Metro Arts, Brisbane’s artistic hub and Matilda Award winning venue for all things arty, darling, are hosting their fifth annual FreeRange program.  This creative development love-in is already in full swing, taking over not only Metro Arts, but alleyways, theatres and strange public places to showcase the ins, outs and multi dimensional musings of local artists. 

Of course where there’s far-out Brisbane art-makers there’s usually Dan Evans, who recently wrote to Australian Stage's Tessa Leon to shed some dazzling light on FreeRange 2010’s processes.

Dan EvansFreeRange says it’s about encouraging artists on their way through the swampy netherworlds of conceptual development.  So do tell, what’s really going on up that long white staircase?
You know you never REALLY can tell. Those swampy netherworlds can’t be charted with a Prius and a Navman – oh no. And on foot they’re just dangerous. Only the bravest – the cleverest – of artists dare step foot into Conceptual Development. But what a landscape to explore! The things to be witnessed in this juicy (and far-flung) space are not for the weak of heart.

What isn’t happening here is more to the point! This year – behind closed doors – we’re developing everything from puppetry to symphonies, traditional narrative to contemporary performance, dead cargo to elephant guns, short-lived confectionary exhibitions to furious angels. It’s all sealed behind closed doors (for your protection, obviously).

This process is not often celebrated in such a pressure-free, open-slather environment, why is it so necessary? And what effects would you say it has on the frisky Brisbane arts scene?
Good question! I remember this one time I was travelling through Sudan on a the back of a camel with just my wits and a squash racquet for protection. BUT the highlight of that trip wasn’t checking into the Juba Hilton – it was the journey there. Ask any Getaway report (preferably Sorrell Wilby) or German backpacker and they’ll tell you that it’s never about the destination, it’s always the journey.

What FreeRange does is demystify that journey: show you the mechanics behind the performance, the work. It makes for a richer investment – not just in what you’re seeing during FR – but also in art as a whole. It’s actually really bloody exciting! If anything, I like to think it of it as a festival without a headliner. It’s not about what’s onstage, it’s about what’s seeping out of Metro’s pores: creativity, new work, immense spirit and fun. Process is fun! There’s a sense of reckless abandon that’s addictive.

Part of the program is also to challenge and critique the works and processes. So how do you approach the delicate areas of constructive feedback and/or brutal honesty?
We’re actually exploring that as part of a Hot Chat called MAYBE YOU JUST SUCK? When it comes to feedback – the power is always in the artist’s hands. If you’re receiving feedback that tells you that you a) suck and b) your idea bites the big one … then you really need to examine whose offering you these illuminating pearls of wisdom and why?

Good feedback is contextualized feedback. I’ve been in a lot of developmental showings where the work finishes and the artist turns, notebook and pen in hand, and says ‘So, what did you think?’ It should always be angled in a way that the feedback will be constructive. That said, you want to know if what you’ve got is complete balls. Too much heavy-petting and kumbaya-circle-sharing doesn’t make for good art-making when the piece in question, well, sucks.

I think a nice balance between the two is always appreciated. If it does suck, you always wanna know why.

I hear this year there are some visual artists involved who are going to be doing kooky things in dark alleyways and public places, this sounds exciting and potentially kinky?
Yep. Pretty much those visual artists are kinky. We’ve got this amazing artist collective called Stella Electrika doing a hi-vis, hi-impact photo shoot as part of FreeRange and Brisbane City Council’s Inhabit Fiesta, Alleway109. And we’ve also got the lovely Paul Mumme filling our Alleyway with 900 double adaptors (!!!) as part of the same project. Whoa! If those don’t power you up then you can always catch something a little more serene when Matt Dabrowski and The Many Hands Of Glamour take over on the final Friday night for an installation that will need to be heard to be believed!
Inter-arts is certainly a buzzword right now. 

I bet FreeRange has a lot of far-out happenings in there that don't fit into the usual boxes?
Yes! You won’t find any boxes at Cross-Stitch: No Pluto, Just Stars: an evening of live art and immersive installation on FreeRange’s closing night. It’s an artist party where all matter of sensibility and sense is best checked at the door. From hand-painted fluorescent tubes to origami paper cranes to transistor radios preaching the words of Tyra Banks – it’s all here. Cross-Stitch gives emerging artistic directors the chance to flex their aesthetic in a safe and supportive environment. And our first cab off the rank is Lauren Clelland. This one should NOT be missed.
{xtypo_quote_right}What FreeRange does is demystify that journey: show you the mechanics behind the performance, the work{/xtypo_quote_right}
How have you, Mr. Evans, found the experience thus far; being in a building of glittering Brisbane art makers, all wading through their collective creative juices?
I won’t lie: I should have worn better shoes. Canvas is a giant FAIL. I need gumboots. Seriously. There is so much creative juicing going on – I feel like an Ocean Spray Cranberry juice farmer. Lend me a hand before I go under. Somebody call David Hasselhoff immediately. The talent is Hoff-worthy.

This wild foray into the candy store of shiny new ideas is almost overwhelming, where do interested parties begin? Give us your hot tips…
* Jump in. None of this test-the-water-with-your-toe business.
* Anyone can FreeRange – it’s about the celebration of creativity, of new ideas. It’s a slippery grey area which means – if you stroke your chin enough and drink plenty of wine – anyone will believe you belong here
* Finally – if all else fails – get yourself to Metro on Friday night, enter the Alleyway and pull up a milk crate beneath the stars. It’s an inspiring environment to be in and  part of in a place where everybody and their process has a home.

FreeRange plays until June 26, 2010. Further details»

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