Creating collaborative partnerships: enabling public access to live urban art, innovative performance and creative research

In This Article

Introduction

This paper explores a large-scale international project, Accented Body, which involved partnerships across the arts industry, the tertiary sector, government and philanthropic organisations.

These partnerships coalesced around a multifaceted concept of the body as site and in site through connectivity. Complex funding and creative partnerships are often required to allow artists to access technologies and resources in order to realise works of scale which connect physical and virtual environments and artists across countries. What follows provides evidence of a successful role model in which research, community access and artistic goals were realised through processes linking the aspirations of all three sectors, in Australia and beyond.

I-Pin Lin and Elise May in Living Lens directed by Mariana Verdaasdonk as one of the six site works of Accented Body. This was performed in The Loft at the Creative Industries Precinct, QUT. Photo: Ian Hutson

While the rhetoric of global connectivity has become part of the lexicon of arts practice, this often requires resource-intensive technologies beyond the reach of independent and project-based artists. Accented Body was able to realise such rhetoric by bringing together small groups of interdisciplinary artists to work in tandem with large academic institutions, philanthropic organisations and arts industry funding bodies. It provides a model of a highly visible international performance event achieved through a series of discrete performance teams interconnected by an overarching creative brief.

Central to all the partnerships was the creative collaboration between artists and technicians in realising the concept of the body in site and as site, through physical and virtual connectivities in a performative environment. This occurred through thirty key artists from five countries working together across six sites at a newly developed urban village in Brisbane, with distributed events in Korea and the United Kingdom.

While the rhetoric of global connectivity has become part of the lexicon of arts practice, this often requires resource-intensive technologies beyond the reach of independent and project-based artists. Accented Body was able to realise such rhetoric by bringing together small groups of interdisciplinary artists to work in tandem with large academic institutions, philanthropic organisations and arts industry funding bodies.

It provides a model of a highly visible international performance event achieved through a series of discrete performance teams interconnected by an overarching creative brief.  Central to all the partnerships was the creative collaboration between artists and technicians in realising the concept of the body in site and as site, through physical and virtual connectivities in a performative environment. This occurred through thirty key artists from five countries working together across six sites at a newly developed urban village in Brisbane, with distributed events in Korea and the United Kingdom.

Meeting at this major geographical site for the creative process and final performance enabled artists and technicians to have access to state-of-the-art technological infrastructure at a major university within the urban village. The largely outdoor interactive environment provided both real time and virtual presences for onsite and remote audiences.

What follows considers the relationship between the various funding partners and how differing agendas were negotiated to realise a common artistic outcome. Creative processes established at a local and global level shifting mobile partnerships between technologies, artistic concepts and approaches, and architectural settings. Most significantly, ongoing partnerships emerged between the collaborating creative and technical personnel in a mutual influencing in which the creativity of the technicians and problem solving of the artists blurred the boundaries normally defined between arts and science and challenged audience/performer relationships.

Background to Accented Body

Oh don’t worry, we’ll take care of that for you! 1 – Successful collaborative partnerships in action

In Australia and in much of the world, culture and the arts have looked to partnerships, often in terms of funding subsidies, to successfully undertake their projects. Now more than ever, the arts like most other industries cannot survive without myriad partnerships across sectoral boundaries. Negotiating and managing a complex web of competing interests and sometimes differing agendas of potential partners has become a mandatory skill for artists.

Bradley Googins and Stephen Rochlin 2 point out how the lack of interaction and contact that often exists between sector partners, as well as their differing languages and cultures, mitigates against successful collaboration. In this scenario they suggest that “complexity and difference will for the most part work as inhibitors in the partnering process”. 3  

Taking a large-scale performative arts event, Accented Body, as a model, this paper looks at how complexity and difference can in fact be negotiated and managed in order to achieve successful collaborative partnerships from a range of government, philanthropic and educational support, and at the same time enhance the artistic product.

Accented Body was a two-year project conceived, produced and directed by Cheryl Stock, and was developed by a series of interdisciplinary teams responding to a brief based on two main concepts: the exploration of the body as site and in site, and notions of connectivity. The final outcome comprised a number of interconnected performance installations from 15 – 17 July 2006 as a featured event at the Brisbane International Festival, providing a dynamic engagement with the architectural and landscaped environment of the newly constructed Creative Industries Precinct and Kelvin Grove Urban Village.

Thirty key artists from Australia, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the United Kingdom were invited to participate because of their highly developed creative practices in interdisciplinary, intercultural, interactive and/or site-specific work.

Collaborative teams of artists with diverse aesthetic sensibilities and cultural backgrounds coalesced in the areas of dance, music, media and digital performance. Together and separately, remotely and on site in Brisbane, the artists layered and refined their responses to the concept of Accented Body. 4

Elise May and Ko-Pei Lin in Dissolving Presences, the final section of Accented Body, directed by Cheryl Stock and performed in the Parade Ground of the Creative Industries Precinct at QUT. Photo: Aaron Veryard

In order to support the final team of 97 who directly participated in some way in the project, and to fund such an ambitious undertaking, several financial and in-kind partners were sought to provide resources and infrastructure assistance. What eventuated was cash support of A$240,000 from eight major partners and a similar amount from seven major in-kind partners, with fifteen minor partners providing cash and in-kind support for specific identifiable areas of the project. This paper will look at the role played by the major partners, the nature of their involvement, their expectations and intersections with the creative and technical personnel of the project.

As Accented Body took place in a university environment it was seen by some partners as a research project as much as an arts project. On both counts the challenge and the crucial first step was to enthuse potential partners about the concept and its realisation and how that might marry with their interests. Since the partnerships were needed to create a new product, there was nothing tangible to attract partners, only a concept. However, as Paul Carter points out,

Interest is what matters in creative research. But we could say this the other way about: for the phrases “what is interesting” and “what matters” are synonymous. What makes creative research interesting is its attitude towards, its ethos, if you like, in regard to materials. 5

Interest in the materials (tangible, imaginary and communicative) was the essential starting point for this multifaceted collaborative partnership; in particular the kind of interest which creates “the desire to collaborate”. 6

In order for this interest and collaborative desire to turn into support the producer/director (with assistance from the curatorial assistant, logistics coordinator and key artists of the project) first researched the priorities and policies of potential partners. Once the value and benefits to the partners were identified, accommodating whether partners wished their support to be highly visible or whether they preferred to be ‘silent’ partners was crucial to a successful relationship.

Gauging partners’ desired level of involvement from ongoing communication and consultation to little contact, apart from an application and a final report, was also essential. This was not always predictable and could change during different stages of the project.

Approaches to collaborative partnerships

In contextualising the Accented Body partnerships it is useful to examine some of the theoretical issues around collaborative partnerships which have been discussed in business, community or educational settings. With a project as complex and costly (in arts terms) as Accented Body, multiple partnerships “present the opportunity to create a formidable reinforcing system which combines the unique capabilities and resources of each party to deliver outcomes that surpass those of any one sector acting in isolation”. 7

Googins and Rochlin also argue that this reinforcing system can “turn divergent interests into a cauldron of innovation”. 7   As will be demonstrated in Accented Body, innovative outcomes were not only produced because the whole was greater than the sum of its diverse parts, but because innovation was a primary goal conceptually and in terms of practical implementation, and was also a contractual indicator of success by several of the project’s partners.

While the nature of partnerships differs with each project, fundamentally all share a commitment to providing/sharing resources (financial or human or both) on an organisational and individual basis to implement and realise a broad common goal. This, as Googins and Rochlin suggest, “requires active rather than passive involvement” 9 which goes beyond monetary participation.

However, the level of active participation can vary considerably. In the case of Australian federal and state arts funding bodies, an arms-length approach lends itself to a more passive involvement, as long as clearly defined aspirations and results are agreed at the outset of the project and evaluated at its completion.

It has also been argued by Nancy Berry, in reference to a partnership between a school and a museum, that partnerships are more successful when there is “a commitment to planning and working together on equal footing toward shared goals and results.” 10

However, in large arts projects with a variety of partners, it is not only inevitable but arguably desirable that partners agree to take on greater or lesser responsibilities in specific areas. In Accented Body it was clear that the collective of artists with the leadership of the producer/director not only drove the creative agenda but took the major risks and responsibility for its realisation. The role of the partners was to support the project in ways which would fulfil their own objectives while making essential contributions to a multi-purpose and multifaceted experiment and event.

Acknowledging overlapping, rather than the same goals, provides a more porous environment in which innovative ideas and approaches can surface. As Berry suggests, shared goals may be a starting point but ‘each partner should agree to honour the other’s concerns’ at the points of difference. 11

For example, cash support from arts funding bodies may be tied to certain parts of the project such as artists’ fees, travel and marketing while a university partner may be more interested in supporting an ethnographic study of the event, infrastructure support, documentation and mentoring opportunities for students, as was the case with Accented Body and its major partner, Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

Googins and Rochlin provide a series of steps which they refer to as “critical success factors [in] the partnership process”:

  • defining clear goals;
  • obtaining senior level commitment;
  • engaging in frequent communication;
  • assigning professionals to lead the work;
  • sharing the commitment of resources;
  • evaluating progress/results. 12

However, these practical and essential attributes do not in themselves lead to a successful synergy with partners. Before these steps mentioned above, thorough background research into the ethos, aspirations and activities of the partners one wishes to approach is crucial in order to familiarise oneself with their modus operandi, spheres of interest/influence and differing languages of communication.

Philanthropic, government, research and artistic communities all have their own ‘accents’ and coming to an understanding of shared meanings is central to efficacious partnerships. Adopting an appropriate communication style in approaching and sustaining partnerships is an underrated key to success.

In Accented Body, communication with the Brisbane Festival Artistic Director, Lyndon Terracini, was primarily around the creative ideas and vision, the calibre of artists and the international reach of the project, requiring a creative and often poetic form of communication and the development of a shared aesthetic understanding.

On the other hand, contact with the Kelvin Grove Urban Village (KGUV) Project Control Group was based around the language and ideas of a ‘creative community’ and the ‘smart state’, through an engaging use of technology, an innovative but accessible public product, a celebration of the environment and how our animation of the buildings and the park nearby would contribute to the Urban Village Master Plan. This contribution included

  • enriching village life (goal 9), with its desired outcome a program of social and cultural events/activities site wide (9.5)
  • identity and urban strategy (2.1.5) through stimulating demand by promoting points of difference (2.3.3) and providing a key attractor and event (2.4.1)
  • positioning KGUV as the place for emerging creative enterprises (7.4.1)
  • social development through providing public access and interaction with university amenities
  • information and communication technology, with performances streamed on-line to international sites (11)
  • research with respect to social capital and community building (12) 13

What was common to both partners was a desire to support a critically influential public event which placed Brisbane at the centre of international innovative projects engaging with connectivity and at the same time showcasing the local environment and its artists. Both partners described above were crucial to the success of the project and yet neither collaborated directly with key participants.

However, ongoing communication on how the concept and vision was being realised in its various stages enabled both partners, who provided cash support, to assist in the development of the project with useful contacts, advice, practical expertise and appropriate liaison personnel. Predictably the Festival contacts were more attuned to the artistic needs while the Urban Village provided much-needed assistance with site management, city council permissions and power supplies.

But are the above partnerships collaborative? Partnerships and collaborations are not entirely interchangeable notions, particularly in an artistic context. Identifying common traits can provide guidance in a project such as Accented Body where some partners were involved in collaborating directly on the creation of a project while others provided resources and advice. While partnerships and collaboration share some of the ‘critical success factors’ listed above by Googins and Rochlin, there are additional personal and attitudinal characteristics with regard to collaboration.

Shirley Hord identifies these as a commitment of time and energy, “relinquishment of personal control resulting in increased risk”, a positive attitude especially in leadership, “continual checking of the perceptions of thoseinvolved in the collaboration” and "personal traits of patience, persistence, and willingness to share”. 14

While one could argue that these traits are also the product of good partnerships, the greater investment in emotional energy in relationships, willingness to attitudinal change and a sense of mutual influencing appears to be of more significance in collaboration. Huxham points out that collaboration can often be difficult because its practice involves “a number of inherent hazards”. 15

Working through such hazards, while retaining a common but flexible agenda, could be considered the most difficult aspect of both collaboration and partnerships. In this regard, there is a difference between creative compromise which, in making imaginative adjustments to cater for unexpected changes, can enrich the project, and loss of integrity where the project itself loses its way in order to accommodate unrealistic or inappropriate shifts or demands from one or more stakeholders.

Like compromise, which has negative connotations but can be viewed positively and creatively, there is a common perception that collaboration should have equal input from participants in order to be effective. This is a simplistic notion which is not always borne out in practice. Nor is it necessarily the most effective strategy for achieving commonly agreed goals. Choreographer and director Felicity Bott outlines projects that took place in a creative laboratory, ‘Time_Space_Place’, and how she experienced varying types of collaborative models. 16  

The most ‘democratic’—giving everybody in a project equal input—resulted in “the worst example of the worst cross-blend of ‘bad theatre’ and ‘interactive performance”’, while at the same time being enormously enjoyable. On the other hand a project in which the participants “mutually proceed[ed] towards privileging a voice en route to a predetermined outcome inside a set time frame” 17 was more challenging but arguably produced a ‘better’ result.

Like partnerships, the type of collaboration differs with each situation and needs to be allowed to emerge and adapt. Maria Adriana Verdaasdonk, director of the Living Lens site of Accented Body, defines collaboration as “a supportive platform from which the different participants can grow and contribute”. 18 Nevertheless, strong leadership is sometimes required to balance differing levels of creative and resource investment and sharing.

Jondi Keane in Separating Shadows, directed by Vanessa Mafe. This was an outside/inside section of the work with Jondi Keane on the outside of a Creative Industries Precinct Z2 building at QUT and Avril Huddy (in silhouette) inside the same building. Photo: Ian Hutson

Enabling partnerships in Accented Body: matching aspirations

While ideally collaborative partnerships emerge from a mutual desire to work together, increasingly ‘collaborations are a response to government edict or incentive’. 19 In Accented Body five of the eight major funding partners explicitly required partnerships as a condition of their support. 20 In harnessing partnerships for Accented Body it became evident they fell into two categories: ‘enabling’ and ‘creative’ partners.

Many of the latter were constantly in the picture from initial conceptualisation until the final evaluative process was complete, whereas the enablers had intermittent contact dependent on the nature of the partnership. ‘Enablers’ were those partners who provided cash and in-kind resources to materially realise the concept.

Through early ongoing face to face, phone and e-mail meetings with each potential partner we arrived in various contractual ways to what Sandra Kerka refers to as “a formal, sustained commitment to accomplishing a shared, clearly defined mission”, with good communication ensuring mutual trust. 21

Some partners supported the creative development stage (Stage 1) only and others supported both or only the final outcome (Stage 2). Substantial assistance was obtained from public and private major ‘enablers’, including state and federal arts funding agencies in Australia, a philanthropic trust, universities, an urban planning group, an international festival, the state and national dance organisation, cultural funding from Korea, and Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade cultural initiatives.

Minor partners included production and lighting companies, a web provider, a gallery in Seoul and a dance centre in London, accommodation and café discounts. 22

A significant strategy in building a network of enabling partners is attracting the first partner in order to leverage other support. Although conceived as a major arts event which attracted initial early interest from the Brisbane Festival (twenty months before the performances) the initial seed funding came from the personal enthusiasm of the director of the Kelvin Grove Urban Village (KGUV) Control Group.

The fact that our first cash support was un-tied and was able to be used for employing an administrative/curatorial assistant made it possible to apply to a range of funding bodies and sponsors, targeting specific areas of the project for investment in order to provide a suitable outcome for each partner. Not only did the KGUV seeding investment leverage other support, the resultant support in turn became leverage for more cash support from KGUV for the second stage of the project.

While the above examples demonstrate that the project fulfilled a number of the aspirational goals for enabling partners, there also needs to be a degree of mutual benefit. In the case of Accented Body this benefit was often subjective and difficult to quantify, but was measured against agreed priority areas through self and peer appraisal, audience and industry feedback, and ongoing activity. While each partner required individually negotiated agreements and understandings, according to their own policies and organisational briefs, there was a great deal of overlap in outcomes and aspirations, all of which were required to be addressed in the project.

An analysis of funding agreements of our cross-sector partners identifies six major areas of expectations, achieved in various ways through the project. 23 These areas were:

  • Innovation (via expanding choreographic concepts, creative engagement with technology, new collaborative processes, creative practice research);
  • Community/audience development (through access and participation, youth involvement);
  • Cultural diversity (via varied cultural aesthetics, blending culturally specific techniques and styles into contemporary practice, shared understandings of cultural differences and knowledge);
  • Visibility and profile (via media coverage and impact, web presence and number of daily hits, branding distribution);
  • Networking/partnerships (through increasing and maintaining national and international networks, forging new contacts);
  • Sustainability (ongoing iterations of the projects in various contexts, such as future re-purposing and re-versioning discrete works within the project, plus future research outcomes).

B.Reed, in discussing cross-sector partnerships, stresses the significance of what he calls the “value exchange relationship.” 24 Defining such a value exchange relationship was difficult in the case of the Accented Body since we were asking our enabling partners to provide substantial material resources (A$240,000 in cash and A$263,000 in kind) 25 to realise a risky and ephemeral project with high profile but short-term and seemingly intangible outcomes. Although Reed’s three-tiered process refers to each partner in an ascending level of partner commitment and value, this model can usefully be adapted to the Accented Body project or similar artistic events as a mobile, distributed model by which all three stages occur but not always through the same partner.

The three stages identified by Reed are:

  • Reciprocal exchange
  • Developmental value creation
  • Symbiotic value creation

Using this lens for different levels and types of “value exchange” it is possible to map an interlacing network of relationships in which enabling partners may have little or no contact with each other but interconnect through the collaborating creative partners of the project. The enabling partners can be classified in the first two categories while the creative partners best fit the third.

“Reciprocal exchange” is described as “an agreed exchange of ‘goods’ or ‘services’ based on an implicit or explicit contract” and tends to be formal with clearly outlined expectations and outcomes. 26 This category best describes enabling partners which were arts funding agencies such as the Australia Council for the Arts, Arts Queensland and the Australia-Korea Foundation together with the philanthropic trust, Besen Family Foundation.

The latter stipulated innovative arts creations in partnership with a community organisation, in this case, Ausdance Queensland who became the most ‘hands on’ enabling partner in the project providing administrative, marketing and volunteer support as well as being the organisation to financially acquit the majority of the grants. While the Besen Family Foundation was not so concerned with high profile and visibility all the other partners were quite explicit about prominent acknowledgment in all web and print media, which became a principal basis of reciprocal exchange.

"Developmental value creation" is an exchange in which "partnering organisations work together to define a common partnership plan that will meet each participant’s interests." 27 At this level planning may happen together but putting the plan into operation may occur independently with separate resources to assist in achieving an overarching goal.

Brisbane Festival and Kelvin Grove Urban Village fall into this category as well as all the university partnerships whose interest is to build research outcomes beyond the artistic result. The developmental value creation of Accented Body for QUT is as a vehicle for further investigation, particularly in the growing area of communicative synergies between technology and creative practice, and it continues in the form of an ethnographic study, publications surrounding the project and plans to reinforce new research applications arising from the data produced by the creative achievement.

This level of value exchange naturally involved creative partners as well as enabling partners. The creative partners (artists and technical people) were the main practical agents of the project, working independently in small teams, coming together in larger teams and constantly cross-referencing the overall artistic and site brief in both the developmental and realisation stages.

Creative partnerships in Accented Body—artistic/technical interdependency

While this paper predominantly explores the role of enabling partners, mention must be made of the heart of the project—the intense collaboration of the creative team. In terms of Reed’s value exchange theory, the creative partnerships comprise the third stage of the “value exchange”. “Symbiotic value creation” requires, according to Reed, a “mutually dependent exchange of ideas, resources and effort” which entails “joint problem solving”. 28  

In Accented Body this kind of interdependent relationship occurred with the creative partners—artists, technicians, administration and curatorial staff—building partnerships based on mutual trust and an ongoing commitment to all stages of the project.

It is easier to forge this kind of value exchange with a small, tight-knit team. With a large-scale, often geographically displaced and interdisciplinary team, breaking into small self-organising and overlapping groups (site, artists, technical production, computer, curatorial/management) becomes essential in such a multifaceted project. Effective and ongoing communication between the selforganising groups was facilitated in Accented Body by differing levels of access in uploading and downloading data through the website.

As well as regular faceto-face concept and technical meetings, weekly rehearsal and technical schedules, schematics, images and maps were posted on the website and personnel notified by email. With wireless access computers in the QUT seminar rooms on the Creative Industries Precinct, which were our base and ‘offices’, time and resources were saved. “The web was a secure communication resource for the project and continues to be a site for forums, feedback, images and a future research and networking site for the project.” 29

Arguably the most important and symbiotic partnership was that between the artists and the technology/production personnel whom we named ‘technical creatives’, since their role was much more than that of ‘enablers’. Their creative problem solving, which resulted in integrated systems for the networked interactivity, lighting and sound across all sites and beyond, was integral to the artistic concept of connectivity and the placing of live and virtual bodies in site.

Melinda Mayer’s observation 30 with regard to technical and artistic personnel (in reference to a school community) that one needs to empower participants as ‘active, equal, thinking members of an expanding community of inquiry’, was crucial to the success of our creative partnerships. This creative community of inquiry also engendered another entire network of partnerships, including bringing on board important international partners and specialised resources and expertise. 31

In any project human resources are the most valuable and the synergy developed between the artists and technical creatives—art and technology—was the magical glue which contributed most to the success of Accented Body. The work and vision of the Global Drifts site team had far-reaching effects for the project as a whole, especially in the area of local and global streaming, which provided significant professional development for technical and logistic creative people as well as the artists.

Daniel Maddison wrote in his report that Accented Body “drew my attention to many new sound and audiovisual software platforms”. 32 The Global Drifts 33 team identified, as being fundamental, “close engagement with technical strands for sound, data distribution, image distribution, lighting and collaboration with QUT technical staff, who were (unusually) available for us, as visiting artists, at all times”. 34

The Creative Industries site itself, with its monolithic architecture, vast technical facilities and expertise became an ‘enabling’ partner to the creative partners. Without the ability of its computer support personnel 35 the streaming between three continents could not have happened at all.

In summarising the rich and complex collaboration between the artist and technical creatives, purely in terms of partnership objectives, Logistics and Technical Coordinator Daniel Maddison claims that "the successful implementation of a design of a high standard that was capable of immediate change and product delivery" was predominantly due to "the contribution of each team member involved in the decision making process" 36 and "the preparation and planning that prevented any decline of creative content". 37

Echoing the principles of good partnerships, performer Ko-Pei Lin noted that “the interactive nature [of the project]…stressed the importance of adaptability and flexibility” while performer Elise May commented that “through Accented Body I have learned skills in negotiation and communication across unfamiliar art forms”. 38

Partnering with audiences

A fundamental partnership often overlooked in arts projects is that between artist and audience. In Accented Body both intended and unexpected relationships with the audience provided a litmus test for measuring outcomes for both enabling and creative partners. The audience became collaborator and spectator—collaborator in the sense of Paul Carter’s definition of “a microcosm of the new relation or worldly arrangement we desire to create”. 39 owing to the interactive and promenade nature of Accented Body the audience was able to fulfil this innate desire to create and thus form a participatory collaborative partnership.

Audience members altered the performance; spatially in the architectural environment and visually/performatively through their effect, often unwittingly, on screen and sound environments. Daniel Maddison describes how this creative engagement was facilitated in Global Drifts where the team was able to create the movement of a dancer into many ‘pixels’ and ‘soundwaves’ through the use of software transformation of a live dancer into projection and sound. And distribute this transformation through spreading several portals over the site (consisting of a round screen with a projected image fed from a computer).

The audience could become captivated/immersed into another world via the imagery projected onto each portal. Suddenly the audience member could be dancing with someone from the other side of the world. 40

This expanded relationship between audience and performer was also due to the site-specific nature of the event. An architect commented on “the audience’s strong connection to the site throughout the performances, and their need to take in both their surroundings as well as the performance, which was also ever-changing.” She further added that “even the un-choreographed movements of the audience contributed to … the various new spatial orientations created, allowing for a realization of the potential of the spaces to be used in many different ways.” 41

Performers noted how the audience sharing the space altered their performative approaches while one audience member noted how “the power of absorption and immersion (of Accented Body) embed the viewer within the performance transcending the usual viewer/performer relationship.” 42 Another viewer observed that “we the audience were in the thick of it for much of the time, and we could choose to some extent where we went and therefore what aspect of the performance we saw.” 43

Performer Elise May similarly commented that “choices given to the audience as to which sites they would view, and when” allowed the audience to “self-determine their experience of the performance.” 44 One funding partner enjoyed the fact that one could “walk with the performers” but on a negative note felt that the subtlety of many of the connections made it difficult for the audience to read, thus depriving the audience of the “enjoyment of discovering many of the connections or understanding the nature of the interactivity.” 45

The artists felt differently, with the Ether team referring to connections between sites as a “narrative pathway”, while Richard Causer, site director of Prescient Terrain which took place at Kulgun Park and led the audience up into the urban Precinct sites, spoke of the presence of performers across sites providing a poetic narrative for the audience. 46

One audience member commented,

The fact that we the audience followed the action over all the different parts of the site meant that our viewing connected the different aspects of the performance. The serial nature of the different aspects of the performance unfolded like a petal opening, with further layers becoming apparent as the work proceeded. 43

Accented Body—a model for ongoing collaborative partnerships

The multi-layered complexity of a cultural project such as Accented Body has provided a model to examine the nature and extent of the interrelatedness of both enabling and creative partnerships. In doing so, it has been the experience of the participants that has provided an insightful interpretation of the collaborative partnership theories outlined and borrowed from the business and education sectors.

What this project has been able to contribute to the debate on partnerships is an open-ended model for events of scale in which research, community access and artistic goals can be realised through partnering processes linking the aspirations of all three sectors, in Australia and beyond.

This adaptable model, networked and at the same time dispersed, allows for shifting mobile partnerships between technologies, artistic concepts/processes, and architectural settings, at a local and global level. In managing a multifaceted event of such scale, the forming of overlapping smaller self-organising groups were crucial for effective, timely creative and research outcomes.

While not all expectations were realised, one measure of the success of the partnerships in Accented Body lies in what remains once the event is complete. Improved technological infrastructure and a new one-stop integrated audio-visual system, ongoing support networks and global access are tangible and continuing benefits of the project.

Sustained enthusiasm and support from our enablers have led to support for other projects which have a direct lineage to Accented Body, thus nourishing existing partner relationships and opening up space for developing new partners. An overarching common but porous concept, still ripe for further exploration, encourages multiple agendas to be brought forward, spawning offshoots of the original idea into new ideas in new places.

The journey of Accented Body through its various sites

Prescient Terrain at Kulgun Park sites the body as an unsettled topography exploring the transformation from animal to human states in the outdoor organic but landscaped environment of Kulgun Park, Kelvin Grove Urban Village.

The audience gather at the far end of the long park where they follow the performers until they pass through a portal of two vertical rocks—a rite of passage from the past to the future. The performers move with a prescience of the transformed worlds and states of being they will encounter, as they hesitate before a pedestrian crossing which leads to the wide stone stairs into the Creative Industries Precinct.

Presences at the point. On arriving at the top of the stairs, performers and audience witness a meeting of symbolic worlds in which detached, illuminated ethereal, yet fractured female presences connect momentarily with the transient fluid pathways of two female ‘global drifters’.

Separating Shadows in Level 4 Foyer transforms this site from its function as a foyer into a performance corridor where a wide screen allows the shadows cast by the performers’ live actions to merge with projected shadows. Fragments of dance movement juxtaposed with daily actions, sound and text highlight the experiences and sensations explored through shadows, connecting indoors and outdoors in a series of performance investigations that negotiate site, body and shadow.

Ether on the Terrace creates a ‘virtual temple’ from 10 kilometres of cascading rope, linking two levels of the Precinct. The performance extends traditional temple rituals and practices into contemporary aural/kinaesthetic realms. A sound score incorporating tropical night sounds recorded at the site with reverberances from international temple sites accompanies a ritual performance drawing on Malaysian trance dance.

Living Lens in the Loft. Japanese, Australian and Taiwanese artists develop ‘living lens’ as a three-dimensional ‘living painting’. Situated in a ‘black box’ theatre, this performance installation through which the audience wanders, evokes ‘worlds within worlds’ through flowing transformations of imagery, movement and sound.

Poetic and visual imagery provide the inspiration for performers’ movements, derived from the Japanese dance-theatre form Butoh. The performers wear motion sensors to create transitions and interdependencies between visual, sonic and bodily elements.

Global Drifts across all sites and on the Flank is a live and streamed choreographic event, occurring simultaneously in London, Brisbane and Seoul, in which 21st century dance, using motion data generated by performers and audience alike, creates arterial flows across the physical and virtual sites. Streamed through global networks, data is transformed into real time audio visual environments projected to architectural skins of the precinct buildings, animating them with sound, light, bodies and imagery. Global Drifts is a form of mapping, incorporating systems of flows between cultures, time, body and, place.

Dissolving Presences on the Parade Ground comprises small vignettes, featuring performers and creators from other sites; capturing traces, residues and intermittent fragments of other sites in a sharing, redevelopment and reinvention of existing movement, sound and visual material. As performers merge with the audience on the Parade Ground, a ‘mutual influencing’ occurs between audience, performers, music and visual media resulting in shared experiences of both body and site:

  • residual memories
  • serendipitous connections
  • accumulations and dispersals
  • new possibilities

Key personnel for Accented Body

Cheryl Stock, creative producer/director
Daniel Maddison, logistics and technical coordinator
Bridget Fiske, curatorial assistant
Tony Brumpton, sound coordinator
Justin Marshman and David Murray, lighting design
Rosa Hirakata, costume design/realisation

Prescient Terrain

Richard Causer, choreography
Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey, sound score
Maria Adriana Verdaasdonk, performance concept
Rosa Hirakata, costume design

Presences

Cheryl Stock, direction
Elise May, Tetsutoshi Tabata, Maria Adriana Verdaasdonk, costumes for Lin and May
Elise May, Ko-Pei Lin (Presences performers)
Bridget Fiske, Liz Lea (Global Drifts performers)
cast of Prescient Terrain

Separating Shadows

Vanessa Mafé, direction
Jondi Keane, installation and performance
Avril Huddy, movement and performance
Charlotte Cutting, video designer
Jason Hargreaves, cinematographer
David Pyle, multimedia

Ether

Tony Yap, director/dancer
Madeleine Flynn, composer/musician
Tim Humphrey, composer/musician
Naomi Ota, visual artist
Ria Soemardjo, vocalist

Living Lens

Maria Adriana Verdaasdonk, creative concept and project deviser
Tetsutoshi Tabata, visual media and artistic technical direction
Takahisa Sasaki, media programmer
Junji Watanabe, moving ultrasonic speakers
Elise May, Ko-Pei Lin, Richard Causer, I-Pin Lin, performers
Luke Lickfold, sound design and live sound manipulation (performance)
Philippa Rijks, sound design (installation)

Global Drifts

Sarah Rubidge and Hellen Sky, concept direction
Sarah Rubidge, co-director, visuals, Brisbane, London
Hellen Sky, co-director, live and virtual choreography, Brisbane
Hyojung Seo, interactive visual media, Brisbane, Seoul
Seunghye Kim, interactive sound, Brisbane, Seoul
Stan Wijnans, non-linear sound, London, Brisbane
Liz Lea and Bridget Fiske performer/choreographer, UK and Brisbane

Dissolving Presences

Cheryl Stock, concept/direction
Sarah Rubidge and Tetsutoshi Tabata, visuals direction
Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey, sound direction
Richard Causer, Bridget Fiske, Liz Lea, Ko-Pei Lin, Elise May, Ria Soemardjo, Tony Yap and Prescient Terrain cast performers