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The arts of human persistence

I am tired. I am frustrated. I am not feeling particularly funny. But I am also determined to persist. As are so many of us.

Another lockdown, damage to the struggling gig economy, and the arts and the botched vaccine rollout have me feeling more than fired up. Believe it or not, without my humanities education I would not have worked for non for profits and government and contributed a bloody lot to Australian society, thank you very much.

Buckling down and getting shit done in a crisis is what my family of origin of battlers and working class outcasts taught me to do. So I did everything I could to keep myself afloat. But ultimately this is also a product of trauma, not something to aspire to.

Something to consider before you think me a whining leftist: because of the inaccessibility of most venues and workplaces, I cannot perform as much as I would like to, so I created a whole business so I could perform. I learned a massive amount of new skills just to be able to get on stage and worked to be able to pay for that. The options of doing any performance at just not there for me, not without harm to my health. To create accessible opportunities meant working loads of hours a week on top of a full time job (when employed) after enough trauma as a disabled person, closeted queer, survivor of domestic violence and single motherhood. Which then still had significant health implications.

So many creatives work day jobs or several jobs just to be able to have an arts “career”. I use inverted commas because it’s pretty clear the economic rationalists don’t see it as such.

I’m white and well educated (and paid for it all myself) and still have experienced poverty, homelessness and trauma, but the reality is…it’s lots harder for our First Nations creatives, migrants and refugee creatives.

I’ve worked in remote areas to be able to pursue my anthropology career and followed the work wherever it was, even at a cost to my health and families well being at times – just as all the economic rationalists demand. I also happily realise I am everything some conservatives despise and I do not care what they think.

"Got to have a go to get a go" our PM once said! I think I am living proof of having a go.  This bullshit is you gaslighting us, fails to acknowledge structural inequality by this huge economic rationalism over and above any semblance of humanity. 

The failed vaccine rollout and attack on humanities is peak neoliberal austerity and only guarantees the lives of cronies and the wealthy. Australia has never been a classless society, that was a peak whitewash movement for elite boy schools graduates.

I’ve never aspired to a Twitter blue tick (not that I have anything against those that have them), just wanting to do a good job and contribute to the world. That’s all.

In March 2020 I was hopeful for my comedy production Tardy: Ready and Disabled. We had an autistic production team and 30% sales weeks out for Melbourne International Comedy Festival. I can’t tell you how exciting it was. To finally get a show about autism stereotypes a decent audience. I love and respect Hannah Gadsby’s work, but there are plenty of autistic comedians talking about autism publicly, well before it was even known Hannah is autistic. She didn’t invent the phenomenon and she has said she doesn’t want to be thought of that way either (I can honestly understand this and it’s completely okay – but some of us DO want to publicly speak about it).

Then COVID. I’ve done my best as I watched my comedy career and production business go down the proverbial drain. During most of 2020, lockdowns drove my depression and mental health to the brink of suicide a few times, but I am still here.

I’ve tried my best to support other artists with moral and emotional support, even though, I was already struggling with continued mental health issues and being bullied and harassed out of my day job.

I don’t care what your politics are, the survival of local community arts matter – this is bigger than you or I.

I am surrounded by some awesome people who were of great help and who gave me hope. These beautiful people and piano lessons helped me diversify my skills and gave me the will to live again. Literally gave me the will to live and keep going.

Midsumma festival may be the highlight of my performance career, getting to stand in a line up with far more talented people than me. Today I feel like this may stay a highlight of my career.

Then I worked my ass off to get into a PhD program to extend an entire lifetime of working for collective human rights.

And I WILL prevail. However not without saying this…LOUD and CLEAR.

I will continue to look forward to when I can do what I love without fear of yet another postponement or another cancellation.

This fat, disabled, chronic condition stick walking, older, queer, autistic nonbinary entertainer looks forward to being able to perform again to a live crowd (with live-streaming too – who says we can’t learn new ways of reaching more people from this too?).

If all the world sees in lockdown (or just in a movement restricted world because of COVID) is the famous, the celebrities, the ones with sleek bodies and conforming identities and well paid media teams – then the virus has won.

I’m not talking about COVID, I’m talking about the virus of big arts domination and takeover of small venue live events. The takeover of the arts community by the monied mass media to maintain the status quo.

Whenever this is over get out to your local venues.

See someone perform outside of your own experiences.

I hope that there is an end in sight, not just for the arts, but for a world that isn’t filled with homogenised manufactured art forms (98% straight and white) – picked because they’ll make the most money selling the status quo.

To the arts world, I love you. The arts and the humanities tell a society where we are at and should challenge us to dream, hope and see diversity.

Maybe it’s naive to hope for a world without as many screens. And hypocritical to appeal for that from a screen.

But surely we can do both? Even local events are being live-streamed now – so maybe look for them too?

The arts continues to battle for community.

I dread a post apocalyptic world with only 80’s dance tracks left playing broken loops (and I FREAKING LOVE 80’s dance tracks).

While my hope is this stays fiction – I hope we start a recovery from homogenised arts representation as much as you start recommitting to small business.

It’s fair to say I’m tired, old and cranky about all of this.

But still the arts and humanities persist. Because our persistence has become resistance.

#supportlocal

#supportthearts

#persist

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