Turbulent Themes

Turbulence has been one of the big themes last year into this year. After a couple of conferences (in the UK and in Australia) last year, which looked at complex change in human and natural systems, Paul followed these up with a keynote address at the Adelaide Festival Visual Arts Program, ‘The Nameless Shadowy Vortex: the Artist of Transition,’ (5 March; podcast available via Adelaide Festival website) and, later that week, an evening talk at the Institute for Postcolonial Studies (Melbourne), called ‘Sea Level: Turbulent Media, International Relations’ (8 March). The following month, as a guest of the Moore Institute (University of Ireland, Galway), Paul spoke on the theme ‘Turbulent Zones: the poetics of sustaining places in unsustainable times.’

Our online notebook www.materialthinking.com.au/turbulence/, accessible on request, collects a variety of materials illustrating how chaotic phenomena can self-organise to form richer ensembles. It’s an important lesson for understanding how people operate in public space – and how public spaces can encourage sociability. As a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Interweaving Performance Cultures (Free University, Berlin) later in 2013, Paul looks forward to being able to explore these themes further.

Our association with communities and institutions in Victoria’s south-west continue. Through Paul’s role as Chair of Creative Place Research (Deakin University), and the ‘Flows and Catchments’ project supported by the Centre for Memory, Imagination and Invention, new creative synergiesbetween creative researchers at Deakin, the Warrnambool Art Gallery and the Lake Bolac Eel Festival have emerged.

These connections are being complemented by continuing conversations with industry and cultural leaders in Mildura, where the Riverfront development and plans for the adaptive reuse of the old Mildura Base Hospital, challenge us to think in new ways about regional societies, economies and environments. We are increasingly using the phrase creative region to capture the ensemble of practices that are necessary to secure sustainable regional communities and environments. Region-responsive governance requires new forms of place-based education, smart cross-sector innovation and investment and an understanding of place as a network of regional and inter-regional interests and complementarities.

Another term on our books at the moment is ambience. The chance to work with Lyons Architects and RushWright (landscape architects) on the design of the new civic space which is part of the Municipal offices and Public Library development in Dandenong has got us thinking again about the intangible elements that make public spaces work. Many of the Dandenong business people we spoke to stressed the lack of ‘ambience’ in Dandenong’s current streetscapes and meeting places. Can ambience be designed or manufactured or is it something always outside what can be represented or staged – like an echo or a shadow. Perhaps it’s a sense of secret correspondence between different elements, something like interior design for exterior spaces. Anyway, we’re on the case.

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