Who the hell do you think you are? #watershedACT

What is your brand?

Have you googled yourself? Found anything you don’t like on there?

My first session at Watershed this morning was led by Canberra Youth Theatre’s Artistic Director Karla Conway and in the program promised to strip back the surface layer to delve deep into your art, ‘you’ll be suprised to discover how little you know about yourself as an artist’.

Karla also has a second identity – that of Canberra Roller Derby’s ‘Karlotta Karnage‘ and her session this morning drew on some key lessons Roller Derby can teach us as artists.

Lesson #1 – I was late so I missed the official wording but essentially

Names matter. Pick a good name and cultivate it. This is your brand.

Lesson #2 – Bios should be bad ass

A lot of people are too nervous about pigeon holing ourselves. Sometimes you have to pick something. (I’m definitely guilty of this). It’s not about letting go of what you’ve done in the past but evolving and being present with the work/position you have right now. Karla ran an independent theatre company in WA, she’s been a performer and musical theatre. All of that shapes and informs her current practise. But if you’re too broad no one knows who you are and what you’re doing. So Karla is a director/dramaturg. That’s the work she’s making.

Karla spoke about studying directing at NIDA and never getting feedback from the tutor. We all habitually seek this ‘what did you think’ and turning the question around on to ourselves means that we learn to have our own back. We have to learn to step away from our work to see what is or isn’t working. This also helps to identify the elements that are specifically you.

I could never recreate your work. Because I cannot be you and you cannot be me. Rather than striving to be someone else. Strive to be you. – Karla Conway

Karla also questioned – Do you live in the past or the present in your bio?

We’ve all done things.  Many of us write bios that tie us to what we’ve done in the past. What are you doing now? What’s your aesthetic? What are you excited about? What makes you different?

Biography vs manifesto. Context. What are you using it for? Is this for a funding body or the program of a show? It is for your peers? The audience?

The key here I think is that you’re actually buying me, not my past work. I am the brand. It’s about if the person I am and the way I work is the right fit for you and what you want to do.

This really rang true for me. Karla asked us to spend a minute writing our bio.
Conclusion – I’m not so great at being ‘bad ass’, however that’s not my voice or my language and I’m actually okay with that. Unsurprisingly the words I jotted down was intrinsically linked to my identification as a regional artist and as a parent. This is an important part of who I am as a person obviously but it’s also at the heart of the ‘why’ in the work I have made and want to make.

Karla also asked us to autowrite in response to a series of provocations she presented. Provocations invited us to consider the work we were first exposed to, the work that excites us, frustrates us, inspires us, the work we’ve always wanted to make and what’s stopping us and how we define ourselves through our work.

Again, there were no surprises here for me. I regularly interrogate my work and myself so there was no new information here. My entire universe hinges on me constantly questioning EVERYTHING. But there is always (and was again) a clear pattern of how I betray myself and my skills and my potential with my own fear. I am, and always will be my own worst enemy. And actually fuck me. Fuck me for being the worst kind of coward.

Moving on,

Lesson #3 – Sometimes a girl’s gotta eat shit (this is a Roller Derby Term for stacking it)

If you don’t attempt it. You’ll never master it.

Come at me world. (See above fuck to self)

Lesson #4 – It’s inevitable, you’re going to get injured

Art is a vulnerable place to sit permanently. It’s okay to have a mental health day. It’s okay to rest and recover. You have to reassess and reignite.

Lesson #5 – Don’t cut the track

Limitations and boundaries can be your friend. Don’t be repressed by your limitations. Set the boundaries and then operate as violently as you can to create the best work you can.

Lesson #6 – Some days will bring wins.

Keep them in perspective

Lesson #7 – It’s all about the fans

What are you making for the audience? What is their experience? Always be thinking about the audience when you’re making the work.

It might be a cool idea – but why does your audience want to see that?

And yes, there is an audience for everything. But why are YOU making this? What does it mean? Why are you doing? Why are you connecting with that audience? And what would they be interested in?

Lesson #8 – Fight hard for your position on the track.

You have to be disciplined and invest in your craft. Constantly evolve. Know what your place and context is and work on that.

Lesson #9 – Persevere. Because at some point when you least expect it, magic happens.

Lesson #10 – At the end of the day we are all on the same team.

We grow our art by supporting each other. Go and see each other’s show!!

Look forward, not back.


2 responses to “Who the hell do you think you are? #watershedACT

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this – it’s all very positive, reassuring and inspiring! You – and Karla Conway – have given me loads to think about. Great stuff!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s