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Technology is the frontline of access to enable storytelling

London artist and technologist Jane Gauntlett will give the keynote at Meeting Place 2020, Arts Access Australia’s forum on Creating Spaces for d/Deaf and disabled artists.
Technology is the frontline of access to enable storytelling London-based artist Jane Gauntlett will present at 2020 Meeting Place. Image courtesy Jane Gauntlett.
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Gina Fairley

Friday 4 September, 2020

It has become a familiar line: ‘In a first, this event will now be delivered entirely online.’ 

But for professionals, creatives, organisations and advocates working across the disabilities and access sector, this is just another daily challenge faced by a sector well-seasoned at dealing with adversity. 

The peak body Arts Access Australia will present its annual Meeting Place Forum online, over two days next week, Tuesday 15 and Wednesday 16 September 2020. 

Centered around the theme Creating Space, it offers a diverse program of speakers, interactive sessions, workshops, curated experiences and entertainment, via live viewing online.

Matthew Hall, CEO Arts Access Australia said, ‘This year, with an entirely online format under our theme “Creating Space”, virtual spaces will be a part of our program, but we’re not limiting ourselves to only look at how artists and arts workers with disability create space online. We’ll interrogate reasons for and ways of creating space in different environments, whether within our community, where we live, where we work, online or in the political space, and for different purposes, whether for reflection, inspiration, innovation, disability pride or otherwise.'

‘We’ll interrogate reasons for and ways of creating space in different environments, whether within our community, where we live, where we work, online or in the political space...’

- Matthew Hall, Arts Access Australia

Re-defining conventional barriers through technology, London-based artist, producer, writer and collaborator, Jane Gauntlett has an international reputation as a dynamic storyteller.

She will deliver the keynote paper, Start with a story; choose a space in which to tell that story, on Day 1.  

Gauntlett told ArtsHub: ‘I start with a story then choose the best platform on which to tell it. This might be stage, film, audio, online, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR)… tech is just another platform.

‘Using technology opens the doors to a wider, international audience; it gives me the opportunity to reach out to a more diverse audience,’ she said. 

Yet, central to Gauntlett’s practice is intimacy and the shared experience. It is particularly relevant today, as artists and communities grapple for human connection in a pandemic.

View the full two-day program.

MAKING UNLIKELY CONNECTIONS 

ArtsHub caught up with Gauntlett in the UK, who said: ‘I like to learn about (and from) artists I have never come across. It is very easy for me to get stuck in my own bubble. I would like to open myself up to honest feedback.'

She said it was through her project, In My Shoes (2009, ongoing), that she first considered herself an artist, because somebody else mentioned it. It is an ever-expanding collaborative library of over 100 interactive audio and audio visual experiences, people share perspectives using technology, touch, taste and smell.

‘Using technology ... gives me the opportunity to reach out to a more diverse audience.’

- artist Jane Gauntlett 

Through it, she said she has learnt about ‘the currency of storytelling.’

‘By sharing my story, people are often open to sharing theirs. Both immediately after they have taken off the headsets or the headphones, and at later encounters. Perhaps the intimacy gives participants permission to have this exchange,’ she explained.

‘Using technology means that I can (potentially) give work a longer shelf life,’ Gauntlett said. ‘Of course technology dates, but if the content, the story, the narrative and the overall experience is of a high quality, it can be showcased for a long time. I made In My Shoes: Waking in Slough in 2011 with Vuzix video goggles, it is still being performed.’ 

Gauntlett added that using technology means that she can license her work to venues and festivals that she wouldn’t otherwise have access to. 

FROM A BAR TO THE UNDERGROUND

Gauntlett’s new project – and her largest to date, It’s Our Pleasure – is a multidisciplinary experience set in the 1920’s, where audiences are invited to join an underground community where anything goes; it’s a story of intimacy, identity and human rights.

Pleasure has been an ongoing theme for Gauntlett, and in 2018 she created a piece called TrueLove, set in a bar, it is about the impact of technology on our future relationships. It was designed using interactive theatre and Magic Leap (spatial computing) headsets.

‘We wanted to surprise people. It involved them taking a date with a stranger. Afterwards a lady approached me, she thanked me: “Thank you, I am 82, and I haven’t felt this sexy for 40 years. I am going to think about online dating”. Mission accomplished?’ said Gauntlett.

‘I like the versatility that digital experiences can offer,’ she added.

Gauntlett pushes back against the suggestion that her work has shifted the status quo. ‘I think it has taught me a great deal about audiences, the way that I make work and the language I use has also changed so significantly’

‘I am ever grateful for the organisations who have fought very hard to make the art and tech industries (closer to being) accessible for artists - Unlimited, Pervasive Media Studio, South West Creative Technology Network & Kaleider, to name but a few.’

‘There is something about having other people believe in me, which makes things possible,’ she told ArtsHub. 

‘I admire people who are bold and fearless, be this personal or professional. I try to be. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I get it horribly wrong,’ she said of the journey that many share in her sector.  

Disability Leadership, Identity and Pride Panel Discussion at the National Gallery of Australia, Meeting Place 2019 Canberra. Photo Andrew Sikorski.

CONVERSATIONS THAT USHER CHANGE

On Tuesday, you will hear from leaders of each of the state arts and access organisations in the panel discussion Creating space for our community at a state and national level. Speakers include: 

  • Accessible Arts CEO Kerry Comerford, NSW
  • DADAA Executive Director David Doyle, WA
  • Incite Arts CEO Jenine Mackay, NT
  • Access2Arts Business Director Martin Sawtell, SA
  • Access Arts CEO Pat Swell, QLD
  • Accessible Arts Victoria CEO Caroline Bowditch, VIC

This conversation promises to be one of those “ground roots tapped” moments, that cuts through the bureaucracy to real dialogue for change. 

Another highlight of the two-day program is the panel discussion: Creating space in a "new" world (Day 2), which brings together US-based performance artist and academic, Petra Kuppers; Tasmanian designer Duncan Meerding; and Melbourne artist Prue Stevenson in a conversation lead by the dynamic Sydney-based theatre and film practioner Emily Dash.

The National Portrait Gallery will also offer the virtual tour: Invisible disability; creating space in portraiture, which will demonstrate how portraiture can offer a journey into another person’s world and to move beyond the barriers of being seen and unseen.

The program also includes Artbooks workshops, zoom hook-ups, a Screenability Film Night, and wraps up with the Meeting Space 2020 Dance Off.

Get your ticket and be part of the conversation at Meeting Place Forum. Members discounts available.

About the author

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW.

Twitter: @ginafairley
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