There was a lot of debate about ‘diversity’ at the Australian Theatre Forum early in 2012. In response to this the Australia Council for the Arts and Arts Queensland piloted a Theatre Diversity initiative across three companies, Queensland Theatre Company, La Boite Theatre Company and Metro Arts. Driven by Chris Kohn (2013 -2014) and then Joon-Yee Kwok (2015) as the Theatre Diversity Associate, simply put, the mission for the initiative was to deepen the representation of Cultural and Linguistic Diversity (CALD) engagement across all activities, inclusive of artistic activities, company culture and with the wider community/audiences.
Three years later and Metro Arts have benefited greatly from the initiative. Between 2012 and 2015 Metro Arts engaged with thirty-two CALD artists across twenty works of performance and exhibition. We still have as long way to go and many more aspects of our engagement with CALD and other diversities are only just emerging, however we feel it’s important that we make our commitment clear.
As such, we have adopted a new CALD Action Plan, (check it out it’s quite comprehensive) and have placed ‘diversity’ at the centre of our vision explicitly stating that we will… ‘Create a flexible curatorial structure through artist-led open calls balanced with ethical Strategic Projects that actively promote diversity, including gender equality, Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander artists, inter-generational initiatives, CALD artists, disabled and queer artists.’ https://www.metroarts.com.au/vision/).
On this page we’ve featured several of the independent artists and the projects we have supported through development to performance and exhibition. This is not an exhaustive list, but feel free to click through and examine the works while we look forward to featuring more diverse artists and works here in the future.
CULTURAL AND LINGUISTIC DIVERSITY
YELLOW PERIL / EUGENIA LIM
Yellow Peril is a new body of work exploring the impact and influence of mining and immigration on the Australian identity. Ron Robertson-Swann’s infamous Vault, 1980, sculpture is the starting point for Lim’s performative and playful new video work, which features a gold Mao-suited ‘Ambassador’ sent back in time to the goldfields of the 1850s (through the historical theme park of today – Sovereign Hill).
THE 떡볶이 BOX (THE DOKBOKI BOX) / YOUNGHEE PARK, NATHAN STONEHAM & M’CK MCKEAGUE
Pull up a shitty plastic stool at The 떡볶이 Box (The Dokboki Box). Hear the good person sing her story as you share a Korean snack with the stranger next to you. Who knew we all had so much in common? Created by Younghee Park, M’ck McKeague and Nathan Stoneham, this collaboration between Australian and Korean artists serves up live music and performance inside a street side snack stall all the way from Seoul. Questions are raised and rules are re-written as Younghee reveals a story about being good, and being bad, in order to survive in this world.
VIS AND RAMIN / BARAN
Vis and Ramin is one of the most famous narratives of pre-Islamic Iran, having endured through the past 2000 years as a tale of forbidden love, rebellion, rejection of social mores and the challenging of inherited political structures. It is often described as a Persian Romeo and Juliet, and believed to be an inspiration for Tristan and Iseult, although the proto-feminism of the central character brings to mind Greek figures Medea and Antigone. The subversive and feminist implications of the story have resulted in its being banned in Iran since the revolution.
INDIGENOUS AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER
Although in the sector ‘diversity’ is predominately reserved as a descriptor for cultural and linguistic diversity (CALD), excluding Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander artists which acknowledges the important cultural distinction of first Australians, for the sake of this page Metro Arts would like to feature all facets of our artistic and social inclusiveness.
THE BLAKTISM / MEGAN COPE
The Blaktism, a new video work by Megan Cope, is a high-energy performance and ritual that sees a young female “Fair-Skinned Aborigine” undertake a sacred ceremony in which she receives the rite of authenticity validated by cultural authorities ever present in the Australian cultural landscape.
LESSER GODS / RYAN PRESLEY
Lesser Gods is a participatory installation of animated video projections, featuring Western spiritual and religious iconography, and a large-scale, interactive dance podium. Akin to a macabre Dance, Dance Revolution, audience members can control the audio of Lesser Gods based on instructions from the projections. The surreal imagery of Lesser Gods is evocative of spiritual visual traditions, but blends these with recent history and scenarios, questioning ideas of rightful authority and hierarchy, and the reverberation of this in Australia.
TELL THEM WE’RE NORMAL / REGAN LYNCH
Tell Them We’re Normal is a new work investigating the contemporary gay zeitgeist. The experience of being gay, and, in fact, what gayness actually is, has always been shaped by temporality and locality. Being gay in Ancient Rome, or Renaissance England, is not the same as being gay on the front lines in World War II, any more than it is being gay in 21st Century Australia.
NEVERLAND (WELL THIS IS EMBARRASSING) / M’CK MCKEAGUE, NATHAN STONEHAM, MATT SEERY
NEVERLAND (well, this is embarrassing) reimagines the fantasy land that J.M. Barrie created for Peter and Wendy as a late 90s / early 00s teen bedroom. Suspended between worlds, NEVERLAND is an immersive installation in which the present bleeds into the past and magic invades the mundane. This development of NEVERLAND will use personal experience as an entry point for the interrogation of dominant transgender childhood narratives and their impact on mental health.
DE PROFUNDIS / DAVID FENTON & BRIAN LUCAS
Oscar Wilde’s infamous letter, written in 1897 from Reading Gaol to his lover and betrayer, is a complex and contradictory meditation on the nature of suffering and forgiveness.
De Profundis is an intimate investigation of a world class dramatist and shamed celebrity, concerning the injustice of political imprisonment and trial by the media. Wilde’s letter holds a tabloid fascination, exploring the shift in society’s perceptions concerning the hero and anti‐hero, sexuality, the notion of celebrity, censorship and the role of the artist, just as it did in Wilde’s day. De Profundis represents a man before his time.