Meet Jude Anderson

Tell us about how Seedpod started?
Seedpod began in 2008, four years after I founded Punctum. We had been creating in a somewhat clandestine way in the large basement of an ex-hospital that had become a small business incubator. I had an office there and was shown the basement. After awhile I wrote a grant to pull away an earth wall, pull out partition walls, create an entry and basic grid for sound and lights and ensured that all was good for public events.  The space, which someone described as ‘New York Dada in Castlemaine’, is called the ICU – Intensive Culture Unit.

Over the four years I’d been devising live arts works with Punctum, I’d met many artists who not only needed time and space to test their ideas, they also needed dramaturgical support and dialogue – rather like a coach in sport. Someone who can help you understand practice deeply, assist with the testing of ideas and interpret results, and aim high with confidence. They also needed networks – an understanding of where next steps could be taken and with whom and how. In Australia, where there are still very few funded residencies for independent contemporary artists experimenting in performance, it seemed a very natural thing to add this to Punctum’s program. I then sat down with our wonderful partner – Bendigo Venues and Events and they agreed to support us. Their role is ongoing and vital. So Punctum has two strings to our bow – creating our own works where we test parameters of performance practice, and our Seedpod residency program. And they feed into each other forming a perfect feedback loop. I’ve worked closely now with hundreds of artists – local, national and international, and each year through Seedpod we continually trial new residency formats. We also partner with collectives and have a ‘propagation’ program which means that anyone wanting to experiment can get in touch with us to use our space, hold an event which dives into experimental performance, or share in knowledge. In this way we respond to shifts in the live arts field and propose further ways for artists to keep their practice dynamic, relevant and rigorous. There are now quite a few excellent artists based at the ex-hospital so I suppose many would consider it a ‘Creative Hub’ now.

Each Seedpod residency is an adventure with its own experiment and its own way of addressing audience engagement.

How many artists have been through the program in Castlemaine and are there and standouts you’d like to mention?
Hundreds of artists have Seedpod residents and those works or ideas that standout have often spilled into a broader contexts stepping from audience engagement into civic engagement or large scale wonderment, or changed perceptions, shifted public space and planning, or have become signature works for artists where they’ve met with international success or have been an early step in a now blazing practice. There is a long list of works. A lot happens in 10 years and it’s a real privilege to have been part of the development process of so many works by really courageous artists. In the end, the stand out is how every artist seizes the opportunity and how quickly their experiment takes form and invites a public into an adventure, and then the thrill of experiencing this in a very close up way.

I’m guessing that many people understand that for innovation in any field, experiments are needed. It’s how companies, services and industries stay relevant. There are many industries in Australia receiving very large amounts of government investment through subsidies and these subsidies enable experiments leading to innovation and employment. The mining industry employs just 1.8% of the Australian workforce, brings $174 billion dollars to the Australian economy and receives $4.5 billion in subsidies. ‘Creative industries’ in Australia employs 5.5% of the Australian workforce and contributes around $112 billion dollars to the Australian economy but receives less than half the subsidies of the mining industry. In the end, the standout is artists who capture imaginations with their performance experiment and drive innovation with very few means at their disposal and often little acknowledgement for all they bring.

Can you please explain Live Arts and experimentation in the most simple way?
Live arts is often a mix of art forms which together celebrate presence and encounters  – particularly the presence of audience members who through their presence or encounter with a work bring about its completion. So presence, experiences and encounters are core to live arts. A way to think of it is to imagine a dinner setting where the audience members are the guests and the host is the artist. The dinner wouldn’t work without either the guests or the host. Or it can be thought of as a roller coaster ride. Without people experiencing the ride there are no screams, shouts or adrenalin so all you’d have is an empty little train looping around and around. One doesn’t make sense without the other. In live arts how art is experienced is important because it’s not visual art within a gallery or performance in a theatre. It often responds to a particular site and invites people to bring or contribute something of their life experience. It’s all things alive, reciprocal, generous, light hearted, intense, wonderful, intelligent, beautiful, difficult, moving, hilarious, sometimes a little crazy, and always an adventure – like life. Experimentation is critical to live arts because the artistry comes from not only creating the work but also carefully crafting the setting in which the exchange with various audience members and participants take place. Where there’s no theatre or gallery you have to create what I call ‘entry points’ which help guide people in the experience – artistic ‘way finders’,  otherwise everyone and everything feel lost. Experiments mean success and failure are equal learning experiences and they lead to innovation. They’re vital to understanding possibility and a works artistic rigor comes from this process.

What is it about the art form that you love and that excites you?
In working with presence and connection, and having to create frames of reference and experience, live arts often breaks new ground. It’s all of this together which I find really exciting.

You’ve worked all around the world, why was the Sunshine Coast chosen for this program?
I’ve been so lucky. Everywhere I’ve worked has been a building of relationships with people and places with artists and crews for projects, programs and festivals where there’s a focus on gathering people together for singular experiences, dialogue and exchange. It’s a generous exchange which determines what gets created and how, and that’s also the focus for the Seedpod Pilot residency on the Sunshine Coast.

What would your advice be to any artist wishing to pursue or further develop their skills in Live Arts?
As many works build connections with people who rarely encounter each other live arts require a great deal of honesty with self and others – and humility. What an artist brings to audience members and participants from this place of honesty and humility will be the foundation that ensures the vitality of a work – along with a great deal of hard work. In the hard work I often think of Samuel Beckett’s notion of ‘fail, fail again, fail better’ and then ‘try again’. Recognize what you don’t know and work through unknowingness. It’s this process that brings rigor and adventure to a work. Also, find your allies and stick with them.