A highlight for me was a very simple roundtable discussion with campers driven by the questions: what is queer performance and how do we queer performance making? This was a discussion without agenda (in all senses of the word) and that’s a pleasure – in most contexts there has to be a reason why we do things, an output. The pleasure of a conversation that ebbs and flows, that u-turns and detours, cannot be overstated, especially given some of us are in environments where structured discussion is almost always oriented to specific ends (grant writing, pitching, learning and teaching).
The spaces we have worked in – the Pride Centre, the Science Gallery and the VCA – have been excellent, open and welcoming. Going to venues I’d not been inside before and seeing works use the space of venues I do know in new ways has also been a highlight this year.
The snacks have been pretty good this year too.
Workshops have been such a highlight, from Jo Clifford, Hannah McCann, Kath Duncan and Peta Murray. The zine workshop led by Hannah struck me as opening up possibilities for potential new ways of documenting Feral Queer Camp this time, or in the future. For me the joy was in the mix of getting a little background on zines and being shown various delightful possibilities for what those could do, look like or feel like. Then a kind of meditative state took over the room – a sort of collective concentration – as everyone got into the tactile act of making their zine.
Chris’ brownies (not the junior Girl Guides – the food).
The level of conversation as the weeks went on – a sense of collaborative thinking and working through questions about work we had seen, how we might articulate those thoughts and what sort of queer theories might help us (we turned often to ideas of utopia and queer world-making; queer failure; queer ideas of temporality; archives and archiving).
Performer biting off Ken’s head in Something in the Water at Gasworks. This strikes me as the epitome of feral queerness.
Hanging out at Science Gallery Melbourne has been a fantastic opportunity to really make a camp and spread out and mull over a lot of things, eat and get to know each other. So many writing tips from Peta to help us move from our tentative discussions or airings of thoughts to getting things down in writing.
I think for a long time in Feral Queer Camp, we have been trying to strike the balance between organised workshops and what we’ve seen as the ‘point’ of the camp – that is, to see performance as a group, think critically about it and have conversations about what makes performance queer. I think this year we’ve gotten closer to that. The workshops we had – zine-making, Kath’s talk on queer/disability parallels, and Peta’s writing workshop – supplemented the knowledge we were building through our discussions and encouraged us to find creative ways of disseminating and articulating this knowledge. I was very taken by Peta’s workshop, which encouraged us to think differently (and queerly) about the act of writing, and how we might be able to queer this act for ourselves. For a group of people learning to articulate opinions on queer performance, this was so fantastic, because it freed us from having to conform to the predetermined rhetoric of formal reviewing: instead, we were encouraged to think about how we felt about and responded to performance, and how we could change the way we felt about the act of writing. Throughout the camp, we’ve been building knowledge very collectively through discussion, arriving at an understanding as a group about what we think queer performance is or should do. I found that writing collaboratively has been a really interesting way of taking this way of working further.
My favourite parts of camp were the workshops where we could come together to dream into queer futures and discuss queer performance in a group of likeminded makers. I think the main strength of the program for me was the truly intergenerational feel that it had – in both the members of the program but also in the breadth of discussions. Being able to attend talks and workshops looking into the archives and histories of queer performance whilst simultaneously seeing contemporary queer performance happening now. The ability to speak to the past, present and imagine the future, to situate our own positionality within queer performance and to share and co-learn with other artists has been my highlight of the program.
The midsumma panel on queer performance and Peta’s workshop were my two favourite moments as they spoke to renegade academic practice – of the value of DIY and making practices as ways of knowing. I especially enjoyed Peta’s comments on creating writing on practice from the position of being a fan. Moving to create writing from a position of fandom, from joy and within community as a queering of the act of critique and review – a way of remaining critical but in a way that uplifts the community seemed to typify the meaning of feral queer camp. An act of opening, questioning and repositioning. Of moving from queer as a noun to a verb – to something active, moving, happening. How we might infiltrate and reposition ways of thinking about queer performance and its documentation. What our role might become within that.
FQC is above all else, a point of connection, a sense of community and a provocative experience for its feral campers as we wade through the multitude of offerings within the Midsumma Festival.
A vibrant and diverse group of people from different practices and viewpoints came together to mingle and meet while lapping up some of the festival’s best performance offerings. Some of us were friends, and some were strangers. But the FQC gave us all a safe place to meet and consider what it is to be queer and what it is to make performance, under the expert leadership of Alyson Campbell and Stephen Farrier, and Meta Cohen the Tawny Owl in tow.
The program’s highlights, for me, included attending workshops and having open discussion around and about the festival’s offerings as we were experiencing it. The shows we saw were also great as they gave us a stimulus for conversation and a point of reference as we delved into dissecting queer performance and artistic practice. We were able to pull apart what we loved about performance, and engage in critical thinking; how did each performance work affect us?
The range of creative practitioners we experienced workshops with also brought with them a range of activities and pushed our thinking, whilst also creating community within our group. From physical, tangible exercises such as Zine making and collaborative writing exercises, through to more thought provoking descriptions of practice and artistic/lived experience; we heard from a variety of speakers and gained a range of broad and alternate — queer — perspectives.
FQC: Great company, stimulating and inspiring! It’s been a wonderful way to engage in all the festival fun!
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