As I start writing this post, the #bringtolightproject is still underway across Dubbo and Lithgow. It’s 13 August and there are about seven hours to go before the power is cut to the last work. I’ve ducked home for a battery recharge before my final projection at the abandoned grain receival site 6km up the road from home, which is also time to contemplate the success of the Regional Contemporary Art Network‘s (RCAN) first collaborative project and my role in it.
My day started at about 8.30am, with a half hour set up at my first location, a cafe next to the main Dubbo post office. This location was chosen with the intention of being where the action was at 9am in the morning – a busy time for picking up the mail. And so it was. Fellow artist, Peter Aland was set up in the empty shop front next door and between us, we had a few visitors who engaged us in conversation as well as taking photos to upload to Instagram (the social media component of the project).
As much as I loved seeing those who quite intentionally came to see us at that time, the highlight of my morning was the brief conversation at the cafe with a young girl waiting for her dad to take her to school. She was, I’m guessing, about 6 years old, and a kid who asked some very blunt questions. It had me wondering how I was going to answer them. She basically wanted to know why I’d done what I’d done – and what a bloody good question that is! How to couch it in language a 6 year old would understand…
I was fortunate to have a good five minute conversation with a second child at my third venue, the Fire Station Arts Centre. He was about 4 years old and fascinated by the moving images – full of questions. It was such a pleasure to have a conversation with him despite his mother’s anxious glances and warnings of “not to touch”.
Going into the #bringtolightproject, I had several theories I was keen to test, including would I be able to hold people’s attention for the full 30 seconds my looped video ran; and would people be willing to engage with the project using social media? I also had another theory confirmed, that is children are the most willing and interested audience, and they ask the best questions as they’re not afraid to appear ignorant.
My video addressed subject matter that I wouldn’t have normally dealt with – war, refugees and the right to safety and freedom. It was a work that was informed by current affairs, social media and my own humanist beliefs. Yet, from an aesthetic and technical perspective, none of that really mattered and the kids certainly didn’t care beyond wanting to know why the mannequin in the animation did what it did and why did the bird crash? The kids connected with the work in ways that exceeded my expectations.
As for the other two theories…the answer is “no”, 30 seconds is too long unless people are really interested – it’s a long time for busy people going through the motions of their day no matter what the subject matter. As for the social media experiment, the jury is still out. There were a few Instagram tutorials given throughout the day and some keen photographers, but not an enormous amount of engagement at that level. It’s early days for RCAN though and with a stronger following online, there’s room to further develop this part of the social engagement process.
14 August: We finished up the day at Jack Randell’s projection venue, Old Bank Restaurant in Dubbo. An impromptu night of drinks, dinner and lots of laughs finished off what had been one big experiment of collaboration and chance. The camaraderie between us as we mulled over our day was almost more satisfying than the event itself, with only our Lithgow colleague, Julie Williams, not there to complete the scene.
Life has continued to move along quickly and I wonder, what did #bringtolifeproject contribute and how have things changed? Did we bring to life the spaces we inhabited through art and what difference did it make to people’s lives? I think we answered some of these questions last night. But I do know that I had an impact on two little people who may just remember a conversation with that artist lady about the funny stick person and the crashing bird.