Art & Change in Portugal & Australia

Ai Wei Wei Law of the Journey jpg

Ai Wei Wei’s Law of the Journey, Cockatoo Island, Sydney Biennale 2018

April  – June have been busy months and I did not stop to update my blog between moving house and travelling. I ended the month of April with a week in Portugal for the IETM international arts managers and producers meeting in Porto. I made a quick visit to Lisbon to see old friends that I made when I lived and worked in Lisbon during the summer of 2014. It seems the city has changed a lot in the 4 years I have not been there. Gentrification, tourism, airbnb, and corporate developments mean that many Portuguese people and the elderly have been driven out of their homes in central areas to the periphery, as the city becomes too expensive for locals. The same appears to be true of Porto.

I am attending the conference with a group of Black and Minority Ethnic and disabled artists and producers from the UK. We have been funded by the British Council to participate. Its a rewarding experience to meet the group and listen to the discussions, as well as contributing. A session on decolonising art in museums catches my attention but covers a lot of ground that I am used to. There is some debate on how venues can handle conflict of interest and opinions in the public arena, which I think is tricky as we also need to consider safety of our venues, artists and producers. Freedom from censorship comes at a cost but no censorship is riddled with problems too. Its complex. I am one of two people of colour at a session on art and climate change. I put diversity on the table and share my research and explain how a range of narratives and storytellers are required to reach a diverse broad audience on these critical issues. At the moment the dominant narratives in the West appear to be by white middle class people, so this needs to change. If I had not been present this would not have been discussed. There were numerous occasions where the needs of specific people in our group were not being met, access to some events and toilets were sometimes on the third or fourth floor with not lift access. Yes we cannot knock down and restructure old buildings overnight, but we need to be thinking about the access needs of everyone. It was important to have representation of a diverse range of people at the meeting, not just for our interests but for the benefit of the entire delegation.


In May I returned to Australia for 3 weeks, a country I have not visited for 7 years. As well as catching up with old friends I took in the Sydney Biennale to see some great pieces of work. I was particularly impressed by Ai Wei Wei’s Law of the Journey on Cockatoo Island exploring human nature and the impact of forced migration. I was also a guest on ABC Radio Australia’s Pacific Mornings show to talk about my work, and shared my knowledge about human security, climate change, spirituality and race relations in the UK, how and why this is important in Australia. It is important that there are a range of voices and faces on air and in the media talking about climate change to appeal to a range of people and explore different perspectives, as at the moment dominant narratives are coming from white middle class people and this needs to change if we are going to tackle the crisis for the benefit of global south, as well as the north.


ABC Radio Australia, Sydney, May 2018


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