Alice Nash and Lee Wilson talk about IETM

25 July 2012 Sophie Travers

Sophie Travers is Market Development’s Project Director for the IETM-Australia Council Collaboration Project. One of her main tasks in the Brussels based role is to support Australian artists and producers attending the two annual IETM meetings. In March 2012, a delegation of 18 Australians attended the Copenhagen meeting. Sophie spoke to Alice Nash of Back to Back Theatre in Geelong and Lee Wilson of Branch Nebula in Sydney about their first IETM experiences.

Sophie Travers: As a producer what did you make of IETM?
Alice Nash: It was an honour to witness the gathering of so many of our European peers and observe their collegiality in overcoming the obstacles that arts and culture are facing in these economically straitened, highly politicised times. I felt a sense of urgency around discussions about the role that artists could play in ensuring the preservation of civil society.

The speakers for the Plenary were Uffe Elbaek, Danish Minster of Culture, and Renata Salecl, Sociologist, University of Ljubljana. Renata leapt miraculously from art to politics to sociology to psychoanalytics. Uffe talked about the Chinese Five Year Plan in which culture features for the first time. The Chinese Minister for Culture told him that in a time of environmental crisis, cultural growth is a great alternative to economic expansion. Both speakers were whip smart, playful and gave me much to think about.

ST: Who did you meet and what did you talk about?
AN: I met formally with about 20 presenters and producers, some of whom I’d met before and some who were completely new to me. It was delightful to meet several who had been following the work of Back to Back Theatre across the years. It was a luxury to speak with these peers about our body of work and which terrifying narrative woods we might head into next. I enjoyed the passion, knowledge and determination of my Australian colleagues and also loved the Newsround presentations, where artists had three minutes to pitch a project and invite responses. This was a pithy opportunity to hear artists describe their work.

ST: Were there any unexpected outcomes?
AN:I had a miraculous meeting with the Office Nationale de Diffusion Artistique (ONDA) [France's national touring agency] with whom we will now work on a French national tour for our work, Ganesh Versus the Third Reich.

(ST: This kind of support is extremely hard to achieve and provides instant status and access to promoters in France for Back to Back Theatre, not to mention the subsidy for touring costs if three or more presentations are achieved.)

ST: As an artist, what did you make of IETM?
Lee Wilson: Attending IETM was an incredible way to get a snapshot of the ideas and motivations that are driving artists, producers and presenters, and also the economic and social conditions under which work is being presented and created in Europe. It made me think about how we could do things better to respond to the world around us.

IETM is a space for connecting socially; for listening to people convey their ideas, and articulating your own. Being face to face allows humour to be explored and to somehow share the absurdity of this kind of artificial experience.

There are presenters there with money, sure, but it isn’t an arts market, although the discussion of business scenarios does occur. The presenters seem to be more interested in finding out about approaches to art that they aren’t currently engaging with. They want ideas and perspectives in their festival, not just products.

ST: Were there any concrete outcomes for you?

LW: Branch Nebula is currently being supported by the Australia Council IETM Collaboration Project to create a work in Helsinki with the contemporary museum, Kiasma. This project created an excellent context for introducing the work of Branch Nebula. MAPS producer Viv Rosman and I were able to connect with significant presenters in Scandinavia and the UK with whom we are in conversation regarding future collaborations. It was uplifting to see how similar ideas to ours are being interpreted and facilitated in some very interesting festival contexts elsewhere in Europe.

ST: How does attending an IETM meeting fit in with your other market development activities?
LW: We are strategising to find ways of working in public spaces that respond to the site and that connect with local cultural energies. Through IETM we were able to link up with presenters who work in these fields and we will continue to maintain contact as our work develops.

Photo: Skaters in a subterranean skate park in Kontula, Helsinki, Finland, where Lee Wilson was scouting sites for a performance. Credit: Lee Wilson.