On the Couch with Erica McCalman

Erica McCalman AAR On the CouchWho is Erica McCalman?
I am a Ballardong Noongar woman with Irish convict, Scottish and Cornish ancestry. I am the Creative Producer of Next Wave. We nurture the next generation of Australian art over a two year process, culminating in the Next Wave Festival every second May. I was born in Melbourne but have spent the better part of the past decade in Sydney where I learned an incredible amount and developed a deep love for the city. I’m happy to be back home, but occasionally have pangs of yearning for blue skies and frangipanis. My roller skates sit in the corner of my room, neglected for too long.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
I think I do what I do because I honestly can’t see myself satisfied doing anything else. Even the unpleasant experiences in my past have led me here and I am grateful for that.

Who inspires you and why?
People in general. We all have a remarkable power in our creativity. We are surrounded by things which start as a thought in someone’s mind. For example; your clothes, the screen you are reading this on or the building you are sitting in. We literally manifest what we envision. Artists are people who are aware of this ability and cultivate it, but we all have it. Humans have created gods, cultures, airplanes, economies, stories, complex theorems and ideas, the internet, wars, and more… not all of it good. Our ideas and beliefs directly determine our future. We are clever, complicated creatures with more power and responsibility than we give ourselves credit for.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I tend to see progression as a team effort. Maybe the question for me is ‘What difference would I like to contribute to?’ In Australia I think we need a treaty. It will take a very long time if we want to do this properly so it needs to start now. This isn’t just for us mob’s sake, it’s for all of us. The mess we are currently in has its origins in colonialism: global neoliberal capitalism is the latest iteration. They are the nose and tail of the same elephant. With treaty we have the opportunity to reject being merely divided nodes in an economy and embrace being a society, with dignity and respect for ALL, First Peoples and new arrivals. Environmental degradation, poverty, climate change, inequality, all can be tackled with a treaty as the bedrock. I think the reason the Uluru Statement from the Heart was rejected is linked to this. A treaty isn’t just a piece of paper. It’s a fundamental reformatting of the status quo. Do it right and no person need ever be left behind.

Favorite holiday destination and why?
Whichever is next. I like to explore. I’ve been lucky enough through my work to travel throughout Australia, and overseas to Korea, India and the UK. I’m looking forward to saying talofa to Samoa for the first time in July. My Instagram is full of travel images, in new places everything looks intriguing or beautiful to me.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
It’s important to me that visitors to Melbourne understand where they are: on the unceded lands of the Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri peoples of the Kulin Nation. Bunjilaka at Melbourne Museum always has something exciting and new along with the more permanent First Peoples exhibition. Koorie Heritage Trust has many walks you can take to get to know country and Blak Dot Gallery in Brunswick is an epicenter of contemporary art for all First Peoples. Year round there is always a festival to discover and cafes’ to wile away hours chatting over a coffee. In colder months a trip to the St Andrews Markets in the morning with an afternoon exploring the Yarra Valley is a favorite.

What are you currently reading?
I’m book juggling at the moment, we’re in pre-production for the festival which means my time for reading is fleeting. I have been getting in a chapter of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez every few days. I’m also reading Bit Rot by Douglas Coupland which was a recent gift from someone who knows Doug is my favorite writer. I see the more complex serial television series as literature too. I’m really looking forward to the next season of Better Call Saul.

What are you currently listening to?
I’m embarrassingly late to discovering Electric Fields. Shade Away and Ornament are on high rotation right now after seeing them live for the first time. Zaachariaha’s stage presence is fabulous and I’m a sucker for a good synth. Ariel Pink is another recent discovery as is Melbourne band RVG. The guitar on their track Feral Beach has really gotten under my skin. Triple R FM is my daily soundtrack/companion when I’m driving or pottering around the house.

Happiness is?
A temporary state which can be attained through effort or arrive unexpectedly. It’s not the destination on your journey nor the default state. The definition of it has always changed through the different periods of my life. When I have it I try to appreciate it deeply and revel in what it brings. I’ll share it around if I can. When it leaves I have faith it will eventually come back around when the time is right.

What does the future hold for you?
My eyes are set firmly on Next Wave Festival 2018. Further on, more art. More travel. More yarning in the backyard with my partner over wine. Soon enough we start all over again for Next Wave Festival 2020.

The 2018 Next Wave Festival runs 3 – 20 May. For more information, visit: www.nextwave.org.au for details.

Image: Erica McCalman (supplied)