Friday, April 2, 2021

Broader and deeper - the creativity and culture of everyday life

The Impact and Enterprise post-graduate course at the University of Canberra is unique in Australia in placing creative industries and the creative and cultural economy in the broader landscape of the wider impacts of creativity and culture - both economic and social. It starts from the premise that what the broader social and economic roles of creativity and culture have in common is that a focus on the economic role of creativity and culture is similar to the focus on its community role – both spring from recognition that creativity and culture are integral to everyday life and the essential activities that make it up. In March 2021, as the course entered its third year, I gave a talk to the students about where it came from.

Increasingly I realise that everything is connected – if only we are able to recognise how and benefit accordingly. The ripple effects of creativity and culture reach far further than we might expect.

At one point one of my managers in the public service commented with a note of disapproval that I seemed to have done lots of different jobs in my career. What she didn’t realise was that I had done the same job, but in lots of different places. I was surprised that she didn’t see that because one of the things I loved most about my time in the Commonwealth public service was that every couple of years – if not months – you would find yourself doing something new.

You would never hear about this, but at the height of the pandemic, one of my former Arts colleagues found herself working around the clock in a task force set up to liaise with the major supermarkets to ensure that supplies didn’t run out, as a major attack of moronavirus stripped the shelves of toilet paper.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Beyond boundaries – Dr Terry Cutler and how to connect everything

The global pandemic has so upended the world we knew that everyday matters, like relationships, birthdays, births and deaths have often slipped by unnoticed and uncelebrated. In a world of pandemic and lockdowns – and shakedowns by government – such things seem to go unnoticed. In such a way the departures – through retirement or death – of those who have made unparalleled contributions to our future have often passed before we even notice. This was certainly the case with strategic creative and cultural thinker, Dr Terry Cutler, who died during the pandemic lockdown last year, when the focus of most of the world was on other things. 

I was listening to a talk about innovation by Professor Stuart Cunningham at the University of Canberra when I was shocked to hear that Dr Terry Cutler had died last year. In a world of pandemic and lockdowns – and shakedowns by government – such things seem to go unnoticed. Terry Cutler did so many things, across so many areas, that it’s difficult to even skim across them all – strategist at Telecom Australia in the early days of the digital revolution, key figure on the board of the respected science and technology body, the CSIRO, President of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, to name just a few of his many roles.

Terry Cutler crossed boundaries with his interest in the potential of the content of cultural institutions for creative industries. One of his later roles was President of the ground-breaking Australian Centre for the Moving Image.

Too soon to tell
What I want to touch on is only a part of this, in a period when I worked with him. It is only part, but it is extremely important. I regularly come back to much of it in my blog articles about innovation, cultural institutions, content and the digital universe. It has informed ‘Impact and Enterprise’, the post-graduate Unit I developed at the University of Canberra. This focuses on the interrelationship of the broader economic and social impacts of creativity and culture, arising from the way creativity and culture is a central part of everyday life and the activities that make it up.

‘When asked what he saw as the long term effects of the French Revolution, [he replied] that it was too soon to tell.’

Saturday, December 5, 2020

After a fashion – creative industries from First Nations culture

When I first heard that Victorian regional gallery, Bendigo Art Gallery, was planning an exhibition about contemporary Indigenous fashion I was impressed. The Gallery has had a long history of fashion exhibitions, drawing on its own collection and in partnership with other institutions, notably the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It is fascinating to consider how a leading regional Australian museum and an internationally renowned museum on the global stage, while in many ways so different, have so much in common. The exhibition is far more than a single event in a Victorian regional centre – it is an expression of a much broader contemporary Indigenous fashion phenomenon nation-wide. It hints at the potential of the creative economy and creative industries to build stronger communities. Both the economic importance and the community and social importance of creativity and culture are tightly interlinked because of the way in which creativity and culture are integral to everyday life and the essential activities that make it up.

I have been to both museums quite a few times and it is fascinating to consider how a leading regional Australian museum and an internationally renowned museum on the global stage, while in many ways so different, have so much in common. Previous fashion exhibitions included Marimekko: Design Icon 1951 to 2018’, ‘Grace Kelly: Style Icon’ and ‘The Golden Age of Couture’, all of which I managed to see and thoroughly enjoyed. There were many more which I didn’t see: Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion’, ‘Desert Lines: Batik from Central Australia’, ‘Undressed: 350 years of fashion in underwear’ and ‘The White Wedding Dress: 200 years of wedding fashions’ to name a few.

Earlier days in a national phenomenon - fashion parade, Cairns Indigenous Art Fair, 2013.

As the Gallery website notes ‘Piinpi: Contemporary Indigenous Fashion ‘brings together a selection of garments and textiles by First Nations designers and artists from around Australia. The first major survey of contemporary Indigenous Australian fashion to be undertaken in this country, Piinpi sheds lights on a growing industry which is blossoming and set to become Australia’s major fashion movement. ‘Piinpi: Contemporary Indigenous Fashion’ celebrates Indigenous art, history and culture through the lens of contemporary fashion.’

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Always was, always will be – a welcome long view in NAIDOC week

Being involved with Australian culture means being involved in one way or another with First Nations arts, culture and languages – it’s such a central and dynamic part of the cultural landscape. First Nations culture has significance for First Nations communities, but it also has powerful implications for Australian culture generally. NAIDOC Week is a central and continuing part of that cultural landscape.

This year NAIDOC week coincides with the first week of DESIGN Canberra, so two of my major interests come together at the same time. NAIDOC Week is an annual series of events that celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The name originally derives from the National Aborigines Day Observance Committee that organised the earliest celebrations, with ‘Islander’ added in the early 1990s to encompass Torres Strait Islanders. The NAIDOC theme this year is ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’, to recognise that First Nations people have occupied and cared for this continent for over 65,000 years. 

Many overlapping anniversaries
Today is the focus of many overlapping anniversaries – NAIDOC Week, DESIGN Canberra and the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. It was a time when humanity stood at the eleventh hour, a moment that recognises a bright but vain hope at the end of World War I that the world might have seen the war to end all wars. It is especially significant in NAIDOC Week because so many First Nations volunteers joined the armed forces. It's a good moment to look back and take stock of where Australia has managed to come in its relatively short history as a global nation and to think forward to what we might be able to become.

Musician and songwriter, Jessie Lloyd, lights up the room with Mission Songs, at the National Folk Festival in 2017.

All of us immigrants, both new and older arrivals, and their descendants are still only part way through making our home here. We haven’t yet figured out how to navigate this land properly. When I was at school we learned about so many doomed explorers misinterpreting the country, unable to find their way. Burke and Wills were the perfect example, undone because they were incapable of learning simple lessons offered by the local people on how to make edible the vast supplies of food surrounding them. They starved to death in a field of plenty. Is this our future, too?

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Beyond a joke – surviving troubled times

We live in troubled times – but then can anyone ever say that they lived in times that weren’t troubled? For most of my life Australia has suffered mediocre politicians and politics – with the odd brief exceptions – and it seems our current times are no different. Australia has never really managed to realise its potential. As a nation it seems to be two different countries going in opposite directions – one into the future and the other into the past. It looks as though we’ll be mired in this latest stretch of mediocrity for some time and the only consolation will be creativity, gardening and humour.

A land of bushfires and choking smoke, drought and floods – and plague
Over the last 12 months we have endured bushfires and choking smoke, plague, drought and floods. Australia’s creativity and culture and the whole creative sector have been hammered and it will be the last thing to recover as we move into the new post-pandemic world. At times like this there are a few things you can rely on for consolation – the pleasure of creativity and gardening and the distractions of humour.

Fire-ravaged landscapes in the Snowy Mountains.
 
Over the last decade I seem to have spent most of my writing career producing articles about Australian creativity and culture. Lately some of it has been a bit grim, given the way the current Coalition Government has largely abandoned both the creative sector and the higher education sector. Together they comprise much of the clean and clever economy which should underpin a bright global future for Australia. The creative sector has responded to being sidelined by generously sharing a huge amount of advice and experience about how to survive behind enemy lines. Some days I think I should have been an economist, but instead I intend to focus on being a humourist. After all, it’s a bit like those who have written about Trump in America – at some stage you have to think ‘what more can you say?’

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

An everyday life worth living – indefinite articles for a clean, clever and creative future

My main blog indefinite article is irreverent writing about contemporary Australian society, popular culture, the creative economy and the digital and online world – life in the trenches and on the beaches of the information age. Over the last ten years I have published 173 articles about creativity and culture on the blog. This is a list of all the articles I have published there, broken down into categories, with a brief summary of each article. They range from the national cultural landscape to popular culture, from artists and arts organisations to cultural institutions, cultural policy and arts funding, the cultural economy and creative industries, First Nations culture, cultural diversity, cities and regions, Australia society, government, Canberra and international issues – the whole range of contemporary Australian creativity and culture. They originate mostly between 2010 and 2020, with the bulk after 2014, though some were written before 2010.

I hope you find them useful. One of the main reasons I write them for this blog and for my complementary Facebook page is to help provide case studies, evidence and arguments that can be used to press the case for the importance of creativity and culture and the broad benefits they have across Australian life. Both economic relevance and a sense of being embedded with community are complementary aspects of contemporary creativity and culture that make it so strong a force. The economic role of creativity and culture and their community role of building resilience, well-being, social inclusion and livable cities are inextricably linked. What they have in common is that both spring from the reality that culture and creativity are integral to everyday life and the essential activities that make it up. The blog is a place where I can post many of the articles and analysis I come across, that readers of the blog might not otherwise see. They are welcome to share this amongst their own networks.

1. Cultural landscape 24
2. Artists and arts organisations 6
3. Cultural institutions 10
4. Cultural policy 11
5. Arts funding 16
6. Cultural economy and creative industries 22
7. First Nations culture 15
8. Cultural diversity 4
9. Australian society 7
10. Cities and regions 21
11. Government 1
12. International 2
13. Canberra 3
14. Popular culture 26
15. About my blogs 5
16. Parallel universe 1
 
1. CULTURAL LANDSCAPE (24)
Remaking the world we know – for better or worse 2 Nov 2020
‘Given the Government cannot avoid spending enormous sums of money if it is to be in any way capable and competent, this is an unparalleled opportunity to remake Australia for the future. Usually opportunities such as this only arise in rebuilding a country and an economy after a world war. It is a perfect moment to create the sort of clean, clever and creative economy that will take us forward in the global world for the next hundred years. Unfortunately a failure of imagination and a lack of innovative ambition will probably ensure this doesn’t happen any time soon’, Remaking the world we know – for better or worse.
 
The old normal was abnormal – survival lessons for a new riskier world 14 Sep 2020
‘When I hear the call to get back to normal, I think ‘what was normal about the old normal?’ The sudden shutdown of large sectors of the economy highlighted drastically how precarious was the situation of vast chunks of Australian society, in particular but not exclusively, the creative sector. The business models implemented by the Government to help businesses survive and employees keep their jobs didn’t work at all for those who had already been happily left at – or even deliberately pushed to – the margins of society and the economy. In good times the creative sector is flexible and fast at responding. In bad times it is a disaster, as the failure of the COVID-19 support packages for the sector shows’, The old normal was abnormal – survival lessons for a new riskier world.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Remaking the world we know – for better or worse

Given the Government cannot avoid spending enormous sums of money if it is to be in any way capable and competent in the face of this pandemic, this is an unparalleled opportunity to remake Australia for the future. Usually opportunities such as this only arise in rebuilding a country and an economy after a world war. It is a perfect moment to create the sort of clean, clever and creative economy that will take us forward in the global world for the next hundred years. Creativity and culture could play a crucial part in this renewal. Unfortunately a failure of imagination and a lack of innovative ambition will probably ensure this doesn’t happen any time soon.

Given the Government in this moment cannot avoid spending enormous sums of money if it is to be any kind of a capable and competent government, this is an unparalleled opportunity to remake Australia for the future. Usually opportunities such as this only arise in rebuilding a country and an economy after a world war. It is a perfect moment to create the sort of clean, clever and creative economy that will take us forward in the global world for the next hundred years. Creativity and culture could play a crucial part in this renewal.

The Government dropped the ball responding to the bushfire emergency before largely abandoning the creative sector in the face of the pandemic.

Looking back, rather than forward
Yet I can’t help suspecting that this Government is using the pandemic and its aftermath as a convenient excuse to make the sort of changes it has wanted all along. Aligning education (or as they seem to think of it, ‘skills and training’) even more firmly with the short-term needs of the neo-liberal economy, keeping welfare firmly clamped down, largely ignoring the crisis-ridden aged care sector, with the large number of people in it who are no longer seen as productive and hence, of less importance to ‘the economy’.