When you’re at a BBQ and someone asks you what you do, how do you respond? For some of us it’s easy – we say, I’m a waitress, or a teacher or plumber. For David Pledger not so much. His standard response is to say he’s an artist. But then he waits to see what response he gets.
“Then I try to unpack it in a way which enables people to think that artists are integral to the things that they do in their life,” he tells me. “Often people think of art as the concrete things you see – a film or an object that gets made, a piece of music– but what I like to do is talk about how you get to those end points because essentially art is a process,” he said.
It’s that process, as well as art’s connection to science, activism, technology, architecture, environment and sport that will fuel discussion at a three-day event that David is curating for the City of Gold Coast called 2970° the Boiling Point.
“I think one of the issues is that arts is often seen to be separate. My experience is that art is central and it’s the way in which you talk about it that allows people to become aware of how central it is.”
Before meeting David I had the chance to read some of his musings online. He wrote a piece for The Conversation which talked about art in context using examples from both developing and developed nations. I asked David about that context and where the Gold Coast sits in terms of being a catalyst for art.
He tells me that the GC is in an unusual but positive place and the reason is that there isn’t a lot of cultural infrastructure here. And he’s not talking about buildings and stages and venues, but about programs, funding, structures and agencies.
“In those places where this is a lot of cultural infrastructure like that, it’s often suffocating for the arts,” he said. “It’s often about the agencies and the organisations curating culture, which actually isn’t their job. They don’t have the skills or expertise to do it – that’s the job of the artist.”
David believes the ideal way in which artistic and cultural production occurs is when that space is given over to artists and cultural agents, and then supported. “It sounds kind of basic and logical, but actually it’s quite experimental,” he said. “It’s a policy approach that’s quite unique.”
But why or how is that happening? “There’s an artist ecology here that’s quite diverse, and it’s very hard to pin down exactly what’s going on where and why. But it’s all driven by this curiosity and commitment and passion to manifest an idea with an artistic outcome,” David said.
While we’re on the topic of outcomes, I ask David what he’s hoping to achieve from the three-day event he’s curating. He says that has to do with developing a better question. So what is the question?
“The question at the moment is how do you positively affect the future through artistic and cultural production,” he said.
“I feel that the arts are absolutely central to that conversation in the 21st century. Less so in the last century, more so now because things have broken down and the arts sit everywhere,” he explained.
“What I’m wanting to find out is how to ask that question in a way that activates the engagement of art and society, because we live in a time when all of those are intimately connected every single day.”
David said he thinks there’s something unique happening here on the Gold Coast.
“Every city has its time of momentum and it feels like this is the time of the Gold Coast. And so, you have to ask that question for the city to mature and develop to whatever its potential is.
I take David back to his question: how do you positively affect the future through artistic and cultural production? Because I’m curious as to what the future is, as he’d like to see it.
“The future I’d like to see is a future in which people who don’t have as much are taken care of, where people who have extraordinary ideas are given the capacity to realise them, in which their relationship between living and land is central to daily life, and in which imagination is privileged above everything,” he said.
“Like the ability to dream and create things out of nothing?” I ask.
He nods. “Those societies which have those values through them, they are the ones that will do best at any time, but particularly at a time when change is happening so rapidly.”
Feature image courtesy Pia Johnson.
_ _ _
2970° The Boiling Point takes place from 26 – 28 June at The Arts Centre Gold Coast. The program is available at moregoldcoast.com.au and early bird registrations close 9 June.