September 10, 11 and 12 saw the presentation of CIVIC ACTIONS: Artists’ Practices Beyond the Museum; a two-day conference presented by the MCA’s C3 West program in association with ICE and Parramatta City Council.
I was fortunate enough to be asked to join the Front of House crew. My experience of the conference was pretty unique as my interactions took place between the presentations and I had a fly-on-the-wall view what was going on.
Some of these ‘in-between’ moments included:
I caught the train from Parramatta station back to Central with artist, Héctor Zamora, and he told me about how friendly Brazil was as a place to live and talked about some of the reflections he had after moving there from Mexico. He showed me his book of his artworks and talked me through his processes in creating his installations.
He told me about how in each location he would work with someone who was connected to the community and had the local knowledge to assist in the works being created. Particularly, he talked about how he involved the communities in the creations of his works like for his piece Zeppelins Swarm he encouraged Venice street artists to paint zeppelins into the works they were selling.
I also spoke to Michel Tuffery about how important it was for him to connect to the communities he works in. He spoke about how the process of getting to know a community is ongoing. He told me about places he had travelled to work in community and how connecting with communities was all about jumping in and doing things; that sometimes people spend too long talking and miss the opportunities to be proactive.
What struck me as particularly interesting was the hugely diverse range of ideas that attendees (along with the presenters and speakers) had around what public art and community engagement can be. It highlighted the fact that lived experiences really do shape the way we create, interpret and interact. It makes total sense that engagement takes so many forms because every individual and community connects and responds in their own unique way.
The end of the conference was capped off by a very animated group of 26 walking from Parramatta to Harris Park for an amazing Indian feast at Billu’s. For me, this was the absolute best end to a really thought-provoking conference. Also getting to sit beside Michel Tuffery and Héctor Zamora was a great way to finish off the epic 3 days.
Overall the conference made me realise that it’s important to keep having discussions like the ones at CIVIC ACTIONS because it reminds us all that the notion of art, engagement and outreach is constantly evolving and expanding.
Words by Morgan Graham
Photos by Peter Johnson, C3 West