Vordenker, Nursing Home and 2018 plans


www.lucid-dream.com.au is a project I've been developing with Ben Hinchley for about 4 years, and earlier this month, after much discussion and planning, we've launched a webpage that explains the idea a bit, and invites people to join a mailing list for future news about what we're doing.

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Our company, Vordenker, is owned 50/50 by Ben and I and we established it in order to produce our art. We met when I was teaching composition at Riverview (a private all boys high school in Sydney) as a fill-in for a friend... Ben's abilities with electronic media were really impressive when he was only 16... a few years later (after graduating from high school) he was creating electronic music, programming virtual reality, working in theatre tech whilst helping me with my tech problems in my compositions. The latest one we did together was for the Arts Initiative Australia Launch where we used the audience's heart-rates to determine the tempo of pitched material in a soundscape which performed some abstract movement to at Yellow House.

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After creating so many data-responsive works over the years, in 2017 we made a serious commitment towards building a digital marketplace and playback system for our artform so that we could reach an audience through portable devices, make a living... and of course, there are about 1,000,000+ other artists (the amount of users of currently existing algorithmic / data-responsive composition / creation software) who will benefit from such a platform as well. We're now at the stage where we're breaking down the development process into logical (and releasable) steps so we can prioritise and give time to details as the very complex issues of each stage arises. This will require investment, though - I don't know how much yet. The first work we're concentrating on building next year is about proximity; proximity to one another, our earth and the universe, using environmental data feeds, live heart rate, live planetary position data as well as the live proximity between performers and audience. It's an ambitious project that I've proposed to Vivid; we'll see what they reckon next month!

The whole project has huge ambitions - consumer marketplace/software, professional/artist marketplace/software, education programs in algorithmic composition for junior schools, high schools and professionals, reviewing copyright law, reviewing education policy... it also looks at the role of the artist as being one that defines rules of relationships between various causes and effects, rather than writing every dot, choreographing every movement, and has a strong audience participation component (whether it be from passive participation through monitoring neural or heartrate activity, or an active participation through movement, breath, sound, location etc.) 

We're going for a for-profit, shareholder based funding model for this project, rather than traditional arts funding. As its not relying on the approval of funding bodies (who have their discretionary project funding increasingly diminished) we'll be more nimble... but it does mean I need some financial partners who'll be willing to commission works that create (and therefore solve) various technical problems for the system, as well as financial partners who are willing to put in for the development of the marketplace.

Nursing Home

My partner Dean Walsh and I caught up with Diane Busuttil on Christmas Eve. Dean's grandmother has been recently moved into a nursing home - she's at a time in her life where things start getting a bit hazy and memory is slipping a bit... so she has needed to go somewhere where she would be looked after. Dean, Di and I rocked up to the nursing home to give a performance.... Dean and I put together a few ideas earlier that morning (deciding what tracks we'd perform improvisation to, what instruments we'd bring, costumes and props for the audience to dress up in, how the show would go) and gave a completely improvised movement and sound performance for about 40 elders in various states of lucidity and physical ability. It was perfectly marvellous, and what I found particularly exquisite was that we combined rhythm, voice and movement in a very abstract but fun performance where the old folks joined in.

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Dean's an incredible dancer and so wow'd everyone... his 30 years experience shining through, I was so proud. He had a costume he'd made for his Sydney Community College class (a group of students with autism of varying degrees), a big mask with glitter, tinsel and a giant beard and a cloak made of glittery materials. Di's an awesome tap dancer (amongst other skills, including interactive workshops) and her costume was a gorgeous striped dress with fishnet stockings and sparkly stars on her breasts... and of course a top hat and wig. I simply wore loose blacks for my solo but got changed later... Both Dean and I performed to tracks from Daniel Hope's album "Spheres", Einaudi's works "I giorni" and "Passagio". Di had a bit of a surprise with her music as she'd never head it before and Dean chose it, an old swing number I don't know the name of alas. 

There were a few costume changes. By the end we were playing waltzes and sure enough those who were able got up and joined in for a waltz. It was beautiful.

Having read Norman Doidge's "The Brain's way of Healing" recently, I was delighted to be aware of what could be happening in everyone's brains during and after this performance... sparking inspiration, and memory. 

For the waltz I was dressed in a relaxed smart-casual 50s style (I think), fedora hat, brown shiny shoes, long pants and a collared shirt... I think that triggered a few memories... 

I hope we do more performances in nursing homes next year. We were going to get me on the piano to improvise a number whilst Di and Dean interpreted it, however we simply ran out of time. Definitely though, when I get access to a studio with a piano in it next year with Dean, we'll start developing a set of improv structures between us that we can take to nursing homes and other performances.

2018 Plans

The best laid plans are often deviated from, it seems. In 2017 I applied for a few grants, and got rejected... generally the feedback was ambiguous. It's exhausting and I think I'm going to give up on grant writing for 2018 entirely, and concentrate on private/business approaches of funding creation of work.

As I mentioned above, a lot of my energy's being poured into Lucid by Vordenker for now... a massive scored improv work will require a lot of sound design, formula writing, and of course composition around macro/micro structures with content created both during performance and pre-determined... way fun.

I've been invited to a workshop at the Théâtre du Marché aux Grains in Bouxwiller, France (http://theaboux.eu) that I'd really love to attend.... it's with Andrew Morrish in a specialised/advanced "VIP" improv workshop. It is on at the same time as a workshop in St Erme (Performing Arts Forum) in France with Jennifer Walshe in composition/performance intersection using multiple art forms. PAF is the venue I'd like to work with the Freestyle orchestra one day to develop a work for them (the grants I applied for to develop that work fell through, alas, so maybe it'll be a 2019 project...). Both workshops are right up my alley.


It is hard to choose which one to go to (and indeed, I don't know if I have the finance for either!) both would be excellent for Vordenker development, let along my own skills as an artist.

In tandem to this, Dean and I are intending to move to Coffs Harbour in NSW and build a yurt overlooking the sea, and create a studio called ISEA (integrated science, environment and art)... we're on our way with this project nicely. It's a big deal - creating a space to live in, create in, work in, and also hold artist residencies and grow our practices from. I've moved house nearly every year since I moved out of home 14 years ago, so another change doesn't frighten me... but it's different this time as I'm hoping to buy and create somewhere permanent. 

I've got a couple of gigs next year teaching kids algorithmic composition... I'm really looking forward to it, though I've got my reservations about my own skills, the gig at the nursing home with Dean and Di was an eye opener, and I know my hand will be held nicely by the teacher who normally teaches the class I'll be going into. I've participated in heaps of workshops this year, been co-facilitating a few with Dean, so I'm not completely without confidence. We'll see! 

If you're a follower of my moves generally, you'd probably have noticed that Limelight Magazine has a new website, and earlier this year I moved it into a hybrid not-for-profit / for-profit model. The Jan/Feb 2018 edition (which just arrived in my post this morning) marks 4 years (or about 46 issues) of the magazine under my watch. Next year, we'll be giving it's new structural engines a whirl as we engage increasingly larger audiences online with arts journalism, and improve the mag's future stability by encouraging appending subscriptions with tax deductible donations for the foundation that now owns Limelight. I feel like I've spent the last 4 years of Limelight's history creating some new solid ground and creating the space from which the publication can continue to document and discuss Australia's arts.


So the rest of this year, the few days of it that are left, I'll spend writing my reflections of the various projects I've had this year, a bit of reading, and definitely a lot of music, dance and creative writing!

Have a safe and creative new year!!!