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10 Australian Creatives Revolutionising Art Thanks To COVID-19

Merinda Davies, Imprints, 2020, performance installation. Photography: Marc Pricop. Commissioned by the IMA for Making Art Work.

Support Australian artists all from the comfort of your own home!

The Australian arts industry has been one of the hardest hit sectors this year thanks to COVID-19. By mid-March all imminent Australian shows were cancelled with no hopes of reopening, leaving all kinds of artists, performers and support staff completely in the lurch.

Somewhat ironically, when we are trapped in our own homes it is the arts that we turn to – whether that be music and TV shows to novels and pre-recorded performances. This  was evident through some of the many virtual events hosted across Australia including the ANZAC Day special, Music From The Homefront event, which saw 815,000 watchers tune in to see acts like Tones & I, Crowded House and Paul Kelly broadcast a set from their own home or studio. Mass gatherings like the usual ANZAC Day parades were cancelled, so we instead found a sense of shared identity through music. An unforgettable performance from Birds of Tokyo had members of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra chiming in through individual digital links.

In April that performance ranked as one of most creative group video chats, but these days more and more innovative artists are adapting to this new way of life and appearing in online mediums. As the pandemic draws on, the creative sector has been forced to re-evaluate how the industry can survive and how people can still enjoy the much needed relief that the creative arts industry provides.

Large and small, all kinds of Australian creatives from artists, musicians, dancers, comedians, theatre-makers and writers have been forced to get even more creative to keep their practices alive and to help us feel connected in this new socially-distanced world.

So, to help you get some inspiration or tune into some exciting virtual events, we’ve found 10 Australian creatives who are revolutionising their work for the better thanks to COVID-19:

Common People Dance Project
Image supplied by Common People Dance Project.

Common People Dance Project

Common People Dance Project premiered at the Brisbane Festival this year with an innovative approach to dancing in the age of COVID-19: four-square-metres per person for a socially-distanced dance club. Dancers of all ages and abilities came to boogie and shimmy along for some much needed fun and physical activity. From the creators behind The Living Room Dance Party, an online dance party where everyone from your housemate to your cat and grandma are welcome; The Common People Dance Project classes are released online and participants send in videos of themselves dancing at home, to then be edited together into a fun-filled dance collaboration.

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Imprints by Merinda Davies
Merinda Davies, Imprints, 2020. Photographed by Marc
Pricop. Commissioned by the IMA for Making Art Work.
Image supplied.

Imprints by Merinda Davies

Isn’t it ironic that when we most need a hug to get us through, it’s harder than ever to get one? Performance and installation artist Merinda Davies is using her work to explore what human touch means in the new, COVID-19 world. While a casual touch to the arm or hugs from loved ones might have meant affection and connection before, now these things can mean passing on potentially lethal germs. Part of the series Making Art Work that is commissioned by the Institute of Modern Art in Brisbane, Merinda’s installation Imprints involves offering a hug to those who need it, whilst wearing full protection gear. If you’re a Brisbane local, you can check out Merinda’s Imprints performance on Saturday 17 October.

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Love in the time of COVID-19
Image supplied by GAGPROJECTS, Adelaide.

Love in the time of COVID-19

Love in the time of COVID-19 is an international online collection put together by South Australian gallerist Paul Greenaway of GAG Projects. This year has been tough in no uncertain terms, from the ever-present threat of the virus itself, to the associated pressures of economic strife, social isolation and rising mental health issues. Love in the time of COVID-19 is a moving collection of artists’ responses to the challenges this year has thrown at us all. It engages with the unknown, and explores some of the things we have learned about ourselves in lockdown. The exhibition began as a mail-order service with Greenway sending out prints every day, but you can now view the full collection online.

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Keep Your Distance by Rhett D’Costa
Rhett D’Costa Outside, 2020. From RDC Archive 2020.
Image supplied.

Keep Your Distance by Rhett D’Costa

As part of the RMIT Gallery’s exhibition The New (Ab)normal, India-born Australian artist Rhett D’Costa submitted his eerie photo of the post-COVID world, Keep your Distance. The artist describes his work as a combination of artificial and natural, ominous and beautiful. He said it is “A sign of our times, asking us to ‘keep our distance’ as a way to stay safe and healthy, while instinctively the human condition longs for closeness.” The full gallery is available online until the Friday 16 October 2020, so you can check out D’Costa’s work and other pieces turning our expectation upside down in 2020 for a little while longer.

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Looking Out My Kitchen Window by Cordelia Tam
Cordelia Tam, Looking Out My Kitchen Window #1, 2020.
Image supplied.

Looking Out My Kitchen Window by Cordelia Tam

Cordelia Tam’s Looking Out My Kitchen Window is another inspiring work from the RMIT Gallery’s exhibition The New (Ab)normal which draws attention to some of the changes we have all made thanks to the pandemic. Tam was forced to work from home this year as she could not access her studio, creating her office paper sculptures in her own apartment. The artist says her work is inspired by the Taoist notion of “wu wei” and the harmony of human and nature, noting the way her sculptures of paper rocks and mountains contrast with the modern high rise buildings in the background. Check out the rest of Tam’s pieces and the full gallery exhibition online until Friday 16 October.

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Isol-Aid Festival
Image supplied.

Isol-Aid Festival

The loss of touring and live performance income has caused a great strain on the Australian music community, but the show must go on! Doing exactly that, the Isol-Aid Festival was created just after the COVID-19 pandemic reached Australia, when it became clear that the music industry was about to sustain a massive impact from cancelling shows and tours. Every weekend Isol-Aid configures a stellar line-up of local musicians such as Gordi, Elsie Lange and Emily Ulman to name a few. Tune in for free via Instagram or check out Isol-Aid for a list of acts and times and info on how to support the artists.

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Poetry From Melbourne Poet Laureates
Photographed by GNT Studio. Image via Shutterstock.

Poetry From Melbourne Poet Laureates

Each Saturday for the rest of the year, the Poet Laureates of Melbourne will be reflecting on the here and now, the past and future, the global and distant, to deliver a poem directly to your inbox. This has been an unprecedented year, so artists have been documenting it the only way they know how; through their art. Tap into a creative exploration of these times through words with a free subscription. Follow the link below to find out more and gain access to some of the best writing from The City of Literature.

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Serious Comedy
Photographed by Mix and Match Media. Image via Shutterstock.

Serious Comedy

Well it’s better to laugh than to cry, right? The Melbourne International Comedy Gala went online this year, and while there has been countless shows, there’s still lots of laughs to be had while socially distancing. Serious Comedy is an Australian organisation bringing the lockdown laughs. Shows are being run on a ‘pay what you can’ model, so Australians hit hard by the economic impacts of COVID-19 won’t miss out on a giggle with these great performers. Purchase a ticket to any of their upcoming shows through their website, then kick back and relax while you watch live comedy on Zoom.

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Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Photographed by Stokkete. Image via Shutterstock.

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Concert halls are still shut in many parts of Australia, and in others it’s simply too difficult in terms of social distancing. The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra were forced to cancel all of their 2020 shows, but if you’re ready to tap into your inner Beethoven, you can still catch one of their astonishing full length performances over on YouTube. Whether you’re an orchestra fan or it’s your first time, this is a great opportunity to see what all of the fuss is about. 2020 has been the year to start a new (indoor) hobby, so maybe this unprecedented access to live music could spark your inner Chopin or Tchaikovsky.

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Sydney Theatre Company Virtual
Photographed by Anna Jurkovska. Image via Shutterstock.

Sydney Theatre Company Virtual

Remember when everyone was going crazy that the Broadway musical Hamilton was being released on Disney+? If there is a theatre-shaped hole in your heart, the Sydney Theatre Company is broadcasting an online video series to help. You can watch Tim Minchin perform a scene from Hamlet, Mia Wasikowska read from Lord of the Flies and many more. On top of that, Sydney Theatre Company are also hosting live play readings so you can get as close to the action as possible without even leaving home.

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Looking to support more Australian artists? Start by reading through the 10 Australian authors to keep on your 2020 reading list. Or, for something more hands-on, release your inner creative with these Australian delivered hobby subscription boxes for adults.

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