Posts tagged ‘Arts’

THE ART of TWITTER, SCHMOOZING & Canapés… Arts & Social Media Alive! (part ii)

The recent research and roadshow from the Australia Council will have probably swung past your neck of the woods in recent days. Titled Connecting; it examines the behaviours of arts audiences on the digiwebs, specifically how they engage with their “arts journey” online. It’s pretty detailed, and should give arts marketers a solid foundation for which to develop a digital marketing strategy that suits their company. Shortly after the Sydney Forum I wrote a broad response to what I feel are the strengths and weaknesses of this research (here) – although I strongly recommend people look through the paper and the blogs and decide for themselves. Loosely speaking it’s a terrific resource for folks who otherwise are completely bewildered by social media strategies and how to incorporate it into their larger communications plan. Without putting too fine a point on it – there are a couple of key things missing. And it’s no fault of the research, but as I alluded in the earlier post, the arts are a special case. The very breadth of scope in style and content of what we produce means any such examination of audience behaviour can only scratch the surface. More importantly, to apply this information appropriately we must recognise that arts product is much, much more than attendance at a gallery or event.

Far be it for me to suggest that this research should – or could – offer that granular degree of complex analysis on arts audiences. I really don’t want to take away from what is a hugely important step in allowing arts companies to reach people. But as Christy Dena argues in one of the better blogs on the OzCo page; a deeper engagement happens when we create content to build communities, rather than just promote our box office. It’s not that the two are mutually exclusive, by any shot – but I know as an audience member I prefer being a part of something. Attending an event and being treated like cattle does nothing to enhance the experience – you wouldn’t expect that from your front of house staff, so taking a purely numbers-view on social media usage and marketing is just a little shallow. It’s a very dangerous path for an arts company to take up all these highly powerful mediums and use them for broadcast only, when they are, after all, mediums for conversation, for listening: a digital extension to the theatre foyer.

Which is how I have always characterised my own engagement in social media with the arts. It’s more difficult than it looks, going from event to event to keep up with what’s going on in the industry, making small talk amongst the canapé guzzling arts elite. And as I mentioned last week, there is nothing so vulgar as a crowded room full of people talking about “The Art”. But that conversation is the lifeblood of our industry, contrary to popular belief – it’s not ticket sales. It’s chit-chat. And until recently, getting access to that conversation was nigh impossible unless you were a part of the insider clique. It’s why the arts has such a horrible reputation for elitism… but I digress. By getting onto the twitters and the facebooks and the wordpresses, suddenly I can enhance my audiences’ understanding of who I am – to the nth degree. I have developed and applied a specific strategy to promote my own work, and so far reached people to whom otherwise I would be simply another face in the crowd. And that’s just one man making a statement about what he feels needed to be said about the arts community, and listening to what others have responded. Imagine the potential for an organisation with profile and budget; what they might add to the conversations, should they choose to enter it.

Importantly, to integrate social media into our communications strategy, it’s necessary to take a mature approach about it. Getting your intern to handle it is the equivalent of attending the biggest opening night of the year and handing out flyers. Not really that cool. Would you send the most junior member of your organisation to represent at a party with the head of every arts agency in the country in attendance? Just because they’re all over the twitter all the time – it doesn’t make them an expert – much like having a massive DVD collection doesn’t make one a master film director. It simply doesn’t translate. Think about who you are as an organisation, and have someone handle it who is completely on board with your creative vision, can articulate it well, and has the right attitude to respond to broader debates within the industry as they occur. Tell the story of your company, and partake in others’ stories too. That’s Community.

After all, we’re in the world’s biggest foyer. Let’s talk about the art. Now where’s that plate of sushi…?

23/07/2011 at 2:55 pm 3 comments



presented by Strings Attached & Younes Bachir
Underbelly Arts Festival, Turbine Hall, Cockatoo Island, July 2011

This site-specific, one-off performance was probably the hottest ticket on the island last Saturday, and those lucky enough to get a booking were mostly unsure what to expect. If they had done the Underbelly Arts Lab tour in the fortnight leading up to the festival they might have known it would be physical, aerial theatre exploring humanity in its primal, post-catastrophic element. But we should know better than to reduce expressionism down to baser meanings, and be ready to accept a performance as it stands. Or in this case, take it as it runs, desperately seeking food or shelter, oblivious to the peering masses of onlookers crowding the cavernous space, we should take this sort of theatre as it screams, as it flies, as it hungers, as it fights for survival. For the one thing it does not do is simply stand still. Or when it does, it’s as a metaphor covered in meat.

As this performance is once-only I feel at liberty to explain; the bulk of the piece takes place at one end of the massive turbine hall. After a poetic prologue from a delirious flying dreamer we are invited through, behind canvas curtains, into a place he describes as “my mind”. There are no seats, and milling around we discover various bodies twisted, shivering amongst mud and metal wreckage, pieces of cars, clotheslines, the detritus of our time. If anyone else like me had been irked by the glut of “disaster porn” earlier this year, it was irresistible to be reminded of that by the shifting, shuffling crowd, not wanting to look too close, but all angling for a glimpse of these suffering humans. Too evocative of that unspeakable pain we could not help but see broadcast over and over to the point of fatigue.

So begins a series of violent theatrical vignettes as the people emerge from the wrecked piles of junk and literally, metaphorically and physically begin to rebuild society. What was a matter of desensitisation is now shocked back at us in the wonderful post-industrial expressionism of a crazed world. Echoes of Lord of the Flies and Tetsuo: Bodyhammer resonate to capture the bizarre fusion of human and technology, fear and futurism. The audience are as much involved as spectator, being shunted around as new elements of the performance begin or end we must move toward or away from the action. It’s pure spectacle and music in Aristotle’s terms; with characters as primal archetypes in mimesis, the barest of narrative as a visual catharsis.

I always wonder why ‘traditional’ theatre writers can’t seem to cope with new forms as these. Audiences seem to love it. It’s equally puzzling when all the elements of the convention are present, just managed in new ways, new styles. But then, I suppose traditional theatre writers are too busy sharpening their pen-knives to dissect traditional theatre to worry about turning up to something so unconventionally imagined as this. It’s definitely theatre, definitely modern, and definitely just a little bit ancient and primal, too. Well I for one; don’t mind if one less critic is in the audience. OJO was sold out, so more luck for the rest of us.

photos by Catherine McElhone –

OJO: at the Underbelly Arts Festival, Cockatoo Island. Featuring Younes Bachir, Alejandro Rolandi, LeeAnne Litton, Dean Cross, Kathryn Puie, Angela Goh, Matt Cornell, Mark Hill, Kate Sherman, Carolyn Eccles, Gideon PG, Robbie Ho, Matt Rochford, Elisa Bryant, Charlie Shelly, Julia Landery, Victoria Waghorn, Cameron Lam, Craig Hull, Leanne Kelly.

20/07/2011 at 5:10 pm 2 comments


One could almost hear the collective salivation at the mention of an opportunity for building audiences. It is, after all, touchstone of the OzCo charter and a Light On The Hill for arts marketers across the land. While the report looks extensively at how current audiences are using technology – there’s a bit of head scratching around how exactly we can get our box-office mitts on that elusive new audience

Continue Reading 11/07/2011 at 4:02 pm 1 comment

Surviving in the Mainstrrrm

A prologue / preview / preamble / preliminary post pre-empting a progressive persuasion, picking apart the preconceptions of popular culture, performance and post-Howard arts funding.

Part Zero: Survivor Season Twenty: Heroes vs Villains

I’m no friend to ‘reality’ TV but this has become one of my favourite shows of recent times. It’s pure-grilled American cheese, true; and after ten years and nineteen seasons you have to hand it to the folks behind this for keeping it real. Rarely have you seen characters of this complexity outside HBO; and for that, each self-contained series provides its own fascinating insight into the human condition.

Continue Reading 09/03/2010 at 11:06 am 1 comment


in the face of marked media indifference to a vibrant arts scene this tiny chink of light we call 5thwall is born – to bring back proper arts discussion unhindered by marketing interests and call to account the insipid cultural gatekeeping of the media at large.

Continue Reading 06/08/2009 at 7:49 am 3 comments

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Your email address is private and will not be passed on to a 3rd party.

Join 1,470 other followers

on twitter

Error: Please make sure the Twitter account is public.

contact author:


since 2009

  • 26,442 hits