Category Archives: Artistic Life

Mobilising the future: Farewell 2016

One word to sing a new year in/ to lure gently in, to sit softly perched/ on my shoulder/ my lap/ my heart/ to be welcome//  #tinytwitterpoem (2015)

 

I enjoy marking time as an opportunity for reflection and growth. So for me the end of one year and the beginning of another is a beautiful time to gather my thoughts, say thank you for the year that has been and invite the coming year with intention.

 

My 2016 was on the less great end of the scale. As the year unfolded, my resilience and health unravelled. It was the cumulative impact of multiple personal losses (the deaths of friends and family in particular) as I tried to navigate a challenging professional year and the meat grinder of small but relentless personal and professional failures. The wearing down was very much exacerbated by some really shitty self-care on my part – physically and mentally – and I’m sharply aware of my own complicity in the year’s struggles.

 

fuck-crossstich

IMAGE: Photo of cross stitch made by Jamila Main (@xcrossbitchx on Instagram) that hangs in my office.

 

Subjectively and objectively comparing it to other years, 2016 has not been my worst year, but it has been one of the toughest emotionally. It’s rattled me in a way that some of my worst years never did.

 

2016 was also a year that was filled with some incredible highlights and soul-filling opportunities for gratitude.

 

Including (in no particular order):

 

  • Presenting my solo fringe show, Another Elusive Maybe. It was personal and vulnerable and outside of my comfort zone. The beautiful soundscape my friend and collaborator Ryan Morrison created for the show was a special gift. Watching and hearing people interact after the show gave me so much joy. And some very generous and heartwarming reviews, including this one from Jen St Jack at Great Scott.

 

“Amidst all the rabble about the true meaning of Fringe, I can tell you that this is it. Real art that pushes the boundaries – art that is completely different to anything you’ve experienced before.

Another Elusive Maybe is truly special. It’s an intimate and absorbing experience that cuts you off but leaves you wanting more.”

http://greatscott.media/2016/03/09/another-elusive-maybe/

Alex Ramsay loungeroom

IMAGE: Another Elusive Maybe, reflected selfie with the audience at Smith Street, February 2016.

  • All the beautiful and love filled weddings AND funerals I attended. These opportunities to be in the company of people I loved to share joy (and food), celebration and grief.
  • Nurturing so many rewarding projects with Carclew and City of Onkapringa as the Creative Producer of ExpressWay Arts. In particular in 2016, Brienna Macnish’s The Third Place, spending a number of weeks with Girls Yarning Group at Christies Beach High School and Kids Against Humanity’s Losing Faith in Unicorns.
  • Working alongside so many inspiring, supportive and excellent humans in my paid role, my independent projects and in my community.
  • Continuing to quietly make connections with the residents of Manifold Portrait at my own pace. This project, more than any other, is teaching me all the things.
  • The many other creative projects and opportunities I had, with special mention to Vitalstatistix’s Aeon Adhocracy residency, Spoken Word SA and City Library Poet in Residence program and Country Arts SA’s artist retreat.
  • Joining Adelaide Sword Academy’s long sword classes. Fun, rewarding and unexpectedly life affirming.
  • A perspective shifting and precious two weeks in the Kimberley as a participant of the Australian Rural Leadership Program. Followed by a week of getting to know the other participants in Melbourne and the knowledge that we have another 10months together in 2017.

alysha-after-the-kimberley-august-2016_photo-by-nova-peris

 

 

IMAGE: A tired, dirty and grateful me towards the end of our Kimberley adventure. Ft. busted boot. Photo taken by Nova Peris on mobile phone, August 2016.

  • Interstate trips for art and reunions that cemented how grateful I am to have this exceptional life.
  • All the delightful, generous and thoughtful emails, texts, facebook messages and tweets I’ve received this year from a host of excellent people. In particular those people who have reached out with kindness when I’ve been struggling and those people who have supported and encouraged my creative practice at its best and its worst.
  • Six (SIX!) amazing people who became my patrons in 2016, providing financial and moral support to my creative practice.
  • Watching my toddler grow and discover the world. Little people are such a source of joy and perspective.
  • Seeing my teenager growing into himself. Overhearing him tell his friend “Yeah, but you have to put yourself out there and try things.” This, of all the things in 2016, has felt like the biggest win. By itself, but in the context of history most especially.
  • Another year sharing this journey with my life partner. We’ve both struggled this year separately and neither of us have had the reserves to fully support each other, but even so, our life together is a great gift. I was also really proud of him for being a finalist in a state teaching award and kicking some of his own professional goals across the year.

 

shit-wife

IMAGE: iPhone screengrab, conversations with my love, 2016.

  • Developing some new friendships, deepening existing friendships and reconnecting with some old ones. Friendship is always something I’ve found difficult. I’m introverted (life is a kind of theatre too) and nervous and find making friends fraught with anxiety so the friendships I have are deeply treasured.
  • Beach visits, making time for running, living in a beautiful home, the resources to live and eat, visiting and experiencing SO MUCH thought provoking, life affirming, inspiring art in all its forms.

 

2016 has been brimming with highlights, joy and excellence and with heartache, unhealthy stress, disappointment, hurt and loss. Neither cancels the other out for me.

 

I have felt and do feel both deeply.

 

I have struggled (hard) this year, with situations and with myself. I have felt gratitude this year, deep and real and filling gratitude.

 

Thank you 2016.

 

Your difficulty has forced me to face myself, to see what I really want and to ask for it. Your grace has given me the support and energy to find my way through a year that wrecked me. Now I’m ready.

 

past-present-future

IMAGE: Past, present and future audit/artwork at Country Arts SA artist retreat, facilitated by Lenine Burke. Ft. my feet, November 2016.

 

Hello 2017.

 

Some people hate the idea of New Years resolutions and some people love them and commit (or not) to a special personal goal every year. A specific goal has never been my thing but I really like the process of choosing one word for the coming year. One word as a guidepost, intention, tone. In the same way that as a host I might think about the music I choose for an event, the music doesn’t guarantee that my guests will have a particular experience, but it helps set the mood to encourage one environment over another. Think playing screamo versus folk/indie. Neither is better or worse music but they create very different vibes and experiences for the people who are there.

 

Choosing a word for the coming year is an opportunity for me to consider the kind of space I want to shape for myself. To think about how I live in my values, to bridge the gap between who I am and who I want to be and to let go of any baggage I’m carrying from the year that has been.

 

My word for 2017 is:

 

Mobilise

 

[moh-buh-lahyz]

 

  • Organize and encourage (a group of people) to take collective action in pursuit of a particular objective

 

  • Bring (resources) into use for a particular purpose

 

  • Make (something) movable or capable of movement

 

2016 brought into focus what I really want and what needs to happen to get there, so 2017 is taking the first steps to realize my way there.Mobilising myself, my resources, my communities to bring to life the best in all of us along the way.

 

See you in 2017, my loves.

 

x

 

A small selection of the things that shaped me, inspired me, moved me in 2016:

 

Music

Joelistics, Blue Volume album

Electric Fields, Inma EP

Anohni, Drone Bomb Me single

Tina Arena, When You’re Ready single

 

Books

Bruce Pascoe, Dark Emu

Patrick Rothfuss, The Kingkiller Chronicles

Guy Gavriel Kay, The Fionovar Tapestry (again)

Shane Koyczan, a bruise on light

Andrea Gibson, Pole Dancing to Gospel Hyms

 

Theatre

Lisa Fa’alafi and Candy and Kim Bowers, Hot Brown Honey

Emma Beech, Life is Short and Long

Vitalstatistix, Adhocracy

PACT, Rapid Response Team

 

**

 

 

 

 

 

A sea of not silent: Other words in other places.

I’ve been a little quiet here, but I’ve been sharing plenty of other words and insights in other places. So if you’re hankering for my writerly voice – duck over to my patreon here (updates on my latest exploration as a poet in residence at City Library) or my artist facebook page here (various bits and bobs, some old and some new).

And of course I’m always writing micro poetry over on Twitter as @lylyee using #tinytwitterpoem.

I will be sharing some things right back here on the original bloggio in August though, so don’t abandon me entirely.

 

x

Protected: Another Elusive Maybe

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A Red Lid. A #draft #poem by me.

Her dreams taste too small. Too big to lean into. So she folds herself into block mazes on tiny screens and cries quietly behind her eyelids. We are all of us trying to escape ourselves.

Two children to tow along, through the currents that try to drag her under. All of them have seaweed nesting in their hair. Sometimes she ties their hands together with salty shells. And together they float beneath a sun turned angry.

She has forgotten how to recycle. Can’t even spell it without thinking really hard. The palms of her hands are soft like the inside of her discipline. And she is trying. Trying to tread water with her mouth full of sand. It’s all she can.

Elusive Maybes #makethings #lovearts #elusivemaybes

*

Tied in/ an untangled maybe/ shouting, whispering, pleading/ maybe I will, maybe I will//   

I should most definitely be sleeping.

I want to be sleeping.

It’s 1.23am and I’m exhausted and have to be up by 6:30am for a full day.

But something is brewing in my brain and wouldn’t let me fold myself quietly into sleep. This is very rare for me. I usually sleep easy.

I’m thinking about a project.

A story I want to tell.

And it’s getting louder.

Crashing against the fringes of all the other things right in front of me. Insistently asking me to untangle its possibility. It’s been creeping slowly around the edges of my thoughts for a little while. Tentatively connecting a dot here, a dot there. And now it’s roaring so loudly I can’t hear myself think.

I think I’m doomed.

To live this life always hungry. Always yearning. Always chasing these elusive maybes. Untangling these seams of unheard.  Driven.

So I’ll pour some words onto paper now and hope that’ll be enough to still the maybes for today.

Hope sleep is finding you more pliable.

xx

On the edge #freethearts

You have made yourself to stand/ out on the edges of forever/ outstanding/ excellent// a for and

I struggled to find the words. I struggled to even find any words.

But this is what I wrote to the Senate Inquiry into the Impact of the 2014 and 2015 Commonwealth Budget Decisions on the Arts.

It’s not too late to get yours in – you have until midnight to submit here: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Legal_and_Constitutional_Affairs/Arts_Funding

11th July 2015

Dear Sir/Madam,

Re: Impact of the 2014 and 2015 Commonwealth Budget decisions on the Arts

I am an ex-highschool drop out and teenage parent who was caught, and saved in the net that excellent art weaves with and for communities and individuals.

I am now a writer, theatre-maker and cultural producer working for a small to medium organisation and independently. I was the recipient of the 2015 Australia Council Kirk Robson award which recognises outstanding leadership from young people working in community arts and cultural development, particularly in reconciliation and social justice.

Both emotionally and intellectually I am angry and disillusioned at the decision to divert funds from the Australia Council into setting up a new (non-peer reviewed) National Programme for Excellence in the Arts (NPEA).

With funding to the 28 Major Performing Arts (MPA’s) organisations quarantined, the Australia Council cuts will come from funding previously allocated for small to medium organisations and independent artists. But the NPEA’s draft guidelines state that it will not fund individuals, resulting in less funding and fewer opportunities for independent practitioners. Small to medium organisations, while in theory able to apply to the NPEA will be in direct competition with MPA’s under the draft guidelines and will have a smaller pool available via Australia Council. As a result establishing the NPEA by removing/redirecting money from Australia Council directly risks the entire ecosystem of Australian Arts and Culture now and more importantly (to me) into the future.

Excellent art and excellent artists come from a healthy ecosystem. Our excellent independent artists and small to medium sector feed the excellence of our MPA’s. They are not just linked but entwined – you only need to look at the CV’s of our highest ‘achievers’ to see how each of the layers overlaps and crisscrosses.

My career would not exist without the work* of two organisations who came together in partnership to make a theatre production with teenage mothers in 2004. Both those organisations submitted EOI’s earlier this year to Australia Council’s 6year organisational funding category, which was suspended in the wake of these funding cuts/changes. Both those organisations are now at risk – if not immediately, most definitely in the future – and as a result, so are future artistic leaders from diverse backgrounds (not just people who have the resources to pay). Other young people in the future may never even have the chance to discover that the arts have a place for them. Because we are erasing their place before their journey can even begin. With these cuts, and others like them, heading our way.

I work with hundreds of young people who are only just learning how to tell their story. They aren’t ready yet to write submissions to an inquiry or work for an MPA. But their stories and their options in the future matter. Their artistic voices matter, right now. They are already excellent and will grow more excellent IF (and only if) the ecosystem is there to nurture them to do so.

Excellence is not expensive lights and flawless technical execution. Excellence is in the striving, for more, for better, for everyone.

Sincerely and with a small dash of hope

Alysha Herrmann

* https://griffithreview.com/articles/not-for-me/

The why of the work #ATF2015 questions

 

Questions swirl, morph, continue. The process of asking them seems as important as the actual answer. Because our answers are different. As they should be. As they have to be. From our different contexts, our different needs, our different passions.

IMG_5310.JPG

 

I’m at the Australian Theatre Forum in Sydney this week and those questions…

 

Why do we make art?

Who is it for?

Does it even do anything?

 

…always find their way into these conversations.

 

I attended an artist talk with Danny Braverman in this morning’s breakout session and he touched on audience reactions after a show (and what that says about the show). I’m badly paraphrasing here, but along the lines off:

 

“‘Oh the parking is shit, not much to eat’. Well the show can’t have been so great. Or you have the shows ‘Oh the lighting was nice, wasn’t that performer great.’ Yeah but what was it about? But then the ones where people are sharing anecdotes of their own with each other – their own stories in response to the show.”

 

 

That’s where my hunger begins.

Or builds.

I want the ideas.

The rage.

The arguments.

I don’t want to see pretty lights or have great parking.

I want to stretch and be stretched.

I want people to see themselves and each other or NOT see themselves in such an extreme way that they have to talk about it and argue and tell their stories. I want the community that brings. The sense of empowerment, connection, change.

 

Why do I make art?

Because I feel compelled to. Because I feel a responsibility to. Because the experience of making or seeing art CAN change a life, or a vote.

 

Who is it for?

My community, my family. All the people like me who feel like they have no place in fancy foyers with fancy people. My granddad. My mum. My children.

 

Does it even do anything?

It can. It can be the net that catches you. The door that opens a new way of living. It was for me. And I hope that the art I make in some small way, somewhere along the line has even a fraction of the impact on others that others work had on me.

 

It’s not a perfect answer. Or a finished answer.

 

It’s my answer today though.

*