Proximity Festival is returning in 2014 for a whole new one-on-one performance program, taking over the Fremantle Arts Centre in October and November. Applications are opening soon, with a public forum to be held at FAC on Saturday 29 March. There’s some changes this year – Performing Lines WA artist James Berlyn is moving to an advisory role (he’s going to be in the UK for a DCA Fellowship!), and the team is introducing a national curatorial panel. Thom Smyth caught up with co-curator Kelli Mccluskey to hear what else we can expect from Proximity Festival 2014.
TS: Proximity Festival is back and is becoming something of a staple on the Perth arts calendar. Why do you think audiences are embracing this sort of participatory work so enthusiastically?
KM: Hmmmmn, you know, I think there is a genuine appetite out there for more immersive, participatory experiences in performance lately. Whether it has something to do with the fact that we are now used to living out aspects of our lives vicariously through mobile or static media devices and feel the need for physical intimacy is lacking somewhat, I’m not altogether sure. I think it could also have something to do with the expanding parameters of performance practice as a whole. Audiences no longer expect [or want] to be sat passively in a black box space, but are more inclined to have agency, to interact and to directly affect the outcome. It’s much more of a reciprocal experience and empowering for both parties I think.
TS: You’re based at Fremantle Arts Centre this year. Does the venue and physical space influence the works, or can they exist in any space?
KM: I think even the artist with the most rock solid concept cant fail but to be influenced by the space when they get in there and start working with it. Every building has a history, a personality and architectural idiosyncrasies that set it apart from others of its kind and FAC perhaps more than most! Some artists will be more attuned to these things and will actively find ways to work them into their ideas, whereas others it may be more indirect or accidental. That’s the beauty of being able to workshop in-situ in the building prior to the festival rolling out. it allows you to deepen that engagement with the site if its appropriate to your concept.
TS: The application process is changing this year to include a curatorium of national practitioners. What prompted that change?
KM:Well the lovely Mr James Berlyn who co-founded the festival with us three years ago is taking on his Fellowship which I have to say is so very well deserved and he is also keen to submit an idea to Proximity as a performance maker. So I think it was a realisation for us that we would be missing a vital limb when it came to nutting out the short-listed artists and due to the fact that the festival is now open to all art forms, we thought it would make sense to expand the knowledge pool to include makers, producers, directors from a vast range of practices to help us make informed decisions.
TS: Proximity is heading into its third year and has showcased works from a broad spectrum of practitioners, including non-performers. Are there any artforms that you would love to see appear as part of the festival that haven’t yet?
KM: Yes yes yes! Personally I would love some dark stand-up comedy in the mix as well as maybe some immersive sound or installation type experiences. But the interesting thing is, some of my favourite performances over the years have been from artists not in any way connected to disciplines I’m familiar with, it really has been like venturing into the unknown, which I totally love!
Want to get involved?
Proximity Festival Forum
Saturday 29 March | 10:30am – 1:30pm
Fremantle Arts Centre | Finnerty St, Fremantle
RSVP by Thurs 27 March to firstname.lastname@example.org More info>>
We have a soft spot for pvi collective. From 2008-12 they were part of the Performing Lines WA family as one of our core artists. They introduced us to the power of public intervention, the power of taking risks and most importantly, the power of fcuking things up once in a while. In their latest work Deviator, pvi invite audience members to take over the city and transform it into a playground. Adapted on-site with a team of local artists called the “motherfcukers”, deviator activates philosophies around revolution, positioning ‘games’ as a potential trigger to alter the official narratives of place. I had a chat with Kelli Mccluskey of pvi collective to find out how the fcuk Deviator works.
Words: Sarah Rowbottam (SR) and Kelli Mccluskey (KM)
SR. Let’s start from the beginning. What prompted you to make Deviator? KM. deviator really came from a desire to shift our participatory practice into a terrain where we [pvi] were no longer the interventionists, bringing our audience members along with us for the ride, but to rather hand over that mantle of responsibility to the audience, so they have agency and autonomy within a work. as such they would become the interventionists and we would facilitate and support their experience.
SR. Who are the motherfcukers? KM. the motherfcukers are an elite team of sly mischief makers who are out on the streets deviating in solidarity with audience members. they play the deviator games, monitor the deviators and have the capacity to award and deduct points to any player they see deviating. they also give the audience members the feeling that the city is truly occupied and hopefully embolden them to play each game with courage and conviction.
SR. What’s your process for coming up with Deviator games? KM. each deviator game is drawn from a classic children’s game but has been twisted slightly to have either a social, political or spacial agenda which challenges the traditional narratives of public spaces. so for example a game like ‘spin the bottle’ will see a player spin a bottle in a retail area of the city, then go on to undertake a public exorcism of whatever building the bottle faces, aiming to get the ‘sweat’ out of these shops. ring-a-ring-a-roses asks you to undertake some seed bombing in an attempt to bring some nature back into the concrete jungle of the cityscape. some games are highly physical, others like quiet time ask you to lay down in public and just reflect quietly on this environment, something which we never think to do during a busy working day.
SR. What has been a satisfying moment during Deviator thus far? KM. seeing sweaty, exhilarated people head back into the venue, looking at their scores on the leader board and going to the front desk to book in again to beat their friends!
SR. How have passers-by responded to the work? KM. mostly it is with curiosity and good humour, perhaps taking the odd photo of players guerrilla pole dancing in the cultural centre or hopping across traffic light intersections in a sack. others scan the qr codes to find out whats going on. if general public scan the codes it takes them to the pvi website with info about the work. some even join in! I love this additional layer of ‘audience’ as our audience members become the performers for general public.
SR. Northbridge can be quite a chaotic and unpredictable thoroughfare (especially on a Friday or Saturday night); what strategies and tools do motherfcukers have for dealing with challenging situations? KM. yep, this is a very important strategy to cover and it feels very much like planning a military operation, as we need to know where everyone is at all times and make sure they are armed with tools for dealing with difficult people or uncomfortable situations. there is a buddy system so each motherfcuker has a team mate who they check on and message within the work, making sure they are safe and happy. deviator cards have been made to hand out to curious people who want more information. our producer is roaming the streets with a killer smile and a clip board full of permits to deal with any security / police issues. and back at hq we are able to send text messages to players and audience members within the game advising them on any situations that may be arising to be wary of. it’s a very live, fluid performance and we are finding the motherfcukers best weapon of choice is a smile, it sounds simple but its empowering, releases endorphins and can be quite disarming!
SR. What drives you to make site-specific, immersive and interactive experiences in the public sphere? KM. with much of our work, we situate ourselves and our audiences in public space and for us this very notion of ‘public’, traditionally meaning something that ‘belongs to the people’ is something that is becoming increasingly controlled and replaced with beaurocratic systems, rules and regulations that most people know nothing about. its only when you challenge this that you find a startling minefield of official do’s and don’ts that are deeply restrictive and for us at least sit in direct opposition with the spirit of freedom of movement, behaviour and speech that we are entitled to as individuals. the politics of public space for us is a loaded topic and the more we dig, the uglier it seems to get. but having said that a work like deviator really uses the notion of play, something which is inherent in all of us, as a vehicle to explore and confront this issue in a playful, joyful, hopefully liberating way.
SR. On the topic of permits, restrictions and making performance experiences in the public sphere – how does Perth compare to other cities you have worked in? KM. well it certainly sits on the more conservative side lets put it that way! I think that official governing bodies have a long way to go in understanding the full potential of popular lingo that is thrown around such as ‘space activation’. from our perspective their needs to be more trust, more generosity and less fear.
SR. If you could let loose in a city without permits or restrictions, what would you do? KM. dance a dance to the idea of revolution
SR. And lastly, why should the people of Perth deviate from the norm? because its fun
because you can
because life is short
because without deviation from the norm, progress can never happen.
19 – 24 March 2013
PICA & The streets of Northbridge
deviator is inspired by the situationist’s psycho-geography and ‘the coming insurrection’ an anonymous book written in 2007 which is part anti-materialist manifesto and part manual for a modern day revolution. deviator activates philosophies around revolution, positioning ‘games’ as a potential trigger to alter the official narratives of place.
After three Muffled Protests in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth, the boat-people will be presenting photos and videos documenting the action as part of A.R.P (Artist Residency Program) on Cockatoo Island, Sydney next week.
Please join boat-people.org for their exhibition opening on Cockatoo Island next Thursday, Sept 9 from 6-8pm. The event will feature artists from two artist residency programs that have happened on the island in the past 12 months. There will be 2 free ferries leaving from the MCA at 5.30pm and 6.30pm. Please RSVP by September 3 to email@example.com
Images 1 – 4: boat-people, ‘Muffled Protest: Perth’, 2010 Facilitated by pvi collective, Photos by Lisa Businovski
“The Boat People art gang are making a video work and we are inviting you to be involved.
Our borders remain the hot election issue, and we are becoming fools again, baying at strangers, terrified and stupid”.
Deborah Kelly, Aug 2010.
The day before the election, the boat-people.org and pvi collective are inviting you to wrap your head in the Australian national flag and have your image captured with us in Forest Place in Perth this Friday 20th August at 4.30pm.
The strategy – Arrive just before 4.30pm, with your flag* in a bag.
The action – Stand silently. At 4.30pm slowly wrap your head in the flag..
*flags available at all good $2 shops.
WHEN: this Friday 20th August at 4.30pm. WHERE: Forest Place, Perth City Centre [meet outside main post office] MORE INFO: Join the Boat-people.org Facebook group to hear about and participate in future actions across Australia. FACILITATED BY: pvi collective on behalf of the boat-people.org
Congratulations to pvi collective for becoming a finalist in the Best Game Writing category for transumer at Freeplay Independent Games Festival.
transumer is a site specific intervention which encourages audiences to clandestinely take over their city in preparation for an anti-consumerist uprising. Armed with a customized Iphone programmed with cutting edge augmented reality software, participants are invited to roam their city, plot the end of their metroplois and create invisible tags revealing strategies for a modern day insurrection.
transumer was recently presented at the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Sydney as part of the Syndey Biennale.
The Freeplay Independent Games Festival is on at the State Library of Victoria, on the 14th and 15th August 2010.
Performing Lines WA delivers the Managing and Producing Services for theatre and dance artists in WA (Maps for Artists), which is a joint initiative of the Australia Council for the Arts, the Australian Government’s art funding and advisory body, and the State of Western Australia through the Department of Culture and the Arts.