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Time_Place_Space 3: Kill your darlings

Julie Vulcan

Performer-devisor Julie Vulcan is one of the all-girl performance group FRUMPUS and is undertaking her Masters degree by research at the Department of Performance Studies, University of Sydney.

1. Slept in a strange bed where time had shifted.
2. Dreamt of a place where the inmates broke out.
3. Shouting, banging and honking filled the twilight space of the dawn.
4. Sometime in the night the Greeks won the Cup.Oh, it’s all starting to become clear.
5. A shark silently circled the bay.
6. A switch was flicked, a butterfly effect.
7. In an apartment somewhere in downtown Adelaide I breakfasted in the company of another artist I didn’t know but who was strangely familiar.
8. 19 other artists awoke to have similar, slightly dislocated experiences.
9. Entered a large, modern building situated on the perimeter of a wide, open square. It was bright and stainless steel shiny.
10 Realised I had entered Art Boot Camp and this was just the beginning. “And now I would like you to list 10 things that happened when you woke up,” directs a confident, cajoling Clare Grant as she steers her writing workshop.

This was Time_Place_Space 3 at Adelaide AIT Arts, July 2004. Twenty diverse, ‘hybrid’ artists, 6 facilitators (4 Australian, 2 international), 3 curators, 2 technicians, 1 superwoman project manager together with numerous volunteers, gathered for an intense 2 weeks of provocation, challenge, inspiration and community.

In 2002, I was one of the artists chosen to attend the first Time_Place_Space at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga (RT53 p. 32), an event still rippling through my life, personally and collaboratively ever-present. Now in 2004, I find myself re-visiting this space, though in a different place, drawn by a desire to dig beneath the surface that had been scratched 2 years ago, in a process about to become an excavation, a rigorous, internal archaeology.

Our first day begins. The facilitators can’t wait to set the first task. Ready, Set, Go! You have a day to create for presentation a 5-minute solo work. Here are your starting points, choose one, choose all 3. “Be conscious of your process and your intention,” says Marianne Weems (Director of New York’s The Builders’ Association). “Write the frame, delineate the space, look at what is really there,” advises video artist John Gillies. “Dislocate a niche, what is its passage?” asks John Cleater (designer from The Builders’ Association). “At your service,” booms technician Simon Wise. “Now, go!”

We don’t question. We’re too hyped. Everyone is excited but a little scared. We have to do this well, get it right. This is what we’re here for. Now, go!

Day 2. Some are quietly confident, others procrastinate. All are feeling tentative. This is our first revelation of who we are to the group and it’s intimidating. How will we be judged? The visual artist Lyndal Jones is at the helm. She has an agenda and will not be moved. This is serious! There’s no way out.

Presentations are made in groups after which each work is discussed. We adopt the soon to be familiar talking circle in which everyone has a say. “I am not interested in what you liked. How did what you like make you feel?” Lyndal is conciliatory but firm. She is sharp and there are no lukewarm responses allowed. “What did you see?” This is not about cold, analytical dissections or non-committal responses. This is about creating a language for viewer and maker. It’s about giving the artist a new space to work. It’s about being conscious.

This long day established a firm springboard for the rest of the laboratory. There was a sigh of relief and a renewed energy as new possibilities were entertained. Nobody felt like a stranger any more. A sense of solidarity prevailed. We were on course.

We are in Week 2. Water under the bridge. Collaborations have been made and not quite made. We have followed our intentions carefully. We have kept track of the content, grasped the floating thread, found the map and followed the compass. We have made the balance unstable, sought to illuminate and then, just as we were thinking we had reached the pinnacle, we threw it all away. Why? Because we had discovered how to “Kill our darlings.” No this is not some postmodern garage band but a dramaturgical device to rid you of that favourite thing you’ve been holding on to, that which is holding you back. Oh, what fun to be had. How many darlings can you kill? The game takes on a sinister edge. Kill the Darling! Kill the Darling! Where’s Piggy?

Time is running out. There’s been so much work made. 40 performances in 2 weeks, and yet we want more. Not only have we created but we have discussed, analysed, dissected, proposed, engaged, shared—“riffed” (the word of the laboratory, declares John Gillies on the last day) in the various forums and workshops on the nature of dramaturgy, collaborative practice, new media, sustainability, models of practice, future directions. There have been smaller, more intimate salons to tease out even more of the fundamentals. There have been salons with red wine in the Apothecary bar, salons in the Kava Hut, salons in the strip joint down the road, the karaoke joint, the gym. There have been progressive late night salons in apartments. There’s no stopping, no end to the discussion being generated, documented, laid down, laid bare.

It’s interesting to compare the forum on sustainability with the one held at T_P_S 1. In 2002, the angle was very much from a practical, pragmatic point of view—how do artists sustain themselves, what strategies can be put in place to acquire space, time and money to create work, to function as an artist? At T_P_S 3, although these practicalities were touched on, there was a lot more discussion about how artists might sustain their practice on a purely intrinsic level. First there is a quintessential need to create work and then there is the support of the artistic community and peers that buoys the individual. This community and generosity of peers, along with a sense of being part of a history or lineage within arts practice is what gives us a place, which is sustaining both physically and metaphysically.

T_P_S offers the time to find our place within a broader community of artists who are working, playing with, analysing, discovering and creating new frontiers of a hybrid nature. It is this action, this bringing together that allows threads to be woven, bonds to be tied, practice to be supported, artistic rejuvenation and passion to be sustained.

“You have 10 minutes to write down what you want to say, starting now.” It’s Clare Grant again. I write: “I want to say, I want to know what finding a place means and whether it means ‘to belong, to be part of’ or ‘to be apart’. I want to say that we are all trying to find our place and sometimes that place is uncomfortable and sometimes it is very comfortable. I want to say that sometimes to find our place we have to let others into our place. I want to say that the other is sometimes where we want to be but cannot...”

T_P_S 3 has been intense. A laboratory is intensive by nature. There has been little room for anything else. It has been a luxury. It should be a necessity.

Time_Place_Space_3, PICA, Performance Space, ANAT; AIT Arts, Adelaide, July 4-17

Performer-devisor Julie Vulcan is one of the all-girl performance group FRUMPUS and is undertaking her Masters degree by research at the Department of Performance Studies, University of Sydney.

RealTime issue #63 Oct-Nov 2004 pg. 43

© Julie Vulcan; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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