30 years of artistic expression with Adelaide's Vital Statistix
Vitalstatistix has been at the forefront of grass roots theatre and arts for the last 30 years and this month sees their trademark ‘hot-house for the arts’ Adhocracy run across the Queen's Bday long weekend. Ron Hughes speaks to creative producer Emma Webb.
Vitalstatistix is a rarity among the theatre and arts community: developing new works from Australian artists, often political, feminist and no stranger to controversy, it has kept going strong outside the central Adelaide area for 30 years, producing works of national importance.
“There is a downside to being outside the CBD,” Emma Webb concedes. “I think a lot of people think everything to do with the arts happens in the City, in March, so it can be difficult to entice people out to Port Adelaide.
“But, we’re very lucky to be here. Artists enjoy working in this space, it’s very flexible, very versatile, and the Port community are very committed to supporting Vitals.”
“I’m really excited about celebrating our 30th year,” she says, “Especially since we’ve managed to involve all our artistic directors from across the company’s history.”
Given the current financial situation and recent federal budget cuts it’s clear that independent artists are going to struggle to produce new work. That’s where a company like Vitalstatistix comes into its own: they have a long-standing commitment to supporting artists –even across a period of years – to develop projects and bring them to fruition.
Watch the highlights of Adhocracy from 2013
Part of that process is Adhocracy – an artistic ‘hot-house’ that sees artists from across the country come together to experiment and create across artistic disciplines in conjunction with each other and the public.
This year’s Adhocracy runs across the June long weekend and the various projects involved cover various genres from visual arts, music and performance to documentary and history. It sounds like inspired madness.
“No, not at all!” Webb laughs. “We don’t just throw a bunch of artists into a space and say ‘Here! Create!’ All of these projects are well thought out and planned. The artists have concepts and ideas they’d like to experiment with and develop and they all have a good idea how to go about it.
“The great thing is that the doors are open to the public to watch, join in the conversations and give feedback. In one way it’s a great opportunity for people to get an inside view of what is involved in creating a work of art or performance piece.”
“On top of that the artists get feedback from their peers and the public, which aids them in the creative process,” Webb says.
Adding to that is the relaxed atmosphere of the Waterside Workers' Hall, Vitalstatistix’s home, where the bar will be open for the whole time and the Taco Cat caravan will be selling food from 5:30pm to 9:30pm each day.
The best way to experience the long weekend is to get your hands on a program first and work out what sessions you’d like to experience at what times, Webb says.
“We’ll be distributing programs on the street and of course people can download the full program from our website. That way they can work out what particular activities are of most interest to them and can plan accordingly,” she says.
[Image] Vitalstatistix home base, the Waterside Workers' Hall in Port Adelaide
“One word of advice – get there early, because some of the sessions have strictly limited numbers. It really is a great atmosphere over the whole weekend and people can come every day and see something different each time, because each project is developing day by day.”
Adhocracy is just one of a number of similar ‘hot-house’ platforms that exist in Australia and around the world.
“I think it’s really important that South Australia hosts this kind of work going on, for our cultural health,” Webb says.
“Adhocracy gives artists a chance to explore and experiment in a collaborative process. We have projects researching and archiving the history of contemporary performance, some exploring audio-visual concepts and some looking at the relationship between art and non-art fields, like climate change for example.”
Adhocracy is just one feature of a large calendar of events and productions Vitalstatistix is presenting in their 30th year. Check out their website for details. Meanwhile we have to wonder, given the current climate with governments cutting funding to the arts left, right and centre, what the future will hold for independent companies and artists.
“There needs to be cultural investment in the arts in South Australia, and outside the central area – throughout the suburbs and regions,” Webb says.
“It’s definitely the time for people to support the arts, because they contribute so much to our cultural democracy. That’s more important than ever.
“Performance and the arts are important for our collective cultural health. And if you want that – you need to support it.”
[Main image] Emma Webb
Adhocracy, June 7-9, Vitalstatistix, Waterside Workers Hall, 11 Nile St, Port Adelaide. For a program and more information on Vitals’ 30th year activities go to vitalstatistixtheatrecompany.blogspot.com.au