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 Da Contents H2

May 20 2015
RealTime Writing Workshop
Four reviews of Vivienne Walshe's This is where we live, HotHouse Theatre. Murray Arts

February 23 2015
On the border: practice & potential
Keith Gallasch, Interview: Karen Gardner, Murray Arts

February 4 2015
Water play and sensory circuits
Joel Markham: Vic McEwan’s Almost an embrace

August 18 2014
Compassionately adrift
Vic McEwan: Scott Howie, Boat/Person

Screening memory
Urszula Dawkins: Interview, Curator Bridget Crone, The Cinemas Project

June 9 2014
Deep cultural waters on the banks of the Shoalhaven
Keith Gallasch: Interview, Deborah Ely, CEO, Bundanon Trust

Together, listening to landscape
Gail Priest: Wired Open Day 2014, The Wired Lab

May 21 2014
realtime tv: Sarah Last, Wired Open Day

April 22 2014
Enjoying the heat in the kitchen
Keith Gallasch: HotHouse Theatre, Albury-Wodonga

See, and hear, history come and go
Jason Richardson: The CAD Factory, In the Heart of the Past

December 9 2013
Re-inscribing nature
Jade Wildy: Mildura Palimpsest #9

November 13 2013
Regional Profile: Jason Richardson
Gail Priest

Regional Profiles: The Ronalds
Gail Priest

October 30 2013
Grong Grong Creative House
The Cad Factory, Grong Grong

October 23 2013
Rice, rituals and relationships
Gail Priest: A Night of Wonder, The Cad Factory & SunRice, Coleambally

October 14 2013
Eastern Riverina sites & sounds
Gail Priest : Interview, Sarah Last, Wired Lab

August 19 2013
Realising regional ambitions
Gail Priest: Scott Howie, RADO, Eastern Riverina Arts

June 6 2013
Art for water
Gail Priest, interview Vic McEwan, Cad Factory


Scott Howie, Boat/Person Scott Howie, Boat/Person
photo Vic McEwan
On Wednesday 9 July, Tony Abbott appeared on the Today show where he addressed questions about the reports of mothers on Christmas Island attempting suicide in the belief that their children would then have better success at achieving asylum in Australia. Abbott’s response was that his Government wouldn’t “capitulate to moral blackmail.”

So as Australian citizens, what are our options? What do we do when our government won’t answer questions of deep concern? When our government doesn’t serve our needs, our natural cravings to see ourselves operating with humanity and compassion?

Scott Howie, a Riverina based artist and cultural leader, felt this despair as he watched the media coverage. What followed was a very public series of posts on social media which saw his compulsion to act develop, just three days later, into a durational performative action on the Wollundry Lagoon, in the centre of the civic precinct of Wagga Wagga.

Scott Howie, Boat/Person Scott Howie, Boat/Person
photo Vic McEwan
Regional Australia, especially areas like the Riverina, which has a deeply conservative white history, isn’t witness to much protest let alone public durational performance. So to watch this event unfold in the public realm felt exciting. Scott’s initial, dismayed post quickly led to the idea that in quiet, respectful protest, he would sit in solidarity with refugees by launching himself in an inflatable boat into the middle of the lagoon where he would “sit and weep for some time.”

He assembled a group of Observers who would be on the banks, protecting his belongings, looking out for his safety, addressing any concerns with police, rangers or media and answering any questions from the community. The proposed action was both an act of rebellion and an act of love, of personal expression and protest. Scott’s direction to the Observers was to not become antagonistic or be drawn into conflict with any opponents who might be encountered.

As Scott launched himself into the Lagoon, just after 9:30am on Saturday 12 July, drizzly rain got heavier, the adverse conditions only adding to the weight of the artist’s actions—the fog, the rain, the boat drifting into the middle of the lagoon, blown around its edges, the lone figure trying to keep it from crashing into rocks, from getting snagged on lagoon debris.

He sat, restricted in movement in the precarious dingy for a period of ‘settling in.’ As the rain fell harder, he attempted to move about carefully in his raft, using his meagre possessions to create some comfort, some shelter from wind and rain. He placed plastic over his body and used an old tarp to umbrella the boat, to stop it taking in the rain. We felt empathy for Scott in his plight out on the water, a small figure in a big landscape, his actions engaging and mesmerising from afar.

Scott Howie, Boat/Person Scott Howie, Boat/Person
photo Vic McEwan
Onboard were a few supplies: a tiny suitcase, some food, a thermos and personal mementos. Also on board was another passenger, Scott’s puppet, a regular collaborator in works over recent years referred to affectionately as “Old Man.” Sometimes they were in conversation, sometimes they wept, sometimes they just sat slumped.

Scott’s action lasted until 3:30pm when cold conditions proved too much for him and the effects of exposure to the elements were deepening. As he made his way to the shore, he was helped out by supporters, some of whom had sat on the bank all day. With cramped legs that made walking difficult at first, he was helped up onto the rocks until the circulation started flowing again and he stood drenched and shivering.

Some watchers engaged with the action, some asked questions. One man held up an imaginary rifle and pretended to shoot the boat before explaining to those within earshot that he didn’t like refugees because they once broke the window of his shop. Many engaged in lengthy conversations.

In the Riverina on this day, people were brought together by a durational performance to witness one man’s personal expression of empathy as the rain fell and the boat slowly filled and the man sat huddled in the fog and wept.

Boat/Person, artist Scott Howie, Wagga Wagga, 12 July

RealTime issue #122 Aug-Sept 2014 pg. 31

© Vic McEwan; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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