More Marina magic

How many teenagers in their lifetime get a masterclass in performance art from the internationally acclaimed Marina Abramović?

Well, I know of eight. And they’re all from Dubbo.

On Saturday 3 July, the Kaldor Public Art regional engagement project reached its halfway point. The pilot, in the context of our recent project with Abramović, has proven to be a unique and hugely rewarding opportunity to engage with ideas around performance art using the very immediate experiences of our teenage participants.

Through a series of workshops, discussions, exercises and activities (led by theatre director Imara Savage, artist Lottie Consalvo and myself) we’ve been exploring the role of the body as a gesture or action in art making. We’ve also been looking at ideas of presence and energy and the role of the audience, and asking our intrepid participants to mine their own ideas and experiences, challenging them to consider how they might explore some of these emotions and responses as a work of art.  

Earlier this month the participants joined us in Sydney for two days at Pier 2/3. It was a chance to experience Project 30 – Marina Abramović: In Residence and to be part of our dedicated public program event with Western Plains Cultural Centre aptly titled, The Western Plains Respond. It was also an opportunity for them to see their learning and works-in-progress in the context of the 12 emerging Australian artists living in residence at the Pier (of which Lottie was one) and to meet the rest of the Kaldor Public Art Projects team.

The Marina masterclass wasn’t on the agenda. It was an impromptu event, proposed by Marina herself no less, after she met everyone on Friday and was told about what they’ve been up to for the last couple of months. Marina challenged them to explain their ideas, asked critical questions, gave thoughtful feedback and told them in no uncertain terms to commit to their ideas, especially the ones that frightened them, because they usually proved to be the most important ones.

All of which will be on display during the special one-day exhibition at Dubbo Regional Gallery at the Western Plains Cultural Centre on Sunday 26 July.

The Marina masterclass wasn’t on the agenda. It was an impromptu event, proposed by Marina herself no less.

This huge and exciting culmination to the project is a chance for the participants to present their work as serious young artists, and to learn what’s involved in curating an exhibition. Which is why Kent Buchanan, Curator of the WPCC and Andrew Glassop, WPCC General Manager, along with the rest of the Dubbo team are taking the unprecedented step of giving them their own exhibition space in the main gallery.

Their final performance pieces, which will be curated by Kent, deftly explores their teenage experiences of disconnection, feminism, mental health, love, worry and expectation. 

Presented from 11am as part of a special day-long, free public program that includes the official launch of the Public Art of Dubbo website by Deputy Premier and NSW Arts Minister, the Hon. Troy Grant, and an afternoon panel discussion on the changing nature of public art. Chaired by Kent Buchanan, panellists include Kaldor Public Art Projects Director John Kaldor, artist Alex Wisser and Regional Arts Development Officer for Orana Arts, Alecia Leggett. And probably a participant or seven.

The day gets underway at 10.30am and concludes at 3pm with refreshments and informal reflections. No bookings are required and the events and exhibition are free to attend.

It’s an important moment for us in our pilot project but beyond that, it’s a very special opportunity to experience the work of some exciting young artists who have absolutely earned an audience for their work. Just ask Marina.  


You might also like:

ABC Radio National’s interview with Marina Abramović.

Western Plains Cultural Centre event details



This article was written by Jo Higgins, Kaldor Public Art Projects’ Regional Engagement Coordinator. Jo has written several articles about the development of this project – you can find them on our Blog which provides information and resources to people who work in museums and galleries across the state.

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