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RealTime is 10! From the Editors

RealTime Team: Gail Priest, Dan Edwards, <BR />Virginia Baxter, Keith Gallasch RealTime Team: Gail Priest, Dan Edwards,
Virginia Baxter, Keith Gallasch
photo Heidrun Löhr
You can download a full PDF of the 10 year liftout, or you can download specific years.
1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004


The early years of RealTime now seem like a distant dream, a fuzzy recollection of a fury of creation, learning on the job, reaching out across the country to engage writers and distributors, connecting with artists, knocking out grant applications, labelling bundles and loading trucks, covered in ink, wracked with endless financial trepidation, exhilarated every time an edition rolled off the presses and partying every time (we’re no longer up to that). Final layout happened variously in an old flour mill in Newtown (now home to the Omeo Dance Studio), graphic design studios in Surry Hills and, for years, the crowded city office of Art Almanac with artist Paul Saint patiently at the computer through the long nights.


Our home was our editorial office for several years. A remarkable team would gather in the kitchen on a Saturday every 2 months to edit a new edition: John Potts, Annemarie Jonson, Jacqueline Millner, Catharine Lumby, Gregory Harvey, Linda Wallace and Michael Smith, with contributions from Colin Hood (a dab hand at droll headlines) and Richard Harris. Our first assistant editor (thanks to the enlightened Jobstart scheme) was David Varga. Judy Annear was our first manager, followed by Susan Charlton and then Lynne Mitchell. When RealTime became full-time we divvied up the management among ourselves. Gail Priest, an integral member of the RealTime triumvirate, started out proof-reading for us and moved into layout and design and advertising sales and web management! Having our own office and computers in the city made everything a lot easier. David Varga moved on, replaced by Kirsten Krauth who also took over and developed OnScreen from the pioneering work done by Annemarie Jonson and Alessio Cavallaro. Novelist Mireille Juchau followed Kirsten who went to work for the AFC. Before Gail, the hard yards of advertising sales had been valiantly run over the years by Michelle Telfer-Smith, Sally Thompson and then Sari Jarvenpää. Nowadays Gail and Virginia make an affable sales team.

Consultative editorial teams were set up in all states and some members have been with us for many years: Sarah Miller, Chris Reid, Josephine Wilson, Darren Tofts, Richard Murphet, Philippa Rothfield, Anna Dzenis, Diana Klaosen, Eleanor Brickhill, Linda Marie Walker, Barbara Bolt and Erin Brannigan. Others have come and gone, too many to name here, and, like the current contributing editors, have all been invaluable.


In 1993 we were lamenting the diminishing coverage of the arts in the mass media and, specifically, the lack of engagement with performance, hybrid practices and what we then called techno-arts. It was the absence of a national perspective that irked us in particular. We watched performing arts and then film magazines struggle and collapse over the years. We wanted to know what was happening across Australia, what was innovative and who was making this work. The Performing Arts Board of the Australia Council was offering seeding grants for arts magazines, we got one and away we went. A trial edition in February 1994 was followed by an unbroken string of bi-monthly RealTimes from August that year, once funding was secured. We had argued in our grant application that we wanted to produce a magazine that looked across the arts because we thought that was the only way to survive and, more importantly, that reflected growing cross-artform practice. We were right on both counts. We encouraged readers to look for innovation and to go beyond their particular artform interests. We provided a broader context for artists’ work and the writing about it. At any time almost half of RealTime’s writers are practising artists.


Over the years we critiqued reports by Gonski (bad news for screen culture) and Mansfield (worse for the ABC), tore into Creative Nation (as you’ll see on the pages that follow) and the restructuring of the Australia Council (quite a stoush), screamed arts murder in the wake of the Howard election (see the cover for RT14), and looked at the cultural ramifications of Mabo and Wik. We’ve addressed issues of censorship, globalisation and Free Trade and countless funding issues. We’ve monitored the growth of the international marketing of the Australian arts, the changing nature of arts festivals, the rise of the improvisation movement, issues and successes in the arts and disablilty field, and surveyed Aboriginal film and new media. Through Philip Brophy’s inspirational Cinesonic column we all learned to listen to films while Hunter Cordaiy’s Writestuff put us in touch with the complex screenwriting side of our film industry. Kirsten Krauth edited WriteSites, an important record of the literary aspect of new media art. We’ve also surveyed the integration of digital media in performance and dance and extensively reviewed new media artworks and the festivals and conferences that constellate around them here and overseas. Experimental, contemporary classical and improvisational music have always had a place in RealTime. As has sound art, right from the beginning, with a number of the editorial team and some of our key writers in the 90s committed to the field, sometimes as creators for the ABC’s The Listening Room. Associate Editor Gail Priest has maintained our commitment to sound culture with its growing number of young adherents. Recently we’ve addressed the burgeoning video art scene and Mireille Juchau has focused our attention on photography’s return to centrestage.


When we celebrated our 5th birthday in 1999, Sydney was being knocked down and rebuilt in a pre-Olympic development delirium. It’s become a permanent, wracking condition, but at least it’s no longer evident right around our little office. Though we have received notice of imminent east-west tunnelling directly beneath us this year. The building is antique and the foundations seem solid, but our own were not in 1999. We had excitedly pumped up our print run and expanded our distribution network, anticipating increased advertising income. It didn’t happen and we slipped into a deficit. It didn’t take us long to climb out in 2000 but it coincided with growing pressure from the Australia Council for arts companies to become more ‘business-like.’ We secured our Triennial Funding for 2001-03 but it had been substantially cut (and other funding was not what we’d hoped for 2001). Things looked tough. It was one thing to be more business-like, another to do it on an insubstantial financial foundation. But we were about to learn how to do business: our grant was conditional on it.

Open City Board Member Kath Walters, the small business writer for Business Review Weekly, wisely recommended that, rather than hire a consultant, we own our business plan by creating it in a 5 month course with the NSW Enterprise Workshop. Virginia, Gail and I did the course in 2001, though it nearly killed us—weekly and weekend seminars, lectures and presentations, consultations with a mentor, judging sessions and getting RealTime out as usual. The course was run and largely delivered by and attended by men of a pretty conservative persuasion. Lecturers’ stories of success were invariably from the top end of the pile eg motor vehicle sales, major medical inventions, leaving us with improbable transfers of learning. Every time we were assessed we had to repeat to our nonplussed judges that our product was free, our income a mixture of funding and advertising sales, and we couldn’t take on a whole lot of their recommendations: certain kinds of investment, seeking commercial partners or on-selling the business. A big part of the course was how to sell a business you might not even have yet started up. Loving your business was not on the agenda. Nor was there any reciprocal interest in what we might have to offer business looking to think ‘creatively.’

However, despite never wanting to see another Power Point presentation ever, and becoming weary of viewing the world through the incredibly narrow lens of business and its pervasive lingo, we did create a plan, got a lot of help and inspiration from our mentor, David Prentice, who had worked for major advertising agencies, and our Board, especially Kath Walters, and we made the plan work over the next 3 years. All of us look back and laugh at the horrors of the course, relieved that our idealism survived a battering.

Except for this grim, if enlightening, and, yes, productive interlude, our relationship in general with funding bodies has been very good; the continued support of (especially) the Australia Council and the Australian Film Commission, along with the NSW Ministry for the Arts and FTO (Film & Television Office NSW), has provided a firm foundation on which we have been able to grow and sustain a vision which in turn supports so many artists.


One thing that did impress our business course judges was the publishing we were doing for the Audience & Market Development Division of the Australia Council and the Industry & Cultural Development wing of the AFC. They liked this diversification of income, especially since it built on our intellectual capital—the years of knowledge and data that RealTime had accrued in its files and in the hearts and minds of its editors and writers.

We’re particularly proud of editing and producing the In Repertoire series for the Australia Council in collaboration with designer Peter Thorn. These books on performance, dance, new media and Indigenous art are a logical extension of RealTime’s commitment to promoting the work of hundreds of Australian artists, the majority of them innovators and working solo or in small companies. The praise from overseas producers and presenters for the series and the gratitude of artists has been a great reward as has the satisfaction in being a partner with AMD in its vital work. Nor is it just a matter of marketing Australian work to the world: exchange is critical. We have been impressed by the international collaborations initiated by the likes of Elision, Aphids and the PICA-Performance Space Breathing Space program with Bristol’s Arnolfini contemporary art space.

There are never enough festivals and reporting them on the ground, in print and online is a RealTime pleasure, another way to diversify our presence and to meet the artists we write about. We’ve had writing teams at the 1996, 1998 and 2000 Adelaide Festivals, LIFT 97 (London International Festival of Theatre), Asia Pacific Triennial 3-MAAP99, the 2001 and 2003 Queensland Biennial Festivals of Music and Next Wave 2002. This year we’ll also be at BEAP (Biennial of Electronic Art, Perth). We also welcome individual festival reports which come in regularly from Australian artists on their travels.


The odds have been against artists over the decade. Arts funding has remained static or decreased in frequency for many artists. The positive outcome of the Myer Report is essentially a catch-up for visual artists. Federal government initiative funding for the youth and regional arts has been small scale and held out at election time. Censorship has been on the increase. The threat of Free Trade looms. The film industry struggles on with limited funding and little room for experimentation or vision. Sessional teaching by artists in universities has severely diminished. The commissioning of artists by the ABC has seriously declined across the decade. The managerial model increasingly dominates art at the expense of vision.

Certainly there has been acknowledgment of problems, with funding bodies seeking increased funding and commissioning reports. The Small to Medium Sector Report and Resourcing Dance: An Analysis of the Subsidised Australian Dance Sector, however, proved to be impoverished documents. The recent Theatre Board Report on triennially funded companies, on the other hand, focuses on one strand of organisational practice, clearly defines its problems, proposes what needs to be done and puts a price on it.

However, and this is one of the great ironies, Australian artists have still managed to create an embarrassment of riches, gathering increasing international accolades. This proliferation of art and its successes has so far let governments off the funding hook, but how long before the supply side cannot meet the demand because it is so diminished and so tired? Over the decade, we’ve also sadly watched many talented artists leave the field—quite unnatural attrition.


On the positive side, while federal arts funding in real terms has declined dramatically, state governments over the decade have steadily invested more in cultural funding—though not always reliably—as in South Australia’s funding redistributions and the travails of Melbourne’s ACMI. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s collaborations with the Australia Council have improved opportunities for the international marketing of Australian arts. Australia’s international arts festivals have featured more Australian work since the Kosky and Archer Adelaide Festivals of the 90s. Idiosyncratic festivals like Next Wave, Artrage, This is not art, Noise and others consistently nurture young talent. 10 Days on the Island and The Queensland Festival of Music (with its wonderful regional commissioning model) have shown how festivals don’t have to be city-centred. They are mirrored by the growing arts strength of Darwin and centres like Launceston, Mildura, Cairns, Newcastle, Lismore and others from which our arts future is emerging. The advent of the Quarterly Essay and the forthcoming arts equivalent from Currency Press along with Artshub’s invaluable daily online round up and reporting of local and international arts news provide us with a growing opportunity to build a picture of Australian culture that we can discuss and debate.


In 1994 and again in 1999 we reported the suspicion with which hybrid and new media arts were greeted in certain quarters, not a little because limited existing funding had to be shared with new forms. Much has changed since, in attitude if not funding. Australian works are consistently acclaimed in Europe and elsewhere for their multimedia and cross-cultural innovations. New media might not be that ‘new’ any more but what is remarkable is the constant inventiveness and relative ease with which Australian artists explore the relationship between the physical and the virtual, the potentials of interactivity and computer gaming, and the art-science nexus. It is an increasingly rich site for new ideas and tough-minded social critique and it is happening across all art fields, much of it documented in our pages over the decade. Dance, for all its financial difficulties, has excited with its commitment to new media explorations and a burgeoning dance screen culture. In film the assuredness of Aboriginal film directors (and actors and cinematographers) reveals not only great talent but the success of its nurturing through carefully tailored training and funding schemes, let alone a strong sense of community. And across the board there has been, in the last few years, a real intensification of political and ethical concern evident in the arts, finding its way quickly into theatres and galleries and, through documentary (but rarely feature) films, onto screens.


Many of the artists we have covered since 1994 have become prominent well beyond the pages of RealTime. Others enjoy occasional success and persist with vision and determination, contributing to a milieu where the body, history, cultures and technology are explored with passion. These are the innovators, often hybrid arts practitioners, whose work is increasingly known around the world, if less so at home, their creations neither mainstream nor conventional. New artists are always appearing on our pages, but in the last few years there has been a surge of young artists for whom hybrid practice is second nature: in SCAN 2003 (RT57) we profiled 100 innovative artists under the age of 30.


Until 2000, we weren’t in a position to store photographs; we didn’t have the office or the hard drive space. Therefore, pulling together images for this celebration has been quite a challenge, and we don’t have a lot of room in this edition. So we decided to focus largely on hybrid performance, creating an opportunity to pay tribute to Heidrun Löhr, a photographer who regularly frequents our pages and is respected by the Sydney performance, dance and theatre scene, as well as exhibiting her own work in galleries. Performance theorist (and now novelist) Jane Goodall wrote of Heidrun’s work in 1995:

...Löhr does more than document. She is one of those rare photographers who has an instinct for witnessing the instantaneous unfolding of an event and she captures the figure of a performer in ways that convey something of what it is to risk live action.
RT5, p 16, Feb-March 1995


Our contributing editors in all states are integral to the success of RealTime. We thank them for their advice and patience and, in many cases, sheer endurance. To all our writers, our thanks for your willingness to respond generously to the art around you. Our thanks for many years of support from Tony MacGregor (Executive Producer, Radio Eye, ABC) who chairs the Board of Open City, steering us through the high times and the hard with humour and insight. Out thanks too to our Board members John Davis, Julie Robb, Rhana Devenport, Juanita Kwok, Josephine Barbaro and David Young, and previous members Gretchen Miller, Hunter Cordaiy and Kath Walters, for their guidance through the periods of doubt and stress that accompany a venture such as this. Thanks also to our printers, Harris Print, especially Keith Dunham, to our distributors in all states, and to the managements of the 1000 venues across Australia who allocate space for RealTime.


Since 1998, the astonishingly multi-skilled Gail Priest has been Advertising Sales Manager and Design & Layout Artist, and now Associate Editor, as well as a writer for RealTime, all the while enjoying a developing career as a sound artist. She is also a co-director for Electrofringe 2003-04 (This Is Not Art, Newcastle). Blessedly cheerful, utterly committed and ever perceptive, Gail is truly part of the team and we cannot imagine RealTime without her. Recently, Dan Edwards, our OnScreen Commissioning Editor, also took on the role of RealTime Assistant Editor, giving us the additional editorial and writing strength we are so hungry for.

To our readers, subscribers, advertisers and funders, we look forward to informing and challenging you in the years ahead, a shared venture in supporting the artists who nourish us all.

Virginia Baxter, Keith Gallasch
Managing Editors

RealTime issue #61 June-July 2004 pg. 23-

© Virginia Baxter & Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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