By Rita Bratovic.
Being an independent artist can be rewarding and frustrating in equal measure; from the creative burden of staying fresh and interesting, or the practical dilemma of finding money for the next project, to the exhilaration of breaking new ground and thrilling new audiences. Collaboration is a way for artists to access more opportunities and resources, as well as exploring new creative possibilities. Artists collaborate for many reasons, in many ways but their common goal is to bring better art to more people.
New Ghosts Theatre is a fledgling independent company that champions new works by Australian and international playwrights.
They are planning a production of Anna Jordan’s play Yen, at Kings Cross Theatre in September and have rallied six comedians for a fundraising evening at the Harold Park Hotel. Harold’s Hoo Haa is an example of the “all in this together” spirit that exists among artists and performers.
Sarah Gaul, one of the comedians on the bill, has taken part in similar fundraisers and says, apart from crowdfunding sites, it’s one of the key ways to raise money for new work.
“I think an industry without solidarity is not an industry at all,” says Gaul. She believes artists across disciplines are very supportive of each other, and within the close-knit comedy scene, performers are always willing to help out where they can.
“As a comedian if I can get 20 or 30 more people there because I’m there, then that’s great because it’s more money for the show and more work opportunities for other artists,” says Gaul.
The comedian/cabaret performer travels with a keyboard under her arm and has just returned from a year in New York where the scene is big, competitive and intense. The opportunities here – for comedians and artists – are fewer.
“People are realising the best way to get work done is to make it yourself,” says Gaul, “and that means lots of collaboration.”
Loredana Cross, Producer at New Ghosts Theatre, agrees, adding that it also means a lot of multi-tasking.
“There’s an incredible pool of talent – actors and theatre makers – that are also enthusiastic and eager to make work and learn. So often you’ll see the creators of a production wearing multiple hats, so you’ll have a producer who is also being the production manager and the publicist and the graphic designer,” says Cross. “It’s an environment where people can expand their skills and work collaboratively.”
Apart from the comedians, support has come from Hayes Theatre, Griffin Theatre, Red Line Productions, The New Theatre, Palace Cinemas, and Pigeonhole, who are all donating prizes for a raffle to be drawn on the night.
For Zoe Knighton, cellist with the Flinders Quartet, collaboration is a chance to flirt with new ideas. The Quartet has teamed with viola virtuoso, Chris Moore to present Midsummer Mendelssohn Gala, an afternoon of music, theatre, poetry and tea. The concert features a special arrangement of Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which Moore will occasionally break out into Puck soliloquies.
“Chris has been on our radar as somebody that we have been wanting to play with for a long time,” says Knighton. “And one thing that we’ve really been wanting to do is to extend not only ourselves but offering potentially something different to the people we work with.”
Classical music performance requires a degree of conformity and discipline which runs the risk of feeling repetitive.
“We spend a lot of time together in a rehearsal room. Anything that can jolt us out of saying the same thing over and over again can only be a positive thing,” explains Knighton.
To balance out the quirky, unconventional first half of the concert, which also includes a recital by Moore of a Leunig poem, the second half will be a more traditional performance of Brahms. Knighton believes the audience will have had their imaginations stretched and stimulated so that they perceive Brahms differently.
“Hopefully they will hear music in a much more vivid way because we’ve given them some extra thought patterns.”
When Moore was approached by Knighton with the idea he immediately agreed to take part.
“I’m just the kind of person that says ‘yes’ then goes home and punches myself,” he laughs, then adds earnestly, “if you don’t do things that stretch you you just end up stagnating.”
Moore describes collaboration as the “bread and butter of independent artists”. Apart from the practical benefits of sharing resources, it allow artists to experience new processes, add them to their toolbox and bring them to a wider audience. It’s also an opportunity to show other facets of your talents.
“When I told Richard Tognetti I was doing this he said ‘Finally! Finally your hidden skills will be revealed to the world!”
Studio A provides professional development for artists with intellectual disability. It’s not an art therapy centre, as CEO Gabrielle Mordy repeatedly needs to point out.
“Our aim is to connect them to the mainstream art world and to ensure that artists with intellectual disability have a voice in mainstream culture,” she explains.
Collaboration goes a long way to helping fulfil that aim. They have previously worked in partnership with Sass and Bide, City of Sydney, Mud Australia, theatres, restaurants and other groups. Their current collaboration is a textile project with bespoke fair trade homewares store, One Another. When One Another director, Rick Carter saw a display of works by Studio A artists at Sydney Contemporary Art Fair last year, he picked up a brochure, conceived the idea of matching artworks to cushions and contacted Mordy. It was an idea that spoke to many of Mordy’s ideals for Studio A.
“Plus, at the end of the day we just really like making gorgeous stuff and this is another means of making really gorgeous art pieces,” adds Mordy.
For Carter, the collaboration brings together two disparate yet very similar groups of people and rewards them with the chance to have their works appreciated in their own right as well as for the stories behind them.
“Working with [Studio A] had some parallels with what we do already,” explains Carter. “It’s nice to also have a local impact – bringing together local artists who are somehow not as empowered, with women in Africa who are the same.”
How do the artists themselves feel about this collaboration?
“Working with One Another makes me feel famous,” said Annette Galstaun
“I feel totally in love. Love love love. I can cuddle my owl pictures,” said Meagan Pelham
“My painting of Bert looks even better on a cushion, its reminds me of a carpet from high above,” said Thom Roberts.