Snuff Puppets pull on Europe’s strings

5 December 2012 Sophie Travers

IETM-Australia Council Collaboration Project Director Sophie Travers travelled to Zagreb, Croatia in October with 22 Australian producers, artists and presenters for the IETM Autumn Plenary meeting. She interviewed one of the new members, Katerina Kokkinos-Kennedy of triage live art collective and a seasoned attendee, Simeon Moran of Snuff Puppets.

Sophie Travers: Katerina, this was your first encounter with IETM. What were you expecting?

Katerina Kokkinos-Kennedy: I was expecting it to be really fast and frantic.  It was, but in an exciting way. I enjoyed the sociability and generosity that I experienced. I appreciated initiatives like Newsround (artists pitching their projects) and the Mentoring session where I had two very impressive people focussing on our small, independent live art company and how to make inroads into Europe. I loved the unashamed intellectual, emotional and political engagement of the European artists, companies and producers.

ST: You have worked a fair bit in Europe already; how does IETM complement your European activities?

KK: IETM has enabled triage to extend upon the connections we have already made. Interestingly many of the people I met and with whom I am now continuing to dialogue actually know one another.  The “small world” thing was evident. There are worlds within worlds where the live art or the theatre/participatory art people connect.  These meetings, subgroups and ongoing conversations are invaluable to us as independent artists in Australia.

ST: Would you encourage independent artists to attend IETM?

KK: Absolutely. I actually funded my own trip and had some help for internal travel and accommodation from IETM.

ST: How will you continue your relationship with IETM or the people you met there?

KK: I have met a number of people with whom I will be working in some capacity – in France, Denmark and Greece. I’m attending a workshop in Paris next week about making art about the very unsexy EU monetary crisis. What I love about the artists who are initiating this is that they have a very real and ethical interest in the future of the EU. They are really grappling with this problem and making it the centre of their work. They have also expressed an interest in Hotel Obscura, our proposed project for the EU Culture Fund’s Third Country Initiative.

ST: Simeon, this was your fourth IETM meeting; how has the experience changed for you?

Simeon Moran: Each IETM meeting has felt quite different to me – in the deepening tenor of personal relationships and increased feeling of connectivity with the network.  At my first meeting I was told, “Don’t have any expectations, be open; if you have one or two solid conversations you are doing well.”  People said by your third meeting you will really be steaming ahead.  It made it sound kind of cultish, but it has turned out to be true.  I decided to invest in the network and relationships over time. IETM can’t be approached as an arts market, but selling, touring and co-production conversations can happen informally if the context and relationships are right.  For me, attending over time, these kinds of conversation have become more frequent.  At times I questioned whether the investment in time and expense was justifiable – and it would be difficult to do as an independent artist or coming from a small organisation without the Australia Council’s strategically ongoing supported engagement with the IETM network.  But I feel that it has been very worthwhile, both for my own professional development and for Snuff Puppets. My engagement with IETM has introduced me to new international producers and presenters (not always from Europe), reinforced connections with producers and presenters met at other international arts markets, provided an ongoing networking opportunity with a range of Australian arts organisations who attend IETM semi-regularly, provided a window into the operations and contexts of various arts sectors across Europe, provided a forum for lively discussion of art and ideas and their placement in broader social economic and political contexts, opened possibilities for future touring and collaboration, and most importantly created a network of fantastic friends – many of whom I may never directly work with but will always be available with advice, connections and insights from European perspectives.

ST: Were there any specific outcomes of note for Snuff Puppets from this meeting?

SM : Solidifying new partnerships for an EU Culture Fund Third Country application was the main outcome of the Zagreb IETM for Snuff Puppets.  The partnership makeup and proposal structure are still being further developed, but face to face meetings at IETM really helped to move things along. Another European summer tour for Snuff Puppets’ Human Body Parts next year is a likely outcome.

ST: To what extent did you interact with the Croatian/Central European context of the meeting?

SM: Snuff Puppets were already engaged with the central European context before the meeting.  This made attendance at the Zagreb meeting important.  It strengthened existing connections and provided an opportunity to expand them.  Our central interest for our EU collaboration project came from Croatia and Slovenia. The shifting location of IETM meetings is an added bonus of ongoing engagement with the network.  I always try and tee up additional local meetings outside of IETM and in neighbouring countries if possible.  I also always connect with the local Embassy, DFAT or Austrade office – their degree of interest in engaging locally with the cultural sector varies from country to country and is dictated by the experience, background and interests of local staff.

ST: What projects do you have planned in Europe for the coming years?

SM: Snuff Puppets will be touring Europe again next year, with an itinerary that will have grown pretty much entirely out of my attendance at IETM meetings or related side trips from IETM meeting trips over the last two years. And if all goes to plan we will be submitting an EU Culture Fund proposal next year, and if it comes to fruition that will be realised in Europe and Australia through 2014-15.


Image Credit: Snuff Puppets giant Human Body Parts performing at Malmo Festival, Sweden. Courtesy of the Snuff Puppets.