Friday, November 16, 2012

Julie Perrin: Co-Creative Communities 2012

Finding co creatives…
When I told a friend I was going to a gathering at ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) called “Co-Creative Communities – Storytelling futures for community arts and media” she said, “Be careful what you wish for, they won’t mean the same thing by storytelling that you do!”  There are ways in which she was perfectly right, but there were other discoveries of good people doing beautiful work that I was really happy to meet.
Let me give you a glimpse of who was there, this is a happenstance guide, not a thorough report, and it starts with who I sat next to. First I met Phil Heuzenroeder from Wildatheart a community arts project in North Melbourne Phil was an astute and observant companion through the sessions.  I also bumped into my colleague Mark Silver there, he has done sustained projects in teaching secondary school students to gather stories from older people and document them on video – PADSIP – Positive Ageing and Digital storytelling.

From the main stage (which is really just a pocket of space under the cinema screen) Mimi Pickering spoke. She works in community radio in the Appalachian mountains in the USA and told a story that resonated through the day. She said the station realized their biggest audience was in a nearby prison. When the phone company hiked up the call costs into the prison, the station started an evening program where people could ring in with messages for their relatives inside. Mimi said it changed the way the listening community on the outside began to think of those on the inside.

Sam Gregory from Witness was also impressive, ‘Cameras for everywhere’ using video for human rights He was spare in words and strong on content.

More locally, Cath Dwyer from ABC Open has 45 producers in regional Australia facilitating storytelling via text, video, audio and photography. It made me glad to see such a thoughtful, insightful person at the head of this big story gathering enterprise. Cath remarked that ABC Open is a moderated, safe space for a certain kind of Australian story, and a distribution network. You can find out about classes, they have a monthly 500-word story invitation. This month the theme is “Someone who formed you” December is “Family Rituals”.
That’s all for now, more soon!
Other impressive presentations at ACMI were the sharp edged Carl Kuddell of Change Media (SA based) on working outside the comfort zone, “unless there’s a moment when I am embarrassed, it is not a good workshop”. He showed a video of indigenous responses to the dominant cultural ‘frame’ that was full of hilarious and serious takes of people interacting with an empty picture frame. I got to speak with Change Media’s Creative Director, Jennifer Lyons-Reid and she had a fine attentive intelligence that I really warmed to. My friend Richard Leigh from Campfire films was also really impressed by Carl's work, he was certainly a standout.

Indu Balachandran from Sydney’s Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE) was memorable, as was a glimpse of one of the programs they’d made on African parenting. Lachlan Macdowall from Victorian College of the Arts, Community Cultural Development had some useful observations about Evaluation in the Arts.
There were organisations with names like Feral Arts and Big hArt  – Scott Rankin began with virtually the only words spoken during the day about oral exchange. He evoked beautifully the membranes in the ear and the throat, and the exhalation of breath, the vibrations of sound which arise out of our craving for meaning. It seems he set off the oral storytellers at that point, both myself and the delightful Fadzai of StillWaters Storytelling Collective were hands up with comments.
I offered a quote from Ursula Le Guin about breath and story, it was picked up in the closing comments. Even though oral storytelling seems to sit at the edge of a lot of the new media, I think we can call people back into their bodies and the face-to-face power of story. Meanwhile I met an extraordinary array of “co creators” at this event – story making in its many many forms.

Julie Perrin
November 12, 2012

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