Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Big hART at ICAF Rotterdam 2014

The ICAF conference for me was very inspiring and I attended some really thought-provoking and stimulating workshops – it is therefore hard to choose my favourite. However a workshop on the last day by Big hART stood out for me particularly.
Big hART is a participatory arts organisation in Australia that is dedicated to the arts and social change. They are particularly interesting in their approach to the work in that they are committed to experimentation and innovation. They are a small but progressive organisation, always looking for a new challenge and a new cause.

They bring marginalised issues into the public domain, but most importantly seek to influence change at a political/social policy level as one of their key aims and outcomes of the work. They devise projects that are all about the art, the community and policy.
Big hART is made up of community builders, field workers, researchers, artists, arts workers, and producers.
During their workshop Big hART spoke about a new project Blue Angel, stories of the sea and our slaves of convenience...

The workshop setting was at the Maritime Hotel which was built on an historic Seamen's House (Zeemanshuis) which is an official monument today. In the past seamen visited the house to relax and to stay overnight - to this day, ‘seafarers’ still frequent the bar.

Creative Producer Cecily Hardy introduced the project and we were also joined by a crew of real-life ‘old salt’ seafarers. They spoke about their lives at sea, taught us to tie ropes, sang songs they had written at sea and recited poems. Before this workshop and maybe because I have always lived in land locked places, I have never really given much thought about their lives and the gigantic role that they play internationally, delivering our consumer goods along a liquid highway to our doors” (Big hART) . Without them we wouldn’t have all of day to day luxuries and food that we eat. Their lives are global, rich, multi-faceted and demanding.

Thoughts about their lives included:

isolation, ill- health, camaraderie, issues for female staff, industrialisation, multi-skilled, disparity of pay scales globally, exploitation, different rules for different countries, immigration - global paranoia, complex histories, stories told, missing family members, experiencing the madness of humankind

This ambitious body of work seeks to work with 3 different global port cities and establish a network with shipping organisations and devise a series of festivals.

The seafarers' rich tales of adventure, solidarity, struggle, loneliness, love, sex, and laughter, act as a prism to expose the dire situation today for one million seafarers internationally; some of the most exploited workers on the planet. Blue Angel is a multi-layered project in development, which includes the creation of a performance work woven from actual stories from the ships that will be shaped into forming site specific shows due to set sail in 2015.
...Thoughts urge my heart, that I should myself experience the high seas and the tossing of the salt sea-waves again.

Kate, City Arts

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