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Going Nowhere

Despite Australia’s geographic isolation, we’re certainly a well-travelled bunch. No matter where in the world you go, there’s a strong chance of bumping into some fellow Aussies. For much of the population, there are no ‘ifs’ about going overseas. Rather, it’s a matter of “where to next?”

The regularity of these international voyages is a beautiful benefit of modern engineering, as well as Australia’s economic prosperity. But such constant air travel has some pretty serious environmental ramifications. Put simply, getting on a plane is one of the most carbon-hungry activities that we do as individuals. In terms of one’s carbon footprint, boarding an international flight effectively negates a whole year’s worth of recycling. To simplify further, filling the skies with a ceaseless succession of planes is fast-tracking the planet’s destruction.
 
But perhaps you’re not particularly motivated to do anything about the crumbling planet, especially not if it involves reducing your yearly intake of cultural delights. This is where events such as Going Nowhere come into play. Presented by Arts House, the festival comprises a range of unique and engaging artworks, conceived by way of international collaboration. And, as the name suggests, no flights in or out of Melbourne were necessary for Going Nowhere’s development.
 
“We really tried to think about ways we could engage internationally, and locally, without getting anything from anywhere else – including people,” says Arts House creative producer, Angharad Wynne-Jones.
 
Over three days next weekend, Going Nowhere will run concurrently in Melbourne and Cambridge, UK. The artworks being presented have been in development since 2012, when the organisers invited four artists from Australia to begin making work with colleagues overseas.
 
“This event is the culmination of those commissions,” says Wynne-Jones. “And the same four works that we’ll be presenting here, they’ll be presenting at Junction Theatre in Cambridge, but with none of the artists travelling.”
 
OK, so how is the same festival happening simultaneously in two separate locations, you ask? Going Nowhere encompasses plenty of live artworks, which examine the idea of ‘going nowhere’, while immersing the audience’s imagination and intellect.
 
“All of the artists have explored that idea in a conceptual way,” Wynne-Jones says, “as well as being very rigourous in going ‘we’re not going to buy anything, we’re not going to get on a plane to make this happen and we’re going to involve our international collaborators in the conception of it and the delivery of it’.”
 
For instance, Melbourne’s Dan Koop teamed up, virtually, with UK artist Andy Field and Brisbane’s Nathen Street to develop 360. “He’s really looked at it from a galactic point of view,” Wynne-Jones explains, “thinking about the circling of planetary bodies and mimicking that movement physically, in a city. So many cities have transit loops, whether it’s the circle tram here or the bus loop in Cambridge or whatever it is. So he’s drawing some connections between that sense of moving around a centre, effectively going nowhere, and how our planet moves around the sun.”
 
Another audience inclusive take on the theme comes from local artist triad One Step At A Time Like This, who collaborated with Helen Cole and Alex Bradley on nowhere.
 
“They’re inviting people to pack a suitcase as if they’re going nowhere,” Wynne-Jones says. “It’s an audio experience, so they’re then invited to come to Arts House and talk about what it is that’s in their suitcase, if anything. It’s quite challenging, knowing what to pack when you’re going nowhere.”
 
While Going Nowhere will demonstrate the immense potential for obtaining culturally diverse experiences without jumping on a plane, encouraging people to forgo the thrill of international travel is inevitably going to be a tough concept sell. But the bottom line is that concrete change is imperative for significant environmental repair to take place.
 
“It has the problem of cynicism,” Wynne-Jones says, “the ‘we’re going nowhere’, but at the same time, maybe there’s a delight in finding out how much fun that can be and to be proudly owning that we’re staying put.
 
“We’re all aware that unless we do something different, civilisation is headed on a course of no return. We have a carbon economy and we know that carbon is effectively killing this planet and killing us on it.”
 
Pestering thoughts about the planet’s pending destruction aside, Going Nowhere’s platter of art and performance is there to be embraced and enjoyed, in and of itself.
 
“It does ask a different thing from the audience,” Wynne-Jones says, “but we’ve worked really hard to make a space that’s really welcoming and fun and is as much focused on the audience’s experience of each other, and possibilities of connecting, as it is with the one on one experience of the artist and the audience.
 
“There’s old forms of entertainment that predate us all flying around the planet being extremely cognizant of what’s happening on the other side of the world as it’s happening,” she adds. “It’s an opportunity to return to some of those and re-find the joy and the delight in those experiences. It is a bit of a rehearsal for what might be in the future. Often we associate climate change with behaviours that we have to change and sacrifices that we have to make. Change is necessary, but the potential is really liberating to do things in a different way.”
 
BY AUGUSTUS WELBY

Going Nowhere will take over Arts House from Friday November 21 - Sunday November 23.