Since 1996, we have organised conferences on the discourse of the arts. The conferences have, in turn, led to a journal entitled Double Dialogues, the first of which was in hard copy under the sole editorship of Ann McCulloch and has been distributed internationally. After innumerable obstacles, we decided to situate articles, essays, exhibitions, and the like, from both these conferences and contributions related to our themes from interested parties, on-line. This refereed electronic journal deals with the discourse and practice of the arts, ranging across the visual arts, film, multi-media, dance, music, creative writing and theatre. Our decision to do this is manifold, but one of the reasons has been determined by our wish to become part of a global debate. We recognise that our interests are ones that are being experienced within academic institutions and art-centres world-wide.
Before exploring the central theme of this Issue, perhaps we ought to contextualise it in terms of a journey over the last six years and into the future.
Issue One: Theme of Bifurcation of Art and Theory
The first Double Dialogues Issue–originally in hard copy and soon to be placed on-line–was centred upon the presentation of papers at conferences emanating from the practical expression of the arts. In other words, alongside this performative dimension there was a discourse concerning the most appropriate ways of representing the art-form in words and/or whether, indeed, there should be an attempt to do so. This theme in the initial print version of the journal focusses on questions about what can be regarded as research and about the relationship between traditional academic practices and more ‘rhizomic’ treatments of subject-matter across the arts.
In dealing with the question of what is research in the arts, contributors took varied and oppositional positions. Jacques Delaruelle, for example, argued as follows about the boundary between the theoretical and the practical:
Apart from such lines of inquiry, there was a concentration upon issues of assessment of the arts and, more particularly, how institutions at large dealt with the relationship between the practical and the discursive. Debate was at its starkest when Anne Marshall argued for ways of apparently accommodating institutionalised forms of research whereas Judith Pippin immediately attacked the Australian Research Council’s definition of it. To be a contender or simply ‘to play the game,’ Marshall includes the pragmatic realisation that moneys will never be forthcoming if we feign ignorance about issues of methodologies, documentation of the creative process, and theoretical framings. From this perspective, the principles of research can be construed as much the same regardless of the discipline. Thereafter, she demonstrates in detail how this might be managed by re-visiting how artistic practice and discourse can be re-configured without slavishly operating in terms of the traditional paradigms of scientific research or the latest French philosophising: “there are other ways.”
Even Bill Hart and Rod Wissler, when examining the institutional constraints upon the creative arts, remind us of the familiar difficulties associated with what is termed “new knowledge”—perhaps facetiously bracketed by Wissler as “Intellectual Property.” Indeed, Hart ends with a mantra listing the “essential ingredients for success” in procuring research funds with:
* persistence, it may take several years before the project is successful
* study the system, it has its own internal rules, logic and language
* chat up your assessors, expert assessors who give you a good rating are what get you the grants.
In response, Pippin acknowledges that, according to the very language of funding bodies, performing arts practice is deemed unresearchable and the performance unassessable. Pippin’s paper argues for
Issue Two: Theme of Rhizomic Actualisations
What strikes us at the present is how this debate became superseded in the next conference. Here, there was a dramatisation of a ‘rhizomic’ fusion between art and its discourse. Mark Minchinton, in his keynote address, “The World Is Turning to Pus,” argues that he has
Brendon Stewart, drawing on the philosophy of complexity theory, anchors his documentary making amongst the migrant working-class of Sydney, Australia. He almost immediately realised that he
Forthcoming Issues –
“Industry & the Arts” (Issue Three) and “Culture Wars” (Issue Four)
In what follows, let us briefly explore themes that emerged in two conferences which will act as the basis of forthcoming Issues Three and Four. These themes can be best captured by the notions of art across cultures and art in the face of money and power. Yet the arts are not simply a document of sociological patterns or trends. Artists will always create from some deeper imaginative source to think beyond fixed meanings or interpretations and thereby become a power for ‘becoming.’ To that extent, we invite our contributors to think beyond traditional humanities models that primarily work within closed systems of thought. After all, are works of art confined to known worlds? Are they not in a state of constantly creating new worlds? If so, it is time to abandon old theories formerly attached to art production!
Theme of Art Across Cultures
The next perspective that will emerge in Double Dialogues’ contributions self-consciously turns in part upon the cultural globalisation of artistic practice. Nowhere will this be more graphically captured than in the presentations by Paul Monaghan and David Wright. Monaghan recounts his experience in Bulgaria when he was the manager of the play “Inje.” “Inje” was an international co-production in 1995/1996 between the Melbourne group, Hildegard, and the Theatre Department of the New Bulgarian University (Sophia). His performance paper, “The Space In-Between: Four Languages in a Swamp,” explores why the experience of cultural intercourse produces a lead ball for a baby! Problems centre upon four kinds of language relevant to the production: spoken language (ordinary communication with “the issues of translating” between English and Bulgarian); theatrical language (where “concepts and practices used by theatre-makers” proved “as unintelligible to other theatre-makers as can spoken languages”); cultural language (defined as “all the factors which inform and differentiate” a people whether done “consciously or not”); and, finally, individual language (“the somewhat artificial construction of self, a system of features, behaviours, and the learned habitual rules for interactions with others that define a person,” but which “cannot be blamed on cultural difference” even when “often [trying] to hide behind ‘the shibboleth of national identity’”). The experience, for all its potential personal benefits, demonstrates for Monaghan the sheer impossibility of decontextualising or transporting the situated worlds of theatre:
Theme of Globalising Art – Money & Power?
Implicitly, it might be argued that what we have been doing so far is to engage debates that underpin the shift to globalising art, to asking ourselves where are the arts situated in terms of politics, money, and power to take three public facets of globalisation. As stated above, the two conferences which followed–“Art & Industry” and “Culture Wars”– dealt with these ‘demons.’ Is art subversive? Or, is it inevitably trapped within economic and political constraints however these are manifested from place to place? The first of these conferences was not only looking at industry’s support of the arts, but the extent to which art works hand in hand with industry. Our visual arts exhibition played with this idea: from paintings which were produced by the ‘state of the art’ technologies to advertisements proclaiming their artistic status; from art entrepreneurs who spoke of selling acclaimed works of art to the captains of industry at the behest of the artists to displays of jewellery which made ambiguous any distinction between commodity and craft, commodity and art; from paintings and cartoons satirising the relationship between money, art, and politics….
The accompanying papers were indeed diverse. There was the problem, for example, of Ian Ferguson, then a doctoral student, who needed industry support to create a machine that produced fusion of previously unfusable metals–seen as being of great value to industry than just to his sculpture. Pivotal to presenters’ concerns was the uneasy connections between art, industry, government, and censorship. In going cap-in-hand to industry and government, how subversive can art ever be? The underlying assumption here is that art should not only interpret the world, but change it. Again, as Anne Marshall disclosed, the 2000 Olympic Games’ juggernaut brought about a collusion between money, power, and the arts. Even the outlying reaches of Penrith (Sydney) underwent a cultural transformation, but only in accordance with Olympic economies and dictates. The question she confronted was: when money speaks, does art move? Furthermore, through Pauline Cady’s ugly Snuff Puppets and Wendy Rule’s alternative vision of the sacred, the marginalised expression of the arts was visited. To what extent, we were forced to ask, must art compromise and yet sustain its integrity?
Susan Jordan, by contrast, worked with industry to create her artform, “The ‘Avery Ford’ Car Ballet” under the title of “Who Tunes the Car?” In the background of her choregraphic presentation was a video of the original choreography designed for outdoor performance in Wellington (New Zealand) with eight dancers and eight new Ford cars. Jordan was looking for a solution of how to fund her art. Sponsored by Avery Ford and subsidised by Creative NZ, the central government’s arts funding agency, the calculations amounted to little more than $NZ4.90 per person unlike her previously subsidised theatrical work at $NZ144.00 per seat! Her critical reflections ended by exploring the tensions and prejudices associated with successful, corporately funded art. Indeed, she asks, is financially successful, popular and entertaining art for a mass audience ‘bad’ art? Did it ‘sting’ the mind, did it provoke thinking, or did it invariably indulge a male icon of consumer society? In her press release at the time, Jordan said, “I wish to comment on the place of the car in society with colour, music, nifty gear changes, lots of laughs, and the swishest windscreen wiper moves in town.” Then, within the Double Dialogues context, reflecting on her ambiguous position as an arts practitioner, she cited Pulitzer Prize winning composer Morton Gould, “I am sorry I write something a lot of people like. I’ll try never to do it again.”
The most recent ‘Double Dialogues’ conference provided the opportunity for political analysis of where the arts are situated in relation to wider culture wars that exist on a global level. In concluding with this conference, we shall end with a metaphorical romp questioning the very notion of ‘globalising art’ in several ways. As implied above with Anne Marshall’s depiction of art and the Olympics, we were firstly asking, is “globalising” to be understood here an adjective or a verb? Is it something that art does or something that is being done to art (and by whom)? Issue Four takes the Faustian compact in areas of the arts not previously explored, the technological, the digital, the indigenous, the political amongst others.