and care systems of customer service. A large part of THE UNION has been based on both the inter-industry universality of customer service systems and the bitter rage we’ve all experience when these systems fail us.

PLWA. It’s two weeks before your first performance of THE UNION in Proximity. What are you currently working on to finish the work?

RC. I’m currently figuring out formulas for punk songs- somewhat of a hilarious contradiction I know!

PLWA. What is special about one-on-one theatre for you?

There’s something a little more real about it than a performance with a larger audience. There’s not much room for a fourth wall. The two people, audience and performer, can’t help but to acknowledge each other and to initiate some sort of exchange with this acknowledgement.

PLWA. What can an audience member expect to take away from your work?

RC. Hopefully a few laughs and a wandering sense of curiosity and excitement as to where their, perhaps unexpected, contribution to this project will end up.

PLWA. I love the honesty of your work and how there is a follow up with your audience or “union” members small injustice. Can you tell me a bit about this?

RC. For most very small injustices there is most often no hope for any resolution. THE UNION exists to offer that resolution in the form of a punk song. After interviewing my audience (or potential union) member, my very talented senior union members will use their rattling instruments and wailing accusations to create a punk song directed at my audience member’s very small oppressors. These songs will be posted on THE UNION’s website (currently being constructed) and available for download.

PLWA. How do you feel about self-funded work?

RC. I think there will always be the hint of revolution in self-funded activity. The idea that something is so important that you will give your own money and time to see it happen is dynamic and the beginning of a potential that operates outside of most self-serving systems.

4-Person 3-Wheeled Macadamia Nut Processing Vehicle-Osbourne Park to Perth (SPATULA), 2011

PLWA. What advice would you give to young aspiring artist looking to develop their craft?

RC. Hmm… that’s hard for me to answer as I think I AM a young aspiring artist looking to develop my craft! With that in mind though my advice would be: People are kind- ask for collaboration, advice, opinions and assistance and in my experience, people will be happy to be involved. The other thing I’ve learned is to keep applying for things you think are out of your reach- soon enough something unexpected will happen.

PLWA. What’s the most exciting thing that has happened to you in your career?

RC. I recently discovered that I was selected for the 2012 JUMP Mentoring Program- this is hugely exciting for me. I will be undertaking a mentorship with playground designer Andrew Reedy, learning how to make climbable sculptures for public spaces!

Check out THE UNION during Proximity (Program C)
Dates: Sun 29 Jan, Sun 5 Feb, Sun 12 Feb, Sun 19 Feb 2012
Times: 3pm, 4pm, 5pm
Venue: The Blue Room Theatre, 53 James St, Northbridge WA
Tickets: $25 (4 shows in 1 hour) $66 (12 shows in 3 hours)
Book online: Phone: 9227 7005 In Person: The Blue Room Theatre

Proximity Festival  also introduces performances by 11 other independent West Australian artists, including works by Proximity Co-curators James Berlyn and Sarah Rowbottam.  James is a Performing Lines WA core artist.  Sarah, like Renae,  juggles her own artistic practice with her part-time work in arts management as our Associate Producer.

Download the Proximity Program.