Heart to Heart Conversations: Artistic Director Lindy Hume and artists visiting Tasmania

Image: Visiting artist Vic McEwan is inspired by Burnie’s industrial landscape

Heart to Heart

Conversations: Artistic Director Lindy Hume talks with artists visiting Tasmania

Guest Artist: Vic McEwan

We’re often asked what we do between festivals, or how much ‘time off’ we now have until next time. Well, while it’d be nice, kicking back and relaxing isn’t an option. The reality is that from the minute one festival is finished, we’re already well into the next one. Developing the next program, and the one after that, is the vital part of the festival team’s work from now until March 2021. 

One exciting part of that work is getting out into the world to see what artists are doing now, where potential intersections might lie with Tasmania’s artists and audiences. This week Executive Producer Vernon Guest has returned from a research trip to some of Europe’s most interesting festivals. In parallel, my work as an opera director has taken me to Seattle and Portland in the USA, where I’ve been meeting with American colleagues. From both our perspectives, it’s fair to say that everyone we speak to loves the idea of visiting Tasmania!

Another part of our planning is meeting with as many artists as possible here in Tasmania about what inspires them, and what they might bring to Ten Days on the Island. It’s pretty much my favourite part of the job, so I thought I’d share it here over the next year with a new series called Heart to Heart.

My first guest for this new series is the amazing Vic McEwan, an internationally-recognised artist and artistic director of the CAD Factory, https://www.cadfactory.com.au/ based in regional NSW. Vic’s underlying philosophy is that in order to practically navigate complex issues, we must first learn to navigate them emotionally. Using contemporary art as the point from which to navigate, Vic aims to use his work to enrich broader conversations about the role that the arts can play within our communities.


The vivid imagery Vic creates and his empathetic, curious approach and regional perspective resonates perfectly with Ten Days on the Island, so this week we invited him to Burnie to begin discussions about a collaboration for the 2021 festival. Without giving too much away about what that collaboration might be, we’re pretty excited about its potential. Like us, Vic is smitten with the industrial landscape of Burnie.

Lindy: So, we’ve been mucking around Burnie today, looking at locations – what do you think of our town?
Vic: Well this morning when I opened up my curtains in my hotel room and I saw this extraordinary vista across the industrial dock and I saw the big woodchip piles and the big, beautiful mountain in the background, and the sea. It’s such a mix – Burnie’s such a beautiful mix of different beauties… the people, the scale, the shapes, they’re sort of organic, the machines are like big creatures.
Lindy: I agree, the way the light plays on it, the way nature and the hard surfaces of the industrial world slam against each other, especially in the stormy weather – the sea spray against the containers…
Vic: Yes, there’s something poetic about it.
Lindy: As someone who comes to Tasmania with an outside perspective, what do you see when you see the remains of the Pulp, the Boiler Room that’s just standing there against the sky?
Vic: As an artist coming here, it’s so inspiring in so many different ways, in terms of sound, vision, backdrop…immediately my sense is about the complexity of that place, the complexity of different opinions in a small town, of the industry – whether you agree with the industry or not, there are so many human stories attached to that building. Instantly my first thought is about the complexity between people…. the logger, the environmentalist…it sits there as an icon of all that… lives were lived out in that space, lives that have impact across generations.
Lindy: Yesterday you did a mega trek around the Island, arriving at dawn on the Spirit, driving to Launceston, down to Hobart for meetings and then we came back up here to Burnie via the High Country and Lakes, which was a pretty good effort. Your impressions?
Vic: It was a massive day yesterday, and full of such complexity – starting with something I thought was a fruit that turned out to be an animal (Vic saw his first pademelons on the drive up from Hobart) to a really complex First Nations story…it’s complex too where I come from , the Wiradjuri story… and to think about the embedding of that in the landscape, alongside all the deep ecological battles that have happened here, there’s such an embedding of trauma in this landscape, yet it looks so stunning. I haven’t seen the famed West Coast yet, but I’m looking forward to the wilds of the west coast.
Lindy: You’re going to be coming back to Tasmania, we hope, until the 2021 Festival, so what are you looking forward to in this part of the world?
Vic: To meeting people, to people sharing their stories of the Pulp mill. Sharing with local artists.
Lindy: We’re loving our new home here in Burnie, partly because it’s perhaps an unexpected place for an international festival. What do you think an international festival like Ten Days on the Island can learn from Burnie, and vice versa?
Vic: Well it’s ripe with opportunity for innovation in terms of what an international festival could be. We live in a world where we talk about breaking down binaries, whatever they are: about gender, about culture, blah blah blah, about the division between regional and metro, blah blah… A lot of artmaking is about breaking down that stuff, and the real-world consequences are that it makes a lot of sense to have an international festival here in Burnie, it has far greater value here than putting it in Sydney, for example.
Lindy: They’re meeting places, for all kinds of things…all kinds of art adventures
Vic: And it means you can think about things differently. If I were in Sydney maybe I’d be thinking about making a work for the Opera House, but at home I’m dreaming about making a work along a stock route!
Lindy: You make work in galleries too. Do you prefer working inside or outside?
Vic: Well if my work were to answer it would say that I like to work outside, but right now I’m making a work in a theatre…
Lindy: We’ve given ourselves many challenges to meet before the next festival: showcasing Tasmanian innovation, responding to First Nations stories, and the landscape in between festivals is just as vivid…so set us another challenge!
Vic: I shall! It’s so much slower a process to make work that’s truly responding to a place. We’re in early stages, but one thing that’s at the heart of my practice is how we extract the lived experience from big industrial or functional objects and places, and there’s so much opportunity for that here, it’s an exciting and thrilling prospect.

Interview with Vic McEwan

3 September 2019, Burnie

Image: Vic discovered that a pademelon is a small marsupial, not a piece of fruit.