Performance Studies: Establishing the ‘Essentials’ / Body Weather Bodies in the Outback
Izabella Nantsou: Establishing the ‘Essentials’: Implications for Community Theatre in the Australian Creative Industries Framework
The release of Paul Keating’s federal cultural policy Creative Nation in October 1994 signifies a major paradigm shift in Australia’s approach to subsidised cultural production. Characterised by its economic rationalist approach, the policy mandated an arts-as-industries framework that has characterised the arts for Australia in the decades since. While Creative Nation made clear the federal government’s economic priority in their approach to the arts, at the State level, Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett’s subsequent cultural policy Arts 21 further intensified Keating’s strategies, culminating in what Hilary Glow and Katya Johanson describe as “an extreme example of an industry approach to the arts” (Glow & Johanson 2007, p. 123). Though it can be said that both policies provided the arts with the largest boost in public profile since the Whitlam-era (see, for example, Meyrick 2017 pp. 214-218), the extensive damage experienced within the community theatre field as a result of these priorities speaks to an antagonistic relationship between community-based artists and the State, and it is this antagonism with which I am concerned. In this paper I argue that these policies represent the formal entrenchment of neoliberal ideology in Australian cultural policy and demonstrate that the key values of these policies – specifically, market fundamentalism, international marketability, and corporate sponsorship – are structurally antagonistic to the aims of community theatre.
Izabella Nantsou is a PhD candidate in the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Sydney. Her doctoral thesis draws on theory and methodology from political economy to produce a historiography of Australian radical theatre that highlights the impact of neoliberal ideology on cultural production, and in particular, on community arts practice.
Tess de Quincey: Body Weather Bodies in the Outback – Lake Mungo
Body Weather is an experimental, investigative, dance-performance practice which fuses ancient as well as contemporary Japanese and Western practice and thought so as to question the body and the imagination. In this paper I describe how Body Weather proposes bodies which, rather than being organised as human-centred subjects, are instead danced by the environment. Drawing on training processes I directed in the Australian outback at Lake Mungo from 1991-1994, I will explore how the practice asserts, responds to, and is determined by the significance of non-human forces, and inanimate objects and processes. The outback of Australia presents deeply physical and mental challenges, in cultural as well as environmental terms, probing our collective intention, and indeed our capacity, to stand in a country with an ancient – and continuing – tradition of the first peoples, and a more recent history of colonisation. As a site of training and practice, the outback opens possibilities which are far removed from the everyday normative of globalised city life. The paper will show how Body Weather practice, engaging an omni-focused and non-hierarchic understanding of the body as, and within, such an environment affords perspectives and, more importantly, concrete experiences which interrogate human being. I propose that in the encounter between exterior and interior environments, our conventional understanding of a human is unsettled, and reframed as a process of co-constitution and interdependence, earthed in a material physicality – animated and interrogated by space, place, history and future.
Tess de Quincey is a PhD candidate in the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Sydney. She is a dancer and choreographer who has worked in Europe, Japan, India, U.K. and Australia. Her experience as a dancer with Min Tanaka and his Mai-Juku performance group in Japan for six years 1985-91 has provided the main influence on her performance work based in the Body Weather practice founded by Min and Mai-Juku. In 2000 Tess formed De Quincey Co which is an Australian company conducting performances, training and research – www.DeQuinceyCo.net.