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sydney festival 2011


the creative suburb

gail priest: interview, rosie dennis, minto:live


Street Dance at Nottdance, Lone Twin Street Dance at Nottdance, Lone Twin
photo Julian Hughes
I MEET ROSIE DENNIS IN THE LOCAL PIZZA SHOP NEXT DOOR TO MINTO MALL THAT SERVES A PRETTY GOOD SOY CAPPUCCINO. FOR CAMPBELLTOWN ARTS CENTRE DENNIS HAS BEEN WORKING ON MINTO:LIVE, PART OF THE 2011 SYDNEY FESTIVAL, THREE EVENINGS OF PERFORMANCE CELEBRATING THE SUBURB’S CULTURAL VITALITY THROUGH COLLABORATIONS WITH AUSTRALIAN AND INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS.

community collaboration

Dennis has previously worked in Minto, in Sydney’s south-west, developing her performance work Driven to New Pastures, which features a local senior resident June Hickey (this work is also in the 2011 Sydney Festival program). She says of the area, “When I started coming to Minto, I was really struck by the people living here, and how passionate they were about this suburb.” Dennis hopes to tap into this depth of feeling to create MINTO:LIVE in collaboration with the community. She describes the overall vision for the performance:

“It’s all off-site. None of it is in traditional gallery or theatre spaces. The whole event is set on an 800-metre walking route in Minto. We start over near Tyrepower. There’ll be eight performances, a mix of internationals (existing works) and new commissions. And all of the works are from artists who have some kind of connection with community, or work with non-performers. So it requires a lot of participation from local residents in Minto to make it a success.”

The work of UK duo Lone Twin (Gregg Whelan, Gary Winters) offers a good indication of the tone of the event. Their piece, Street Dance, will involve the duo and Sydney choreographer Julie-Anne Long visiting over time six to eight local households to explore and expand on ‘domestic choreographies.’ For the live event, the participating families will take to the streets with their creations, sharing them with each other and the public. Dennis saw the work when it was first performed in Nottingham and says of the experience, “It’s very beautiful…people are so generous not only in the performance but in the reception of others’ work. It becomes very clear what a big act it is for the people performing, as they’ve never done it before. There’s a lot of negotiating between audience and performers to develop that level of trust.”

Hetain Patel (centre), TEN Hetain Patel (centre), TEN
photo courtey the artist
UK/Indian artist Hetain Patel will be working with two local men from the Pacific Islander community to realise his piece TEN. Patel uses the 10-beat rhythms of traditional Indian music to underscore his humorous and thoughtful deliberations on cultural identity. Part performance lecture, part stand-up, part autobiography, Patel will be performing on the recently completed basketball court in the new parklands area.

Those who have experienced Rosie Dennis’ performances, will recognise a few personal preoccupations in her curation, most noticeably the musical elements. She is very excited to be able to include the Camden-based trumpet player and composer Freddie Hill, who will bring together an all-trumpet ensemble to serenade the crowd at sunset. The evening will kick off with Sweet Tonic, the 35- strong senior citizens’ choir singing from the back of a flatbed truck.

public and private

Because it’s in a state of considerable change, Dennis finds Minto particularly fascinating. Until recently, a large proportion of housing was public. However, many public residents have been moved to other areas and the land redeveloped under the “One Minto” scheme. Much of the evening’s performance will take place on parkland and streets that are still in the process of transformation.

The tensions between public and private, inside and outside are clearly represented in the work of Australian textile artist Nicole Barakat. She has asked the community to donate old fabrics from their homes: curtains, sheets, towels and so on. Working with the Embroiderers and Quilters Guilds and the Minto Tongan Tapa Group, she will cut up the donations to create string that will then be used to craft a three dimensional sculpture. Dennis elaborates: “...something from people’s private space becomes very public. Nicole likes this idea because where the evening finishes, it used to be all public housing and now it’s all very private.”

The final act of the night, which takes place in the newly built amphitheatre also offers a potent metaphor for this public/private notion. Belgian artist Gwendoline Robin’s Instant no 6899 is a pyrotechnic display unlike any other, in which the artist’s body becomes the site for ignition and explosion.

Gwendoline Robins, Instant no 6899 Gwendoline Robins, Instant no 6899
photo courtey the artist
onsite ongoing

While MINTO:LIVE is a rather large undertaking in itself, it is actually but one element of an overarching ‘Live’ program Dennis has developed for Campbelltown Arts Centre. In November 2010 the first of a series of Site:Lab residencies will kick off, with artists on-site in various Minto locations. For example Lara Thoms will be in the library where she will invite visitors to read from a chosen book, from which an audio work will be created. Frank Mainoo will inhabit a vacant house, continuing his performative research into public and private spaces and acts. Barbara Campbell will work with local Chinese groups, opening up discussion of a politically charged poem.

While some of these residencies will not have outcomes until later in the 2011 Live program, three will feed directly into MINTO:LIVE in January. One of these is Nicole Barakat’s project mentioned above, which will based at a local church. Mickie Quick and Kernow Craig from Blood & Thunder Press will set up their printing press in the former supermarket in Minto Mall, inviting the local Bangladeshi community, and others, to collaborate on a publication that will be available at the end of the event as a souvenir.

UK/Australian artists Howard Matthew and Caitlin Newton-Broad will be in residence for nine weeks in the Sarah Redfern Primary School where they will work with third graders and their parents or grandparents on a storytelling project. Creating an actual waterhole in the school grounds, the pair will conduct hands-on, cross-artform workshops which will culminate in short videos. These will be displayed during MINTO:LIVE on screens on the back of bikes ridden through the suburb.

Site:Lab will continue in 2011. Dennis says, gesturing towards the buildings nearby: “It’s going to be more ambitious, hopefully across 10 shops in Minto Mall for three weeks. Someone will be working out of the bakery; someone working out of the optometrist’s; there will be a small theatre company in the beginnings of something in a shop over there; a sound artist over there; a video artist over there. Everyone in the same place.” Many of these projects will go on to have public outcomes in MINTO:LIVE 2012.

a living centre

While Dennis is setting up a mini-art centre in Minto Mall, she is also utilising the custom-built Art Centre back at Campbelltown. She explains, “So many local groups already use the Arts Centre who are unbelievably skilled and passionate. I’m looking to make interesting matches with artists who might be able to come and be in-residence with groups over a six-month period and then possibly make a work out of that.”

There is also an ‘artist initiates’ commission that gives a chosen artist a lump sum to realise a particular project. “The reality is the resources are finite, but it’s getting artists to think about how to do something on a small amount of money… [allowing for] a bit of movement, a bit of room for spontaneity. Video artist Sam James is the first one next year—he wants to do a creative documentation of Site:Lab in 2011.”

And that’s not all. There will also be a new writers’ initiative that, from an open call, will see three writers a year exploring their fascination with text in a series of residencies. At the end of the three-year project there will be some form of compilation or outcome, a festival of words or a publication to bring the works together and to the public. When you throw in the possibility of an international residency exchange, Dennis’ program looks diverse, ambitious and offers some amazing opportunities for artists engaged in live practices.

But before all that, Rosie Dennis has to nurture MINTO:LIVE into reality. To finance the event Dennis has undertaken extensive fundraising and attracted several corporate sponsors as well as state and federal project grants. In addition, she admits that the collaborative nature of the event requires constant energy and attention. But it is this that will make the event work. She says, “All of the service providers in the area are happy that something like this is happening. They see it as really positive to combat lead stories about a drug bust in Minto, a shooting in Minto, a stabbing in Minto. They’re actually few and far between and they happen everywhere. The majority of people who live here, it’s their home, they shop here, it’s their community, they go to the club here, to the PCYC. That’s what this is about.”


Sydney Festival 2011: Campbelltown Arts Centre, MINTO:LIVE, curator Rosie Dennis, the streets of Minto, Jan 20-22, 2011; artist talk with Lone Twin, Nicole Barakat, Caitlin Newton-Broad and Howard Matthew, January 22, 2pm-5:30pm, St James Anglican Church, Minto; Driven to New Pastures, creator Rosie Dennis, performers Rosie Dennis, June Hickey, Seymour Centre Jan 11–16

RealTime issue #100 Dec-Jan 2010 pg. 5

© Gail Priest; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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