Australia Council grants support innovation and diversity

PYT 9Lives photo by Alex WisserArts projects incorporating science, several languages, and exploring ageing, illness and disabilities are some of the innovative and diverse works supported by the Australia Council for the Arts through its September grants round.

Australia Council Chief Executive Officer Tony Grybowski said the strong field of projects assessed by expert peers included innovative collaborations between artists and communities, ground-breaking ideas using science and technology, and artists from migrant and Indigenous backgrounds creating works that draw on their cultural heritage and native languages.

“The Australia Council is committed to supporting artists create excellent, challenging and exciting work and fostering experimentation and risk-taking in all art forms,” said Mr Grybowski. “An important part of being an artist is having the freedom to try new things, be innovative and push boundaries and provide audiences with thought-provoking, entertaining and moving experiences.

“It is also vital that all Australians are able to participate in and have access to a range of art and cultures and that the Council supports projects that are relevant to a wide range of people and communities. Many of the projects supported in this round meet that challenge and include an impressive and diverse range of work by talented individual artists, groups and small to medium organisations from across the country.”

The September grants round received a strong response with almost 1,700 applications and 290 projects funded in all areas of arts practice and from every state and territory. The $10.4 million investment includes $3.7 million to 166 projects by individual artists, $1 million to 39 group projects, and $5.7 million to support 85 projects by small to medium arts organisations.

The Australia Council’s peer assessment process ensures grants are assessed by experts in the relevant areas of arts practice.  This funding round involved 115 peers from all states and territories and all arts practices. In this round 25 per cent of peers were from regional or remote areas, 16 per cent identified as being Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people, and 19 per cent from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Projects supported include:

Melbourne-based emerging artist Brienna Macnish creates innovative and diverse multi-artform projects that are inclusive and tell stories that are under-represented and socially relevant in a contemporary arts context.  Brienna’s work, Village, is a multi-art form project created in collaboration with a retirement village and seeks to bring older people back to the centre by transforming it into a contemporary arts destination.

Western Australian artist Nathan Thompson’s work questions the role of humans in the natural landscape.  He will use his grant to create an artistic autonomous biological robot where the body is an organic structure and the behavior is generated by heart muscle cells.  The project is at the intersection of art, science and society, and will use ground-breaking scientific and cybernetic processes to create an artistic autonomous robot made of organic and inorganic matter.

Sydney-based interdisciplinary artist John A Douglas investigates his ongoing chronic illness and dialysis treatment through scientific and collaborative performances.  His project will reveal over time the transformations of his body after an organ transplant and the regime of ongoing compliance and drug treatment that is both lifesaving and potentially lethal. Douglas will interrogate – via performance, video, sound, interactive media and sculpture – the complexity of the transplant experience underlined by the trauma of surgery, a disrupted identity, and adherence to a program of physical fitness.

Powerhouse Youth Theatre in Western Sydney will collaborate with contemporary dance company Force Majeure on Jump First, Ask Later to be staged at the Sydney Opera House. This work will tell the collective stories of six young culturally and linguistically diverse artists who are part of Fairfield’s underground parkour and street-style community. This dance theatre work merges urban freestyle forms with contemporary dance to create a physical narrative that explores the poetics of violence, migration, redemption and ultimately the collective freedom they discovered by mapping their city through dance.  The Powerhouse Youth Theatre Ensemble, a collective of seven young and emerging artists who speak six different languages between them, will develop scripts to create multi-lingual presentations.  The theatre will also host a weekly drop-in and leadership program for refugees and migrants aged between 14 and 18 years.

Melbourne Artistic Director Jodee Mundy produces theatre, public events, installations and artistic interventions that bring together diverse cross-sections of the community to challenge and inspire them and position diversity as valuable to the art.  Her project, Imagined Touch, The Deafblind Live Art Project is centred on two Deafblind women (performer and pianist) exploring their profound experience of living in a world without sight or sound. Through tactile translators, touch choreography, social haptic communication and sign language, these Deafblind artists and their interpreters guide audiences through a metaphoric participatory hands-on installation offering audiences an insight into navigating the world through touch.

South Australian contemporary arts company Vitalstatistix will present Adhocracy, a national artist hothouse held annually to support the creative development of new experimental art and performance. Artists from around Australia will spend four days in a studio developing new artworks, which can span live art, performance, sound, installation, media, technology, and socially-engaged practice.

Salamanca Arts Centre in Hobart will present New Alchemists, an exhibition exploring futuristic biologies and post-human narratives.  The exhibition, to be held in SAC’s Long Gallery from 22 July to 1 September 2016, will feature local, national and international artists showing new, commissioned and pre-existing works, most not seen before in Tasmania or Australia. The project provides a platform for early career Tasmanian artists to exhibit with world-class contemporary alchemists and artists from other states and countries.  Participating artists work within the art/science spectrum but, avoiding the clinical, channel humour and the abject, and their artworks traverse an array of media.

Kaldor Public Arts Projects has commissioned Sydney-based Aboriginal artist Jonathan Jones to recreate the Crystal Palace in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, which was destroyed by fire along with Indigenous historical artefacts in 1882.  Winner of the Kaldor Public Art Project’s Your Very Good Idea competition, Jonathan’s installation, Barrangal dyara (skin and bones), will give back that history through this project.

Brisbane’s Motherboard Productions will stage Shimchong: Daughter Overboard! at the 2016 World Theatre Festival, in collaboration with artists from Brisbane, Melbourne and Seoul. The production is a politically ambitious retelling of a traditional Korean tale that highlights the current plight of those seeking asylum in Australia through a fusion of original music, traditional Korean opera, physical theatre and bilingual storytelling.

Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre in Yirrkala, Northern Territory has received funding for its Indigenous artists to take part in the major exhibition, Living Water, at the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco.  The exhibition will be curated by Erica Izett and Georges Petitjean from the Aboriginal Art Museum Utrecht and Donna Carstens from the Australian National Maritime Museum. It will include works by 35 artists: 18 from the Sordello Missana Collection in Antibes, five from Buku Larrnggay Mulka, four from the Aboriginal Art Museum Utrecht and three from the Australian National Maritime Museum. All but three artists are Indigenous.

Iranian-Australian theatre group Baran, based in Brisbane, will present a contemporary version of one of the most famous narratives of pre-Islamic Iran, ‘Vis and Ramin’.  A team of Farsi and English-speaking creative practitioners have developed a bi-lingual performance work that will engage industry and linguistically diverse artistic peers as well as the thriving multicultural community in Brisbane. This new work was developed over two years with support from Metro Arts, BEMAC, the Australia Council’s Theatre Diversity Initiative, Arts Queensland, as well as Playwriting Australia.

Broome Aboriginal Media Association Aboriginal Corporation will hold the Goolarri Writers Program and Incubator.  This will build on the skills participants learned from the 2014 program, while nurturing new talent in performance writing. It will assist these emerging writers to develop their stories to a level where they can submit their work for commissioning, awards or further opportunities. The writers will work one-on-one with the facilitators on their projects and participate in masterclasses, workshops and be mentored to create their own opportunities. They will also be encouraged to create a bank of new ideas and works for further development.

Brisbane Community Arts Centre will focus on diversity and critical mass for its 2016 program. Capitalising on the Australia Council’s Theatre Diversity Initiative, BCAC have shown diversity is their point of difference nationally, evidenced by engaging 32 culturally and linguistically diverse artists across 20 projects between 2012 and 2015. BCAC’s new vision will create a flexible curatorial structure through artist-led open calls, balanced with ethical strategic projects that actively promote gender equality, inter-generational initiatives, diversity, including artists from Indigenous, queer and culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and artists with disability.  In 2016 BCAC will generate critical creative mass through micro-festivals held over three to five days, which will include exhibitions, workshops, free showings and presentations across all art forms.

Hayes Theatre Company in Sydney will develop new Australian musical theatre works over two years. Melbourne composer Iain Grandage will mentor Adelaide Indigenous singer-songwriter Corey Theatre to compose in collaboration an eight minute work in Gunditjmara language to be performed by Archie Roach to open the 2016 Port Fairy Spring Music Festival.

Sydney experimental jazz trio The Necks will celebrate their 30th anniversary by recording new work, and embark on an Australian and international tour.  They will also collaborate with extreme drone metal band from Seattle Sunn O))) and Brian Eno.

Brisbane choreographer Lisa Wilson and composer Paul Charlier will premiere in 2016 Wireless, a new intermedia dance theatre work, which will incorporate dance, music, design and on-stage technology. Lisa received a Creative Development grant from the Australia Council to develop Wireless, which explores issues of trust, technology and deception.

Applications are now open for the next grants round, which closes on 2 February 2016. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Powerhouse Youth Theatre and Force Majeure’s 9Lives – photo by Alex Wisser