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Sound and media artists James Brown and Mish Grigor

Mar 12, 2013

As part of the IETM-Australia Council Collaboration Project, two Sydney-based Australian performing artists recently undertook extended residencies and research visits to Europe to learn more about markets for their work and to create networks and contacts for artistic and market development. Sophie Travers, Project Director, discussed the discoveries made by sound and media artist, James Brown and Mish Grigor of POST.

Sophie Travers: Can you describe the project you recently undertook in Brussels?

James Brown: I worked with Anuschka Von Oppen on a new project, called Unnamed, My Eyes Ablaze. We were interested in creating an energetic, noisy and concert-like experience for this work.

I also helped set up a new studio space for Belgian dance theatre company SOIT, in a converted engineering warehouse. SOIT had to really build it up from scratch, and I learned a lot about setting up a new venue. My project was the first to be performed in the new venue.

I also had the chance to collaborate again with SOIT’s director/choreographer Hans van den Broeck. I love the way that SOIT functions; so much freedom of creativity is given, and collaborators are encouraged to express themselves fully; never boxed into roles.

ST : What did you discover during the process both about your work and about how your work is contextualised in Belgium?

JB: I got to branch out from not only using my laptop as an instrument, and experimented with playing live with guitar and other physical instruments. I am becoming more involved in the devising and creation process, delving into the conceptual realm of a piece.

The audiences that go to see contemporary performance in Belgium are comprised of a larger portion of the general public. There is more cultural awareness of dance. I think it’s something that should be fostered in the Australian artist community. I believe we should be trying to cast a wider net to expose our work to audiences.

ST: How will you be implementing the things you learned in this project?

JB: I realise how important it is to have a place to work and feel comfortable in. I would like to try and set up a studio for devised performance/dance here in Sydney in the next few years.

Also, SOIT has expressed interest in bringing me back to work on a major project in Brussels next year.

ST: What is next?

JB: I just finished writing some music for a score with Mark Bradshaw for Jane Campion’s new miniseries, Top of the Lake. I’ll be working with Matthew Day for the final piece in his trilogy as part of Dance Massive and then collaborating with George Khut on an ISEA project called Theta Lab, where we will be encouraging meditation while people are hooked up to brainwave scanners, which produce sonic /visual feedback.

ST: Can you describe the project you recently undertook in Europe?

Mish Grigor: I spent three months in the UK, Europe and the Nordic region. I was working with Belgian/UK company Reckless Sleepers on their new work EMPIRE at Warwick Arts Centre and in Ghent. I also undertook a residency at NES Iceland, where I started developing a new solo piece about speeches, feminism and crocodiles. In between these projects I met up with artists and producers, saw about seventy shows, attended academic conferences, had my first white Christmas, learnt all about elves…

ST: What did you discover during the process?

MG: I could easily locate likeminded peers – people who saw themselves as

part of a second generation of contemporary performance makers, operating in similar ways to my Australian contemporaries and myself. It was surprisingly easy to slip into creative development with Reckless Sleepers. There’s a clear lineage from what I do, people who’ve mentored, directed or taught me over the years and the big companies from England and Belgium. In Europe ideas move quickly; in the UK it seemed that the ‘live art’ worlds and the ‘experimental-ish theatre’ worlds are merging in new ways.

ST: How will you be implementing the things you learned in this project?

MG: I feel much better versed in the current contemporary practice of several countries, and I think that will affect the projects I’m making this year in ways that I cannot yet know. I’m heading back to the UK and to Portugal with EMPIRE. The Posties are also headed to England later this year for a series of developmental exchanges as part of a new as-yet-unnamed project which grew out of conversations I was having there. I’m also interested in forming some sort of alliance with people who are currently working here and internationally in order to share ideas and information and capitalise on each other’s trips OS.

ST: What is next?

MG: Last night I got back from World Theatre Festival where POST did a scratch showing of our new work Oedipus Schmoedipus, which we’ll continue to develop this year. On Friday I’m going to the briefing night for a massive multi-arts site-specific work that I’m directing part of. Next week I’m on the road to Perth for a residency at cia and after that Melbourne’s Arts House, during which I’ll be developing my new project Man O Man with an exciting group of new collaborators. I’m also heading to Dublin in April for IETM.