Autism and the arts: making a space for different minds

 The art installation Snoösphere 
is designed to awaken  the senses and ease anxiety. Lull Studios

“Rancid perfume. Stinky babies. Sweaty clothes. Garlic hair. Human bodies putrefying and I think my own is beginning to smell,” declares artist and researcher Dawn-joy Leong in her installation, An Olfactory Map of Sydney, at Customs House in Circular Quay.

At times confronting, at times funny, Leong’s graphic description of the assault of odours while travelling by bus forms a series of video monologues about her sensitivities to smells, sounds, light, colour, tastes and movement.

Leong is autistic and regularly feels overwhelmed due to hyper-sensory perception. This can trigger extreme reactions such as nausea, headache, vertigo and sometimes excruciating pain. Through Leong’s work, the viewer gets a real sense of how exhausting having such a heightened awareness must be, particularly in a world designed for “neurotypicals” – people who are typically wired or non-autistic.

I can’t breath. I’m feeling sick … Cacophony. Very dissonant. I’m terrified. The smells are mixing up and making my head hurt. I think I need to get off [the bus] right now.

An Olfactory Map (with Theodore Eu as video editor) is exhibited as part of The Big Anxiety, an initiative of UNSW and The Black Dog Institute. Through conversation, technology and art, the festival addresses issues of mental health, examining the major anxieties of our times, as well as the stresses and strains of everyday life.


A still from Dawn-joy Leong’s installation An Olfactory Map of Sydney.
A still from Dawn-joy Leong’s installation An Olfactory Map of Sydney.

Leong’s and other installations by autistic artists fall within the festival’s stream of Neurodiverse-City, which promotes an empathic culture of neurological differences (such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia or dyspraxia). The neurodiversity movement maintains that being neurodivergent (the opposite of neurotypical) is not a deficit, rather it is the result of natural variations in the human genome and is simply the way many people experience the world.

Diverse ways of being

“Art is for all, and should be made accessible to all,” claims Leong. She says autistic artists have much to offer the neurotypical realm, including a more “aware” way of responding to the world and detail-focused perception.

Contrary to the erroneous neurotypical belief that autism is a barren landscape of isolation, the autistic mind is a thriving ecology teeming with abundant detail, nuances, texture, tastes, sounds, images, smells, profound thought and imagination.

Another of Leong’s works, Clement Space in the City, is a sensorial refuge for those wishing to escape the barrage of city life. Leong describes the “need for little pockets of grace in the midst of chaos” and the use of “conscious restfulness” as a coping strategy.

Picture of Clement Space in the City.
Dawn-joy Leong, Clement Space in the City.

Hidden away in a cosy corner on the ground floor of Customs House, Clement Space invites visitors to cocoon themselves, to relax and restore balance and clarity. Draped in white tulle, the installation is essentially a cubby house of faux fur cushions, blankets and pom-poms.

A womb-like soundtrack of a faint heartbeat subtly emanates from a James Joyce novel. The recording is actually the heartbeat of Leong’s rescue greyhound who in part inspired the installation with her propensity to curl up and relax in the unlikeliest of locations.

The view from Cloud Heaven

Rush Hour at Cloud Heaven is an animation, audio recording and series of printed works by collaborators Thom and Angelmouse. Thom Roberts, who is autistic, and Angelmouse (Harriet Body), who is not, have been collaborating for four years through Studio A, a social enterprise that supports artists with intellectual disability in their professional art practice.

“Thom and I are always giggling our heads off in the studio,” says Body. “The collaborative process allows us to connect with each other in an art space, where mainstream forms of language-based communication are not paramount.”

Thom gives nicknames to the people, places and objects around him, for example Cloud Heaven for Circular Quay, Christmas Station for Town Hall and Blue Cow for Redfern.

Thom and Angelmouse, Rush Hour at Cloud Heaven.

“I like Customs House (I call it Costumes House) because I can see Cloud Heaven,” says Thom. “I love it there because I get to see all the trains go by and I get to hear the train echo noise. But I don’t like rush hour. I prefer it when it is slow.”

Rush Hour at Cloud Heaven draws on Thom’s enduring relationship with trains, personifying them and incorporating collaged photographs of the artists’ friends and colleagues. As a result, the installation is colourful and often humorous. It is exhibited in a way that is accessible to a diverse audience, with subtitles and audio descriptions incorporated as a creative tool.

“I want the audience to feel happy, sad, mad, thoughtful, surprised, romantic or silly – a whole range of emotions,” says Roberts. “I want all sorts of people to see my work. All people.”

Consultation is key

Another installation that collaborates with autistic artists is the sensory landscape of Snoösphere at UNSW Galleries. It centres on the belief that stimulating the primary senses (under the right, therapeutic conditions) can ease anxiety. Drawing on research about cross-sensory perception, the space is primarily inspired by Dutch spaces used in mental health care and rehabilition, called snoezelen.

Picture of Relaxation zone at Snoösphere.
Relaxation zone at Snoösphere. Lull Studios

Shoes are left at the door at Snoösphere, while dim lighting, ambient music and tropical bird calls immediately indicate that this is a stress-free zone. It is a playful space where giant pink and purple balloons float over beanbags, and participants are invited to meander through strings of coloured lights, to walk on spongy mats, pebbles and fake grass, to pat vibrating, furry discs that vaguely resemble a science-fiction, birdlike creature.

Lull Studios’ Elena Knox and Lindsay Webb created Snoösphere in consultation with a team of artists. As autism consultant and associate artist, Leong worked with a team of autistic advisers aged ten to 35 years in Sydney and Singapore.

“Consultation is important to any inclusive activity,” says Leong. “It is not only pointless and hypocritical, but also unprofessional, to claim to create something based on a certain paradigm, in this case autism, and not consult the people with lived experience and allow their insights to lead the way.”

Conversely, such consultation can allow artists to create work that resonates with cogency to a wide audience spanning the neurological spectrum. Indeed, Snoösphere and other installations at The Big Anxiety demonstrate just how embracing neurodiversity can engage audiences in a myriad of enlightening ways.

The Big Anxiety continues until November 11 in Sydney.

This article was written by:
Katie Sutherland – [Doctor of Creative Arts Candidate, Western Sydney University]




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‘Flipism’ by Yvonne Wells -The Laneway Artspace St.Kilda.


Life is but a gamble! Let Flipism chart your ramble!” said Professor Batty to Donald Duck. As Mr D.Duck flipped a coin to guide his decisions Yvonne Wells created her own characters on the same premise allowing fate to model her whimsical sculptures.These fantasy figures are captured with a snapshot of their life… ‘Charlotte’ on her boat, ‘The Lover’ shielded by a large wooden hand as she reads, ‘Nick’ the thief as he breaks into a miniature home of eclectic brilliance… are only an example of the many figurines of this collection. Some move, light up or have music boxes but all have that sense of home an allure to be part of your own.

Like ‘The Dreamer’ in her contraption of feathers and fancy Yvonne Wells is now directing her visions to new horizons this time to be captured on canvas. The Laneway Artspace St.Kilda has become a garden of Yvonne Wells unique style with her current botanical series. Large statement pieces of rich, glorious colour adorn the walls which engages, taking you into her world of magnified beauty.
As I look back on the career of Yvonne Wells which includes ceramics, jewellery, sculpture and now painting, applying ‘Flipism’ has indeed made some very good choices.
 ‘Flipism’ by Yvonne Wells.
The Laneway Artspace St.Kilda
16 Oct – 19 Oct and 23 Oct – 29 Oct

Underground in Brisvegas: can an electronic dance music artist thrive outside the city?

 Heidi Mellington, performing here with 
Anthony Smith  in Dizzygothica in 2007, has spoken about the importance of a  
supportive local music scene for emerging artists.

Electronic dance music (EDM) is an increasingly popular music genre. Electronic music can be defined as a sound dominated by electronic instruments and digitally generated sounds and also by digital samples of vocals and conventional instruments.

Despite the emergence of new communication technologies for music production and dissemination, it is still essential for EDM artists to be part of a local music scene.

Emerging artists typically depend heavily on the contacts and resources that they can find in their local city. The nature and scale of the truly global music industry appear not to have changed this relationship between EDM artists and their local music scene.

And the global electronic music industry is big. According to the latest IMS business report, the industry’s annual value has reached US$7.4 billion. NME reports that the three wealthiest DJs are Tiesto (Netherlands), Daft Punk (France) and Paul Okenfoald (England).

DJ Tiesto is asking for US$250,000 per DJ set. Daft Punk, the duo who pioneered French house in the 1990s, are worth US$120 million in licensing deals, royalties, music sales and merchandise. Their value increased after the success of their fourth album, Random Memories, which has sold more than 3.2 million copies worldwide.

EDM artists, unlike the most famous DJs, belong to local alternative scenes as is the case in Brisbane. Those scenes can be labelled as underground. According to the semi-structured interviews performed for my research, the electronic scene in Brisbane started as a DIY alternative scene.

In Brisbane, the rock and punk scenes have been documented in books like Pig City. In contrast, the electronic scene in Brisbane is rather unknown, yet it gathered more than 200 artists between 1979 and 2014. This has been documented in BNE: The Definitive Archive, released by Dennis Bremmer, founder of independent music label Trans:Com.

If music is global, why does local still matter?

Emerging artists need to engage with the technology and to have access to mentoring and technical advice. It’s a point made by Heidi Mellington, who joined the scene in the early 2000s:

Being in a city gives you access to mentors that have been trained and know how to use the latest sofwares.

She was part of Lady Electronica, a collective of female artists, and of darkwave electronica duo Dizzygotheca with Anthony Smith (2005-2010).

Most musicians interviewed for my research were interested in creating experimental edgy music. The aim was not necessarily to become successful, but to remain underground.

Brisbane’s electronic sound can be labelled as “electronic fusion”. It’s a blend of hip-hop, funk, drum and bass and sometimes goth music, according to Porl Deville, who was part of successful acts such as My Ninja Lover, who opened for Ben HarperJamiroquai and Mobyin the mid-1990s.

Local radio stations such 4ZZZ or Triple J helped artists to have their electronic dance music tracks played. In Brisbane, venues like The ZooRic’s Cafe Bar and The Lofly Hangar – a meeting place for the independent music community; it no longer exists – welcomed EDM artists.

These artists still need to be engaged in the economic and social networks that are found in metropolitan areas. This helps them to access technical advice, mentoring and grants (to fund music videos).

Even if Facebook and Soundcloud are fantastic tools for self-promotion, location is important. It remains an asset for a young EDM artist to be located in a city. It’s there that they have access to the best equipment and can learn about software tricks and production, mixing and mastering tips from experienced mentors.

This article was written by:
Image of Sebastien DarchenSebastien Darchen [Lecturer in Planning, The University of Queensland]






This article is part of a syndicated news program via

Bill Tolson performing at St Kilda Art Crawl launch 21 Sept at The Vineyard

Singer / songwriter Bill Tolson at St Kilda's Luna Park © 2017
Singer / songwriter Bill Tolson at St Kilda’s Luna Park © 2017

Bill Tolson has morphed into one of the most prolific song writers in our midst.

In the last two years Bill has written, performed, recorded and produced over 50 songs and CD collections as a solo artist.

He has also attracted some of this cities finest musicians with his current band Bill Tolson and the Learners about to launch an album of Bill’s songs.

Bill has been a passionate musician from the age of 10. Through his school years at Caulfield Grammar he had the likes of Nick Cave and the Boys Next Door a few years ahead of him playing in the school cafeteria. Always the artist / entrepreneur not long after leaving school Bill opened and managed the iconic Greville Records, later to establish Rampant Releases record label whilst teaching Music Business Management at TAFE.  Eventually life, family commitments and business lead him into Real Estate where he stayed for 15 years.

Two years ago the life changing tragedy in the loss of his son Connor Tolson bought about a grinding halt and change of direction in Bill’s life which lead him back to his roots in music.

Bill will be playing at the inaugural opening of the St Kilda Art Crawl on Thursday night 21 Sept at The Vineyard 71A Acland Street, St Kilda

He will be performing songs from his latest album 50 Good Years, a passionate heart felt reflection of his personal journey back to music.

St Kilda Art Crawl launch 21 Sept.

The Vineyard – 71A Acland Street, St Kilda.

by Kerrie Pacholli ©

Window Art Walk Fitzroy Street St Kilda, 21 – 24 September

Pop indigenous artist Dino Damiani exhibition in Fitzroy St. precinct as part of the St Kilda Art Crawl
Pop indigenous artist Dino Damiani exhibition in Fitzroy St. precinct as part of the St Kilda Art Crawl


created by Kerrie Pacholli ©

Pop-up exhibition Window Art Walk begins at 33 Fitzroy St St Kilda.

This venue is open to the general public and will feature paintings by Pop Indigenous artist Dino Damiani along with works from other painters, sculptors and performance artists including Faye de Pasquale, Laurie Miller, Clare Austin and Adrian Spurr.

Vegan cafe  #HAPPYFoLK at 11A  Fitzroy St was recently opened by property developer and entrepreneur Freddie Warschauer. Freddie will be sponsoring the Window Art Walk at venues either side of #HAPPYFoLK showcasing an eclectic mix of art in shop windows on the sunset side of the Green Knoll.

At the magical Spring Equinox light and dark forces are in balance. Over this weekend 33 Fitzroy St will host Indigenous smoking and Shamanic ceremonies.

Shamanic Healing Seminar

Shamanic healer and psychic Josephine Celeste ©
Shamanic healer and psychic Josephine Celeste ©
On Saturday 23 September at 11 am St Kilda based Shamanic healer Josephine Celeste will perform a ceremony celebrating re-emergence of the light, life and empowerment.
On Sunday 24 September at 11am – 12 noon Josephine Celeste will also host a FREE seminar titled Trauma to Life Purpose and group Shamanic healing ritual. To be part of this very special free event bookings are essential as seating is limited. Bookings for seminar:  0410 190 593


For further information about exhibition contact 0423 308 005.




Should art, and indeed audiences for that matter feel the need to compartmentalise genres that confuse? Trying to decipher this work is difficult, to call it pure dance would be reductive, but with moments of the most beautiful and at times subserve choreography, it can neither fall into realm of performance art

In Underworld, we are met with a cataclysmic mess, a collision of ideas, metaphors and notions that leave a trail of carnage strewn. Singularly each of these montages pulled out of focus are non sensical, but placed side by side the performance seems at its heart to be obsessing with the harsh brutality of Australia’s vast and expansive plains. Here carnage taking the form of things often ended by being buried in land fill. With the continuation of the maximalist themes often present in the work of Rebecca Jensen and collaborator Sarah Aikens this performances interaction with device is impressive, complex and with its own sense of rationale. Same to, a brooding, angry and youthful take on the contemporary is proudly displayed here.

The smell of searing meet, violently hacked apart and slapped on the barbie, evocative. Complex shadow play and dancing in the dark, emotive. Revelations, obscurities and both the subtle and not so subtle littered throughout. With such an impressive scope to work from though, its now time for this performance to go deeper, harder and stronger. Time for the performers to really take the work somewhere even more remote, to get out from whatever comfort they find here or from their practice and take themselves further. 

The ensemble here work together and against in balanced and perfect proportions; perhaps a little to much. But transgressing the level of polish applied to a work, this is a physically strong, measured and delivered performance, with the synergy shared by each dancer, titillating. Production values and score are as equally impressive.

We can speak without words, and dance is as powerful as any other example of our ability to do so. But what this performance achieves others may not, is to provide the ability for audience to draw from the work their own opinion and concept much like the work of a visual artist. This is what distinguishes Jensen’s and Aiken’s work from the rest of the pack, amassing multiple images, sources and concepts and allowing them to elope through the physical form of body and the language of choreography. Underworld is their most exciting collaboration to date. 

For more info or to book you tickets click here






On his recent trip to perform at Aussie Anthea Palmer’s Jimmy Hornet Creative Restaurant in Zhongshan, China, Australian Blues artist, singer and songwriter Doc White, took a detour which led to him doing shows in Hong Kong.




And while he performed a one-night engagement at Jimmy Hornet’s, he found himself in great demand in Hong Kong.  Unfortunately he only allowed himself time enough for a brief stopover to check out the lay of the land in this famous former British colony. Hong Kong has, over the centuries, been the most direct route into the celestial world of the Middle Kingdom, China. That’s the way it rolls in this part of the world!

The big question over booking the Doc for gigs in China was whether his brand of Mississippi / Delta and Aussie Bush Blues would cut the mustard with Chinese audiences. This fear dissipated in an instant. As soon as he began plucking on his Resonator guitar he swamped his audience with his melliferous melodious mouthings of hard times intertwined with the antics of lawyers, guns and money, all wrapped up with the comely beauty of a woman’s touch.


Figure 1 Lamma Island’s famous Island Bar which is the first or last bar enroute to the ferry. Minehost; Bradley Tarr


After his gig at Jimmy Hornet’s on Saturday July 29, the Doc’s Hong Kong sojourn began on the Monday. His first gig was at THE bar on Lamma Island that commands the traffic flow to and from the ferry.  Yes the ISLAND BAR is the only route to convey people on a 25 minute journey to and from Hong Kong Central. Owned by Western Australian and his Aussie family, Brad Tarr has lived in Hong Kong for over a quarter of a century. He is well known across large parts of Asia and Australia for his sartorial splendor, his generosity and support of his community, his sporting achievements as well promoting sport (the local HK cricket team has just returned from playing in Mongolia), his business acumen, and last but not least, his commitment to live music and giving exposure to Australian musicians whenever he can.


Figure 2 Inside the Island Bar

Being a Monday night, and at such short notice, the crowd wasn’t huge but their response to Doc’s music was engagingly emphatic. He definitely hit a home-run at the Island. Without a doubt, he’ll be greeted by a large crowd excited to hear him when he returns.

Figure 3 Phil Whelan & Frank Howson

Figure 4 The Lamma Ferry, the only transport link to Lamma Is


Luckily he managed to make the last ferry back to Central at 11:30pm. This saved him a swim back had he missed it. He was thus able to get a good forty winks or so in before a Tuesday morning meeting with Hong Kong’s Master of Ceremonies, Phil Whelan. Phil is the presenter of a very popular morning radio programme, Morning Brew, on the official government broadcasting conglomerate for radio and television in both English and Chinese: it was based on the BBC model. What sets Phil apart, and above other presenters, is not only his natural



encouraging interview style, but many other talents and the training he’s acquired in the past. This gives him a leading edge over the rest of the pack. He has played clarinet since the age of 10; is a graduate of Trinity College of Music in London; did play with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra; has spent time in Australia playing in the international production of Hello Dolly; and has done heaps of other stuff that has grounded him as a sincere individual who is intrigued and fascinated with every guest he interviews. And yes, he does have a special sensor that reacts very positively with Aussies he has on his programme. After a genuinely interesting and in-depth interview on the roots of Blues music and what inspires him, he asked the Doc to play 2 full songs in the studio. Heavenly blues rang out and filled the studio to the delight of all present.



Tuesday night, August 1, Doc’s first engagement was at La Lune Modern European Cuisine and Whiskey Bar. He was delightfully received by a collection of largely Chinese professionals; architects, authors, actors, architects etc. Doc’s Blues and fine grade whiskey poured in equal measure as clients warmed to his music, especially to the sounds of an Aussie accent giving vent to tender and downtrodden emotions.

Doc playing at La Lune Whiskey Bar:

‘That Woman Made Me Jump’



Following this he was bundled into a taxi in Sheung Wan to make a quick trip through Central to the heart of Suzi Wong’s territory, the Sin-city of Wanchai, and the most prodigal place of sin and salvation, The Wanch Live Music Bar. Owner John Prymmer, at short notice, created a dedicated 1 hour slot for the Doc to strut his stuff in. He set the pace with opening numbers of his own composition and classics of Robert Johnston and other US southern Blues masters. Hong Kong’s own ex-New Yorker on his harps, Steve Starfish, added to Doc’s songs to encapsulate an honest to goodness true southern smokiness to the brew and the audience supped it up with glee.


Wednesday August 2nd, Doc White was back on a plane bound for Mount Dandy where his home can be found in old Melbourne town.

S Francis Butler

For any bands, singers, dancers or other artists looking for gigs and connections in Hong Kong and China, contact Ginko707 through Youtube, or email to


 A quick glance at Hong Kong: 

Dive, Under The Covers

Aly Loren is a queer-non-binary-femme-tomboy-dreamboat who likes her whiskey neat, her face glittered, and her kebabs after 3am. In Share My Blankets she shares with you her most intimate truths. Beneath Aly Lorén’s blankets there are stories of human fluidity and validity which are ready to be un-covered. Through the power of spoken word and, supported by a live electro/acoustic two-piece band. This work’s earnest ambition is to deliver its audience back into the ‘real-world’ with a sense of self-permission. Share My Blankets  is being presented at No Vacancy Gallery, and will be one of the first events presented by this venue for Melbourne Fringe.  During the first week of it’s season audience will also be able to check out the exhibition  Strength in Visions with these two works presented side by a strong voice amid uncertain times where queer lives are under increased scrutiny and attack does emerge. Aly took time out of rehearsals to speak with TAGG about the performance.

Introduce us first to the concept that is behind your performance, and secondly lets talk about the creative process 

Share My Blankets is one big story. What we are trying to do is to give gifts to our audiences. The gift of sharing. The gift of permission. The gift of safety. The gift of surrender. The gift of validation and belonging. Through music, poetry and stories, both tangible and intangible, we want myself and this body to be completely exposed, telling my own truths right there before everyone (hi mum and dad) (and aunty) to give permission to others to populate space in their own story telling. Last night a friend said to me “what a perfect name for your show. Because you are like a big blanket, you wrap people up.” And then because I’d had a few prosecco I started crying. If I can show people that there are others who experience things that are difficult to talk about just like them, I’d like to let them know they aren’t alone. And there is always someone who will believe them and listen to them.

So originally I was discussing an idea for a 10-15 minute performance art piece that I was gonna perform for my friends in a backyard show at my good pal Leon’s house. Us queers love our backyard performances, honestly so much talent and sexiness and rawness. I had found three songs written and recorded by my 18 and 19 year old self – I was at uni studying music and sound production and was practicing with these songs and I thought the lyrics were just place holders but upon listening back I couldn’t help but feel like they were supressed feelings about two quite heartbreaking experiences that occurred during that time. One was a sexual assault, and one was falling in love with my best friend, my first gay love, and her saying it couldn’t happen because of our relationship. I wanted to explore the relationship of the lyrics to both of these occurrences, as well as share some private Tumblr posts I had made about my lost love and explore how feelings and responses may change or remain if the context was changed.

I told some theatre friends about it and they told me to turn it into a full-length show. Bloody lucky I work at a theatre, hey! My very good pal Dirk Hoult of Tilted Projects came on board to direct, and from there it was just off. Dirk and I would meet once a week every week and he would just ask me about my experiences. We’d record them, most of which became the script, and we’d just have beers or coffee and talk for hours and hours. He has a way of helping me see my story telling in a creative way, and since working with him I’ve been writing more and more often than ever. He has the physical and conceptual visions, I have the words, stories and enchanting curls (and extensive glitter collection). I think the fact that he is so keen on learning about my experiences and truths and the way I live and people I know live in society has been such a huge encouragement because I know that even if I can get a message to just one person then I’m doin’ something right.

What do you think about the importance of strong, queer voices entering public conversation particularly now when the battle for marriage equality is recalling heating up? 

Look to be honest I never want to get married. Marriage itself is an old, traditional mess. I hate that corporations use it as something to capitalise off. I hate that some cisgender heterosexual people think this is the ~final boss battle~ for LGBTIQA+ equality. They will all fall asleep to every other LGBTIQA+ issue that are paramount to institutionalised queerphobia and also racism. I hate that some people think that assimilation of LGBTIQA+ people into straight society is the only answer, and also assimilation of PoC into white institutions of marriage. I hate that it is taking away attention from all the really fucked up shit that our government is doing right now, like with refugees and asylum seekers. Some people, namely Indigenous people who live remotely, won’t even receive a ballot paper. But as we know, by law it contains some important clauses that allow couples legal rights for some important stuff. And I’m so for those who wanna marry their partners and it isn’t legal yet, you go for it babes when it’s time. Let me direct you quickly to a Facebook status I made a few weeks ago to sum up my feelings about it in a not at all sarcastic way:

“im so excited about our government spending $122 million on a non-binding voluntary postal vote on whether tHe gAys are human enough to participate in a super old legal tradition that for no reason other than homophobia, bible bashing and political football is it not already legal instead of making these inevitable amendments to the act in parliament like they are paid by the public to do, thus giving permission to homophobes to spend real money on letting everyone know how much they hate us and none of this will be damaging or a waste of time or ridiculous in the slightest. ps register to vote if you haven’t”

Okay I’ll get to the point of the question. The fact of the matter is not all queer people are able to speak up at the moment. It’s not safe for everyone, not at all. It’s still dangerous to be queer, some more than others. But even the very existence of queers is a radical act. We are a VISION. It’s important to not let the crusty homophobes win. There are queer youth out there being batted down by homophobes who are getting a free platform to spew their hate and make people feel less than human because “DEmOcrAcY!!” I am so privileged that I’m generally quite safe in being able to debate this, I’m white, able-bodied, in a harassment free workplace, from an accepting immediate family. I do not want people to forget that this is by no means the last battle for the community, not even a little bit close. Think indigenous deaths in custody, trans suicide rates, homelessness, HIV/AIDS, police brutality, racism, harassment and assault, mental illness, poverty, and the list goes on.

I want to speak out everywhere and be angry and loud and I’m going to be absolutely unapologetic about it. It is because of other loud mouth queers, both in history and at present, that I’m able to do that. We inspire each other and lift each other up and show the straights that we aren’t goin’ down. Stay angry, my mates.

Your original from Brisbane, has your childhood spent in this city help shape your identity, and what are some the comparison between these two places, particularly in terms of the cultural landscapes and the work indicative of the two? 

I think that I learned a lot in Brisbane. I lived an extremely privileged childhood and early adulthood, I was very sheltered from a lot. I met some wonderful people whom I still hold very dearly and for some reason still want to know me and be friends with me, and they taught me a lot about believing that I’m not just a huge sack of shit. I’ve struggled with self-loathing my entire life and have been quite depressed so it was very cool to get so much of that special luuuurve. I learned stuff about music, I started writing, I fell in love, I went out all the time and nostalgia is telling me it was a pretty good time. It was a bit lonely at times, it was tumultuous, I had some pretty traumatic experiences as one does, and I didn’t feel comfortable to come out properly until maybe second year uni, but of course I won’t give much away – I’ll tell you all about it at the show. All of the stories take place in Brisbane and I think that by doing this I’m processing a lot of it. 

I sort of left my little Brizzo life and have taken what worked for me. I again work Front of House at a theatre, though the quality of theatre here is unbelievably different of course. I’m really lucky to be learning from so many people here, namely in terms of activism and learning truths about the world. People who are in marginalised groups go through hell all the time but are still (and sometimes really have to be) generous with their time and emotional labour and I thank every single one of them for things I’ve learned and can pass on. I could crap on about the theatre scene or the ~culture~ in Melbourne (still something I like doing) but the main thing is really that all my pals here are so glorious and gorgeous and creative and wonderful in all their own ways. I wouldn’t be doing any of this without them. Their courage and honesty and generosity and care are absolutely unbelievable. If there’s a question on here about my influences I’ll just give you the name lists from some Facebook groups I’m in.  

Is there a message behind your performance and in extension, how powerful a device do you find performance to be? 

I think I’ve touched on that a bit already and probably will in further Q’s too. I just wanna share with you and let you know you belong and you are valid and you are so cared about. You deserve to have space to talk about feelings and ask for help and tell people you’re not having a great one. Also, you’re gonna make misjudgements and mistakes because you’re a human and that’s what we do, admitting your mistakes is really beautiful and moving on and learning is AWESOME. Hopefully that by confiding in you all, this comes across. You’re giving me the gift of your wonderful time, patience and attention, and I want to give you something for that. 

Nothing quite shakes my very core quite like performance. I want someone to see exactly me in this. I want all the cool arty layers of performance to enhance the words themselves and show people that words, thoughts and experiences are not one-dimensional. I’m lucky enough to see performances really often and each time is life altering, even if only a tiny bit. Even if someone is just singing a song to me. Even if someone just gets up in front of me while we’re sitting by a river and performs a poem for me. How people can teach you when you aren’t even realising it and while being entertained is honestly unreal and I’m so lucky to be a person who is doing that. 

Should art be political? 

Art has no choice but to be political.  Art is social politics, by definition. Art changes worlds, inspires movements and revolutions. It teaches about ideas, concepts, language, brings forth characters that can never be 100% non-fictional. Art that is purposefully political in nature not only inspires others to form beliefs and see them represented on a public platform, but also teaches others about, quite simply, people in a different way than simple conversation (also affective). If someone challenges or asks questions of reality or truth, it is political. I am so inspired everyday by the art that I see being created by beautiful babes around me, seeing someone else’s reality and truth through the lens of art of any form is absolutely prodigious. The very act of creating art against the grain is radical.

Whats your back in creating work, and what will Audience experience in this performance. and how does your performance stand out from the rest of the pack this Melbourne Fringe?

I’ve reeeeally never created a theatre show before. Truthfully. But I’ve played music for ages, mostly by myself, sometimes in bands or with one other person (love you Wheat). I felt like I was ready for something new. Whenever I’m playing I can’t help the stage banter and I just bloody love performing, more than anything, I wanted to do something weird and cool with heaps of layers to it but that also had my music in it and other forms of my art. I found someone who really believes in that and wants to help me show it to you all. You’ll experience tangible and intangible ways of feeling. It’s so much better if you’re just actually there with me and I can show you.

Look you know what it might not stand out. I’m not even sure that I deserve this platform. There are so many tales that need to be heard and have yet to be told because other creative wonderfuls aren’t as lucky to have the opportunities that I have right now, even if that is a modest show in Melbourne Fringe.

The thing is, there is SO MUCH straight cisgender media and performance and art out there. Literally so much to choose from. So if you would like to, I’d like 50 minutes of your time to be on stage before you. A genderfucked queer weirdo with a big mushy heart.

I’m gonna tell some romantic stories, I’m gonna tell some stories of heartbreak, of sexual assault, but I’m not going to stand up there as victim. A friend of mine recently said that queerness is rooted in sadness. It comes from a history of grief and loss and utter sadness. And yeah, there’s that in my show. But there is also vulnerability, and there’s strength, and there’s charm, and there’s having sex with your friends, and there’s fuckin’ laughing, and there’s rrrrromance! And maybe even a goon sack, but that’s a dramaturgical choice that we have yet to decide on. We can have all that too. I just wanna share with you and let you know you belong and you are valid and you are so cared about. Also, if you come the first weekend my parents are coming and boy are they gonna get a shock to their core, so like, that’d be fun to watch.

Share My Blankets opens on the 13th of September as part of Melbourne Fringe, for more info or to book your tickets click here.

Betra Fraval / Moving Mountains                                                                           


James Makin Gallery /16 August – 2 September 2017

67 Cambridge St,Collingwood VIC 3066

Opening: Friday 18 August from 6 – 9pm

T: 03 9416 3966

On Friday 18th August,  I attended Betra Fraval’s solo exhibition opening titled ‘Moving Mountains at James Makin Gallery and  was taken in the moment I entered the gallery space in which I encountered  a full house buzzing with a great crowd, an elevated vibe and of course the star of the show, the paintings.  I couldn’t help but notice the crowd’s admiration while standing in front of the beautifully executed paintings that depict landscapes, inviting the viewer to  experience, to be present in BetraFavral’s art; the art of painting.

Betra Fraval masterly interprets landscapes and scenery and textures of nature’s elements existing with organic forms of matter and space. Her painting technique is clean, controlled yet playful while precisely describing a moment in timelessness. Her work exhales beauty, clarity and respect.

Rarely do I see contemporary art, let alone painting, being so effortlessly understood and appreciated by the viewers, communicating to people from all walks of life.

Painting is alive and kicking and Betra  Fraval does move mountains.


Camille Klose – Gallery Curator

James Makin Gallery is excited to invite you to ‘Moving Mountains’, a solo exhibition by Betra Fraval.

Fraval’s paintings sit in a place of shared and personal experiences; they are at once familiar yet strange. Silently and wistfully referencing time, rather than place, they emit a calming and contemplative sense of nostalgia. There is a beautiful and precarious coexistence between the organic and the man-made that has been constant in Fraval’s practice.

Progressing from her previous works which explored the delicate meeting of science and art in carefully balanced geo-based installations, Moving Mountains is an exhibition of paintings that continues Fraval’s exploration of graphic impositions left on the landscape as a marker of human legacy, whilst also referencing organic cycles of time.


Betra Favral – The Artist

My artwork is focused on the cycle of matter within nature. More recently I have been interested in deep time in relation to finite human time and markers for the Anthropocene. I am interested in how ‘things’ or materials can have a creative potential and power. The artworks are driven by curiosity, a detailed meditation on the nature of wonder, fascination, and enquiry and contemplating our place as humans in the continuum.

Thinking about the geologic and material as our partner in creativity and meaning making. Becoming storytelling matter, which acts both as a marker for time/action and metaphor, allowing us to think about how humans relate to and live on the earth.