Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Writers Journey Alumni

In the past decade a number of the writers, artists, poets, performers and film makers I have worked with have gone onto publish books or produce their scripts and creative works. While my mentoring role is just one part of the complex process of creating and completing a work, it has been my great privilege to be of assistance in planting the seed or helping to bring the works below to fruition. Some of those creators include:

Ingrid Woodrow - my first literary mentee, who I mentored through the Hunter Writers Centremany years ago. Her book Goddess and The Galaxy Boy, Penguin, was shortlisted for the Vogel Award.

Lorraine Mcloughlin Barbara Robertson - An Australian Artist's Life and George Tetlow and Mark and Jill Pearce, Lives in Art. Independent (Art/ biography)

Ruth Salmon There Are No Coincidences Independent (Travel memoir)

Janice Mantjika. Bali 1964 - 2009, The Shadows that Dance in and out of my Memory. Saritaksu Editions (Memoir)

Anne McLeod  Adventurous Spirit, the exceptional life of Marie Byles. Independent (Biography)

Colleen Keating  In Touch With Poetry and A Call to Listen Ginninderra Press.(Poetry)

Desak Yoni  Renditions of My Soul - Story of a Balinese Woman. Saritaksu Editions (Memoir)

Minnie Biggs  Shards of Ice Ginninderra Press.(Memoir)

Michelle Leber The Yellow Emperor  Five Islands Press. (Poetry)

Tamarra Kaida - Ogoh- Ogoh Balinese Monsters Saritaksu Editions (Photography)

Biff Ward In My Mothers Hands, Allen & Unwin.(Memoir)

Jennifer Smart  The Wardrobe Girl, Random House. (Novel)

Niromi De Soyza  Tamil Tigress,  Allen & Unwin. (Memoir)

Hilary Linstead Growing Old Outrageously, Allen & Unwin.(Memoir)

Kate Veitch Moments Alone, Griffith Review. (Article)

A.D. Scott  Beneath The Abbey Wall, North Sea Requiem, Simon & Schuster USA.(novels, mystery)

Marguerite van Geldermalsen Married to A Bedouin, Virago.( Memoir)

Anne  Lovell Connie's Secret, Allen and Unwin. (Memoir)

Margaret Wilcox Gone, Penguin. (Memoir)

Margo Lanagan Tender Morsels, Allen & Unwin, Random House, Knopf, Johnathon Cape UK. Sea Hearts, Allen & Unwin.( Fanatasy novel)

Catherine Therese The Weight Of Silence, Hachette Livre. (Memoir)

Yvonne Louis A Brush with Mondrian, Murdoch Book. (Memoir)

Mary Delahunty Public Life, Private Grief, Hardie Grant. (Memoir)

Raymond Hawkins The Electronic Swagman, Halstead Press.(Memoir)

Walter Mason Destination Saigon,  Destination Cambodia, Allen &Unwin.(Non Fiction, travel)

Gabrielle Wang  Poppy series of YA fiction were conceived in a dry river bed on Desert Writers.

Margaret Stepenson- Meere The Child Within the Lotus, Rockpool. (Non Fiction)

Bridget McKern  Living The Journey, A&A Publishing.(Non Fiction, biography)

Marg Carroll The Man Who Loved Crocodiles and Other Stories, Allen and Unwin.(Non Fiction, biography)

Betty Grenenger Dare to Look Deep, Best Legenz. (Memoir)

Elizabeth Vongsaravanh  Dharmageddon - (Poetry)

Deb Batton Regrets, I've Got a Few, (Physical theatre piece)

Pamela Cook  Black Wattle Lake Hachette ( Rural fiction)

Sonia Bible Recipe For Murder, ABC documentary.(Film)

Sunny Grace Short Films Producer including award winning Dik.(Film)

Helen Cummings  Blood Vows, Five Islands Press. (Memoir)

Donna J Lehl Karma Finds The Cameleon,  Aberdeen Bay. (Memoir)

Jacqueline Buswell Song of A Journey Woman Ginninderra Press (poetry)

Monique O'Donnell Mr Right and Other Mongrels Amazon (Novel/romance)

Kadek Krishna Adidharma - articles for the Jakarta Post, blog, arts writing.

John Waromi first ever novel by a Papuan author Anggadi Tupa, Harvesting The Storm Lontar  translated by Sarita Newson.(Novel/magic realism). WJ sponsored John to attend two Bali retreats.

The Writers Dozen,  a group that continued on after our year long First Page to First Draft course in 2005 at NSW Writers Centre, went on to publish a collection of their writings in Better Than Chocolate.

Robert Schneider, came to one of my early Bali retreats to work on a novel. He has since made a career for himself in Cambodia as a freelance writer and is finishing off a memoir set in Cambodia.

Bronwen Logan came to our Fiji retreat in 2012 to work on her young adult fantasy novel. Not wanting to lose the momentum of the retreat she started a blog to keep the discipline of writing. Have a look here.

and many more...

PS. My apologies if I have omitted your publishing or other creative accomplishments. Please send me the details so I can update the record asap! 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Another Oz/Indo Collaboration

Australian Cultural Residency Vignettes
by Triyanto Triwikromo
First published in Indonesian in Suara Merdeka, February, 2008.
The writer was a participant in the Gang Festival Literary Residency in Sydney, Australia in 2008.

Transversal Waves from the Gang Festival
Great events do not have to be born from grand festivals or mega flashy stages. It is highly possible for a small yet inspirational festival to lead to stories that resound with an acute power to astonish and create unending transversal cultural waves.

The small lane was called Pine Street. In that lane, filled with paintings and sculptures from Australian-Indonesian artists, I began my literary residency activity in the Land of the Kangaroo, 17 January till 7 February 2008. It was in the Pine Street Creative Arts Centre with Rebecca Conroy and Alexandra Crosby (Gang Festival Co-artistic Directors) to be precise, that myself and Jan Cornall, the Sydney-based writer of the novel Take Me to Paradise, were able to convey some literary ideas in an event entitled Gang Tulis and Literary Lesehan on the 19January (Writers’ Lane and Casual Literature).

What did we do then? Unlike the usual literary celebrations in my homeland, Jan and I exhibited our works (by sticking book covers and photocopies of short stories) on the walls of a hallway that participants had to pass through on their way to the discussion. Not only that. Jan also neatly arranged her novel and compact disc Jan Cornall Singing Srengenge on the discussion table, whilst I spread my short story anthologies, Children Sharpening the Knives and Malam Sepasang Lampion (The Night a Pair of Lanterns) in an artistically messy style – on the table which was also being used to sell jamu kunir asem (turmeric tamarind herbal medicine drinks).

Then, guided and interpreted by Indonesian cultural commentator Suzan Piper, Jan and I spoke about everything that I was planning to do in my literary residency supported by the Dewan Kesenian Semarang (Semarang Arts Council), the daily newspaper Suara Merdeka, Kharisma Pena Kencana (Jakarta), Kaisa Rossie travel bureau (Semarang), Padepokan Bumi Walisongo (Pati), Capung Organizer (Semarang) and the restaurant Mirasa (Kensington).
Starting from the premise of frequent perceptual misunderstandings between Australia and Indonesia in various fields, we are indeed now collaborating to write the book Reading the Signs (Tafsir Isyarat). The book will contain seven short stories with Indonesian settings and characters written by Jan Cornall and seven short stories with Australian settings and characters written by me.

Three Letters
Of course at that time we could not yet show the results of this collaboration. Instead I chose to read my essay ‘Tiga Surat (Bukan) Cinta untuk Jan Cornall’ (Three Non Love Letters to Jan Cornall). In those letters indeed I speak of the misunderstandings of Australians surrounding the fundamentalism, liberalism and silent majority that is developing in Indonesia. Concerning fundamentalism I said to our audience:
It’s an intertextuality. It never exists in a single form, complete in its own singular self. It always appears in plural or dispersed forms. Thus if you continue to consider that only the Forum Pembela Islam (Muslim Defenders’ Forum) is rightfully viewed as fundamentalist, you are making a big mistake. Those who wanted to ban the making of Garin Nugroho’s film Opera Jawa for reputedly belittling Rama-Sinta are also fundamentalists in their wish to defend their gods.
That’s why in my country fundamentalism is not identical to Islam or terrorism. In my country Christians who commonly say ‘When you are struck on your right cheek, offer your left one’ are also capable of killing Muslims. My country with its Muslim majority can also give birth to Muslims who kill other Muslims with modern techniques. Yes, yes I consider the people involved in the killing of (human rights lawyer) Munir to be fundamentalists as well.

Concerning liberalism I also blabbed on to Jan:
No doubt you consider that in modern societies the liberals prefer liberal democracy with open and fair general elections, which allow all citizens to have equal rights under the law and the same opportunities to succeed. And yet in my country liberalism is something humorous, an intermezzo and sometimes merely the butt of jokes. And the joke about the Liberal Infidel Network hits home the best. It is a way of convincing the public that liberalism is just a dream. It is something equally as absurd to imagine as existing freely in our country as all the other sorts of isms such as terror, horror and humour that are given rein to here.

Then about the silent majority I only muttered:
It is a sort of cultural wave or tsunami that strikes from time to time. The silent majority, you should know, in fact grows out of something that Goenawan Mohamad considers to be the ethics of humility. This is an ethics of viewing oneself humbly, and because of that humility, respecting other people, respecting the other.
Reactions to this text of mine were quite varied. Jan said the text had encouraged Australians – like her – to reinterpret their understandings of Indonesia.

‘Wow, your thoughts should be heard by a wider circle. Let’s re-perform this text of yours at the Consulate,’ said Deva Permana. This musician from Bandung, who currently resides in Sydney, was not just being polite. He subsequently invited Ernezto Messakh (keyboard player) and Ron Reeves (flautist) to arrange a musical composition that could be used to respond to the rather long essay. Finally together with the music group Kuno Kini and rapper Nova we indeed did perform at the Wisma Indonesia. Beyond expectations this performance made people ask about my other works.

‘Does this performance already have a CD recording?’ asked someone.
‘Not yet. But I have a book that can explain my views about Australia.’ God have mercy! As soon as the show was over the audience rushed for my book – which was selling for twenty Australian dollars. This made Deva keen to put on another show at the Indonesian Embassy in Canberra. ‘Only we must include Jan Cornall so there is a response presenting the Australian view.’

Eventually the ‘Indonesian-Australian instant group’ wrote a new composition for Jan Cornall’s performance. The composition which was more ‘Western’ in style was in response to Jan Cornall’s ‘essay reply’ to mine. Jan, who is indeed a performer and singer, performed the essay skilfully in the Anton Aalbers Common Room, Toad Hall, Australian National University. ‘This made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end,’ said Bandung painter Syaiful. ‘I was moved. I cried watching your performance.’

And so it was. From the small lane everything flowed unimpeded crossing other spaces and times. The Gang Festival, which was very underground in nature, had blasted a small performance into a larger and different event. It had become a transversal cultural wave.

A Mini Indonesia in a Slice of Sydney
Prophets, physicians, shamans, even maestros are often ordinary people who are not well-known in their hometown. Rudy Ardianto, the artist from Salatiga who now lives in Sydney, is also one of those people. ‘Unknown’ by the Indonesian art world, the polite man who manages TUK (Tanam Untuk Kehidupan – Planting for Life) has in fact become one of the important icons of the Sydney underground art scene. Even more surprising is the fact that it was at the Pine Street Creative Arts Centre that I came across the results of his creative activities, that include running the Festival Mata Air (Water Spring Festival) in Kalitaman, Salatiga. Since there were also artistic photos of the arts celebration at the Senjoyo and Kalitaman springs displayed on the walls, my thoughts naturally leapt to the problematic possible closure of these public baths, formerly known as Kaligedong, and other public spaces in Salatiga. ‘It’s not possible to fight for ‘caring for the environment’ only in your own town. That’s why I also displayed works linked to defending the environment here,’ said Rudy.
Rudy who is in fact one of the participants and moving forces in the Gang Festival did not only bring works to do with water. He also brought Imam Bucah’s rich mini sculptures made from scrap wood. Rudy it seems, wishes to inform the world about how grand works of art can be born out of recycled materials.

That is why when viewing the works on display – which included the paintings of Bob Sick and installations of S. Teddy D’s in that ‘mini gallery’ – what I saw in fact was the sensation of a small Indonesia constructed from re-used goods. Indonesia in this way although consisting of old materials could nevertheless be represented anew. It became something fresh through the perceptions of Rudy and friends: something unique, fascinating and freshly illuminating for others who view Indonesia from across the ocean.

Another Indonesia
At the Gang Festival – especially the part put on at Bill + George Creative Studios – I also discovered the sensation of a small Indonesia in other forms. I met rapper Nova – daughter of Indonesian rocker Totok Tewel – who belted out truly inspirational rap songs in Indonesian. She criticised people who do not love the environment. She hilariously attacked people enslaved by stupidity and in league with pollution through her song ‘Smoke.’ Nova, who is still quite young, seems to be a singer from another sort of Indonesia. ‘I can’t be stopped from talking about things that disturb my common sense. I know that Australians – even the women – like to smoke. But to be honest I must criticise their unsound behaviour,’ said this cute girl who was on her three-month musical residency of Australia.

An equally unique appearance was that of the group KunoKini. This Jakarta- based group, playing various traditional musical instruments, bravely took on the songs ‘Rasa Sayang’ and ‘Yamko Rambe Yamko’ in ‘full cool’ arrangements. Given the opportunity to perform their songs with mostly reggae and rock influenced rhythms with an Afro beat, these four young men Bhismo, Bebi, Fizy and Akbar communicated well with the Australian audience. They also performed the composition entitled ‘Techno Java’, mixing various types of Javanese musical rhythms in a modern musical structure, forming a bridge between Java and the outside world, or at least Australia. ‘All we want is for our music to be heard by the young. One way is to play various traditional musical instruments the way they want it. Till now they consider us to be cool players of traditional instruments,’ said Bhismo, the leader of the group which is about to perform in Croatia.

The Indonesia that is not being shaken by the ’arts auction tumult’ can also be found in the installation works of Djuadi and Exi. These two eccentric guys from the Blora-based anakseribupulau (Children of a Thousand Islands) community were also in an arts residency in Sydney. They do not want the earth to be destroyed by anyone and this view is reflected in their installation works which in general depicted the arbitrary treatment of nature by the industrial world. ‘Indonesia doesn’t just belong to the people at the top. People you don’t even know have the right to save Indonesia from the gluttony of greedy people,’ said Exi who is an expert at playing crazy dangdut songs.

Well, they are the friends who, for one to three months, enjoyed a cultural residency through the support of various sponsors, funding bodies, and of course the moving forces of the Gang Festival itself. Although they did not act in the name of, nor were they funded by the state, yet they still brought all the scratches, beauty, jokes and complaints, as well as other Indonesian phenomena. ‘Indonesia is top, Man!’ said Exi.

The Underground
What did raise a question was why the festival, held in this gang or lane, was called Sydney underground art? Did the participants have to appear ‘underground’? The first question can be easily answered. To view ‘legitimate art’ people may at any time visit the Sydney Opera House. Indeed almost all types of ‘clean’ art like Nigel Jamieson’s work The Theft of Sita or Shaun Parker’s This Show is About People can be nicely watched at this extremely representative theatre venue almost every day. However, shows that are difficult, unconventional, anti-establishment, that attempt to overcome various world problems in a creative way, cannot always be found in such ‘polite spaces’. This is why the Gang Festival indeed designed a display of art, music, literature, or whatever was considered to be ‘special’. It was this extraordinary quality that enabled the ‘lane’ to be conjured into a gallery and a stage displaying beauty. There was no need for those fine paintings to feel a need to drop their prices because they were shown in alleyways.

Of course not every participant felt a need to appear dressed like a crazy person. I was one of the participants who did not appear with a punk haircut. I was also not one of the participants to come to the forum with long hair, clothes in tatters and a body covered with tattoos. However, to Rebecca Conroy and Alexandra Crosby I said: ‘It’s my stories that are underground. So my craziness is apparent from my thoughts. I will present Sydney’s controversies in underground stories that will be unsuspected by the people of Sydney.’

I do not know whether these two sweet girls discovered my underground side whilst I was in Sydney. What was clear was that they were satisfied and that they will give me the chance to present the results of my literary residency some time in the future. Well, finally we should be grateful that the mini Indonesia – that emerged from the various Indonesian artists that were invited to Australia – indeed eventually showed its potential to colour a slice of Sydney.

More info re Gang Festival

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Art work, posters, brochures, flyers.

Archipelagogo book cover
Saritaksu Editions 2013
painting, Jumaadi

Take me To Paradise book cover
Saritaksu Editions 2006

Take Me To Paradise digital e book
Cover Louie Joyce

gang re:Publik(co editor)
book cover design by Makeshift 2008

At The Crossroads -  touring musical
Poster  1997
produced by Women On a Shoestring Theatre Company

Standing Up Bent 1983
Poster by Bob Daly

Failing In Love Again 1980
Poster and cassette cover
by Jan Fieldsend

Failing In Love Again poster 1980
by Bob Daly

Jan Cornall, Singing Srengenge on ABC Radio

You can find an interview with Jan featuring her work with Indonesian poet Sitok Srengenge on ABC Radio here. Interview by Sarah L'Estrange

Presenter - Bali Institute 2008

From: http://www.baliinstitute.org/presenters.html

Jan was a presenter at the Awakening Global Action Conference in Bali alongside international experts and leaders.

Bali Institute Dialogue Gus DurKH Abdurrahman Wahid
(Gus Dur)
elected president in 1999, and heads the world's largest Muslim organization with nearly 40 million members. He was the recipient of the 2003 Friends of the U.N. Global Tolerance Award. A Sunni Muslim, he has a progressive mindset and immense spiritual authority, advocating religious tolerance, pluralism and democracy for over 30 years. (invited)
Bali Institute Dialogue Jan CornallJan Cornall is a writer, performer, teacher and facilitator, who runs popular meditative writing seminars, workshops and retreats in Australia and the Asia Pacific. Since 2004 she has performed her spoken and sung word at literary festivals throughout the region.
Bali Institute Dialogue Prince Cedza Dlamini Prince Cedza Dlamini, grandson of Nelson Mandela, is a humanitarian, youth activist, spokesman for the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals, and the founder of the Ubuntu Institute for Young Social Entrepreneurs. His vision is to create a unified global order by establishing global networks of young leaders who can work collectively to address current world problems.
Bali Institute Dialogue Linda DunkelLinda Dunkel is president and CEO of Interaction Associates, Inc. She brings 25 years experience designing and developing change and learning strategies for organizations and improving the effectiveness of the human assets of corporations. She has served in senior level positions in two start-up companies and was vice president of a Fortune 100 company. She was recently named chairman of
the Betty Williams Foundation.
Bali Institute Dialogue Ryan FeinsteinRyan Feinstein is the Bali Institute Global Projects Director and the founder/director of the Global Youth in Action programs. He has facilitated intergenerational workshops on the empowerment of youth at numerous international conferences, and created/facilitated the first Global Youth in Action Program at the QGHII in 2006. Ryan is currently finishing his degree in International Studies at University of California, San Diego.
Fatima Gailani of Afghanistan is head of the Red Crescent Society. She is a Sunni Sufi Muslim, spokesperson for the National Islamic Front of Afghanistan, and one of three women advisors in developing Afghanistan’s interim government.
Bali Institute Dialogue Mario Gomez JimenezRicardo Correa Robledo is an advisor in conflict resolution and peace process in Bogota City, Colombia. He has also been an advisor to the Institute for Peace and Development-INDEPAZ, a member of the Colombian Government Negotiation Team and Thematic Committee in the Peace Process with FARC in 2001-02, a board member of the National Institute of Family Welfare, professor of Constitutional Law at Caldas University, and several other major positions in local and regional training institutes.
Bali Institute Dialogue Lyla JohnstonLyla Johnston is a Dineh poet who comes from the soul of the Southwest of America -- Taos, New Mexico. Her poetry sends out a positive message and has inspired many audiences to join a more conscious humanity. She plans to study environmental sciences and solutions. Lyla has also won numerous awards at US regional and national poetry slams.
Bali Institute Dialogue Pat McCabePatricia McCabe is a Dineh writer, painter, mother and activist whose poetry and short fiction are currently melding with paintings of inner workings. It is never certain which [media] will rise to be heard, to tell the story. She hopes for Peace and Safety, Joy and Light for her children, the elders and for All My Relations. She is the proud mother of Lyla Johnston.
Bali Institute Dialogue Dumisani NyoniDumisani Nyoni is a social entrepreneur and activist in Zimbabwe, mobilizing youth into action through global projects rooted in local initiatives. He has helped mobilize young artists and activists from around the world to use arts and new media as a tool for social transformation. He heads Zimele Institute which focuses on innovative transformation in rural education.
Bali Institute Dialogue Aftab OmerAftab Omer is the president/founder of the Institute of Imaginal Studies, a graduate school and research center located in the San Francisco Bay Area. His work focuses on assisting organizations and learning communities in tapping the creative potentials of diversity, conflict, and complexity. Bali Institute Dialogue Therese PoulsenTherese Poulsen is the founder and director of Breath of Hope Foundation, an organization she started in order to bring her yoga and holistic healing training to the devastated families and children of the 2004 tsunami. She has more than 20 years in teaching, counseling and yoga, is a lay scholar in Sanskrit, has led international yoga workshops and retreats, and has numerous other certifications and interests in the healing arts.
Agung Rai is the founder, visionary and owner of the ARMA Museum and Resort. ARMA (Agung Rai Museum of Art) serves as a living cultural art museum that showcases historical and contemporary artists from Bali, Indonesia and other countries, as well as cultural arts including Balinese dance, music, painting, sculpture and more.
Tjokorda Gede Rai, age 77, is the grandson of the last King of Ubud and is considered one of the most important healers in Bali. He has been written about in medical journals and books, and his "clients" include well-known celebrities and medical experts, to local Balinese and Indonesians. He has trained hundreds of healers worldwide. His teaching comes from traditional Balinese lontars (sacred texts) passed down from generation to generation.
Bali Institute Dialogue Tjokorda Gde Oka SukawatiTjokorda Gde Putra Sukawati is the eldest of the three Princes of the Ubud Palace family. He is active in preserving Balinese art and is the chairman of Museum Puri Lukisa, chairman of the Advisor of Bali Tourism Board, chairman of Ubud Community Board and president director of Pita Maha Institution. Bali Institute Dialogue Tjokorda Gde Putra SukawatiTjokorda Gde Oka Sukawati is the second of the three Princes of the Ubud Palace family. He is involved in many activities focused on preserving Balinese culture, and is also a lecturer in architecture at Udayana University. He is vice president of Pita Maha Institution.
Bali Institute Dialogue Prince Gde Rak SukawatiTjorkorda Gde Raka Sukawati,
the youngest Prince of the Ubud Palace family, is directly involved with many community activities in Ubud and is concerned about preserving Balinese culture. Very talented in traditional Balinese architecture and community leadership, he is a lecturer in marketing at Udayana University and is Managing Director of Pita Maha Institution.
Bali Institute Dialogue Dr. Ketut SuryaniDr. Ketut Suryani M.D., Ph.D., is a renowned Balinese healer and a leader in bridging indigenous Balinese knowledge and values with the western world. An expert on Balinese culture and spiritual practices, and author of The Balinese People and Living in the Spirit, she also has her own weekly TV show on women's issue, offers weekly meditation and speaks about cultural issues impacting her beloved Bali.
Bali Institute Dialogue Kate SweetmanKate Sweetman is a former editor at Harvard Business Review where she acquired and edited articles by top business executives, academics, and consultants in the U.S. and abroad. She currently works in leadership development for a variety of clients, often crafting customized cases. Kate has a BA in English from Yale University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Luisah Teish is an initiated elder of West African Diaspora, and holds numerous degrees and certifications including a Ph.D. in Spiritual Therapeutics from Colombo, Sri Lanka. She is a master storyteller, performing and teaching at gatherings and conferences around the world. She has written several books, contributed to 13 anthologies, and has published articles in such magazines as Essence, Ms., Shaman’s Drum and the Yoga Journal.
Bali Institute Dialogue Carla WoodyCarla Woody is the founder of Kenosis, providing transformational programs and spiritual travel journeys primarily in Peru and Mexico. She is the author of several books and recordings, and is currently working on a shamanic adventure novel.
Bali Institute Dialogue Peter WryczaPeter Wrycza, PhD., brings 35 years experience working internationally, facilitating deep transformation and the practical unfolding of human consciousness. He has co-authored a number of books, including When Performance Meets Alignment. Originally from England, he founded the Nirarta Centre for Living Awareness in Bali, and offers a post-conference retreat there.

Take Me To Paradise - Performance Art

 From: http://www.aestheticsnow.com/detailpage.php?id=109
 Acting Up  -  Performance art - At The Vanishing Point
Growing out of the avante-garde and conceptual art of the 1960s, performance in visual art – performance art - now more-than-ever is being utilised by artists in communicating and developing their ideas across a number of mediums, platforms and places.

Performance based and inspired visual art stretches across the gamut of emotions, sensations and affect. From the intimate, to the gestural, the manic to the meditative, it can take place anywhere, anytime - lasting seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and sometimes even years.

From the artist as performer, to the audience as performer, performance based and performance inspired contemporary visual artoften challenges audiences to think in new and unconventional ways about art, self, culture and the world around them.

actingUP offers a diverse smorgasbord of performance treats; from the live to the documentary, the abject to the interactive, the critical to the comedic. Featuring 15 local, interstate and international individual and collaborative artists, the performance based and inspired art of actingUP draws upon such disciplines as sound art, theatre, painting, drawing, video, documentary, photography, and, critical & conceptual discourses.

List of Artists:
Alexandra Unger (UK), Ana Nusdorfer Carter, Cuntstruct (VIC), Goran Tomic, Hayley Hill, Irnin Khan, Jan Cornall, Jeffrey Hamilton,mark dahl (CAN), Marya Elimelakh, Michelle Cox, Pineapple Park, SandS through the hourglass, Susannah Williams, The Academy of Emergency Art - Sydney.
 In Performing the Wedding Dress – a documentary of photographic prints - London artist, Alexandra Unger, rips her insides out, disrupting perceived feminine purity whilst dressed in a fashioned wedding-dress chosen from a series of idealised drawings created as a child.

Ana Nusdorfer Carter’s Pieces of Me, is an attempt by the artist to procure personal items from the audience on opening night. Using the donated items, Carter, the self-described liberator, creates her own mixed-media self-portrait, pushing the boundaries of possession and ownership.

In Fish and Milk & Blood – performance based video and photography - Melbourne collaborative duo Cunstruct (Zinzi Kennedy & Gina Clifford), reference 1960s & 1970s performance art (Valie Export and Carolee Schneeman) to explore corporeality and the abject possibilities of the female body.

Goran Tomic
returns to the stage of ATVP with the debut performance of K(no)w Self Here, an epic struggle of the inner and outer, the psychological and the physical. A body trapped within the confines of space and time as webs weave around and through the tactile and the visceral.

Hayley Hill’s video Two Young Men on the Threshold of Great Achievement juxtaposes the contemporary and the historic through the changing notions of masculinity and gender expectations. How do the mythologies and heroism of bushrangers and explorers play-out in the performance of contemporary male Australian culture?

In You Are A Mimic - a series of tragically comedic performance videos, Irnin Khan explores contemporary pop culture through the lens of the domestically mundane. The artist performs acts of nostalgic-pop-appropriation in a journey of self-reflective suburban discovery.

Jan Cornall’s Take Me To Paradise builds an interactive performance, deconstructing the literary novel of the same title, authored by the artist. Cornall disassembles the novel and invites the audience to piece it back together in any configuration they wish - a collage of improvisation and chance - creating a new shared narrative, which the artist recites and critiques.

Using found objects and a guerrilla sensibility; Jeffrey Hamilton creates abstracted murals referencing site and streetscape. ForactingUP Hamilton puts his marks on an ATVP courtyard mural in front of the opening night audience. The audience is provided its own chance to do likewise by adding to Like Share, a text mural penned by actingUP curator, Brendan Penzer.

Vancouver based Canadian performance and conceptual artist mark dahl presents a series of critical and satirical documentary performance prints. One can not only see the results of the artist hiding behind an institution, but physically – perhaps imaginarily or metaphorically – moving such an institution, or not!

Russian born Marya Elimelakh’s video, documentation of the performance Russia 1917-2009, sees the artist stomach a shot of vodka for each and every political regime over the past 90 years. Toasting in mimicry and critical analysis of the perceived blind faith that her native born society celebrates on the occasions of new hegemony ascendency, Elimelakh attains the level of physical sickness matched by that which is personally felt toward such celebrations.

Michelle Cox appropriates herself and illustrations from the 1970’s book The Woman’s Own Book of Modern Homemaking via animation in House of Valium. The artist creates veritable robotically inspired phantom limbs to enact the repetitive actions of domestic house cleaning in an environment of kitsch, with a twist.

In Sine, collaborative duo – Pinapple Park (Adrian Clement and James Gatt) – subvert and deconstruct elements and experience of sound art and performance. The pair - of all things yellow - strip the musical act down to its skeletal form as they subject themselves to an enduring 350Hz sine wave in an exploration of aural phenomenology.

Sands through the hourglass, one of Sydney’s most terrorisingly exciting duo improvisation acts, introduce a site and context specific performance for actingUP and its audience. Utilising notions of dream, the invisible and the visible, whilst straddling the sublime and the sadistic, the collaborators interrogate notions of the spectator in an opening night spectacle.

Susannah Williams takes the art and techniques of drawing to the nth degree with site specific installations constructed live onto gallery walls. Using string and LED lighting, the artist creates large-scale drawings that are three-dimensional and visually arresting, laying bare the processes of a unique drawing practice.

Last, but certainly not least, actingUP introduces The Academy of Emergency Art Sydney (represented by Nicole Dennis and Saha-Mayousha Jones), the Australian collective of the growing worldwide phenomenon of Thierry Geoffroy’s (Denmark) Emergency Rooms. Microemergency presents video documentation of previous Critical Run actions, the perpetual Emergency Dictionary,and, the Australian debut of Slow Dance, an audience interactive dance of live critical discussion generated by the topics of the newspaper of the day.

 (c) ATVP

Bali Advertiser Review Take Me To Paradise

Take me to Paradise by Jan Cornall

Review by Pak Bill,  2008

Bali Advertiser

Set in the artisan hill town of Ubud, between Bali Bomb I and Bali Bomb II, Jan Cornall’s funny and insightful performance prose novel, explores notions of paradise and a modern woman’s quest for meaning and passion in a post 9/11 world.

The story of how the book was written is as intriguing as the plot of the book, an epiphany of witty monologues, sharp observations on island life and its vibrant characters, as well as insightful remarks on contemporary sexual and social mores.

Writer/singer/poet Jan Cornall was a late arrival in paradise. She had always meant to visit Bali but didn’t actually arrive on the island until June 2002, when her ex-partner treated her to a ticket to Bali to accompany their daughter on the first leg of a trip around the world. Like so many before her Jan fell in love with the island from the moment she stepped into the warm scented air at Denpasar airport.

On a friend’s recommendation Jan and her daughter headed straight for Ubud and found a room at a family-run guesthouse. Ketut, heir host, drove Jan and Cyd to all the usual attractions – Kintamani, Tanah Lot, The Elephant Cave, Gunung Kawi, silver and weaving work shops.

As Ketut gave all the usual explanations about religious ceremonies, the caste system, Balinese names, the banjar, and the Balinese arts, Jan began to immerse herself in the spiritually creative atmosphere of Ubud and its surrounds. She realized even then that she would have to find a way to return.

But four months later the island was devastated by the terrorist attack on the Sari Club in Kuta Beach. Jan watched the drama unfold from her living room in Sydney and put her plans on hold.

She finally returned in 2004, running her first writer retreat in conjunction with the Ubud Writers Festival. To make up for lost time, every three months or so she crossed the Timor sea to run more retreats on Bali attended by aussies, expats, Indonesians and international visitors.

Finally, in January 2005, with plenty of material in hand and at the urging of poet Sitok Srengenge (they met at the 2004 Ubud Writers Festival), Jan began writing her novel.

In October 2005, disaster struck the island again, but this time Jan did not postpone her travel but headed to Ubud, four days after the Jimbaran and Kuta bombings. She arrived with a half full plane of Australians, all determined not to let a terrorist attack ruin their holiday plans. Jan kept on taking notes.

Launched in September 2006, the book was the buzz of the 2006 Ubud Writer’s Festival, and Kata Kita Publishing of Jakarta plans to translate and publish an Indonesian edition of Take Me To Paradise this year.

In the novel, the author’s heroine Marilyn wakes up one morning and instead of catching the bus to work, she catches a “I don’t like Mondays’ flight to post-bomb, post-Schapelle Bali.

It must be left up to the reader to find out if Marilyn is too late to indulge her paradise dream or if she will become a cliché like so many western women before her who arrived and who had fallen headlong for the lush green island, its exotic culture and perhaps an attractive driver or two.

The author leaves it also up to the reader to decide whether Marilyn does, or Marilyn doesn’t, and then she hits us with a clever denouement. You’ll find that in the end, Marilyn finds her paradise, but isn’t prepared for the demands that Bali will ask of her.

Jan Cornall’s thoughtful novel shows us how different the paradise dream can be - for a western woman, for a Balinese man, for a Balinese wife, for a young terrorist, for a jaded expat. She reminds us, just as the Balinese do, that while the searingly painful events of our lives - death, divorce and major life change - leave their mark, we have no choice but to let them go and move on.

Marilyn echoes Jan Cornall’s thoughts about Bali in the final chapter saying, “….Bali is a paradise, I conclude, not because it has palm trees and sandy beaches and hotel resorts stretching for miles and miles, but because even in death, every day on that island, is a celebration of life.”

Take Me to Paradise by Jan Cornall, design and publishing by Saritaksu Editions 2006, ISBN: 9791173- 00-1, soft cover with flaps, 116 pages, 290 mm x 145 mm.

Available for Rp90,000 at Periplus Bookshops in the Bali Galleria, the Matahari in Kuta, Made’s Warung in Seminyak, Ngurah Rai Airport, Gramedia Bookstores, the Ary’s, Ganesha and Periplus bookshops of Ubud.

Copyright © 2008 PakBill

Interview by DiLi Vietnam's first crime/horror writer


Released on Tien Phong, No 16, April 24, 2010
Written by Di Li

Writer/performer Jan Cornall lives in Sydney, Australia. She has written and produced fifteen plays and musicals, a feature film, a novel (Take Me To Paradise) and three CDs of songs. Since 2004, she has collaborated with Indonesian writers and musicians including noted Indonesian poet Sitok Srengenge and short story writer Triyanto Triwikromo. Cornall has performed her performance poetry at a number of festivals in the region: Ubud Writers Festival; Utan Kayu Literary Biennale (Jakarta); and Darwin’s Wordstorm. Cornall teaches writing at University of Western Sydney and leads meditative writing retreats in the Australian desert, Tasmanian wilderness, Fiji and Bali. On the first trip to Vietnam, she did have an interesting talk with some Vietnamese writers.

You are very successful in a lot of fields of art such as music, stage. Why are you still interested in literature? Do you think you also successful in writing?
I love writing, as it is such an accessible form of expression. All you need is a notebook and pen – it’s so portable you can go anywhere! I have always loved words. As a girl I used to read a thesaurus just for the joy of finding new words. I wrote poetry for school magazines and later songs. My writing always has a performative element. Songs are meant to be sung and poems (well mine any way) meant to be performed. I like writing monologues and dialogue and I have written in most genres –theatre, film scripts, novel, non-fiction articles, short stories, and poems and songs. Success..Well I manage to make a living from writing or teaching writing and but I’m not a mainstream author. I was well known in Australia a while backs as a comedienne and cabaret performer. These days I am better known as a writing tutor. Actually I have a higher profile as a writer in Indonesia than Australia because of all my work there in the past 6 years.
Can you talk about the source of inspiration of the novel “Take me to paradise”?
My friend the Indonesian poet Sitok Srengenge is also a publisher in Jakarta. He suggested I write a novel set in Indonesia and he would publish it. That night I wrote the outline. I knew I wanted to write about my first experience of arriving in Bali. It is quite common that western women arrive in there and fall in love with the people, the culture and a Balinese Man - often their driver. They think they have found ‘paradise’. Of course it turns out to be not so rosy as the western woman is often expected to become the breadwinner for the man’s family (including sometimes his wife or wives) and many other relatives. And so in the novel Marilyn realizes before it is too late, what she has fallen into.
What is the message of the book you wanted to send to the readers?
I want to say a couple of things  - that yes these clichés exist - Bali itself has become a cliché, western women falling for (usually younger) Balinese men is a cliché, but I also wanted to go beyond that and show that human relationships are complex especially in an intercultural context. That underneath it all we are all human – we all have a desire for escape from the sameness of our lives. Bali provides that for Westerners and Westerners provide that for the Balinese. For them it is far more complex because of the level of conformity that binds their culture and community. Most of them could never afford to leave and so they indulge their paradise fantasy in relationship with westerners with the hope that one day they will find their paradise in the west. The reality is life is not so easy for immigrants in Australia especially in the early years.
Why don’t you write about the life of the famous artists, like the way that the other artists write their memoir? The advantage is that they know all the secrets behind the light of stage and that makes success of a book.
I don’t write about the lives of famous others as I think someone else could do it much better than I. But I have written plays about unknown women stars (writers, directors, actors) of the Australian Silent Film Industry and also Australian farming women. But the main reason is I like to write about the things I experience. Most of my work is memoir based. Take Me To Paradise is based on my experiences in Bali although I have created a character Marilyn and that gives me extra license to add and mix more details and characters.
How do you see the literature in Australia and the relationship between Australian and Vietnamese writers?
I have noticed in my travels that the literary worlds of countries in the Asia Pacific region are quite insular and self-contained. It is hard to find your writers’ books in my country and vice versa. A British friend in Malaysia is outraged that you can’t buy Australian books there. Whenever I travel I am always carting books from one place to another but publishers and book sellers haven’t yet worked out how to set up a viable exchange. Except for a few writers being invited to some Australian Festivals our literary relationship with Vietnam and other Asian Countries is quite limited. There may be a few individual writers who have a special connection with Vietnam and build something with writers there and vice versa, but we still know so little about each other. Australian arts organizations are always trying to build relationship with Asian countries, especially in recent years so that is hopeful and provides some finance and forums for a dialogue to take place. And there is the success of Nam Le’s book ‘The Boat’ so that is a good thing and hopefully paves the way for more Vietnamese writers to be launched in Australia and internationally in the future. 
I know that you have a very close relationship with the Ubud association. Is that based on the release of  “Take me to paradise”?
I met Janet De Neefe, the director of the Ubud Writers Festival in 2004, and was part of an early advisory committee and involved as a participant in the first three festivals. I launched my novel and Jazz poetry CD (with Sitok Srengenge) there in 2006. Ubud Festival’s most important function is as a literary gateway and meeting place for Asia and the West.I met many interesting and important (including Indonesian) writers there and began collaborations with them, which continue to this day. I will be attending Hong Kong Writers festival this year and am interested to see how they compare and I am looking forward to meeting more Asian writers.
How many times have you been to Vietnam and how do you see the atmosphere of Vietnamese literature?
I have only visited Vietnam once (2009) but I was lucky to meet 3 women writers: yourself, Nyugen Thi Hong Ngat and Tran Thi Truong.I would certainly love to come again to run some workshops, meet more writers and get more of a sense of the literary community there. I love the writing of Marguerite Duras and so I am interested to follow her trail some more. And I was thrilled to know you are an innovator in the genre of Vietnamese Crime /Horror. That is very exciting.
And how about the second book?
People suggested I write a sequel to Take Me To Paradise and I am still thinking about that. It would be the other side of the story where a young Balinese man comes to Australia searching for his Paradise. The trouble is I am always very busy teaching and working on other projects. I am currently working on a book of short stories with Indonesian writer Triyanto Triwikromo. He is writing stories set in Australia and I am writing stories set in Indonesia. And I am working on a book about writing plus another novel set in Tasmania and more.
Can you tell us something about your personal life?
I live in the inner city suburb of Newtown in Sydney. It is a great place for a writer to live, as it’s very vibrant and lively at all times of the day and night. I like to have solitude to work on my various projects but I love then to go out and do the shopping among a buzzy throng of people. I have two grown up children: a girl, 26, fashion designer and boy 22 graphic designer. They don’t live with me any more. I am separated from their father but we remain good friends and still celebrate family events together. On the weekends I am usually teaching and often I teach at a university here in term time. I run my own courses through my business Writers Journey. I also mentor writers but my favorite activity is to take writers on trips to the desert near Alice Springs or the Tasmanian Wilderness. We also go to Fiji and Bali. I travel about three months of the year to festivals and conferences so living close to the airport is very handy. I’m a student of Tibetan Buddhism and so some weeknights are taken up with meditation practice and activities. I like to go out to movies and theatre and I also love staying home alone and watching tele. I don’t have such a busy social life because after all I am a writer and I need plenty of down time. I live my life in the service of creativity, whether for my writing or my teaching and I like to encourage others to do the same.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Art Becomes Village Becomes Art

Jan Cornall at Perfurbance#3, Yogyakarta, Java

view original article at http://www.realtimearts.net/article/issue79/8584
by Jan Cornall

I Gede Made Surya Darma (Indonesia - Bali) I Gede Made Surya Darma (Indonesia - Bali)
photo Dolly

Organisers: The Performance Klub, a group of local artists committed to bringing art out of conventional art spaces into public places. They have developed a close relationship with the people of Gemblangan since carrying out volunteer relief work there.

Performance Map: The tiny village is a circular island surrounded on all sides by rice paddies. A path follows the small river (irrigation channel) around the perimeter of the circle. Only two roads cross in the centre of the village. The mosque and cemetery guard the back road into the village. The Jamu House (jamu is a traditional medicinal drink) stands at the main entrance. (This village is also famous for cobra-snake medicine). Rebuild-ing is going on all around but many families are still living in the ruins of their old houses in bamboo shacks provided by aid organizations.

Program: Artist performances, traditional local performances, seminars on organic farming, recycling, first aid, cultural and spiritual values, an excursion to Borobodur Buddhist temple, a dangdut concert finale (popular sexy Indo-Arabic music).

Village Hosts: House and feed over sixty artists and volunteers for five days. Mr Gyanto (Mr Jamu) is the main mover and shaker. Plus the women’s food collective, security, other volunteers, billets.
W. Christiawan (Indonesia - Bandung) W. Christiawan (Indonesia - Bandung)
photo Dolly
day 1
11am. Traditional Welcome:Local dignitaries including Bantul Regent, Mr Idam Samawi and guests arrive. Villagers in traditional dress line the roads. Village men sing and play traditional Islamic songs. Mr Samawi gives a passionate speech - Bantul says no to malls and globalisation!. Visiting artists are brought to teh stage and given plain coloured flags to use in their performances
1pm. Traditional Performance: Jathilan—young boys in gaudy costume, makeup and riding toy horses perform traditional trance dances that go on for several hours. The whole village attends. The trance master is particularly fascinating. One of the international artists accidentally goes into trance. The trance master is called away to assist. A crowd follows. She recovers, with a bad headache.

5pm. Location Meeting: Artists decide on location and time of performance. Volunteers draw up map and timetable.

9pm Gejong Lesung: Traditional music shows about the history of the land by women from a neighbouring village.

Day 2
11am. Seminar: Importance of cultural and spiritual values in maintaining independence/autonomy in a global world. The head of local Islamic boarding school, Mr Djawis, a former Minister for Culture, Mr Marzuki and myself discuss spirituality, tourism, economics and performance.

3pm: Art Performances begin. Lewis Gesner, USA, 2 hours, all around the village. Arrives with a ball of string and a pair of scissors, walks, collects objects, ties them to string, ties other end to his leg, walks slowly again, collecting and dragging objects behind him.

3.20pm. Maya Pasternak, Canada/Tel Aviv, video interviews with villagers as they work, continuous over 3 days. Begins in southeast part of the village.

3.45pm. I Gede Made Surya Darma, Bali, walks into the fallow rice paddy near Jamu house carrying bunches of plastic flowers. On closer examination we see they are small toy soldiers, tanks and planes on long stalks. He plants each stalk slowly and methodically in lines. After a while others wade into the water to help. When all are planted he “plants” himself by standing on his head on the paddy bank.

4.10pm. Harumi Tereo, Japan, south end of village, places coloured squares of paper on the low wall next to irrigation channel. Rearranges them, using only her toes. Lies down on them and performs “a feet, arms and hand dance”, changing position from front to back and side to side.

4.30pm. Mayumi Ishino, Japan/New York, on the west side of the village in the cow and sheep corral. Draws a self-portrait on a mirror hung on a tree trunk. Animals baa and moaaah in chorus. When she has finished the portrait she takes out a hammer and smashes it. Then walks away with it under her arm. She repeats this every day in different locations with a finale of four or five in a row in a central location near the kitchen.

4.50pm. Bruno Mercet, France, next to a villager’s house on south west corner. Bruno wears only his flag around his waist. It doesn’t quite cover all of him. Organisers go into a slight flurry. It’s not kosher to be naked in a Muslim village. But no one is bothered. He’s a westerner after all. He plays with an old door, climbing in and around and through it then writes a greeting to his host on the top of the door. His host, a tiny old lady, laughs a toothless smile.

5.00pm. Huang Ming Chi (Mickey), Taiwan, at a house near the crossroad gives a massage to a village woman. She waits at the door telling the audience she won’t start until exactly 5pm. She sets her timer and leaves it outside the house. She enters, gives the massage for allotted time and leaves when timer goes off. She does an activity like this each day with a villager; helps in rice fields and in the collective kitchen.

And So On Into The Night, followed at 9pm by a Dzikir Saman—a religious show of song and dance.

Days 3, 4, Continue As Above: same daily schedule with works from other international and local performance artists: China—ShaoYan Xin, Qing Sheng Ming, Wang Jian; Surabaya—Illham J, Bidai, Aye Ko; Jakarta—Santo Clingon; Bali—I Kadek Dedy Sumantra Yasa; Japan—Shinya Misawa, Seiji Shimoda, Makoto Maruyama, Sakiko Yamaoka, Yoshie Baba; Yogyakarta—Sindu Cutter, Emilia White, Bocor Alus Group, Buyung Mentari, Ronald Apriyan, Lepan, Rachel Saraswati, Yudha Coklat, Iwan Wijono, Arahmaiani; Australia—Patrick O’Brien, Jan Cornall; Bandung—Ferial Affif, Isa Perkasa, Deden Sambas, W Christiawan; Singapore—Lee Wen, Jeremy Hiah, Kai Lam, Agnes Yit; Solo—Choiri, Satriana Didik, Ozy; Myanmar—Aye Ko.

Audience Response: Many of the villagers are quick to engage with the performances—joining in and helping out with props and logistics. Audience from Yogyakarta come and go—more there in the evenings. A moving feast of press and avid documenters follow like a paparazzi pack.

day 4

An Unexpected Performance Event. On Day 3 an elderly lady of the village dies. We go to pay our respects. On Day 4, prayers are sung across the village all morning. Masses of people arrive from other villages. We are invited to take part in the funeral procession. Lewis and Bruno help carry the coffin and myself, Mickey, Agnes and Maya, with young village women, carry flower petals, flower water, stakes and banana leaf parcels to the grave side.

day 5

Excursions to Borobodur and Parangtritis Beach

2pm. Final Session. Villagers and artists agree it has been a valuable and unforgettable experience. Visiting artists thank their hosts and promise to return.

5pm. Performance by Sangar Rumah Kardus & Andi O. Earthquake Victims Kids Group.

9pm. Dangdut Concert Finale. Draws an audience from surrounding villages. Westerners learn some sexy moves from the Dangdut Divas. Retire to the Green Room (Jamu House) when they can dance no more and see in the dawn over the rice paddies before catching flights home.

post festival

In an email a few days later from the USA, Lewis Gesner summed it up beautifully. “Placing performance art in a cultural setting of traditional music and dance and a physical setting of a village on the cusp of globalisation was a brilliant construction...for moving forward positively as people and neighbours in a world that is becoming an increasingly smaller village, for better, or worse. Perfurbance#3 pointed to a better village, and hurray for that!”

Perfurbance #3, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, April 25-29
RealTime issue #79 June-July 2007 pg. 14

Realtime arts is a print and online arts magazine:

Perfurbance Performance Art Festival is ongoing:

Jan has taken part in Perfurbance #2, # 3,#4 and Open Arts Festival in Beijing in 2009
and continues to support the Performance Klub.

A Whisper Louder than a Scream

Review by Elizabeth Bell of the play;
Hanging Onto The Tail Of A Goat - A Tibetan Journey.
Published in RealTime issue #43 June-July 2001.
View original article at: http://www.realtimearts.net/article/issue43/5840 
(Tenzing's name is incorrectly spelt as Tsering in the original, but corrected here). 

Hanging onto the Tail of a Goat was written by Jan Cornall from the life stories of Tenzing Tsewang,
directed by Brian Joyce, and produced by Sabina Lauber.
Performed by Tenzing Tsewang in 2000-2003 at The Performance Space, Sydney Opera House Studio(two seasons), Gasworks, Melbourne, Woollongong Arts Centre, Penrith Theatre.
Tsering Tsewang, Hanging onto the tail of a goat. A Tibetan Journey Tenzing Tsewang and his goats.

Hanging onto the Tail of a Goat - Tibetan Journey is not just another migrant story. Tibet has been decimated. Its people scattered. Its beliefs increasingly embraced in the West. To be Tibetan has a certain cachet and thus, with great anticipation and generosity, the full house at the Gasworks Theatre received Tenzing Tsewang’s poignant but playful solo work.

The senses were delighted. On entering the space I could smell the fragrantly acrid presence of incense; hear the near, far, approaching ring and clang of bells—a different tone for each goat in the herd; and hear also their bleats and cries and stampings. Around the stage a circle of instruments and effects: a Tibetan lute, a drum hanging in space, cymbals, a flute, banners suspended and emblazoned with that eternal knot, ritual beakers, a small silvery white shawl. Towering behind, a huge greenish projection of the sacred Mount Kailash. The form of a man appeared in the core of the mountain, moved slowly towards us as a deep chant of invocation—“May Tibet be a Zone of Peace”—emerged and filled the space.

Writer Jan Cornall has worked with Tenzing’s stories to produce a cyclically anecdotal (perhaps overly long) reflection of this man’s life. The tale loops between recollections of a happy child on the cold desert plateau of Tibet, to a refugee fleeing the Red Chinese, to the student of Buddhism and musical monk in Dharmsala, to migrant and factory worker in Australia. Serene and profoundly distressing visual imagery accompanies the narrative, crafted with fluidity by director Brian Joyce. Tenzing Tsewang moves between each instrumental site offering us a suite of traditional and modern Tibetan folk songs, chants, invocations and dedications. He is a truly beautiful musician and it is clear that this is where his talent lies. Tenzing is also an excellent mimic who amuses us with witty and no doubt accurate portraits of his beloved grandfather, an assortment of Aussie work mates and the Dalai Lama.

Hanging onto the tail of a goat uses humour and lightness to tell a story redolent with loss, injustice and suffering. As my companion observed, “A whisper can be louder than a scream.”

The jaded postmodern eye is surely confounded by this ingenuous, peaceful and honest work. There is very little theatrical drama, no tension or angst. With all the injustices and atrocities, hardships and disappointments that this man has suffered you’d expect to see anger, grief, resentment or questioning in the face of the loss of his country, wife and child. But there is none. Instead, a gentle recount delivered with respect and equanimity. Tenzing Tsewang demonstrates rather than tells the practice of Buddhism and refuses hectic and exhausting emotionalism. Under floating video clouds he allows us to contemplate the paradox of happiness, injustice and impermanence. Almost infuriating, but not.

Elizabeth Bell practices yoga as both student and teacher and has recently been introduced to Buddhism. An artist exploring the relationship between the viewer and the viewed, she is currently teaching life drawing from the position of the model at RMIT in Melbourne.

Tenzing Tsewang  was a Tibetan/Australian performer and musician who sadly passed away in 2007. He is remembered fondly by all who were lucky to know him and see him perform. His CDs are still available at: http://www.dzogchen.org.au/bookshop/index.php?page=audiovisual 

For more info: www.jancornall.com.au


Setting Boundaries Combatting Fear

First published in Realtime Arts April/May 2007. View original review:

Jan Cornall on Martin del Almo's new work.

Martin del Amo, Never Been This Far Away From Home Martin del Amo,
Never Been This Far Away
From Home
photo Heidrun Löhr

The work of the solo performer is always risky. What if the telling fails, what if the audience doesn’t get it, what if they fall asleep—“what if they want me to shut up and just dance?” Del Amo doesn’t falter over such concerns, but methodically carries out his set task—to share with us the journey of his explorations: notions of home, the void of fear, danger and the unknown, where the edges of dreaming and reality meet.

A man in a white suit seems to hover in the space. As our eyes become accustomed to the dim light we see he is moving towards us across a white floor, his slight frame strangely trapped in the formality of his dress (aptly designed by Virginia Boyle). Carrying his polished brown shoes, he is barefoot, as if he has escaped—crept away from somewhere. Behind the white performance square, sitting at a table, sound artist Gail Priest ‘plays’ a laptop, feeding the buzzing soundscape into the air. To his left, also just outside the square, lighting designer and technician Clytie Smith watches intently for his next move. In darkness, barely noticeable around the square, the shapes of large crates and scaffolding loom. Mirabelle Wouters’ set is deceptively simple—speakers, back stage gear, and on the edge of the mat, 10 microphone stands, like metallic one legged birds, wait to take flight.

The man makes himself tall and puts his shoes down at the edge of the white floor. He walks back to a microphone and begins to speak. “What most people are afraid of is the void, nothingness”, he tells us, “but the void can be taken literally—take silence for example.”

The series of tellings begins, punctuated by voiceless dance pieces and slow, deliberate placings of microphone stands about the square. Following him all the way, the under pattern of electronic sound and subtle lighting supports the progression of his journey.

He walks to the edge of the white square and brings a microphone stand onto the space, placing the chord carefully in a straight line. Speaks. Brings in another—its chord in a diagonal line meeting the first at a triangle point.Then another, and another. Gradually, the performance square is crisscrossed with chords like lines on a map—countries perhaps, or sections of a brain. At each microphone he tells us of his fascination with expeditions and the failures of explorers; of danger and of a torture witnessed by a friend in a childhood forest. There’s the story of the philosopher Walter Benjamin who committed suicide at the French/Spanish border during WWII when he really didn’t need to, and a retelling of how to use word association to escape the recurring dream of a white room with no windows and doors. There are tips on how to survive a crocodile attack and the tale of a friend, Sylvia, who went off to play Russian roulette with women she met on the net and hadn’t been heard of since. “If someone doesn’t speak to you it’s as if a void opens up. It reminds you how disconcerting silence can be.” Back to the silence.

Slowly, the man unplugs all the microphone chords and reels in the leads. Released from its criss-cross of lines and sections, the soundscape soars as del Amo runs, skips, twirls and skates his euphoric dance across the white—fearless, borderless and free.

If the structure of story/movement/story/ movement feels a little predictable at times, by the end it seems to fit the setting of boundaries needed to combat fear. Breaking free requires courage, strength, skill—all of which del Amo displays in his choreography and in the execution of Never Been This Far From Home. And yet there is a vulnerability in the performance of his man/boy stage persona that you sense his creative collaborators (all women) have encouraged and made possible. With their help, it seems Del Amo’s refugee from other worlds, other feelings, behaviours and longings, has finally arrived home.

Never Been This Far From Home was devised and performed by Martin del Amo, sound design Gail Priest, set design Mirabelle Wouters, lighting design Clytie Smith, Performance Space, CarriageWorks, Redfern, Sydney, March 7-17 2007.

Jan Cornall is a Sydney-based novelist, playwright, lyricist and writing teacher:www.jancornall.com

Welcome to Indonesian Hospitality and an International Literary Roadshow!

First published on Artshub.com.au  October 13 2005

Performance writer Jan Cornall, a guest of the Utan Kayu International Literary Biennale in Indonesia in 2005, tells us about a side of Indonesia we won't see on TV. Jan was one of three Australians invited to take part in this year’s Utan Kayu International Literary Biennale, held from Aug 25-Sept 3 in Indonesia. Jan talks about the unique features of this festival.

Eight international writers, 30 Indonesian writers, a published anthology of all writers work, three venues in three Indonesian cities, seven nights of reading/perfomance, ten mins per writer, visual translations, no panels (well only one), no formal discussions, instead informal mingling every night with food, Bintang, music and dancing. A veritable literary roadshow!

The non–Indonesian writers came from Australia, Turkey, Suriname, Curacao, The Nederlands, South Africa, and the USA. Along with our hosts, some of our fellow Indonesian writers, two festival administrators from the Winternachten Festival (Nederlands), and one from Darwin Writers Centre, we bonded as we travelled together in our charming Bluebird bus. Through rice paddies, tea plantations, mountain passes, via hot springs and the slopes of a volcano, across an aqua sea by ferry to Sumatra and back again, eating in roadside warungs, padang restaurants, and being fed delicious jajanan (snacks) in little boxes, we swapped seats, stories, information and got to know the sound of each others laughter.

In each place we arrived; first Bandung , then Lampung and finally Jakarta, we were warmly welcomed with speeches, food, hand woven scarves, traditional drumming and dancing, songs of oral tradition and traditional musicians. In the evenings local writers, and some from other parts of Indonesia ; Surabaya , Makassar, Solo and Yogya karta, joined us to read or perform their work.
We stayed three nights in each place with two nights of readings in Bandung and Lampung and three nights of readings in Jakarta. Over the seven nights of performance the international writers read four times, intermingled with local writers who read once. As a result no one evening performance was ever the same. As the order changed, the hierarchy of fame that often exists at writers festivals could never get a grip. Each writer shared their work in the true spirit of inspired exchange and were appreciated on the merits of the work they presented.

A ten minute limit on each reader meant the evening moved along swiftly and never bogged down. With a consistently high standard of writing, and at most only ten readers per night, there was plenty of energy left for informal discussion and enjoyment with our audience and hosts.
Many of the Indonesian writers of both prose and poetry dramatised their readings physically or vocally. As one Indonesian chuckled at me when I commented on the experimental nature of some of the work: “Oh, everything we do in Indonesia since Suharto is an experiment!”
Humour was a common element in all the work, with the most popular reader/performer s eliciting loud vocal comments from the crowd.

Our audiences, predominantly young people, in strong contrast to older audiences at most Australian writers’ festivals, were never shy to talk to us about their art . One young man noting from my biog that I was a screen writer, wanted help with his film idea. In 15 minutes with the help of a translator, I gave him a quick tutorial on writing for the screen.

Others befriended us, danced with us, took us sight seeing, shopping, to their favourite cafes and brought us gifts, so that saying goodbye was a genuinely sad occasion.
Back in the hectic pace of Jakarta our cosiness dissipated a degree, but returned when our faithful bus ferried us to and from KUK. (Komunitas Utan Kayu.) This is the compound in central Jakarta that is home to a theatre(TUK), a bookshop, gallery, café, fm radio station, and offices of the TUK team (our hosts) and other organizations like JIL, a liberal Islamic group who has been recently under threat from Islamic hardliners.

Set up originally as a centre of resistance under the repressive regime of President Suharto, the spirit of  commitment to freedom of expression is still strong. All their events, including our festival are free of charge.

The TUK theatre is quite small, so they had set up a large video screen in the courtyard with other monitors dotted about, so a larger audience could take part. And we were off again on a new round of performances in a new place.

On day two in Jakarta we attended the only panel of the festival - a discussion between poet Antje Krog, who worked on the Truth and Reconcilation hearings in South Africa, and poet and short story writer Azhari , from Aceh, who is working to collect the stories of his people caught up in the conflict there.

Interesting questions were raised about the cultural differences and history of both conflicts, but it was clear by the end, that while solutions may be difficult to find, it is vital that the victims of such conflicts have a voice.

On the last night after our final reading, on a low stage in the court yard, a North Sumatran band of men and women in gold and white jewelled satin, traditional dress, played and sang the most extraordinary array of dance tunes. Writers, organisers, audience, onlookers, danced as they had never danced before.

It was only then I could articulate what was different about this festival experience.We had not just been invited to a festival, but had been welcomed into a vibrant community of writers, thinkers and artists used to supporting one another against all odds. The generous hospitality they extended to us during our stay came naturally to them, and provided an example of how Living Together (the theme of the festival) is possible. We, the invited guests, came away with an impression of a country and it’s people that runs counter to the dramatic media grabs usually presented to in our living rooms. Back home we will write and talk about our impressions for some time. We will invite our new friends to visit our countries, take part in our festivals and continue to be excited by the possibilities our connections can contribute. In spite of the alarming self destructive trends, on so many levels, of our our current world climate, we simply remind each other that people, and the words they write, do matter and do make a difference.

The writers were

  • A.S Laksana, short stories, Jakarta

  • Afrizal Malna, prose, poetry, Solo

  • Antlie Krog, poetry, South Africa

  • Arswendo Atmowilito, prose, Solo

  • Asli Ergodan, novelist, Turkey

  • Azhari, poetry, prose, Aceh

  • Budi Darma, fiction, Surabaya

  • Dinar Rayayu, novelist, Bandung

  • Eka Kurniwan, prose, graphic novels, Jakarta

  • Ellen Ombre, novelist, Suriname

  • Frank Martinus Arion, novelist ,Curacao

  • Godi Suwarna, Sundanese poetry , prose, Bandung

  • Gunawan Maryanto, scripts, short story, Yogyakarta

  • H.U.Mardi Luhung, poetry, East Java

  • Hamsad Rangkuti, short stories, Jakarta

  • Inggit Putria Marga, poetry, Lampung

  • Isbedy StiawanZS, poetry ,Lampung

  • Iswadi Pratama, scripts , poetry , Lampung

  • Jan Cornall, song, poetry, Australia

  • Jimmy Maruli Alfian, poetry, Lampung

  • Kurnia Effendi, poetry, short stories, Jakarta

  • Landung Simatupang, poetry, novellas,Yogyakarta

  • Lauren Williams, poetry, song, Australia

  • Marharlam Zaini, poetry, scripts, Nth Sumatra

  • Martin Aleida, short stories, Jakarta

  • Mona Sylviana, short stories , Bandung

  • N Riantiarno, theatre/ film scripts, Jakarta

  • Nir Wahida Idris. poetry, Yogyakarta

  • Radhar Panca dahana, poetry, short story, Jakarta

  • Ramsey Nasr , poetry, Nederlands/Palestine

  • Robert Olen Butler, novelist, USA

  • Saini KM, scripts, poetry, Bandung

  • Shinta Febriany, scripts , prose/poetry, Makassar

  • Soni Farid Maulana, poetry, Bandung

  • Tan Lioe Ie, poetry, Bali Australian poets’ Jan Cornall and Lauren Williams’ attendance at the biennale was made possible by the Australia Indonesia Institute and Australian Embassy, Jakarta.
    Thanks to Our Hosts - The TUK Team: Director -Sitok Srengenge
    Deputy Director -Nirwan Dewanto; Curator and Editors - Goenawan Mohamad, Hasif Amini; Tour 0rdinator – Indah Maharukmi; Secretary –Veronique Rompas Admin- Asty Leonast; Foreign affairs –Juliana Wilson; and Tony Prabowo, Mulawarmansyah, Eko Endarmoko, Wican Satriati, Rusdi Rahinggrat, Waryo, Selo, Santo. And teams at Bandung and Lampung.