Vitalstatistix’s national artist hothouse Adhocracy returns in early September but the future of the annual event is uncertain.
Adhocracy is a curated weekend that supports the development of new Australian artistic work and in its seven years has helped to advance around 50 different productions with its residency project and national development call for new and exciting work.
Originally run as a day-long lab in 2010, Adhocracy changed course in 2011 to become an annual national performing arts hothouse held over the winter long weekend at Vitalstatistix’s historic Port Adelaide hub, the Waterside Workers Hall.
“We felt that what was really needed here in Adelaide – and generally in the national landscape – was an opportunity where artists could do intensive development of work that they were starting or conceiving – real projects rather than artform practice in a lab environment,” says Vitalstatistix’s creative producer Emma Webb, who curates Adhocracy with Jason Sweeney and Paul Gazzola.
“What we look for as curators are artists who are at the early stage of exploring new work, not only in form, but we also look for strong and interesting real-world ideas as well,” Webb says. “Often, Adhocracy features work that explores topics such as feminism, environmental politics and queer politics, as well as interesting collaborations between artists. We’ve got a few projects this year that are first time collaborations between artists. Artform exploration is a big part of it.”
Never Trust a Creative City, Too Rude (ACT/NSW)
This year, Adhocracy will be held during spring for the first time – running from Friday, September 2 to Sunday, September 4 – and will feature seven performances as part of its national call with the contemporary dance piece Aeon its featured residency project. Despite this year’s seasonal change from winter to spring, Webb says the ethos of Adhocracy hasn’t shifted since 2011.
“We’ve always had a residency project and we’ve always had a national call to select a certain number of projects to run in the Hall,” she says.
“That development process runs with a public program where people can come and see talks, works in progress and other experiences. However, each year we do have various extras. We often have DJs and other little projects that the curators’ offer. This year Jason [Sweeney] is holding his Quiet Ecology Lab, which is basically a space where people can have a bit of down time and quiet time, which is very much part of Jason’s long-term body of work around quietness. Each year, we shift and change the talks, which usually respond to the projects we curate.” Webb says that this year the talks and panels will kick off each day of Adhocracy.
“The talks are a really great way for people to come in and sit, listen and meet the artists. They can get into the headspace of the theme and the work that people are doing and then experience the different projects and showings throughout the evening.”
Raft of the Medusa, Pony Express (WA)
There are two major components to Adhocracy: the national call for new and interesting work (where artists develop their project over four days) and the residency project, where an Australian group or artist is invited to develop their work over two weeks with up to 10 local artists.
All of these works will be performed as part of Adhocracy.
“It’s an opportunity for those lead artists to test their work in different ways and get a broader range of collaborators and obviously a whole lot of feedback as being part of the public program for Adhocracy,” Webb says.
“For the South Australian artists, it’s a tremendously exciting opportunity to work with national peers as well as collaborate with other local artists. All of the residencies have resulted in artists going on to work together or with the lead artists who were involved in the project.” Webb calls Aeon (this year’s residency project) a “really interesting work”.
“It’s a beautiful participatory experience that is quite revealing through the process of participating in it; around how we think about birds and flight, how we all imagine flight, as well as the politics of what we consider natural and unnatural. It’s a beautiful work.” A local work of interest is Hilary Kleinig’s (Zephyr Quartet) new project The Lost Art of Listening, a collaboration with Emma Beech and Sandpit that investigates how people experience and value music in this technological age.
“Hilary’s an incredible artist, collaborator and leader,” Webb says.
“The Zephyr Quartet have been experimenting with a range of collaborations and technology though a number of their projects in recent years. It’s really great to see Hilary say: ‘We’re going to take that further and really think about this iPhone application’. She wants to develop that as part of a concert she’ll be researching and developing at Adhocracy.”
Dirty Pieces, Malcolm Whittaker and Rebecca Jensen (NSW/VIC)
Some recent works that have been developed at Adhocracy include Nicola Gunn’s In Spite of Myself, which went on to the Melbourne Festival, and PVI Collective’s Blackmarket that was at this year’s Perth Festival.
“It [Adhocracy] is a really great way to not only develop the work over an intense period but engage a community of artists and presenters around the work, so people will follow the work and go, ‘Okay, I saw that at Adhocracy. I saw a little showing of it in the early stages; I’m going to follow where that goes.’”
For Webb, the feedback she receives from Adhocracy artists is that the hothouse is an intense and unique platform. “I think at this time when the funding environment is so dire, it really underlines how important it is to support those first stages of development. It’s not only about new work development; it’s the kind of work we support as well. It’s work that’s experimental, it’s work that includes social practice and social engagement, it’s work that is multi-disciplinary and encourages interesting collaborations.
We select projects where artists are really trying to challenge themselves. And there are less and less opportunities for that at the moment given how many experimental arts organisations were not funded in the last round of funding.
Uncanny Valley Girl, Angela Goh (NSW)
“It’s a really great thing to have in South Australia. It means that it’s part of a national calendar of arts opportunities here in South Australia and in Port Adelaide. It brings a whole stack of national artists to the state every year who meet local artists and establish long-term connections with the state and our artists.” Webb says the future of Adhocracy is uncertain beyond this year due to the Australia Council cuts to Vitalstatistix.
“We’ve applied for Catalyst money for Adhocracy. We feel it fits somewhat into the Catalyst guidelines, so we’ve applied for two years of funding to support Adhocracy and we’ll know about that later in the year.
It’s a big priority for Vitals to keep Adhocracy going. It’s a really important part of our program each year but there is absolutely no doubt that all of our artistic program and projects are contingent on us being able to continue to get project money as well as other state funding. I wouldn’t say anything for us is particularly stable at the moment but, as I said, it’s an important priority for us, so we’ll hopefully continue to offer it in the future.”
Does Vitalstatistix need that Catalyst funding to hold Adhocracy next year? “Yes we do.”
Adhocracy Waterside Workers’ Hall, 11 Nile Street, Port Adelaide Friday, September 2 to Sunday, September 4, 4pm-midnight Entry: donation vitalstatistix.com.au