The 27 founding members of the Sydney Culture Network have a cumulative audience attendance of over 12 million annually. They operate over 100 spaces for creative production, and offer 200 spaces for culture across our city. They employ some 2,500 people. Through the Network, we're working together to make the most of the assets at our disposal, share resources and amplify our programs and channels. The collaborative mindset behind the Network moves Sydney’s cultural players into an open ecology, that puts the audience experience of Sydney culture, across the city, at the centre of everything we do.
Sydney Culture Network will be the research and development department for the culture sector: connecting cultural institutions with educators, researchers with practitioners, culture with technology and creative business in ways we haven’t yet explored. We are standing together to demonstrate the reach, impact and benefit of the cultural and creative sector in our city, and to create greater opportunities for and from the arts and culture.
I've been fortunate to work with the incredible team at UNSW Art and Design to deliver this project - special thanks to Dean, Professor Ross Harley and Manager of External Relations, Brendan Wall - as well as all the cultural sector champions who have made this happen. You can discover more at sydneyculture.org
The program included 183 events over the 23 days of Vivid Sydney, spanning sectors from technology and start-up smarts, to film and storytelling, design, architecture, from STEM skills to visual arts and communication.
The Game Changers talks series engaged audiences with leaders people shaping the creative landscape, and crafting unforgettable stories and characters: Spike Jonze, House of Cards creator Beau Willimon, photographer and stylist Margaret Zhang, and Jenji Kohan, creator of Orange Is The New Black and Weeds.
Start-up conference The Sunrise returned, while new events included un-conference Make Nice, and global digital placemaking think-tank, Media Architecture Biennale. There program included Robowars, Etsy Sydney's maker markets, Clipped, a new music video festival, zine fair and a creative career expo. You can explore our full program of creative conferences, talks, workshops and more at www.vividsydney.com/ideas
In 2015, I was thrilled to be invited to curate the first Junket un-conference for Junkee Media: a three day event in Canberra, which brought together 200 innovators, leaders and thinkers from across Australia, inviting them to shape the agenda for our country.
For me, Junket is the answer to the question - what if the conversation could be different?
What could be possible if you could see one big problem from multiple perspectives? What if you had the people with the skills and insights and energy and access all in the same place?
We wanted a place that immediately conveys the fact that we have national ambitions, and a perspective that goes beyond the local. It's the seat of power and a place where we preserve our stories. This is best place for us to rewrite our national vision and speak truth to that power.
Who are the Junket participants?
They’re fighting deforestation for palm oil andprotecting the Murray Basin. They’re re-designing job-sharing and the way we work, or trying to bring fairness to the world of internships. They’re building new lines of dialogue and collaboration between Australia and China. They’re disrupting investment and superannuation. They’re communicators who’ve won Cannes Gold Lions, engineersdesigning smart wheelchairs, building robots or rethinking how we generate energy. They’re researchers working on adolescent mental health and cyberbullying, they’re Indigenous health workers, human rights lawyers, astrophysicists and surgeons, or urbanists reshaping the places we inhabit. Between them, they’ve founded a social impact toilet paper company, a sex-toy company, a network supporting women in music — and more apps than you can fit on your phone.
These people are engaged, informed, and motivated. You’ll know some of them from their jobs as actors, journalists, commentators, advocates or designers; you’ll know them from radio or from #QandA; you’ve read their books or attended their events.
Jess was a member of the TEDxSydney curatorial team in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
I met Carl Bärstad, the founder of Kids Hack Day, at TEDActive in 2013. Carl has developed a network of people interested in education, technology and innovation in cities all over the world, who are all volunteering to host Kids Hack Days in their cities. Like me, most of the event hosts are TEDx organisers, and cities on board include Bogota, Beijing, Kampala and San Francisco.
The goal is to present a free, one-day event for kids aged between 10-12, giving them an hands-on experience immersed in emerging technologies. Thinkspace at the Powerhouse Museum have come on board as our venue partner for the Sydney event, scheduled for December 7. Thinkspace is a great partner for us as we want to introduce kids to a venue they can return to and continue their learning journey, and we plan to use their video conferencing facilities to connect with other kids around the world who have also experienced a KHD workshop - allowing Sydney kids to meet and learn from their peers and feel part of a bigger movement.
Carl's KHD Stockholm team have released this great video summary of the program and their event (on Aug 31), which will give you an idea of the nature of the event
Federation Square, Melbourne. November 27, 2014
Deakin University’s Arts Participation Incubator (API) invited me to curate a one-day conference for them in November 2014: launching a conversation about arts participation projects in the context of contemporary curatorial practices for festivals, galleries, museums, and public spaces.
What makes a participatory project successful?
How does participation contribute to artistic innovation?
How can approaches vary between CCD, live art and social engagement, and how can artists and curators craft different roles for stakeholders and participants?
How do we strike a balance between vision of the artists, the needs of the community, and obligations to commissioners?
How do we develop processes and frameworks for participative work that grow over time, or leave a legacy in a place?
Here are some of my thoughts on the topic, prepared for ArtsHub prior to the Curating Participation conference.
A step beyond engagement, drawing participation from audiences requires the asking of a lot of tough questions. There are leaps of faith involved, a distinct lack of safety nets and guidelines, and volatile human variables swirling below.
Participatory work invites an audience in to play a role; or sometimes, extends your practice into their lives, living rooms and streets. For artists, curators and organisations, it’s an approach that offers promise, but also requires risk, on all sides.
There are issues of trust and control; how much are you willing to give up? Who’s really in charge? How do you honour individual stories while crafting a broader narrative or achieving your artistic aims? Can you push into difficult territory while maintaining sensitivity and boundaries? How do you manage the practicalities of embedded, process-driven work, operating within object- and outcome-oriented frameworks?
We hear a lot about “engagement”, but it is a hard thing to quantify: in a performance or institutional context, you might measure it from the box office, in marketing, you might count ‘likes’ or shares. But this catch-all feel-good term doesn’t capture the rough and smooth of sparking a genuine, personal emotional connection. A step beyond engagement, generating (and managing) participation (or co-creation) from audiences requires the asking of a lot of tough questions. There are leaps of faith involved, a distinct lack of safety nets and guidelines, and volatile human variables swirling below.
While the questions are complex and risks are great, the rewards from participatory projects can be rich too: in delivering meaningful experiences for audiences, and challenging artists and performers to test their mettle and expand their practice. Around Australia, I’ve noticed a groundswell of art, theatre and community development projects which delve deeper and demand more. These are projects which have direct impacts in communities; helping individuals cast their own parts in the narrative of a place, draw connections with each other, and construct relationships and communal history.
In many cases, the systems and approaches we rely on are struggling to keep pace.Curating Participation is designed to bring together practitioners and commissioners to have these conversations, drawing from the experience of some of Australia’s best curators, artists and CACD workers at the leading edge, with the goal of establishing standards and conventions for what is often unconventional work.
The Betty Amsden Participation Program has challenged one of the country’s largest institutions, the Arts Centre Melbourne, to develop new processes for commissioning, supporting and reporting on participatory projects. With projects like Play Me, I’m Yours, Raising the Roof and eMOTION, the Arts Centre has headed in a new direction, putting the tools of creativity out on the streets and unlocking the talents of the public: in some cases, overcoming a perception of elitism to serve a new role. Emer Harrington andPatrick Cronin will share strategies for measuring success, and explain how they manage expectations within and beyond the organisation.
Knowing that genuine participation takes time, artist and curator Paul Gazzola works on long-term projects in communities. His recent Temporary Democracies project spanned three years in Airds, a housing development in South Western Sydney, and drew on the resources (both physical and cultural) of a place in transition. With artist Nadia Cusimano, Paul Gazzola is now establishing the Waikerie Temporary Art Gallery in regional South Australia, revealing the values and perspectives of the community to itself.
Footscray’s Big West Festival brings art home to people, where they live and relax, turning Nicholson Street into a laboratory for new work. Artistic director Marcia Fergusonexplores what makes participatory projects successful, and explains how she has approached the festival platform with two goals in mind: helping artists develop transferrable works and careers, while growing the appetites of venues and audiences for live art.
Urban Theatre Projects is a company which isn’t afraid to venture into challenging and confronting territory - over the past 30 years, they have delved into the scars and memory lines of communities riven by violence and loss - working through personal tragedies and celebrating the complexity and diversity of Western Sydney. Artistic Director Rosie Dennis shares her perspective on the balance between impact and sensitivity, mitigating risk while at the same time leaving room for work that surprises.
CACD practice Beyond Empathy tackles situations of compound disadvantage, embedding artists into communities and contexts that confound traditional social projects. Executive Director Kim McConville says best intentions don’t always equal best practice, and discusses how to set boundaries and develop processes for participatory work that grow over time, and leave a legacy in a place.
C3West, a long-term project of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia, brings together uncommon coalitions of artists, sponsors and stakeholders to inspire communities through transformational experiences. Curator Anne Loxley will explore the process of managing parties and partners, while artist David Cross, and Deakin Arts Management lecturer Anne Kershaw will discuss whether there are training opportunities, or academic and theoretical frameworks to support participative arts practice.
In the spirit of participation, at every point our audience were asked for their input – with the goal of creating a practical, adaptable set of standards for artists and commissioners working in this space. I hope Curating Participation sparks a process of questioning and discussion that will clarify the path ahead for a vital and ever-evolving realm of creative exploration.