THE JOURNAL OF THEFULCRUM.AGENCY
Leverage ISSUE 02
Story Title 03
Middle English: from Old French levier, leveor, from lever ‘to lift’. 1724, ‘action of a lever,’ from lever (n.) + -age.: use (something) to maximum advantage.
HAVING LEVERAGE Interestingly, despite its challenges, 2020 has brought us some good. TheFulrum.Agency gave us a rare opportunity to start a business with purpose and a platform to use our skills to amplify impact. © TheFulcrum.Agency 2020 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be produced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publishers and copyright holders.
‘Leverage’ — a word we’ve been playing with since starting TheFulcrum.Agency. For us, the word is inextricably linked to who we are and how we practice. Finding the point of leverage (aka the fulcrum) and creating impact through conscious action is at the heart of how we contribute to projects. We have thrown ourselves headfirst into this pursuit. Incredibly, it has been two years since we set out on this journey. Where last year was about new beginnings, this year was (supposed to be) about hitting our stride … Instead, it has been about new beginnings on new beginnings and the need to think once again about how to leverage — this time from the global circumstances that have gripped us all. Finding relevance in a pandemic has been a humbling experience. We offered our services to remote communities that needed help to prepare for the possible spread of the disease. This ranged from the design of simple posters about hand washing (in Language) to a suite of guides that combined the inputs of many skilled minds who banded behind this initiative. We saw first-hand the capacity for architects and designers to collaborate and leverage our skills. We set up our Sydney studio on March 1st (great timing!) and since then have had to find new ways to work
TheFulcrum.Agency PO Box 671 Fremantle 6959 Western Australia ISBN 978-0-6485481-2-6 Printed in Australia by Discus on Demand TheFulcrum.Agency Team Emma Williamson Co-Founder / Partner Kieran Wong Co-Founder / Partner Nick Juniper Principal Andrew Broffman Principal Emma Brain Head of Communications Sarah Besly Associate Heather MacRae Associate Akira Monaghan Brad Wetherall Betty Richards Alan Pigram Creative Direction & Design Mark Braddock
and connect across the continent. Through our early and brief period of lockdown we found that the geographical barrier of distance could be negated, and we truly became a single office, working collectively. We have continued this way. On our minds were our role as co-directors of the National Architecture Conference, which we had titled Leverage and was due to be held in Perth in May. Sadly, like a lot of things, it will not be going ahead due to the unforgiving circumstances thrown our way in 2020. Although it’s disappointing not to deliver, we did get a lot out of the process. We connected with so many great speakers and now have the opportunity to publish some interviews with them in Architecture Australia over the next 12 months. Interestingly, despite its challenges, this year has brought us some good. TF.A gave us a rare opportunity to start a business with purpose and a platform to use our skills to amplify impact. In the last twelve months we’ve discovered that there are always opportunities to explore new ways of working, new ways to meet people and build relationships and find that amazing fulcrum, where our skills can leverage the best outcomes and impacts for the communities we serve.
Project Manager Jessica Richings
Photo by Lewis Catalano
Kieran Wong and Emma Williamson Co-Founders, TheFulcrum.Agency
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Co-Design.Counter-Mapping Andrew Broffman and Kieran Wong question the ability of contemporary consultation processes and systems to create genuine dialogue and exchange. Using the metaphor of the bush mechanic and notions of Critical Cartography, Broffman and Wong suggest a new strategy for creating more meaningful and equal exchange.
The Acrobat Circus WA is a Fremantle institution, based in a big top on the CBD’s fringe. Giac Patroni is an emerging cinematographer with an interest in ideas around identity, memory, time and mortality. Leverage is a short film in two parts that reveals the exceptionalism of both performer and filmmaker. A series of stills from the film act as a visual musing on the symbiotic relationship between circus performers.
Gathering Hunters The Last Great Hunt are a collective of West Australian theatre-makers who piqued our interest for their commitment to doing things differently. In the latest edition of The Fatin Tapes, Meri interviews two of the key players behind the collective and uncovers how they are challenging norms both on and off the stage.
In (Con?)versation A recorded conversation between friends at the midpoint of everything. Kieran and Dave have both reached a degree of success in their careers and have built comfortable lives at home. This conversation ranges from a contemplation on the state of the nation, the slippery slide towards conservatism once you hit middle age, and the impact of their own work on the world at large.
Colour Shift Rebecca Baumann is one of our most exciting new artists. Her work is ambitious and bold, spanning digital animation, sculpture and large-scale installation, and has been exhibited nationally and internationally. Rebecca’s joyful, colour-rich work feels like the perfect antidote for today.
A Taste of Home Paul Iskov has created a ‘pop-up dining’ experience that combines landscape, community and the ancient wisdom of our First Nations people.
Natural Ingredients This article sits in contrast and also complements, A Taste of Home and reveals how far we have come in shifting the dominant view of Indigenous culture in this country. Sara Meagher’s 1975 article, The Food Resources of the Aborigines of the South-West of Western Australia is of its time, portraying Indigenous people and practice as a cultural curiosity. How lucky we are in 2020 to have businesses like Fervor who celebrate the practical wisdom of our First Nations people.
Flora UK based architect, historian and research advocate, Flora Samuel discusses the impact of the Coronavirus on the built environment and suggests a path forward as we move to create a ‘new normal’ in our homes, workplaces, communities and cities. This article is essential reading for anyone interested in how practice, policy and technology can unite to ‘build back better’.
In a photographic and written essay, Rebecca provides a reflection on her career and recent installation at Carriageworks through the prism of leverage.
Through a series of evocative images, Paul takes us on a journey through the people and locations who have impacted the way in which he thinks about food and culture.
If the definition on page one is anything to go by, then this third edition of our journal is the embodiment of leverage. A few months ago (in the midst of the pandemic) we looked at our address book and used it to maximum advantage. Once again, we have been amazed by the generosity of our contributors — colleagues, friends and people we’ve admired from afar — and the intelligence that they have applied to our theme.
Architect Co-founder and editor-at-large. Emma is one of two Emmas responsible for content and curation. thefulcrum.agency
Architect Our co-founder and keel. Kieran puts his unique slant on the issues that matter most. thefulcrum.agency Co-Design. Counter- Mapping (p08) In (Con?)versation (p46)
Comms Director The other Emma. Head of Comms at TF.A and master of the red pen. thefulcrum.agency
Social Worker A long-time friend. We love him for his (questionable) taste in music and commitment to improving the lives of children and families through his professional life. communicare.org.au In (Con?)versation (p46)
Chef Chef with a vision for a radical reimagining of the way in which we enjoy food and build community in this country. fervor.com.au A Taste of Home (p62)
Architect Andrew is an outstanding architect, a deep thinker and one of the most elegant writers we’ve ever encountered. He leads our Sydney studio. thefulcrum.agency Co-Design. Counter- Mapping (p08)
Architect A British architect and someone we’ve admired from afar for a very long time. Flora inspires a lot of the work we do at TF.A and we were thrilled when she said yes! reading.ac.uk/en/ architecture/staff/ flora-samuel Flora (p62)
Artist Rebecca’s work combines things that we love — bold colour, playfulness, an ambitious use of space. Plus, she’s a very nice person.
Project Manager Keeps us all on track. This journal would still be at the printers if it wasn’t for her. blockbranding.com
Artist Aka Crawlin’ Crocodile. Our newest discovery and the person responsible for the world’s cutest illustrated headshots. crawlincrocodile.com
Cinematographer It’s a risky move to ask a videographer to make a film for a print publication, but with Giac’s eye for a beautiful image, we think he’s pulled it off. giacpatroniblog. wordpress.com
Colour Shift (p54)
The Acrobat (p22)
Creative Director King aesthete. We like him because he’s not afraid to tell us when something’s a bad idea and he always makes us look good. blockbranding.com
Journalist Each edition, we give Meri the briefest of briefs and a random subject and a few weeks later she comes back with an interview that opens our minds to something new. merifatin.com Gathering Hunters (p30)
Co-Design .CounterMapping Words by Andrew Broffman + Kieran Wong
Drawing on intuition and decades of experience, TheFulcrum.Agencyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Andrew Broffman and Kieran Wong grapple with the shortcomings of current community engagement practices and suggest an alternative approach using the principles of Critical Cartography.
Production still: Bush Mechanics EJ Holden which belonged to series creator Francis Jurpurrula Kelly
Crucial and foundational decisions are often made well in advance of the first piece of modelling clay being warmed in the hands of an eager participant.
here is a lot spoken of ‘co-design’ processes and the importance of ensuring that community has a voice in projects, processes and systems that ultimately affect communities in a myriad of ways — ‘nothing about us, without us’ has become an important mantra. As architects and designers, we have also promoted the notion of community voice in the development of infrastructure. But have we done enough to create genuine dialogue — a conversation between two parties where each gain understanding and insight? Co-design processes now take many forms, from game-play, collective writing onto ‘sticky notes’, or via the use of Play-Doh to allow people to express their creativity and describe their imagined futures. These techniques are decidedly optimistic — imagining a brighter horizon, one with a new skate park, or a new drug and alcohol program, or an upgraded community centre. The projects LEVERAGE
are motivated by the perceived need to repair, fix or regenerate something in community. But is this optimism a fantasy? Crucial and foundational decisions are often made well in advance of the first piece of modeling clay being warmed in the hands of an eager participant. These ‘upstream’ decisions could include the building location, its functional requirements, operational model and program governance. And if/when a formal process of community consultation and co-design occurs, the ability of participants to genuinely be involved and to make meaningful and knowledgeable decisions is effectively constrained. What motivates funders and governments to implement a co-design process? Is it to simply refine and gain support for their own design and infrastructure formulations? The choice to even have such processes is often made without community involvement, and the design of the process done in such a way as to limit the opportunities, instead ‘focusing’ the attention of the
audience on a defined set of questions and parameters. Focusing on the ‘issues that matter’ to governments limits the possibilities for dialogue with community. Key community members are invited to participate in co-design workshops or ‘charrettes’ with limited preparation, resources or tools. The co-design framework has already been established to support the requirements of the funders or facilitators, but does little to promote community agency. Think again of the game pieces, the plasticine models, and the post-it notes that are collated and simplified until a ‘consensus’ is built by moving away from the complex, overlapping and messy contradictions of real life, towards an agreed and unified statement or vison depicted with pleasing arrows, bubbles and colours signifying future possibility. In this scenario the role of the facilitator is to ensure that ‘deliverables’ are achieved by meeting’s end. LEVERAGE
The words, scribbles, notes, complex and sometime ambiguous notions are all ‘distilled’ and ‘synthesised’ into a series of readily re-workable ideas. They are vague enough to ensure that any changes that will be required due to technical limitations or further design development will still be able to play back against the ‘co-designed community narrative’, creating the illusion that the voices of the community are embedded within the design. These methods can be fun and engaging, but they rely on culturally-specific signs and symbols to encourage participation. These tools - an ill fit when language difference and lived experience are considered — are designed to suit limited time frames and according to pre-arranged agendas. What they lack, above all, is uncertainty, ambiguity, inclusivity and possibility. Co-design, then, has become shorthand for gaining support for processes and projects that ultimately limit the scope of interaction and outcome. It is hard to
01 of 08 Akira Monaghan Architect, TheFulcrum.Agency thefulcrum.agency
Co-design is more closely aligned to bush mechanics — getting stuff done with the tools at hand, but with a level of preparedness, invention, and a willingness to re-configure to the situation. imagine a co-design workshop where the decision was made to abandon the project, or to proceed without the original proponent. We might liken this to a modern car engine where the owner and driver is only able to add water to the wipers and (perhaps) check the oil level. Everything else is shrouded in smooth grey plastic, obscured from view, unable to be understood or repaired except by technicians and experts. How can we re-imagine this process, one in which outcomes are not pre-determined, where the parties meet on equal footing, and in which the messiness of life is embraced? As designers, we have facilitated co-design processes that have sometimes failed to capture the complexities of people’s lives. Until recently we have been using the term ‘infrastructure literacy’ to try and describe better processes of engagement. But this, too, may be wanting. It suggests an ‘us’ and ‘them’ dynamic in which the designers dispense knowledge while community merely receives. What we wish to describe, instead, is a two-way learning process that aims to support community agency and expand the thinking of technical experts with local LEVERAGE
knowledge of people and place. This requires a new shared language to discuss infrastructure, one that vibrates between the technical and lived experience, but is neither one nor the other. Infrastructure literacy, described thus, might be this new language, and like any new language the aim is not necessarily fluency but rather communication and understanding. Critically, infrastructure literacy should enable co-design to be transparent, reciprocal and, utilise tools and speech that are both familiar and imaginative to all participants. Co-design in this sense is more closely aligned to bush mechanics — getting stuff done with the tools at hand, but with a level of preparedness, invention, and a willingness to re-configure to the situation at hand. A screwdriver, for example, might be used as a ground anchor for a ratchet strap to compress a coil spring. Francis Jupurrurla Kelly’s popular television series Bush Mechanics took fans on a wild ride through bush ingenuity, using limited tools, re-purposed to ensure the car kept moving and the band made it to the gig on time! Underpinning this ingenuity was the knowledge of how the car worked — the ‘bush mechanics’ knew what they could adapt and cut away while still allowing the car to drive. Without this literacy (the foundations of
mechanical knowledge), adaptation to the problem at hand could have been a fool’s undertaking. How can we expect participants in infrastructure co-design workshops to make decisions, or have meaningful inputs on matters if they are not aware of the impacts of their cuts and modifications? Rather than limiting co-design by a misguided notion that participants are not technically minded, the opportunity exists through ‘infrastructure literacy’ to generate a discussion over discovered compromises, celebrating the mess and blurriness of spaces and places containing real lives and lived changes, with facilitators having to adapt, learn new languages, rethink their expertise and widen their lens. This letting go and opening up to other modes of seeing the world around us is extraordinarily difficult for professional designers to do. We have been trained to see, write, draw and talk in a confident, though limited manner; taught through school, university and workplaces as if it is the ‘right, logical and objective’ process. And yet, there are other ways. Most recently we have started to explore the opportunities of ‘infrastructure literacy’ through what has come to be known as Critical Cartography or Counter-Mapping. _____ Critical Cartography As architects we are known for making buildings, yet when we talk about our work it is often the effects our buildings have (or we hope they have) that we lean on. We often conflate the building project with the community or client objective — strengthening family and community connections, or getting kids through school, or eliminating domestic LEVERAGE
My kids have a bath every day. The bath is in good working condition. The water is safe for drinking. The tap does not leak, and the wastewater is quickly drained away through working plumbing into a functioning sewerage system. Leverage brings to my mind the possibility of a process where a small input can have an output which is comparatively greater. In the context of bathing children, the input is a working tap, bath and drain. The output is the prevention of serious chronic illnesses, the likes of which are typically seen in conditions of poverty in underdeveloped countries. Unacceptably, we do find these preventable illnesses here, in remote communities where Aboriginal children develop conditions like rheumatic heart disease. Health Habitat’s No Survey Without Fix methodology is just one example of leveraging whereby housing inspections with same day repairs generate improved health outcomes.
Co-design in this sense is more closely aligned to bush mechanics â&#x20AC;&#x201D; getting stuff done with the tools at hand LEVERAGE
02 of 08 Dr Garnett Hall Veterinarian, Innovator & Entrepreneur Fremantle Animal Hospital freo.vet
It is instead a political act, an exercise of the power and agency of those who ‘make the map’, who are empowered to choose what to look at and what to ignore. violence, or fostering personal and collective well-being, or promoting political engagement, ending racism, creating livelihoods, or celebrating cultural diversity. These are challenging goals that do not so easily inhabit a building. It is difficult for urban designers, architects, and landscape architects to imagine their efforts leading to anything other than a liveable city, an iconic building or a sublime landscape. We hope, of course, that these objects are invested with the aspirations of cohesive, engaged, productive and inclusive communities. But the impacts of the built environment are only revealed over time and across generations. We are an impatient bunch who want to see results now, so we look instead to measures such as ‘fit for purpose’ as a way of assessing our efforts. But this term, with its basis in consumer protection, is also deficient if we believe the built environment is more than something to be consumed. The value of design is not found solely in the objects that comprise the built environment, but in the very techniques we use to create it. How we shape, for example, the processes of community engagement and their relevance to community members may have the more lasting impacts on city shaping, building making, LEVERAGE
and landscape creation. Critical Cartography (variously referred to as ‘Counter-Mapping’, ‘Radical,’ or ‘Alternative Cartography’, and ‘Community Mapping’) has developed over recent decades as a provocative response to traditional methodologies used to understand human geography. Critical Cartography starts with the notion that mapping as both a process and physical (or digital) outcome is not value-free. It is instead a political act, an exercise of the power and agency of those who ‘make the map’, who are empowered to choose what to look at and what to ignore. Think of gerrymandering in the United States as an extreme example of power exerted on, and through map-making. Or zoning maps that limit development to specific building types and sizes and fail to imagine alternative, fluid and more dynamic uses. By recognising this bias and by shifting agency from the ‘expert’ to the community, the more subtle contours of human geography are more fully revealed, and the progressive potential of mapping unlocked. Perhaps in this process we can come closer to engaging with Country, in a meaningful and complete manner _____ Mapping Infrastructure Literacy Critical Cartography has developed creative
alliances with arts practice, and it is at the intersection of surveying and art that a methodology of community engagement for designers of the built environment may emerge. Position Doubtful is the metaphor artist and author Kim Mahood uses in her memoir of the same name, to describe how white Australians have historically negotiated their way through remote Australia. Mahood’s book is a considered meditation on her own experience as an artist and a writer whose work is intimately woven with the lives of Aboriginal Australians living in the Western Desert. Her memoir’s subtitle, mapping landscapes and memories, foreshadows her integration of cartography and story-telling through art as a means of reaching a shared understanding of Country. Position Doubtful is also a fitting description for how designers might approach community collaborations around the built environment. It suggests a posture of humility and a willingness to entertain uncertainty over clarity, accepting that one’s own position may be misplaced, thereby making room for the place of others. From a position of doubt, Mahood suggests, a deeper understanding of Country and the connections between land, people, ecology and culture is possible. For the designer, the plan and map are fundamental tools for organising information. They are essential resources for establishing the principles of design thinking, and are therefore a natural place to explore engagement methodologies. The map typically delimits an area defined as the ‘site’. Once identified, the site is then analysed for solar access, prevailing winds, LEVERAGE
I am a bit of an optimist with a perpetual desire to achieve better outcomes for our planet, our community and my family. However, I am also enough of a realist to understand that humans are only equipped with a finite amount of strength, skill, and energy — thus creating a personal disparity between ‘lofty goals’ and ‘actual ability’. The concept of leverage is important to me because it describes the achievement of disproportionate outcomes from a finite amount of possible effort. It is more than simply finding the most ‘bang for your buck’; it is about applying your effort cleverly and using the social, political and physical environment to your advantage to achieve things that might otherwise be impossible. The concept can even be applied to improve situations outside of our typical sphere of influence. These opportunities can be unexpected and fleeting, so always be prepared to jump in!
Mapping Paruku, 2005
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Photo by Kim Mahood
Gemma Hohnen Architecture & Design Consultant
transportation links, pedestrian connections, environmental corridors, recreational nodes, development zones, heritage, and so forth. These elements are then inscribed on the map, establishing the constraints of design. The designer then exploits the gaps within these constraints to arrive at a design response. Within this analytical and linear process, there is a conceit of objectivity and rationality that lends veracity to the design, which itself assumes a truthful and logical relationship to the site analysis that has come before. The loop is neatly closed. In working with communities, however, these maps and plans when used as tools of community engagement often fail to resonate with the lived experience of the community members themselves. This is partly due to the content of the map with its circles and arrows, dashed lines and shadings whose meanings are clear to the designer but often opaque to the community whose lives may be obscured by the technical overlay. Critical Cartography suggests that embedded in the map’s folds and lines are competing agendas and geographies of power. A mapping of built heritage, for example, will describe the histories of some, but fail to acknowledge the lives of others whose stories may be hidden by a building’s ruins. Another reason these engagement tools may fail to recognise the diversity of community interest is in the techniques that are used to ostensibly elicit public participation. Shannon Mattern, in her critical review of community engagement methods used by Google subsidiary Skywalk Labs in their Smart City project in Toronto, argues that, ‘Participation is now deployed as part of a public performance wherein the aesthetics of collaboration signify democratic process, without always LEVERAGE
Leverage is situational, tactical and organic; there is uncertainty in the outcome. At its best leverage is that point used to shift outcomes for the better. Architectural skills can be applied across multiple fields and in a time when it has been challenging to find traditional practice work that is the right fit, it has made sense to explore other avenues, paths of less resistance built upon interests beyond designing an excellent building with a great team. Voluntary work is the perfect way to build upon and develop your skills beyond what an office might offer, meet new people in related fields and form alliances. My agenda has become clearer and within my means I am looking for opportunities to use my skills to push the message of the climate emergency. Sometimes leverage is the simple act of asking.
Cross-cultural map of UWA’s Crawley Campus Image by Kim Mahood in collaboration with UDLA
providing the real thing’ (Mattern, 2020). Mattern describes the kinds of ‘maps, models and games, noted above, that are used to evoke community feedback, but she questions their efficacy. She points, instead, to Critical Cartography as a way of framing co-design and community collaboration, citing, for example, Rhiannon Firth’s work in a South London community. Firth’s examination of the community centre’s map archive uncovered a rich collection of maps that she classified as geopolitical maps, collective walks and radical history trails, art maps, practical maps and immanent utopias, affective cartographies, and affinity maps. These maps describe resistance movements, LEVERAGE
fossil fuel supply chains, working class oral histories, locations of edible plants, alternative tourist destinations, and maps of friendships. ‘Critical cartography,’ Firth suggests, ‘thus provides alternatives to disembodied, abstract practices of dominant geographic knowledge through the perspective of embodied experience’ (Firth, 2014). The practice of community mapping through the technique of, for example, Transect Walks addresses this question of power and knowledge in planning and infrastructure development. A transect map is developed by literally walking through a community (sometimes over several hours, or even days) with a range of community members and technical experts, each observing,
commenting and recording on the map the infrastructure issues facing a community. These maps, like Firth’s community centre archive, are grounded in community knowledge, and offer clues to an engagement model that combines mapping with art. As Firth notes elsewhere, ‘maps need not be drawn on paper, nor need they be two-dimensional. Indigenous practices show possibilities for mapping such as textile pattern weaving, orally narrated storytelling and mythological maps, or maps that communicate using notches in sticks’ (Firth, 2015). _____ The Art of Co-Design In 2011 a group of CSIRO scientists, artists and Mulan community members came together at Paruku (Lake Gregory) in Walmajarri Country on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert to collaborate across scientific and cultural knowledge of Country. The record of that experience, Desert Lake, describes the challenges and successes of working collaboratively to map a shared understanding of place. Among those present was Kim Mahood who noted a key challenge: ‘We needed a means of recording both kinds of knowledge that didn’t compromise either. The template of a painted topographic map provided common ground, and could be read easily by both Aboriginal people and kartiya‘ (Morton, 2013). Conversations about the ecology of Paruku and its embedded cultural knowledge occurred over a map that was painted at a large scale on canvas by Walmajarri people, with enough accuracy to satisfy CSIRO’s scientific requirements while allowing for significant places and stories to be inscribed as well. Like the bush mechanic, the critical cartographer can adapt, remake, and re-use fragments of existing maps in creative and collaborative ways that tell stories LEVERAGE
Crampton, Jeremy, and John Krygier. 1. An Introduction to Critical Cartography. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 4 (1), 11-33. https://www.acme-journal.org/ index.php/acme/article/view/723
Firth, Rhiannon, Critical cartography as anarchist pedagogy? Ideas for praxis inspired by the 56a infoshop map archive, in Interface: a journal for and about social movements, Volume 6 (1): 156-184, May 2014.
Firth, Rhiannon, Critical Cartography. The Occupied Times, April 23 2015. https://theoccupiedtimes. org/?p=13771
Mahood, Kim, Position Doubtful: mapping landscapes and memories, Scribe Publications, Victoria, 2016. Mahood, Kim, Why The Martu Don’t Need A Map, in We Don’t Need A Map, exhibition catalogue, Fremantle Arts Centre, 2013.
of people and Country. These maps comfortably contain, side by side, technical detail and cultural knowledge, heritage and future possibility. There is an optimism to the urban designer, the architect and the landscape architect that is compelling. We seek to fix and to change, and our work is located in both the here and now and in the future. There is a utopian element to critical cartography as well, and what we have called ‘infrastructure literacy’. Kim Mahood reminds us, however, that, ‘what drives me is not a desire to help, to fix or change, but to understand something about my country’ (Mahood, 2016). As design professionals, if we were to simply start with an understanding of place, the more ambitious changes may follow edge and culture.
A Stills from Leverage (vimeo.com/486678748) Short Film by Giac Patroni Performed by CircusWA Poem by Le Corbusier As Dictated to Balkrishna Doshi
The acrobat is no puppet,
in which, in perpetual danger of death,
he performs extraordinary movements of infinite difficulty,
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with disciplined exactitude and precision â&#x20AC;Ś
free to break his neck and bones be
Nobody asks him to do this.
Nobody owes him any thanks.
He lives in the extraordinary world
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of the acrobats.
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Result: most certainly!
He does things which others cannot.
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THE FATIN TAPES
Words by Meri Fatin Illustration by Giullana Alarkon The Last Great Hunt are an ensemble of outrageously talented Western Australian theatre makers, responsible for creating some of the most thought-provoking new work in recent years. Their radical approach is visible on stage and in their company structure.
Gathering Hunters Meri Fatin spoke with Jeffrey Jay Fowler and SiĂ˘n Roberts in a conversation that encompasses friendship, funding and the re-thinking of live theatre to find opportunity in a postpandemic world.
Lé Nør Lé Nør is at its heart an ensemble romantic comedy … reminiscent of the sort of film you find late at night on SBS, a heavily subtitled cult favourite made in the Eighties with a Phil Collins heavy soundtrack. — Pelican Magazine, 2019 Photo: Daniel Grant
_____ Meri Fatin [00:00:33] I want to start by talking about the formation of The Last Great Hunt, particularly because it happened at a time when there was a gap to fill in the Perth theatre landscape. Perhaps you could tell a bit of that story, Jeffrey. _____ Jeffrey Jay Fowler [00:00:58] 2013, I had just come back to Perth. Katt Osborne was running the Duck House Theatre Company. Tim Watts was part of Weeping Spoon. I had Mythophobic. Chris Isaacs, Arielle Gray and Adriane Daff were working independently. We were all applying for grants and putting in a lot of effort trying to justify what we wanted to do artistically. Katt said if we all formed one ‘supergroup’ (laughs) so to speak, we might get the attention of
funding bodies. If we share our clout, we might make a big enough impact. _____ Meri Fatin [00:02:00] What did you weigh up as being the pros and cons of doing that? _____ Jeffrey Jay Fowler [00:02:04] I had nothing to lose by joining the company. There was no agreement that we couldn’t undertake work outside. I had just started at Black Swan and was exhausted from writing my own grants. I think I was frustrated with having to justify myself knowing that you write a grant and it goes to a panel of people you never find out about. You get very little feedback and you need to prove your idea before you’ve created the show.
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_____ Jeffrey Jay Fowler [00:04:44] For me, the formative moment was a meeting at Katt’s house, in the shed, sitting around trying to pick a name for the company. It took a really long time and we kept having meetings — it was very hard to come to a conclusion. And then the first project we ever worked on was a nightmare. All of us at once tried to work on a project before we had really finessed how we should collaborate. It was all in with no clear leader. We tried to look at Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey and create a play. It was exhausting and we hadn’t worked ourselves out yet. But I think the great thing is we scrunched it up, threw it in the bin and said — okay, next project! It wasn’t a bad idea to create a group,
So our idea was that if our reputations combined could get us annual funding we could reverse things. And that, I think, has been the very basis of what has made us different as a company. Also, we are six very different artists who can collaborate well with each other and with guest artists. That’s obviously part of the success of the company. I do believe it’s a model where we get an idea and work straight away while the idea is hot — rather than getting an idea, writing a grant, waiting nine months to find out if you were successful. By that time, you might not want to make that show anymore. _____ Meri Fatin [00:03:33] I’m really interested in hearing how you worked out how the company would function. LEVERAGE
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04 of 07 Pete Stone Creative Producer, City of Melville melvillecity.com.au
we just burnt the first pancake. _____ Meri Fatin [00:05:56] In the beginning The Hunters actually capitalised on your individual successes by performing some of the work that had already been developed. _____ Jeffrey Jay Fowler [00:06:04] We did. So, shows like Alvin Sputnik, It’s Dark Outside, Minnie and Mona Play Dead, probably a few others. _____ Siân Roberts [00:06:13] Bruce. _____ Jeffrey Jay Fowler [00:06:16] Bruce. These were all actually created before the (formation of the) company. Alvin Sputnik and It’s Dark Outside had pretty great touring records. So the moment that we became a company there were already a few shows to bring in. _____ Meri Fatin [00:06:41] When did you join Siân? _____ Siân Roberts [00:06:43] I joined in 2015. It’s my longest ever job. I remember everyone was applying for the same big grant. It was after Deckchair Theatre had gone under, where I was the marketing manager. I remember The Last Great Hunt got that grant and that was the first time that everyone was like, ‘oh, here we go’. I just thought they were so clever to pool resources. It was so smart to form a company. Then I went out of the arts sector into the not for profit sector and I kept seeing their shows, and watching their donor campaigns. I always thought the shows were very clever, you know, socially conscious, funny — you could see the intelligence behind the shows. And then I saw this job advertised as General Manager for The Last Great Hunt and I thought, ‘Imagine if I got that job!’ _____ Meri Fatin [00:09:20] Jeffrey, Since you were on that interview panel, what were you looking for when one of your original members who was really the linchpin needed to be replaced. What was important to you at the time?
Lé Nør Finding the words to describe Lé Nør is a very difficult task, it just needs to be seen to comprehend. I was left in awe, and I keep finding things to dwell on the more I think about it. This cannot be missed to all lovers of film or theatre, or just anyone looking to have their mind blown. — Out in Perth, 2019 Photo: Daniel Grant
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We all want to help if we can. We all want to be involved in a good idea, an exciting project. Over recent years I have produced some projects that were much bigger than me and the organisation I was working for. Projects like Perth Festival’s Highway to Hell and the City of Fremantle’s One Day in Fremantle. Ambitious projects rely on collaborations to succeed. The organiser needs to leverage action by gathering support strategically to create an undeniable momentum when moving from one stakeholder to the next, and creating relationships with individuals working for reluctant but necessary collaboration partners. A sense of belonging to a living collaboration and genuine attachment to a project beats all. Details can be worked out; attitudes need to be cared for. I have learnt to always look for, and never underestimate the good will in others. We all just want a chance to show it.
I just thought they were so clever to pool resources.
It was so smart to form a company.
05 of 08 Dr Maryam Gusheh Associate Professor Monash Art, Design & Architecture
It’s a real light bulb moment for them in conversation when I’ll explain there’s six of us and we work in all different configurations.
_____ Jeffrey Jay Fowler [00:09:34] Katt is an artist as well as a fantastic manager but the plan had always been that once we could afford it, we would hire a General Manager and let Katt be an artist like the rest of us. We wanted someone that would go on this crazy adventure with us, because the company felt clear to us but was very hard to explain to outsiders. We had a lot of people saying it’s a bad idea to have no artistic director; that there would be interpersonal conflict. We wanted someone that could come and accept the deal. I think it was quite hard for Siân at the beginning. It’s like dealing with a company where your artistic director is a Hydra. We wanted someone that would go on that journey with us, but who would also help build the company and have a vision for it. There’s a huge amount of work to manage and produce the amount of shows that we create, debut and tour. I mean some years have just been mental, all around the world, and so we wanted someone that we felt we could grow with and negotiate with and be inspired by. We were looking for a lot. _____ Meri Fatin [00:11:27] And Siân, when you got a sense of what the job would actually entail, how did you feel about it? _____ Siân Roberts [00:11:39] I remember looking at the specs and it was — you have to do everything, you have to have your own phone, your own computer, and we’ll pay you almost nothing. Kind of crazy, but I remember saying to you Jeffrey, it’s going to be a steep learning curve, but I reckon I can do it. It’s been the biggest challenge of my career and it’s still challenging every day. But I think that’s what keeps me interested and it’s why I’m still doing it. Those seven artists. Yeah. At first, they didn’t trust me. I knew it was a
long-game to show that I had the right intentions, that I could see the art, that I wasn’t trying to take control, that I didn’t want the limelight for myself. I understood the creative process and I understood the business side. And then I spent a lot of time helping the Board understand the creative side and helping the creatives understand the governance side. We did a lot of strategic planning work at the beginning and we lost a few Board members along the way. _____ Jeffrey Jay Fowler [00:13:41] It was becoming a much bigger commitment for them and a different company. We wanted a more active board that would really help us. We have plans to become a much bigger company than we are now. _____ Siân Roberts [00:13:57] Jeffrey’s right, a lot of people told us that it wouldn’t work. A lot. _____ Jeffrey Jay Fowler [00:14:13] You know that tone of voice and that lean forward … ‘Are there rifts? How’s it going? It must be tricky.’ They really wanted to see the cracks in the walls. People were sceptical because they’d had bad experiences of ‘rule by committee’ and didn’t believe it could work. _____ Siân Roberts [00:14:45] I was on board from the beginning. I was already kind of a fangirl and so I believed in it. I really did. I believed in the work and I believed in the artists ... so why can’t we do it our way? There were a lot of companies that went under and there were all these other companies that weren’t working the old way. We had nothing to lose by trying a different way. I came on board in October 2015 and Katt had put in all the work to get that three-year funding. I think she was still doing my handover when we found out that we
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had that funding and it was a huge celebration. A lot of people did tell us that it wouldn’t work, but it has. It takes longer to make decisions but there’s trust and I think the thing about The Hunters is that they’re all friends. They’re close friends, and have been for years. Some of them are going out with each other. Some of them have lived together as flatmates, some of them were students together. So, there’s a long history that we want to continue. And really the art is what it’s about. And I think that’s why we make it work. _____ Meri Fatin [00:17:01] Do you think the audiences have come to sense and be attracted to the cohesion between the artists as well? Have you ever thought about that? _____ Jeffrey Jay Fowler [00:17:32] I’ve thought about it. I don’t know. I think that our audiences come from all different places and angles and all different levels of knowledge about art. We certainly do have fans. That’s a thing. And then we have people that might see a few shows and not really have the full context. I’m sure some people enjoy it. I think on those big collaborative shows like Lé Nør, part of the meta narrative and the enjoyment of it is knowing that that’s everyone in the company working altogether. I think that is thrilling for people. Sometimes you talk to people about the company and they’ll have seen a few of the shows and it’s a real light bulb moment for them in conversation when I’ll explain there’s six of us and we work in all different configurations. They’re like, ‘Oh that’s why I saw New Owner and Fag/ Stag and was like whoa! This is a kid’s company who do puppetry. No wait. This is a very adult company.’ They understand it when you explain the company a bit more. Our art doesn’t have one genre, doesn’t have one brand. We don’t have any rules about the aesthetic of the company, and I think that can disarm people until they ‘get’ the ensemble.
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If I put this question to my parents, their response would be succinct and immediate; loud and clear: EDUCATION. For my Iranian parents, education is a ladder (lever?) to move (quickly) between cultures the classes, a medium for social contribution. Revolution → migration → resettlement. Education = Freedom. I think of leverage as OPTIMISM. Kind of like professional freedom but more fun! For me bubbles of optimism have come in collaborative contexts — working with people that I admire — working together to make something good. The levers easily found in academic institutions are like doorways to new projects with new people, openings here and there — all the time — but you have to carefully look for them. Between the human and the institutional, I have found opportunities to think about how we can live and work with architecture in pleasurable ways. This is why — and despite what sometimes feels like impenetrable bureaucracy — I have stayed.
I think when you’re doing something so ambitious, people embrace the faults in the work.
_____ Meri Fatin [00:19:14] Can we reminisce about Lé Nør for a little while? Was it meant to have another season this year? _____ Siân Roberts [00:19:26] Not this year. No. It’s been a different show to sell because while we do have quite a big touring history, that history is with less expensive shows. It’s a one hander. Lé Nør is ten people and a big set. It’s a different market — it’s a festival show. Who knows what would have happened but we’re looking to do some redevelopment of it next year if some funding comes through. It lends itself to live streaming because of the video elements so we want to do some work on it to see how we can do that. Tour it without physically touring. _____ Meri Fatin [00:20:41] What’s the feeling when Lé Nør is finished and you know you’ve delivered a really spectacular performance? What was the energy like? _____ Jeffrey Jay Fowler [00:21:52] It was incredibly satisfying. Incredibly fun just to be on stage doing silly things with people that you really like. The process was (laughs) nightmarish and full of thinking ‘this can’t work’ and feeling like the roof was caving in, which can happen in any company, in any production. The nervousness of putting a show up is intense, but after that first show we realised oh we can run this … audiences get it, they’re like, ‘It was the freshest breeze I’ve ever felt.’ And then the season just went so quickly. You’ve worked on something so hard — it was years of work culminating in a two-week season. _____ Meri Fatin [00:23:19] In the context of everything that The Last Great Hunt has ever produced, how would you describe Lé Nør?
You said it was the most stressful thing you’ve ever worked on … _____ Siân Roberts [00:23:29] Stressful but also gratifying because the thing about this company is that the way that we’re set up to fund creative development, you’re setting these creative minds free to do whatever they feel, whatever they want. And I don’t like to say no. People can do their stuff and if we see it could be something then we start bringing people in to have a look and that’s what happened with Lé Nør. _____ Meri Fatin [00:24:43] You’ve got to be mentally free enough to join in with something like that. _____ Siân Roberts [00:24:47] Yes, and have an open mind and be excited by things. When the going gets tough you’ve got to have some passion to fall back on. There was a point in Lé Nør where we had unconfirmed funding and I had to make the call to go ahead with a development period that was going to be very expensive — basically using company reserves — just hoping that the other money would come through. And luckily it did. But what Jeffrey is referring to is that the process was under-funded and didn’t have enough time. Premiering at Perth Festival with no previews. (to Jeffrey) Do you remember the first night was the opening night with the press there as well? I remember sitting there … my heart … as the producer you can’t do anything but keep your fingers crossed and hope that all goes fine. Two days before I’d seen a dress run and all the tech had failed, and it all needed to be rewired! Oh my God!
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_____ Meri Fatin [00:26:18] That’s an expressive sigh Jeffrey … _____ Jeffrey Jay Fowler [00:26:21] You have a nightmare as an actor that one day you’ll forget a line, or the show will fall apart and then it happens. And the show is Lé Nør, and the show just stops for 20 minutes and the tech is broken, and no one knows what’s gone wrong and people are on ladders and house lights are on and you stand there and go, ‘This is it’. This is the actor’s nightmare. What happens now? Do we just send this audience home? I think it happened on the second night and you just sit in it for 20 minutes and then the show goes on again and the lights go down and you’re back into performing and you think okay what? Where were we up to? What am I doing? What costume am I wearing? Okay here we go. And then it got to the end and the audience just gave the biggest LEVERAGE
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Set on the fictional island nation of Solset where water is rationed and rain seldom falls — the story tells a compelling tale of a group of misfits who share an apartment complex, and their lives become entwined in numerous ways. The looming threats of climate change brings an urgent tension to the tale … As a seamless piece of cinema plays out on the screen, actors and technicians are scurrying around the stage to make sure everyone is hitting their mark at dangerously precise intervals. — Perth Now, 2019 Photo: Daniel Grant
06 of 08
Filmmaking is at the forefront as you watch a faux foreign movie filmed live on stage, complete with behind the scenes cinematic techniques and surtitles for the invented hybrid language, with ancient Germanic origins spoken by all actors.
Geoffrey London Director, Design WA dplh.wa.gov.au/designwa
The Last Great Hunt already has a reputation for engaging and innovative works and Lé Nør only confirms the team is a theatrical force to be reckoned with. — Artshub.com.au, 2019 Photo: Daniel Grant
round of applause ever. Lé Nør was like facing your nightmare of being unprepared as an actor and realising everything’s okay at the end and actually people kind of love it even more. They were so on our side. It’s okay for theatre to not be perfect. And I think when you’re doing something so ambitious people embrace the faults in the work. _____ Siân Roberts [00:28:16] When I first joined, we were doing Blue Room shows where you make it right up to the last minute and you test it. Now we’re doing Perth Festival shows. We’ve got a new commission for this coming Perth Festival. They saw what we could achieve with Lé Nør and now they’ve given us more space and more time and more resources because they understand that that process needs time. And we’ve developed our artistic process over the last five years. I think we’ve improved it a lot. You don’t want to be too formulaic about things but trying, before we LEVERAGE
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premiere work or before we program it, to have an open showing where we bring outside eyes in and get some feedback. And then we leave ourselves enough time to make changes. Then we have a break, and then do another development period rather than making it right up to the last minute. _____ Jeffrey Jay Fowler [00:29:24] Showings aren’t just for us and for the work, they’re also for our followers who’ve become really involved in the works and want to see them at all different stages of development. By the time our audiences are seeing our work, the people close to us are really championing it and they know the journey we’ve been on to create it. I think that’s a really important part of our brand and our company and the experience we have as artists and the experience we offer to audience members who get close enough. _____ Meri Fatin [00:30:24] What does The Last Great Hunt’s strategy involve in terms of your focus on community and inclusion and creating a space for West Australian artists to remain and work in Western Australia? _____ Siân Roberts [00:30:56] This year when all of our work stopped, we realised that while we weren’t employing seventy people anymore, we could employ ten. We saw our friends lose all of their work; we saw Black Lives Matter stuff and we were able to have a hard look at ourselves and what we’re doing. I think everyone had an existential crisis in the arts. What are we doing? Are we actually making a difference? Why are we doing this? And so we’ve taken our strategic plan and we’ve turned it into a whole bunch of plans and strategies for employing independent artists, providing emerging artists a pathway to paid work, including more people in our development periods. Up until recently, we could only really pay for those six artists to develop work, so if anyone wanted to work with an external person, we maybe had one or two weeks-worth of funding. So, we’re working now to increase that funding and reach new audiences. _____ Jeffrey Jay Fowler [00:32:51] The next chapter has to be about us sharing. I’m thirty-four and we rode the last wave of really healthy funding. The year that I turned LEVERAGE
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‘Leverage’ is a word that I probably over-use but, when I do use it, I intend it to mean that more benefit can be gained from a situation than may first appear. Or, that the situation, design, or event, can be more than the single thing it was intended to be — that, while meeting the initial intention, it could also be enabling other possibilities. This meaning of leverage is a key aspect of what I understand professionalism to be, the use of skills and experience to create benefit not only for the commissioning client, but also for the broader public. In architecture, this usually translates to how a building may contribute to the public realm. But it can also mean convincing a client of the value of good design, of its potential to increase their return, while benefitting those using the project — in terms of level of amenity and also the delight in its use.
How can we find that sense of creativity and connection and audience and togetherness maybe without getting on a plane?
twenty-six was the year that the twenty-five and under category disappeared from the Department of Culture and the Arts. Then the year I turned thirty was the year that the Australia Council got rid of their thirty and under category. So, it was like we are riding a wave with the world collapsing behind us. The funding opportunities that were available to us before The Last Great Hunt have evaporated and now I see fantastically talented young people coming out of the Bachelor of Performing Arts, having nowhere near the amount of grants or money available to them that we did at that time. And also, you look at someone who might stand on the outside of the industry and watch some Last Great Hunt shows and think, ‘Wow, I wish I could do that! Oh, it’s impossible’, and walk away because we’re in a world that tells you that you have to do everything in your twenties or you can’t do it at all. Bizarrely. We want to provide an opportunity and a place for those people. We were so lucky. We were so lucky to be in Perth. It was smart to stay in Perth. We’re so lucky to get the grants we’ve got — the first time and then the second time. You know I often look at my life and just think this is just bizarre. Bizarre and so good. _____ Meri Fatin [00:34:54] You talked about how the touring program had been really hectic but is the strategy to take The Last Great Hunt out of Perth even more? _____ Jeffrey Jay Fowler [00:35:54] That’s even a conversation among the artists. Should we still be touring? Is it environmentally-friendly to be flying our shows around the world? One of the ideas for the next development of Bad Baby Jean is a show that can
be made live but digitally and served fresh to the Internet. Is this a format that we want to pursue more? Because actually there is something environmentally wrong about flying all around the world to perform shows live in a world that is so digitised. So how can we find that sense of creativity and connection and audience and togetherness maybe without getting on a plane? _____ Siân Roberts [00:36:32] The changes that we’re starting to make are not just about air travel but also accessibility. There’re so many good things that have come out of the digital work. It’s a lot of stuff we were thinking about already, but the pandemic has given us the time to really delve into it a bit more deeply. We were looking at our vision and mission the other day and it says something like, ‘Make work and take it around the world’, and we thought is that it? Or is it just about connecting with audiences wherever they are? What is live theatre? _____ Meri Fatin [00:40:37] You talked about people in the arts having a kind of existential crisis over what COVID has represented for all of us but if any group of creative people are going to come up with some kind of yet unimagined future it’s probably The Last Great Hunt. Thank you both so much.
Lé Nør Think early Eighties film clip. Overlapping images. Multiple perspectives viewed simultaneously — as if you were watching a film and watching its cast and crew creating the film at the same time. Throughout the production, director Tim Watts intrudes and comments on proceedings, sometimes seen by the characters, sometimes unobserved — part narrator, part psychopomp. If he ever turns up at one of your parties, run for the hills. The highest local hill you can find. — Artshub.com.au, 2019 Photo: Daniel Grant
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The Cast David Cain (Executive Director, Communicare) and Kieran Wong (Partner, TheFulcrum.Agency) are old friends who don’t need much of a prompt to chat! In a conversation that oscillates between unwieldy and profound, Dave and Kieran workshop politics, the state of social services and making an impact.
Kieran Wong = Underlined David Cain = Italic
There’s an interesting story that I heard about an architect who worked in Indigenous communities. After a while he realised that to make meaningful change he had to go into government to affect policy. He then realised he couldn’t affect the change he wanted there and went into the private sector. This way he could form an alliance with government and deliver greater change. He moved through these different structures to try and affect change and ultimately ended up back in architecture again.
I often wonder whether I am being useful …
You’ve gone through a few different steps on your journey in this space. Given your interest in politics, where do you think the most meaningful impact can be made?
Well, I think there are multiple areas in which we can have impact. I do think that it stands on the individual; I think it’s really important to engage people and encourage them to think and challenge their concerns. Not just think about them but to try and connect to them. To find ways we can cascade and amplify effect.
I also think itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s about looking at the global capacity of your organisation and your broader connections. How can you connect or advocate or amplify or agitate? But ultimately, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s about having a constellation of people that work together to achieve the things we need to achieve. And, having spent six years in government as part of my journey, you help to shape policy, you have an impact and you change things. But progressive, broadscale change in ways that are seminal, I think are sort of above and beyond all of us. I think that we need to be pushing and agitating for change in different ways and that work is incremental. A great example for me was the last federal election and the whole range of criticisms about the position that the Labor party put together. It was complex, it was poorly managed, but it was a comprehensive suite of reforms for Australia. And it was rejected. And so, I think it shows we have to be able to bring people along.
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I agree. I think one of the challenges is this idea of a progressive reformist agenda might underpin a lot of things people think about when they’re in their twenties and thirties and that the edges start coming off in their forties. Yeah, I read something the other day … this is an epiphany actually — sorry to cut you off — about research around the way people move through progressive to conservative views from 20 through to 50. For so many people it’s a trajectory.
It’s absolutely true. I actually think some of the nationalism that we see in Australia, some of the emerging or re-emerging of nationalist thought is around this trope. That people believe that their being born in Australia was a measure of their genius rather than a measure of their luck. And they get really belligerent around being Australian.
That’s right, yeah. You can sort of see that it happens. People get comfortable in their life and the status quo suits them.
Funny thing is, it’s just luck.
Yeah, they want to protect it.
In Australian politics we’re ending up with an inability for effect because no one will want to put forward a policy that has a kind of reformist proposition. Maybe the NDIS is the last thing that’ll ever happen in politics for a while?
They protect their resources and those kinds of things. Yeah, also in Australia, if you’re of a certain age like we are, which allowed us to get into the property market before it became insane, there’s a kind of metanarrative that says, ‘We’ve worked really hard to get here.’ Which discounts all of the changes in tax policy and the middle welfare handouts of the Nineties. A false sense of how what you’ve earned is created and the need to protect it.
I agree with you that there should be a tension in politics between the conservative and progressive perspectives. I wonder what the trajectory is for contemporary democracy, and the impact of that on the way in which providers of services or providers of infrastructure can plan for the future.
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For me it feels like there almost needs to be a kind of devolution of one of the strands of government to allow it to occur. A kind of a beefing up of the states and a diminution of the Commonwealth.
But our federated model has struck a balance where the federal government has the cash but not the service delivery infrastructure or the relationship with the community and the state government has the service delivery infrastructure and relationship with the community but not necessarily the cash. And there’s such a symbiotic relationship that just underpins our Federation. One of the things in Western Australia that’s been looked at is how we all start to tell a story about the impact that we’re having in the community sector? How does government and the sector look at collective impact? Is it around outreach to young people? Around mental health? Around children, the early years?
I had lunch with Michelle McKenzie from Shelter the other day and she was saying this interesting thing about COVID and the opportunity that it’s brought for a greater level of compassion. Suddenly there’s all these people realising that they’re about to interact with a (welfare) system they’ve never anticipated interacting with, and the sheer workload involved in interacting with a system that they’ve never dealt with. Maybe there’s an opportunity for empathy through this whole thing?
Well, you would hope that many more people have a much crisper understanding about the impact of JobSeeker, living on $40-a-day. It’s outrageous that we are comfortable with people living on $40-a-day. And to your point about this new empathy, I think part of that design-thinking that is needed is how do we support what will be lots of new people that need our help but not necessarily drag them into the system?
In (Con?)versation 54
Yeah, maybe in less confronting ways.
Less confronting ways, yeah.
Okay, so I think that’s all pretty good. I don’t know if you want to just say something about what you think your impact ... for you, what’s the kind of personal driver of why you do what you do? Beyond the kind of beach house and the ...
My personal driver, I guess, is around the innate vulnerabilities of children. I really have a connection to the safety and well-being of children. I mean, the findings from the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse were just breathtaking in their sadness and how we’ve failed, really failed, a whole generation of children.
Yeah. Well, they are two pretty good things to drive you. Okay. That’s great. Thanks Dave.
That drives me. And again, now through our stewardship of the White Ribbon Australia campaign, focusing on reducing family and domestic violence as well. I think it’s a major issue that impacts so many families, impacts our community, and impacts our country.
Providing the support in their community, I guess, in different ways.
In (Con?)versation 55
Good luck with that.
Colour Words by Rebecca Baumann Images by Zan Wimberley
Shift We wish weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d been in Sydney to experience Rebecca Baumannâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s immersive exhibition: Radiant Flux in the flesh, but these images go a long way in capturing the transformative nature of this work. In a short essay, Rebecca has taken the time to reflect on her installation at Carriageworks in relation to the overarching theme of Leverage.
I have felt like I have created a stage — or an invitation for the audience, who can use it as they wish. For Radiant Flux I covered every glass surface of the Carriageworks exterior and skylights in dichroic film, a dynamic material that shifts colour when viewed from different angles and transmits the opposite chromatic spectrum to what it reflects. The result is an immersion into a kaleidoscopic world of colour and light that responds continuously to the environmental conditions around it. I was interested in working immaterially with light and colour as a way to affect the viewer’s relationship to the building — which still has the raw, industrial feel of its history but transforms it into a cathedral like space.
When thinking of how the word leverage’ might relate to my art practice, I did the rather unimaginative thing and consulted a dictionary. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines leverage as, ‘the power to direct the thinking or behaviour of others usually indirectly’. This definition piqued my interest when thinking about the way I have approached making work in recent years, and in my most recent installation Radiant Flux.
I started working as a professional artist in 2007, and in the early years I made kinetic objects — I was interested in motion, creating works with inherent change, that would be different for each viewer. In my more recent practice I’ve expanded beyond objects, to experiential and immersive installations which consider light, space, and architecture. I’ve been thinking more about exhibition making, considering how the audience moves through an environment, and how you can affect that interaction through different spatial interventions.
Ten large skylights create lightwells which move across the space throughout the day. I was not interested in dictating how the work might be responded to per se, but when the sunlight streams down the walls and spills coloured light onto the floor in the foyer, I have felt like I have created a stage — or an invitation for the audience, who can use it as they wish. During the time Radiant Flux has been open, visitors to the space have been seen dancing in the lightwells or using them as hopscotch squares for example. An encounter with Radiant Flux will never be the same twice. I liked to think of the building as an entity, and it’s fluctuating nature would aim to direct the audience to be more cognisant of the change which is happening all around them, all the time. To be more present in the ever-changing moment.
In my most recent work Radiant Flux, I was commissioned to make a light based installation for the 100-metre foyer space at Carriageworks in Sydney. The Carriageworks were built between 1880 and 1889 as part of the Eveleigh Railway Workshops, and the site was redeveloped as a cultural precinct in 2007. The commission was a huge opportunity to work within this beautiful late-Victorian industrial building, with its ornate brickwork, steel trussing and cast iron columns.
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hat an dt
n o i t i s o p s ’ sun
colo urs t
_____ Emma-Kate Wilson on Radiant Flux, Hunter & Folk, 2020
the mes er beco rm rfo pe as it shift s
07 of 08 Pippa Hurst Chair, DesignFreo designfreo.org
‘I liked to think of the building as an entity, and it’s fluctuating nature would aim to direct the audience to be more cognisant of the change which is happening all around them, all the time.’ _____ Rebecca Bauman on Radiant Flux, 2020
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Leverage is putting weight behind something to make a change, using minimum effort for maximum effect. For me it means asking how I can most effectively use the skills and connections I have to make a difference. That was the impetus for DesignFreo. I love design, I love my town and I care about its future. How do we harness design to make the place we live better, now and for those that will come after us? I leveraged my connections to seek out like-minded local designers and creative industry professionals and we’ve come together to make design more visible and accessible. I see my role as connecting people to amplify impact. The more people leaning on the spade, the greater the leverage. And when we all lean in together at the same time to achieve a common goal, we leverage the power of community. It’s a double-leverage. *Completely coincidentally, I came across Donella Meadow’s essay Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System, which describes the most and least effective types of interventions in a system (of any kind). Enlightening — Google it!
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Words by Paul Iskov
A Taste of Home
One of our good friends, Neville Poelina and his daughter Angelina sitting down for dinner after taking us foraging to collect produce around Broome. Photo by Todd Delfs, LVF Visuals
Fervor describe themselves as a ‘culinary experience’, committed to raising the profile of native ingredients whilst building community and cultural knowledge in WA’s regions. Founder, Paul Iskov, takes us on a photographic journey through their exquisite and unique dining experiences.
Paul foraging with Mary Aiken in the Fitzroy Crossing region. Photo by Todd Delfs, LVF Visuals
After travelling across the world working in some of the world’s best restaurants, many of whom were using produce native to their regions, I started wondering why there wasn’t more Australian produce used in restaurants here. Surely there had to be something other than lemon myrtle and pepperberry?
I returned home at the end of 2012, inspired. I found many ingredients that I’d never heard of or tasted. More importantly, I discovered this incredible culture that goes hand-in-hand with the food.
On tour, trying to get the generator started.
Dinner on the Mud Flats, Karratha Photo by Todd Delfs, LVF Visuals
Photo by Todd Delfs, LVF Visuals
In March 2013, our very first event was held, and Fervor was established as a roaming restaurant to explore, learn and share what we have discovered with others.
Some guests travel from afar and some guests are from five minutes down the road. Foodies, farmers and families are all part of the diverse group that join us at each dinner. When we first started out, we had an old Triton ute, which we were told wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t go very far. It kept going for years, even after we upgraded it! Today we have Trev the Truck who takes us where we need to be.
Wednesday Dinner, Karajini National Park Photo by Todd Delfs, LVF Visuals
Dinner in Dalwallinu Photo by Mick SIppe Photography
PAUL’S MACADAMIA WITH YOULK 4 tsp lemon myrtle emulsion Method 1 Pre heat oven to 180oC. Prep/cook 40 mins Serves 4 as an entrée
2 Chop 50 g of the macadamia nuts and roast in the oven at 180oC for 6-8 minutes or until just golden brown. Set aside.
Ingredients 400 g macadamia nuts 250 ml filtered water 1 tsp lemon myrtle oil
Youlk, also known as Ravensthorpe radish, is an edible bushfood root. Naturally occurring You can find it growing across Ravensthorpe, Newdegate and Jerramungup in Western Australia.
1 small youlk or white radish 500 ml grape seed or vegetable oil for frying 2 bunches sea celery (or parsley)
3 In a food processor, pulse 200 g of the macadamia nuts until they’re the consistency of couscous. Don’t over puree or the nuts will turn to a paste. Set aside. 4 Using a jug blender, process 120 g of the macadamia nuts with the water for 2 minutes to form a macadamia nut milk. 5 Strain macadamia nut milk through a muslin cloth or into a bowl or pot. Add the
Possums, like most of the other smaller animals, were cooked whole. They were roasted on the hot coals, or were covered with hot ashes. Before being cooked, however, the intestines were taken out, and the fur plucked off and stuffed into the stomach which was then pinned together with a stick. When the possum was cooked the fur, which had been stuffed into it, was removed and sucked to obtain the juices it had soaked up. Knight (1886) states that before it was cooked, the thigh bones of the possum were invariably bent back and broken, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;this being a superstitious observance which is never neglectedâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;.
Natural In gredients Words by Sara J. Meagher
Extracted from The Food Resources of the Aborigines of the South-West of Western Australia, a comprehensive overview by Sara Meagher written in 1975, these words remind us how lucky we are to have shifted from a position of observation to one of participation as our understanding of First Nations cultural and culinary practice has grown.
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Haemodorum paniculatum. The tuberous root of this plant, known as mutta, has a hot taste when eaten raw. It was usually roasted in the ashes before being eaten.
Astroloma serratifolium. The small green berries of this plant, known as murrumburru, were eaten by the Aborigines.
Amyema fitzgeraldii. This plant, which is a parasite, grows on the jam tree. The Aboriginal name was not known and it was referred to as â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;mistletoeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. The berries were eaten by the Aborigines.
Photo: Kevin Thiele
Photo: Kevin Thiele
Photo: Kevin Thiele
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Birds’ eggs were taken and eaten. Nind (1831) says that:
Grey (1841) described how water fowl in general were either speared or caught with a noose, but, apart from the black swan, there are no references to species by name.
‘At the spring time of the year, they live principally upon the eggs and young of birds, chiefly of the parrot tribe, but also of hawks, ducks, swans, pigeons, etc.’
The black swan (Cygnus atratus) is abundant in the South-West and is particularly common in inlets and estuaries such as Peel Inlet, Leschenault Estuary, Augusta, Wilson Inlet, Pallinup, and Bremer Bay estuary where large flocks occur. It was easily taken by the Aborigines when it was moulting, and large numbers of both young and old birds and eggs were also taken when it was nesting.
When eggs were cooked they were placed on end in moderately hot ashes. A small hole was pierced in the upper end to prevent them from bursting. Photo: Wagner Souza e Silva
According to my informant Doust, water fowl were cooked by first being covered with mud, placed in a hole, and then covered with ashes, where they were left for several hours. When the baked mud was cracked open the feathers came away in the mud leaving the body clean. Chauncy (1878) noted that this method of cooking large birds was also used in other parts of Australia. Hammond (1933) however, says that large birds were always cut up before being cooked. Grey (1841) says that birds were plucked before being cooked but Hammond says that the feathers were wetted and then burnt off.
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Marmalade Lane by Mole Architects. Cambridge’s first co-housing community.
Words by Sara J. Meagher Images by David Butler
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Architect and historian, Flora Samuel is internationally respected for her work uniting the principles of social impact with the built environment. We practically leapt for joy when she agreed to share her thoughts on ‘building back better’ in a post-COVID world.
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08 of 08 Shane Hamilton CEO, Evolve FM evolvefm.com.au
I think most people set out to do their best at whatever field they choose. They build knowledge over time and then leverage their skills further. In many ways this is how my own career has evolved over my 37 years of working life. I started out as an Apprentice Fitter and Turner, I’m now the CEO of an Indigenous Facilities Management company and in between I have worked in Corrections and Housing. In each change, I have leveraged my skills and experience and utilised them in the area I found myself in. As a proud Wakka Wakka/ Bunjalung man, I know that leverage is what has enabled me to survive and thrive in an ever-changing world. We as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people know this only too well; we have been doing it for thousands of years.
Marmalade Lane by Mole Architects. Cambridge’s first co-housing community.
s the UK government struggles with the second wave of COVID local and city authorities are developing plans for recovery. These are set to dominate the agenda for several years and practices are starting to shed staff while second guessing how to position themselves for the new situation. Plans and strategies to address Climate Change, inequality and good growth will now have to be looked at through the lens of COVID. During this time, we have also experienced remarkable stories that speak of an emergent paradigm of collaboration, care and social value. It is really important to keep these fresh in our memories as we co-create the new normal. Without wishing to descend into hyperbolae it feels
like we really are on a knife edge between ‘building back better’ and a future too grim to contemplate. As part of a larger project by the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence on the impact of COVID, I’ve been interviewing policy makers, local authorities, providers of social housing, charities and developers to find out what they believe will be the key issues and opportunities for homes and neighbourhoods going forward. I’ve summarised a few points below: _____ The pandemic offers an opportunity to build back better both for resilience and to address the Climate Change Emergency. _____ Planning policy and local authorities that focus on wellbeing and placemaking are more resilient to events such as the pandemic. Similarly, organisations with flexible working arrangements have been more resilient. _____ Resilience starts with the home, its design and its context. Flexible space is needed in all homes as they increasingly become places of work. All homes should have
access to balconies, daylight and broadband. _____ There is a need for a statutory requirement to mandate adequate levels of green and amenity space based on metrics. _____ Community spaces need to be protected and enhanced. They play a major role in volunteering efforts and in reducing social isolation. These could be expanded to include a healthcare role (for example for the homeless). _____ The pandemic offers an opportunity to rethink density and the way people move around their neighbourhoods. Travel and health need to be seen as an integrated agenda. _____ The centralisation of services needs to be reconsidered, with better dispersion of jobs across the UK, including rural areas, facilitated by digital communication. _____ The use of local services and materials needs to be encouraged at every level, especially public procurement and in the choreography of our high streets. This includes local construction companies who need support and investment as they are best positioned to deliver new homes to their communities. _____ New administrative groupings are needed in government and LEVERAGE
I think what we are seeking now as First Nations peoples is the coming together of black and white to leverage our combined knowledges. To celebrate our uniqueness in the world as the oldest living culture on earth. First Nations people have held out our hands since 1788 and now it’s time to grab hold. Flora
Paintworks, Bristol by Verve Properties. The regeneration of a mixed use district with community at its heart. Photo by Evoke Pictures
local authorities to ensure a joined up strategy across the health, social care and planning agendas. _____ Advanced budgetary planning is needed for emergencies, enabling national governments and local authorities to act responsibly and efficiently without concerns about who will pay. _____ Changes to the planning system to accelerate economic growth have been shown not to work. Planning is too important to be done hastily. Given the likelihood of a recession great care needs to be taken with the use of scant resources. It is worth noting that each of the countries in the UK have very different planning systems. Over the last few years Wales has been busy putting together ‘place based’ policy that puts the ‘Wellbeing of Future Generations’ at its core. Community resilience is so central to Welsh Government thinking that their documents keep their relevance even in the current pandemic situation. In contrast the English government is, as a knee jerk reaction, consulting on streamlining the planning system
to kickstart economic growth. Yet many of the people I interviewed observed that this had been tried after the financial crash of 2008 and hadn’t worked. Planning is way too important to be done in haste, although as Hal Pawson at the University of New South Wales has observed, if the Australian government wants to stimulate the economy this should be done through accelerating the delivery of social and affordable housing. Unfortunately it seems like the national government is looking to the private sector to do the investing. I’ve also been bringing together some of the research, stories and initiatives that have taken place during the pandemic in terms of the built environment, in particular housing and neighbourhoods. So much fascinating ephemera has emerged which may feel like a distant memory very soon. Clever practices are capturing the positive impact of their architecture during this time. See for example Stride Treglown’s interviews with residents at Paintworks Bristol. Others are undertaking Post Occupation Evaluation (POE) housing projects to
Crucially we need solutions that can connect what communities want with ‘the designer’s pen’.
develop evidence of the benefits of good design for residents during the pandemic. The Social Value Toolkit for Architecture, published in July by the RIBA, offers a set of useful POE questions for architects who want to chart the social value of their projects. The SVT is being further tested by developers such as TOWN on their CoHousing scheme Marmalade Lane in Cambridge and by researchers such as Mhairi McVicar at Cardiff University who is using it to chart the impact of the Grangetown Pavilion, a community hub developed in close collaboration with locals. In Australia, I am developing a funding bid with colleagues at the University of South Australia to develop a version building on the Social Impact Measurement Australia and the Australian Social Value Bank which focuses on wellbeing, and other contributions of the built environment rather than the current focus on the delivery of services. POE is important, not only for practice learning, but also to be able to use evidence from past projects when pitching for work. It can also be used in the development of research specialisms — there is likely to be quite a bit of funding coming through for research on the impact of COVID for some time. Our recently published special edition of Architectural Design on Social Value in Architecture offers a range of methods for capturing social value as well as a critique. How homes might change has been subject to much speculation. See for example Kirsty Volz’s observations on open plan living on the Parlour website. ‘There are lots of ideas about the future, but as usual less evidence,’ writes Dinah Bornat of ZCD Architects who has initiated a Mass Observation project asking people to capture the view from their windows during lock-down.
Another example of a practice-based survey, this time on the impacts of home working, is by Ben Channon at Assael Architecture. Not only are these practices gathering important data, they are rightfully consolidating their place as research leaders in the field. It is possible to upload your own examples of the way in which the built environment has been adapted for COVID on the Tactical Space website. This is interesting because it seems to be a collaboration between built environment professionals and digital designers. I am very pleased to see more evidence of architects working with web and App designers as the creation of online tools and services has to be central to architects ‘earning while sleeping’ in the future. Others have focused in on the way in which the profession has been adapting to its new circumstances. In response to a barrage of questions from architectural clients on how best to work at a distance PropTech startup Weaver, has undertaken a survey of 190 UK architects on the ‘remote studio’ and has revealed that ‘hyper-accelerated digital transformation is leading to unexpected design innovations, cost efficiencies, and more collaborative relationships with clients’. Crucially we need solutions that can connect what communities want with ‘the designer’s pen’, a kind of on-going, non-stop community feedback loop. This is our aspiration with the research project Community Consultation for Quality of Life (currently under consideration by funders). Digital mapping is also at the heart of our collaboration with Stantec on the Building Better Places Toolkit that seeks to build social value into the world of land acquisition, the origin of most of the problems with the built environment, in my experience.
Next, Issue 03 Commune Due September 2021
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TheFulcrum.Agency is an architectural consultancy that leverages community and social outcomes through evidencebased design thinking. TheFulcrum.Agency works across Australia and is born from decades in practice. thefulcrum.agency