15th February 2014 – I was the opening speaker at the ‘Love Struck’ exhibition at the Arts Centre, Port Noarlunga. Here’ s the rough notes from my speech which a handful of people asked for. x
I’d like to personally acknowledge the Kaurna people as the traditional spiritual custodians of the land we meet on today and pay my respects to our Elders past, present and future. I acknowledge that the social, spiritual and historical connection of the Kaurna people to this land is as strong today as it has always been. I’d also particularly like to invite all of us to think about the part with all have to play in Reconciliation with each other, and with Country – particularly in the wake of the anniversary of apology and as we head towards Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC week in a few months time.
I’d also like to acknowledge the current caretakers of this beautiful building we’re standing in today, the City of Onkaparinga Council. It’s so, so fantastic to see a local government supporting arts and culture in the community through the provision of such a stunning centre and all it’s fabulous staff.
As Lucy mentioned I’m the Creative Producer of ExpressWay Arts, which is a new initiative of Carclew jointly delivered with the City of Onkaparinga Council to deliver a philosophically linked series of projects, events and activities for people under 30 as contemporary art makers and cultural leaders. Having recently arrived in the Onkaparinga region from my regional community in the Riverland I’m right in the thick of getting to know and experience everything this community has to offer and so it’s a pleasure to be here with you to officially open Love Struck and hopefully meet a few of you this afternoon.
The theme of this exhibition is of course – Love. Love in all its forms. I’m actually getting married two weeks from today so I’m feeling particularly loved up myself and have been reflecting a lot on love and the place it has in all our lives. Love is one of those things in life that everyone seems to be reaching for or engaging with – something that’s integral to the human experience. Yet it’s also a place of vulnerability and of hurt, and can be as toxic as it can be joyful. There are also many different kinds of love – love for a parent, or child, a lover, a friend, unrequited love, fan love, love of humanity and each of those loves shapes us in different ways too. I would have to say wandering around the exhibition though, that most of the work in Love Struck focuses on Romantic Love, making the exhibition very apt to be opening the day after Valentines day!
In 2012 I was a poet in residence through Australia Poetry’s Café Poets Program and I was asked by someone during the residency to write a poem about kissing, which I though I’d share with you tonight, although it’s still unfinished – love is all about vulnerability and learning together. So here’s a few thoughts on love.
Lean in. Suck in the smell of you. The sigh of you. The curves of you. Linger there by your cheekbone. This waiting moment. Hangs. Across the sky. Across the distance between our curved mouths. A thousand stars are born and die in your eyes as we hang there. Suspended. Waiting. Aching. Longing for the courage. The deep bravery to lean in. Lean into the fear. The disappearing distance. The weight of a thousand and one old fears stands between our skin. And yet. And yet. Still. I lean in. Braver than I thought I’d be. A thousand stars are born and die in your eyes. The flash of knowing. Of living and breathing. And finally the distance parts. Our curved knowing mouths meet in the slim corner between fear and hope. Hungry. Needing. But slowly, gently. Loving you makes me brave enough.
Once I’ve finished rambling on, there will be some delicious nibbles and music coming your way and I would encourage you to take the time to really explore each and every work on display tonight. With a group show such as Love Struck, there is such diversity in form, medium and intent and each work has something very different to say. And as with all art – art is a language and a place for artist and audience to speak together for a moment in exploring what it means to be human and I would argue that our perception of love is perhaps the most defining part of our humanity. So take the time to sit with each work, to find what it says to you, to question what the artist is reaching for and to reflect on your own perception and idea of love. Art is also a map – a map to explore who we are, who we have been and who we could become as individuals, communities and societies. And I must say – that some of my favourites in the exhibition are the works that take a rather snarky look at love and the experience it can be! So enjoy, reflect on the good and the bad!
And if you didn’t already catch them in January – do stick around tonight for The Little Fish’s final performance of Romeo and Juliet here at the Arts Centre tonight. The Little Fish is an offshoot performance arm of Southern Youth Theatre Ensemble providing young performers with the opportunity to sink their teeth into some of the classics – and Romeo and Juliet is another opportunity to explore love in many forms – or what happens when a lack of love between families impacts on the love between their children.
As you are walking around the exhibition, also remember that most of the works are for sale – so if you see something you love, whip out the credit card and talk to Lucy. If we want great art to keep being made we have to support it – just like if we hear a great band we need to buy their CD so they can keep making it, visual artists are no different. Plus you’ll have a beautiful one of kind item for your home that in the case of this exhibition – really has been made with love!
Art isn’t just a luxury item. We need beauty in the world. To inspire us, to give us hope. To soothe us and provoke us. But it’s also much greater than that. As I touched on before, art is an opportunity to continually explore what it means to be human. Both as an artist, when we explore our ideas and inspiration through creating work, and as an audience member when we engage with work – good or bad – it allows us to question what matters to us, what should matter, it allows us to ask questions of ourselves and others and reach beyond our individual potential.
A nation without arts would be a nation that has stopped talking to itself. Stopped rediscovering itself and interrogating itself and most importantly extending itself.
And perhaps a nation without love would be much the same. Love can be terrifying, difficult, ridiculous, funny, joyful and beautiful. Love and the leaning into love is one of the most powerful spaces many of us will find to grow. So lean in. To art. To Love. To Love Struck.
Without further ado though, it is my absolute pleasure to declare Love Struck officially open!