12 Apr 2008 Live from UNIMA 2008: Day Eleven
Today I overslept a bit and rushed through breakfast. I had to head off at 11am to my first event of the day, the last panel discussion of the festival. It was Solo Journeys, and explored the notion of what it is to be a solo performer. I wasn’t planning on attending this session, but after taking Neville Tranter’s masterclass, and finding out he was on the panel, I decided to go (it helps that the panel discussions had ended up being free).
First speaker was Richard Bradshaw, who told us stories about his life and journey with his art, and suggested that most audiences go to see solo performances and expect to see some particular skill on offer – although he only applied to solo performers, I don’t see why any audience would go to a group puppetry performance without expecting to see particularly good skills. Anyway…
Second speaker was Neville Tranter (“age before beauty” was the speaking order for today), who
talked about the advantages and disadvantages of performing solo. Advantages: an economic ease and flexibility of not having to rely on other performers; you have the chance to repeat and restage the performance until it is as good as possible; that you can work on something that interests you, or challenges your skills. Disadvantages: being alone on the road; not having enough hands to do everything you’d like onstage.
Next was Colette Garrigan, who noted that the solo journey isn’t actually as solo as you might think, since there are many collaborators who work on a show; from designers and techies, to writers, friends and colleagues.
Finally, Sofie Krog, spoke and she was fascinating. Apparently she had worked on the movie, Strings, which I absolutely adore! She gave a very funny account of how she literally fell in love with puppetry, after procrastinating doing an assignment for her drama course.
The panel discussion was interesting, and gave me a little more to think about in terms of my own journey, and how I perhaps need to be doing things even more differently than what I mentioned in my blog yesterday.
After the discussion was finished, I took a look at the Mr Squiggle exhibit, which wasn’t as interesting as it sounds. I actually never liked the show, and had seen much of it before in Melbourne. But I still had a look out of curiousity, and then headed over to the West Australian Museum, where another puppetry exhibit was on.
Mechanics Alive was the exhibit and was all about automatons (mechanical toys). I headed into the museum, and was immediately struck by this gorgeous Ningyo joruri (bunraku) puppet – see my pics for some great shots of her, including a close up of the nape and of the hands.
Well, the exhibit was at the bottom of the right side of the museum (there are two wings), and to get there I had to go through an exhibit of stuffed animals. I always found the stuffed animals to be somewhat creepy, and I also tend to feel incredibly sad – I don’t like the thought of being stuffed and on display, so I feel very bad for the animals.
I headed through, and got to the Mechanics Alive area, and paid $10 to get in. It wasn’t exactly worth the money – see pics at Flickr for all of the exhibit – since there was so little to look at, but I’m very fascinated as to how all of the automata works. The museum had on offer a book, written by the people who made the automata, all about how to build your own, explaining the mechanics of gears and cogs, etc. So I bought a copy for about $20, and then went off and had a look at the rest of the museum – since the museum itself is gold coin donation entry anyway.
First step was back upstairs and through the bird and butterfly exhibits. It was slightly odd – first I saw in the bird exhibit a set of seagulls hung from the air. What made it odd was that one of them was the backend of the gull, hanging from the wall, so it looked as though it had gone through to the other side of the wall. (Again, see my pics for more!) The other was a butterfly the size of my hand. That’s a big butterfly!
My emotional moment, mentioned in the title of today’s post, came when I went through the exhibit on the Indigenous people of WA. There were a range of things there, from traditional items such as spears, shields, flints, etc., to modern items, such as haute couture, art work and sports trophies. A few things hit me the hardest: a small shield, no more than 50cm long and about 15cm wide, made out of tree bark, which was overlaid/juxtaposed with a very long pistol (imagine more of a rifle) that was used in colonial times. I suddenly had a very guttural reaction: imagine being an Aboriginal, trying to defend themselves against this giant gun, with just a wooden shield…
At the opposite end of the exhibit area, there was a section for stories about the lives of Aboriginal people in WA, including a number which discussed their feelings on being given citizenship in the late 60s. (For those who don’t know, the Indigenous people of Australia were not considered citizens until then, and even after then, there was a great deal of politically based discrimination, which included the ‘stolen generation’, whereby children were taken from their families and either placed with white families or placed in orphanages. Many were abused, disaffected, and generally separated from their traditional values and cultures) This in particular affected me because it’s one of those things where you wonder what was in the minds of colonialists and governments, who honestly thought they could tell other people that they weren’t good enough.
By this time I was certainly feeling quite sensitive, and I finally managed to head to the end of the exhibition, where I read a guest book that had been signed by various people saying ‘sorry’ (a big word in the Australian language lately) for what our previous governments have done. I wanted to sign the book while I was standing there – not possible since it was actually an exhibit itself – and at this point, I was looking around and just couldn’t hold it in anymore. I sat down on a convenient couch – placed there for just that purpose I’m sure – and started crying. I didn’t cry for long, but I was just so unbelievably touched by the sadness and discrimination that went on/goes on, and a thought passed through my head that was so strong I had to cry: I wondered, how could a government, a society, be so welcoming to migrants like my grandparents, who came over after WWII, and yet be so harsh to another set of people? How could we, as human beings, ever think in such a way as to harm others on purpose, and harm others by thinking that it was ‘good for them’?
(I apologise to anyone who is sensitive on the above topic; I too say sorry, in the most heartfelt way)
Well, I had my cry, and walked to the next exhibition, because I’m sure if I hadn’t the whole thing would have overwhelmed me. And it was quite strange to go into the dinosaur area, sniffling and staring at the large bones of a T-rex.
There were also a number of exhibitions on the topics of earth, natural elements, and space, and then also in the left wing, a little bit of history on Australia, from pre-colonial times through to the current decade.
Finally, I looked at my watch and decided it was time to head off, as I had a show down in Fremantle and wanted to grab some lunch before catching the train. Luckily, I arrived in Freo (the nickname of the area) with plenty of time to spare, and while the people at Spare Parts tried to print my ticket, I went and took photos of their awesome puppet display. Just in time too, for my camera’s battery was dying, but I managed to get all the shots that I wanted.
As I was taking photos, outside I caught the eye of Anna, one of the participants of my workshop yesterday. I went out, and discovered Gary and Sharon, plus Markus (sp?) who is friends with Anna. We all went in together, and while we were sitting there we (Gary and I) had a short discussion with Matthew Cohen, about how Jack Davis wrote puppetry plays – which I never knew, despite having read some of his work. Anyway, we had gone to see The Arrival, yet another kids show. Read the review here.
The show finished, and I had a short chat with Anna and Markus, and then headed back to the train. I had to get back quickly, since I was going off to see another show with Graeme from Theatre Australia. Just enough time to eat dinner and leave. We went to see Fatal Attraction at Limelight Theatre in Wannaroo. Read the review here.
Now I’m awfully tired, and haven’t even finished writing all of my reviews yet! It’s 1.30am and I’ve got one more review to write, and get everything uploaded… so I’d better hurry up!
Tomorrow, my last two shows of the festival, a few more exhibitions and the final goodbye to UNIMA 2008! UPDATE: Read next post here.