Sarah Austin – Facilitation, Collaboration and Unexpected Encounters: Designing a ‘holding space’ for a diverse ensemble of emerging artists

Presentation

Sarah Austin

Victorian College of the Arts

Facilitation, Collaboration and Unexpected Encounters: Designing a ‘holding space’ for a diverse ensemble of emerging artists

Responding to the conference provocation of Acts of Gathering, this paper draws on my experience working with a group of diverse emerging artists in Melbourne across the course of four months, and specifically examine the notion notion of a ‘holding space’ (Winnicott, 2006) which may be capable of traversing and transforming aesthetics, politics, dramaturgies and methodologies of performance. 

This paper will present a critique and analysis of an ensemble project called Let’s Take Over in Melbourne, Australia now in its second year. On this project, I am tasked with the job of Creative Facilitator, a dramaturgical role designed to foster encounters and dialogue between a (gender-diverse, culturally diverse, politically-diverse, inter-faith, socio-economically diverse and ability-diverse) ensemble of ten emerging artists aged between 15 and 25 years. The ensemble (who refer to themselves in the local indigenous colloquial vernacular as ‘mob’) meets weekly across the course of five months each year with a focus on curating and programming a one-day performance event held across at the Northcote Town Hall arts space in inner-North Melbourne. The event itself reflects the urgency of the unexpected encounter, foregrounds the artists’ desire to establish a ‘post-colonial paradise, and invite the audience into a disruptive, immersive and interactive artscape’. 

Drawing on the psychoanalytic concept of the ‘holding space’ (Winnicott, 2006) as productive territory for interrogating how I perform the role of (not) care as group facilitator, I will use the paper to articulate what strategies of creative triage foster an environment in which a dynamic assembly between bodies, places and things can occur that supports new possibilities of collaborative practice that respond to the crises of care facing our world. 

Sarah Austin is a an award-winning artist and Lecturer in Theatre at the Victorian College of the Arts, where she recently completed her PhD investigating rights-based approaches to working with children in contemporary performance. Sarah was the 2018 recipient of the ADSA Veronica Kelly Prize for Best Postgraduate Paper.