‘An experiment in seclusion’ – Adam Deusien discusses residency project and what it means to be a cultural leader
Photo: Making it Alone. (Photo credit: Becky Russell)
NIDA Master of Fine Arts (Cultural Leadership) students are inherently hardworking and passionate, with a number of irons in the fire at any one time.
Take second year student Adam Deusien. Outside of his studies here, he is delving into some of the issues affecting regional Australians through his artistic and cultural leadership residency as Artistic Associate with Local Stages, Bathurst Memorial Entertainment.
Supported by the Australia Council for the residency, Deusien is developing an experimental project entitled Making it Alone, which is a mix of research, arts advocacy and performance.
‘The project is a creative development of a new solo verbatim theatre work that explores the impact of isolation and distance often experienced by regionally-based Australians. I developed and rehearsed the work in complete solitude, as an investigation into how living in the country can sometimes be both an energising haven and a debilitating void.
‘With no other collaborators involved in the rehearsal process, it was an experiment in seclusion that will speak to anyone who has ever felt alone, whether from the country or the city,’ said Deusien
In addition to his current residency project, Deusien’s time is split between his duties as a freelance Theatre Director – he co-founded Lingua France Dance Theatre – and his intensives at NIDA as part of the MFA Cultural Leadership course. Now into his second year, the 30-month, part-time course is helping him to understand his own role in the context of the wider arts world and beyond.
‘I have been interested most in exploring how the practicing artist can be – and is – a cultural leader,’ said Deusien.
The cultural leader is traditionally seen as a leader within an institution or organisation who can instigate different ways of thinking and inspire new ideas across the wider company. But as a freelancer from regional NSW, Deusien is proving that NIDA’s Cultural Leadership course is applicable to any artists with an interest in taking on a leadership role in their community, region, country or wider circle.
‘I've turned to thinking about how the work that I make, the stories I tell, how I tell them and the collaborators with whom I engage, is a form of leadership itself. For example, creating and resourcing a project that is visible, that engages audiences in unique ways that are bespoke to a community, working with artists who know how to speak directly to the region, has the potential to be significantly transformative.’
Those ideas are echoed through his current residency, in which Deusien is highlighting key issues that are potentially affecting both artists and inhabitants of rural Australia, evidencing how he is leading conversation and inspiring ideas that could lead to positive changes in communities and individuals.
The course has also switched his thinking from pure introspection – a natural characteristic of any artist – to becoming more aware of the multiple political, social and cultural readings in relation to artwork, without letting it dictate what the final artwork looks like.
‘I think the Cultural Leadership course is unique to NIDA in this way. We are being trained to be nuisances and change-makers, not just to supply the more-typical existing structures of art-making in Australia, but to disturb, reimagine and rebuild them,’ he said.
‘Through studying leadership, I think I've also become a better collaborator.’
Sharing practices with fellow Cultural Leadership students is a huge part of the course – something highlighted by a recent collaboration between three Cultural Leadership students for a production in Melbourne. It is a fertile ground for ideas, projects and understanding to grow.
‘One of the most enriching parts of the course is the relationship with fellow students. We all come from such different practices and this creates incredibly robust and rich conversations, and these varied perspectives create a wealth of knowledge that is rarely paralleled elsewhere in my life. I look forward to each intensive, both for the class discussions and the catching-up between classes with these exceptionally potent thinkers and makers from around the country.’
The course has also changed his outlook on some very uncreative processes that arise as part of an artist’s work in the industry.
‘I've learned that all of the bureaucratic systems that we complain about when thinking about or working in organisations or institutions, are essentially very human processes. For me there's been a great demystification of governance systems and policy development and advocacy mechanisms. I’ve gone from perceiving them as terrifying and impenetrable, especially for an independent artist, to seeing them as processes that are still human to human, just like the act of art-making itself. With this knowledge, I feel motivated that change is possible to affect at both grass roots and sector wide levels.’