"Dionysic stirrings arise either through the influence of those narcotic potions of which all primitive races speak in their hymns, or through the powerful approach of spring, which penetrates with joy the whole frame of nature. So stirred the individual forgets themself completely.......
For a brief moment we become ourselves, the primal Being, and we experience its insatiable hunger for existence. Now we see the struggle, the pain, the destruction of appearances, as necessary, because of the constant proliferation of forms pushing into life, because of the extravagant fecundity of the world will. We feel the furious prodding of this travail in the very moment in which we become one with the immense lust for life and are made aware of the eternity and indestructibility of that lust"
Community arts is the practice of empowering people with a 'voice', using the many facets of arts practice available, to have that voice acknowledged and heard. Often the people who are involved may not necessarily have had much/any previous experience within the arts. The aims of these projects vary from simply celebrating the health and unity of a community, dealing with the destruction left behind in the wake of youth suicide to beautifying local parkland area.
And so it has been that a large part of my career has been dedicated to community cultural development, or community arts. This career path has allowed me to work in remote communities across Western Australia and Australia, and be involved in projects in South Africa, Christmas Island, Solomon Islands, Vietnam, Fiji and Bolivia. It has provided a platform to express myself as an artist, work as a producer, administrator, artistic director and mentor.
My first professional project was the Dance Sport project, where I was engaged as a musician and instrument maker, to look at the different aspects of the 'sporting parents relationship with their children'. I collaborated with contemporary dancer Jean Tally, writer Ingle Knight and physical skills instructor Reg Bolton.
This was the first of many projects, spanning over thirty years working both as a professional director/artist and as a community artist, and more recently a festival and events director and filmmaker.
The possibility to collaborate with artists and community members of differing disciplines, careers and from diverse cultural backgrounds, has been an enriching and rewarding parallel to my pursuits as a professional multi arts practitioner.
Some examples of the projects I have been involved in are:
- The Makarita Project-garnering community support to bring two Fijian ‘village musicians’ Makarita Tusola and Leone Ranuve, from Taveuni Island, to attend professional development opportunities, to present their music and lead workshops, and share their culture during a three week tour of Western Australia.
- Northbridge's Understory Sculpture In Nature sculpture commission, which resulted from an extensive community engagement process, and culminated with the three Wishing Wheels sculptures as part of the public sculpture walk, with an original community music composition and performance, and student input into the design and wishing ribbons which were tied to the sculptures at the opening.
- Western Desert Kidney Health Project for the past three years, working in remote and isolated desert Aboriginal communities. This medical research and arts project has allowed me to work with young people to make films and soundtracks, to highlight the concerns of diabetes and kidney disease.
- State Library of Queensland filmmaking project in Cape York and the Torres Strait, working to support the traditional storytelling and practices of Aboriginal communities.
- Mapoon Aboriginal Shire Council, and although film based project, these projects utilize all the skills of a community artist, to be able to communicate with many different people of numerous backgrounds, educations, skill sets and knowledge bases.
- Collaborating with the students from the Hanoi Conservatory of Music in Vietnam, and then to Cape Town, South Africa, to work on the huge outdoor event Vlam 1. In Cape Town I was employed as musical director and worked with twelve core musicians (black, white, male, female, youth, older, experienced and novice), along with a sixty-piece brass band and one-hundred piece choir.
- In 2001-2003 I worked on an Australia Council for the Arts two year Fellowship, to collaborate with musicians from four different countries..... Bolivia, Romania, Solomon Islands and Africa (Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi). This resulted in the recording of the CD Life Is Life and the making of a video documentary The Pan People Project
- Working with the Narasirato Pan Pipers from the Solomon Islands, I produced and directed collaborations with Australian indigenous musicians and dancers in Kellerberrin and Denmark, in Western Australia in 2007. Upon this we have recorded, produced and released two CD recordings, and toured four times in Australia and internationally (Malaysia, Bahrain, Japan, Europe).
- empowerment to the voice of students in schools, to delve into and theatrically discuss issues such as teenage sexuality, drugs, bullying, boredom, domestic violence, racism, recycling, environment and the celebration of being young have been issues dealt with on different projects. This has meant residencies in Northam, Christmas Island, Albany, Kununurra, Geraldton as well as numerous one-off projects, tours and workshops.
- Kulcha Fire Event.... I was asked to bring together a group of musicians who would create a cross cultural musical score, to accompany the visual narrative set in place as a result of the work Ran Dan Club had done within the community.
We created a mix of music that transcended different ethnic backgrounds, cultures, gender and generation gaps. This included classical Indian voice, African drumming and singing, English rapping, New Guinean vocals, French tap dancing, Australian turntable scratching, drum kit and bass guitar, Indian tablas, Mauritian percussion, Macedonian vocals and Bulgarian classical piano. This is some of the most uplifting music I have been a part of.
- Kinetic Sculpture Race... using pedal powered junk sculptures and created by youth, this project was to gain voice and involvement from Perth youth. The overall focus by the group was to artistically and mechanically (the vehicle had to cover some ten kilometers, including across the Swan River) raise the awareness of our environment. So with the help of community artists Cecile Williams, Ulli Keck and Richie Glasgow, we worked together with a team of young people to create our sculpture, enter and complete the race. This included much street theatre at the race start.... music, costumes, handing out tree seedlings for people to plant and the exhibiting of our environmental art and social comment piece.
Zig Zag Closing Event... involved over four hundred performers from the Kalamunda area. I co-directed the event together with Annette Eassie, to involve the community to celebrate its own vibrancy and creativity. Students created digital collages using locally photographed and downloaded images, manipulated to comment on youth and global issues. These were then projected onto the worlds biggest musical drum. There was traditional and contemporary dance, a thirty piece drum kit ensemble, sculptural mime artists, fire twirlers, live painting on huge plastic screens, a sixty foot snake, a choir, large percussion band, sculptures and huge puppets.