Intersectional Curatorial Hopes for Community Arts Production

When comedy variety showcase, “Tickets on Myself” was produced for Melbourne Fringe 2019 – a central idea of the show was intersectional curation.

If you are not sure about what I mean by intersectional, read on.  I hope the context of this post will help you more than a definition will.

Tickets on myself was fledgling and I, as producer, was learning.  I still am learning. I have a background in anthropology, a discipline burdened by the sins of it’s white colonial past and trying to take responsibility for it’s hand in oppression.  I have stepped away from anthropology into broader arts practice, but my grounding in discourse about difference is helpful (some of the time).  Listening to people not like me is better practice.

But Tickets on Myself tried to feature a range of diverse experiences and representations including, Jewish, Irish-Australian, First Nations, Neuro-diverse (Autistic and Highly Sensitive Persons), Amputee, Disability sexuality, Older, Trans, Non binary, Chronic Illness, Mental Health and Queer lived experiences. I may have left some experiences off that list.

Note the conscious capitalisation of those experiences.  If you think the arts should not be political, then I would counter this is not political, this is life.  Life is political and the arts should not shy away from that.

There was also a conscious effort to curate different performance experiences (performers didn’t have to be deemed “virtuosos” to be included).

It also aimed to have a blend of scripts written on topics that performers could elect to perform and own written and designed work and as producer I tried not to intervene too much in those, unless that was requested from performers.

I still felt at times I was too white producing and I have a lot to learn and so do many around me even though I am also disabled and queer.  I still have to reflect and learn – about how to better use the white privilege I have to be more intersectional in response.

But Tickets on Myself was a conscious effort.  It wasn’t perfect but it was progress.

Anyway, as I continue down this curatorial ambition as a Queer Autistic Nonbinary Irish-Australian producer and performer I wanted to share some new information.

Today I found a paper in the International Journal of ScreenDance about Intersectional Curatorial Practices.

The paper posed questions on intersectional practice.  Again, it’s not perfect and the key here is that they are questions.  They should open up discussion and the questions are a means to an end – to make practice more intersectional and provide process improvement.

So I will end with where curation should best be located – with questioning instead of presumed answers.

From the questions specifically for dance from the US Screendance example I have started to rework and broaden the questions for intersectional practice below:

Is it really intersectional if nine out of every ten bodies I see are young, white, thin, able-bodied, cis-gendered? What about black women and men? Fat women and men? Trans women and men? Non binary people? Disabled bodies? Neurodivergent representations?
Are we providing space for non-verbal, non-spoken, non-sound or sensory based mediums? 
 
Is it really a intersectional when large groups of people of color (the most underrepresented group on all fronts), are often seen through the lens of a white director or choreographer?
 
Why don’t we see large groups of white actors being seen through the lens of directors and choreographers of color?
 
Is it really intersectional when most scenarios where large groups of people of color are seen at once, it is most often about being people of color?
 
In fact, is it really intersectional if most of the work created by, with, and for marginalized groups of people are about that marginalization?
 
Is it fair that young, white, cisgender participants feel the freedom to make statements on a wide range of cultural and aesthetic topics, when marginalized people do not enjoy that same freedom given their lived experiences?
 
Is it really intersectional if a culture cannot more readily embrace forms of art that come from low-income communities and communities of color?
 
Is it really intersectional if all – including both disabled and “untrained” or “non-art form expected” bodies – are not represented?
 
If it doesn’t have to necessarily look like a given art form, why aren’t more “non-art form expected” bodies and their movements and voices being explored?
 
What is our relationship to virtuosity and why does that matter?
 
In what ways have we made it clear that our space is off-limits to “non-art form” performers?
 
How can I make the experience more inclusive and more accessible?
Are we serious about accessibility for physical, social, emotional, sensory and movement based accessibility for both the audience and performers and their experiences? How can we do this better? 
 
How can I help to make the experience more intersectional?