Bringing dynamic artworks and participatory, live art events to the Yarra Ranges, Force of Nature considers our relationships to local environments, as well as imminent issues on a global scale at this poignant, teetering moment. The exhibition, calls upon the potency of performance to create lively art that inspires engagement with nature, whilst fighting for it, mourning its loss, beckoning for connection and imagining future possibilities. Brought together by dance maker and interdisciplinary artist Gretel Taylor, whom spoke with the Melbourne Critique, about the beauty of the hills, inspiration and process.
I create performances and other artworks, which are often site-responsive and activate decolonizing and ecological themes. ‘Place’ in its many layers (cultural, ecological, social, historical) has been the underpinning theme and focus of my work for over a decade, which I have also explored through research and community contexts. My usual medium of choice is dance, but my work also spans live art, video, walking as art and installation. I currently work as a freelance artist, curator, dancer, researcher and teacher (of Body Weather training). Where do I find inspiration? Hmm… just about everywhere! Gritty urban sites, vast desert spaces, wild beaches, quirky backward suburbia, dense damp forests with lyrebirds… I could go on! And people – I do love people, especially marginalised ones.
This project in particular, what is it that you are exploring, and what has been the process- from creation to presentation, who have you collaborated with?
In this project I am trying my hand as a curator, and have invited other performance and visual artists to respond to the theme: ‘Force of Nature’, exploring the influence of nature on their lives and arts practices, responses to environmental change and ideas of ‘post-nature’. The exhibition explores relationships between sensory perception, care, access, behaviour and responsibility. Force of Nature calls upon the potency of performance to create lively art that inspires engagement with nature, whilst fighting for it, mourning its loss, beckoning for connection and imagining future possibilities.
The artists are: Marnie Badham, Peter Fraser, Myfanwy Hunter, Gabrielle New, Jill Orr, Gulsen Ozer, Laki Sideris, Melinda Smith, Gretel Taylor, Tammy Wong-Hulbert, Tony Yap
Process: Most artists have created new works for this show, in which I encouraged them to emphasise the participatory, live, immersive and experiential. I have communicated with most of them over a few months, in a process not unlike postgraduate supervision, as I have negotiated the boundaries of the role of curator in supporting, defining and realising the artwork with the artists. Seeing what they have each come up with has been amazing- they have all brought really diverse approaches to the theme. Mulling over the varied ideas and dynamics of the works and how they all will relate to and refract each other, then bringing it together in relation to the actual spaces at Yarra Ranges Regional Museum and consolidating collective meanings has been a new experience for me, and quite a revelatory space to be in.
Do you think art is a powerful force for good, and why?
Yes of course. Inspiration and wonder are vital at times as challenging as these! It sounds like a cliché to say art can offer new perspectives, but it can.
Are there ways that the public can get involved in this work, and through these opportunities, what do you hope they gain?
The opening this Saturday features screenings of Jill Orr’s film Antipodean Epic, live performances by Melinda Smith, Tony Yap and Reuben Lewis and soundwalk led by Myfanwy Hunter. Punters should hope to gain an awesome afternoon in Lilydale!
Other opportunities include Marnie Badham and Tammy Wong Hulbert’s cartographic artwork, Five Weeks in Spring, an emotional map of Lilydale. They will be in residence at the museum facilitating participation every Friday of the show. Hope to gain: reflection upon and expression of your feelings towards local public space and extreme weather events.
Peter Fraser, renowned Melbourne and Sydney-based dancer, will lead a Nature Dancing workshop in the forest in Olinda on Sunday 7th October. Hope to gain an immersive introduction to site-responsive performance and a video document of your exploration.
Have your say on the state of nature, art and performance, and listen in to Indigenous and scientific guests and the artists of Force of Nature at forum, ‘Picnic at the Lake’.
If tomorrow, you woke, to a world bereft of art and creativity, what would that world be like, and how would you survive?
The world itself is art and humans are innately creative, so it is not going to ever be bereft! I will always be able to dance, no matter how few body parts are operational, and whether anyone wants to witness it! But there is a lack of valuing of the arts in recent times, which does make it hard. We’ve just got to keep creating, responding, illuminating and growing, up through the cracks in the system.