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Future Present, Adhocracy and Extraordinary Circumstances

A photograph of John Willlanski and John Swinbank talking together in John's farm garden.

Guest Blogger: Meg Wilson & John Willanski

It’s not always easy being an artist. Sometimes it can feel like no matter how hard you try there just aren’t creative opportunities out there. In many cases, artists throw in the towel believing that art-making is for a few very lucky individuals who managed to crack the scene. Before giving up, consider a slightly different approach, search for opportunity. They wait in the least expected locations.

Try something new. Go out of your comfort zone. You never know what can happen! If it doesn’t end up being your thing, that’s fine too!

Recently, John Willanski and I took part in Future Present, a two week residency alongside eight other artists as part of Adhocracy at Vitalstatistix Theatre Company. Adhocracy takes place over the June Queen’s Birthday long weekend, in the Vitalstatistix hall. It is a three-day program which supports the creative development of new and experimental arts projects, by artists all over Australia. The Future Present residency was a project leading up to the three-day weekend allowing artists from varying disciplines the opportunity to collaborate to research a common subject.

John and I are both visual artists. Why would we take part in a residency lead by a theatre company (in fact, it was with two theatre companies)? Well, as the only visual artists within a group of mostly theatre makers, we were able to learn a whole new approach to making art.

The Future Present residency was lead by Sydney-based theatre company, Urban Theatre Projects’ Artistic Director/CEO, Rosie Dennis. It explored climate change and economic transition. We spent the time having conversations with various people who work in primary industry, asking a lot of questions about sustainable practices, the future of industry, and climate change.

The group spent the first week visiting farms – an egg farm, a wind farm, a fish farm, and meeting a couple who live sustainably off a small block of land in Milang. The second week involved taking the information that we had gathered and using it to build content for three separate works presented over the Adhocracy weekend. And we developed a lot of content!

A photograph of John Willlanski and John Swinbank talking together in John's farm garden.
(L to R) John Swinbank and John Willanski talking together in John’s farm garden.

As visual artists it was challenging to be placed on the spot to ‘perform’ in front of others. That being said, we learnt many, many new techniques used by actors and theatre makers for developing content and ideas quickly. Learning these new ways of working made it so easy to get over the fear of the blank page… or canvas! Working creatively with so many other artists meant that we were able to gain feedback and develop ideas really quickly. This is not an opportunity that you always get to experience as a visual artist.

The best part of the residency is that we’ve been able to broaden our artistic network a starting point for ongoing artistic practice. The 10 artists from Future Present now meet weekly at the Vitalstatistix hall to share ideas and develop our own artistic pursuits with advice from our new-found friends. It is quickly becoming an unexpected, long-term collaborative creative process, which would not have come about without taking a chance on a new direction. Who knows where it will lead? What we do know is that it is definitely the start of an exciting process!

Opportunity – it really does wait in unexpected locations.

Find out more about Vitalstatistix Theatre Company, Urban Theatre ProjectsFuture Present blog by following the links to their websites.

Meg Wilson is an Adelaide-based artist working with textiles and installation. Her practice responds to classic horror/thriller/mystery genre films, play scripts and novels. She explores transference between mediums, misinterpretation, human behaviour, and the point of view of the outsider.  Meg Wilson is a co-director of FELTspace ARI in Adelaide.

John Willanski is an illustrator and multimedia artist. He graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Multimedia, with Honours, from the University of South Australia in 2007. Focusing strongly on concept design and development John has applied his diverse talents to many media and genres.