Emma Porteus, we are very excited and fortunate to have you on board as the new SITUATE Art in Festivals Executive Producer! Welcome! Tell us what has led you here.
Thank you!! I'm thrilled to be here! I am a dance maker by trade, and for the last six years I've been the Artistic Director of Stompin in Launceston. I was a dancer with Stompin in my early years, and this experience inspired a passion for collaborative, site specific art making practice. I then went off to study dance and performance making at Rusden/Deakin in Melbourne. I have always been really drawn to making art that engages with community, so after I finished my honours year, I moved back to Tasmania to work within the community I've known all my life.
In the last 13 years I have worked for a variety of festivals and arts organisations, as an Artist, Producer, Director and Program Manager. From 2006 to 2009 I led the education arm of Tasdance and in 2010 I became Artistic Director of Stompin. In 2014 I was selected as one of four Tasmanian's to be mentored as a Creative Producer as part of the Producing Cultural Leaders Program, and in 2015 I received the Regional Arts Australia International Professional Development Fellowship. When I look back at my career so far, I see two clear themes emerging: I've either been focused on making my own art, or helping other people make their art. Situate draws on all these skills; it is a dream role and I'm really excited to grow the National and International significance of this vital program.
Among many other things, you've had some time in Finland with ANTI Festival. What did this entail?
ANTI in Finland was the first stop on on my two month European fellowship in 2015. Internationally, ANTI is renowned as one of the world’s leading site-specific arts festivals and it was a vehicle to connect me with innovative practitioners from all over. I attended the festival as a visiting artist, which was a rare and beautiful luxury! Because I didn't have the pressure of presenting work, I could fully engage with all ANTI had to offer. I was able to participate in an important and relevant international dialogue on community, artistic practice and cultural exchange. ANTI is quite a small festival, comparatively, and one of the best things about this is all of the presenting Artists are there with you, as you experience the program. This means you can have a dialogue with them, right after you have seen their work. This led to some incredible lasting connections with artists from all over the world that I still maintain today.
What aspects of the SITUATE program appealed to you and how do you see it developing over the next couple of years?
I am deeply passionate about the power of site specific, non-traditional and experimental art practices to make real change. These new and innovative forms of art practice serve to immerse the viewer in the experience. The sort of work that Situate produces is vital in the current climate of austerity and safety, as it scaffolds talented emerging artists to take risks and dream big. In doing this, these artists can create work that can make real change and activate audiences in new and exciting ways. I'm really interested in growing the international footprint of the program, as well as looking at the possibility of of holding an Arts Lab every year as, opposed to every second year. I also want to increase the amount of Situate project proposals that get fully realised by festivals.
SITUATE has recently taken on another Tasmanian-based Festival Partner in Queenstown's the Unconformity. What's your vision in terms of SITUATE working with communities and fostering creative partnerships in the lead up to a major festival such as the Unconformity?
I love the idea of increasing the engagement of artists with communities, and communities with art. Festivals like The Unconformity are a vital platform to allow this to happen, because of their commitment to the exploring the relationship that communities can have with the art making process. The Unconformity seeks to change community perceptions and characteristics through the transformative power of the arts, and this is an exciting brief for our Situate artists.
Some of the concept proposals that have come out of both SITUATE Arts Labs have challenged the more conventional notions of public art. How can artists, who are taking risks, be supported through their artistic process and the commissioning stage?
The SITUATE program excels at encouraging and supporting artists to take risks. We support the artist as they develop their concept, and we provoke and stimulate their thinking in new and exciting ways. We then ‘match make’ them with right festival, who commissions a research and development stage, and then the final art work. Our mentors and provocateurs assist the artist through all stages of an artworks’ lifecycle, from concept to realisation.
Later this year, SITUATE Art in Festivals will ask for expressions of interest for our next 2018 Arts lab participants. What are some of the things you'll be looking for?
The participants are chosen by a National curatorium of established artists from diverse backgrounds and practices. They are looking for early career artists with an interesting practice and a fresh voice. They are also looking for people with a desire to collaborate and engage with audiences in new and innovative ways.
Interview & Photograph by A. Macaulay.