As the festive season unfolds and the year draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on the extraordinary...
Image: Artists Rebecca Thomson and Catherine Pettman take their work from the Hobart Tip all the way to Cannes Film Festival
Last month we shared our plan to celebrate our 20th year with a Tasmanian artist focused Ten Days on the Island in March 2021. Since then we’ve been absorbed in the processes of putting those plans into action, not from our HQ in Burnie, but from our various home workspaces around Tasmania. Currently the Ten Days’ team is spread across Tasmania – in Burnie, Penguin, Preservation Bay, Sisters Beach and Port Sorell; a couple of us are in Hobart and one of us is stuck in Perth, WA! For us, like the rest of the world, the new normal is meeting on Zoom, Teams, Skype and occasionally old-school phone calls. Now everyone’s used to this way of working, we’re roaring along with the creative development of a very different Festival in 2021.
It’s been a privilege and an inspiration to spend time with so many amazing Tasmanian artists – albeit on my laptop screen – over these last few weeks. They haven’t missed a beat: they’re developing new projects, adapting existing plans, and some are throwing out years of hard work and pivoting to a new COVID-19 reality. Tasmanian artists are responding with magnificent resourcefulness to the constraints of this lockdown, social distancing, travel restrictions and general anxiety that has seized our community, somehow cutting through the endless white noise and distractions to focus on their practice.
Two of those artists are film-makers Rebecca Thomson and Catherine Pettman, with whom we’re developing a beautiful project to document the experiences of Tasmania in isolation. Last week Bec and Cat invited the Tasmanian community to participate in their delightful animation project There is No ‘I’ in Island by voice-recording their feelings and reflections on the isolation experience into a mobile phone. Within hours the callout had been shared widely on Facebook across the whole state from King Island to Sheffield to the Czech Community Page and Bruny Island. The speed of your response tells us that our communities are craving to connect, contribute and share.
From these voice recordings Bec and Cat will shape a series of short animated films, a kind of communal journal of our shared experience from the first days of lockdown to the eventual lifting of restrictions. We are all caught in this extraordinary moment, and we all know this moment will pass … and then what? I loved the idea of There is No ‘I’ in Island the minute the artists first proposed it because it connects people in a poetic and lasting way.
The five questions you have been asked to answer seek to help Tasmanians document our experience of this time in a unique and authentic mode of storytelling. More importantly, these questions invite us to give voice to our inner thoughts, fears and hopes and to share them with others going through the same experience. We may be isolated, but we are not alone.
For many artists – including me – the last few weeks have been a period of self-reflection and grappling with the larger themes of life and art. As Cat and Bec are experiencing, these are anxious and confronting, almost surreal times for artists, being deemed ‘non-essential’, watching the arts industries dissolve, aching for colleagues, grieving for thousands of artists’ jobs that have just vanished. Sometimes it feels like the apocalypse.Yet these are powerful times for artists too – the subconscious cannot help but be stimulated by these extremes of human experience. There will be some extraordinary works of art created in 2020.
Last week, while discussing There is No ‘I’ in Island Cat made a telling observation about the times we’re in: ‘it’s mythological material rising to the surface, and we as storytellers must try to make sense of this material, to hone in on what really matters.’ This project is a simple yet powerful example of how artists enrich our society, firing our imaginations, stirring our emotions, animating our stories and gathering us together – even in isolation.
Look after yourselves and your loved ones!
Lindy Hume, Artistic Director
Ten Days on the Island
12 May 2020
You can be part of There is no I in Island. CLICK HERE for more information