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Case study: Halcyon Macleod - Arts Tasmania Claudio Alcorso International Residency

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Halcyon Macleod is a writer, experimental theatre maker and former co-artistic director of the performance ensemble My Darling Patricia.

In 2014, she received funding support through Arts Tasmania's Claudio Alcorso International Residency to complete an international artist's residency in Barbados.

She used the residency to develop a new project - Crawl Me Blood, which is a radio docu-drama and an interdisciplinary art work inspired by the writings of Caribbean Author Jean Rhys.

What did you do in Barbados?

I was hosted by an arts organization in Barbados - The Fresh Milk Artists Platform International Residency Program. Australian collaborator, Willoh S Weiland and I completed a one month residency in May 2015 at Milking Parlour Studios in St George, Barbados.

We wrote a blog about our residency, you can read it here.

Why did you apply for the Alcorso Residency at this particular time?

I am at a crucial point as an independent theatre-maker in sustaining my arts practice in Tasmania. I recently moved here, but have spent a lot of time interstate, fulfilling existing opportunities which were already in development, including creating and premiering four original Australian performance  works.

photo of artistsI am now seeking to focus my creative energy into a Tasmanian based practice by creating new work in Hobart. Crawl Me Blood is a project I hope to develop and deliver here in the next two years.  It might seem ironic that supporting a trip overseas ultimately supports the creation of new, interdisciplinary Tasmanian artwork but this research and the location is essential to the foundation of this project. Now that we have completed the first phases of creative development, we are looking for  presentation partners here in Hobart.

Were there any surprises, unforeseen situations and challenges with your time away?

While we were in Barbados I was often moving around with my three month old infant in a baby carrier and this turned out to be a bit of a social secret weapon - a defense against unwanted attention from Caribbean men in the street and a welcoming and a disarming effect on the Caribbean women we were interviewing  and meeting.

As part of the writing process we interviewed Bajan and Jamaican women between the ages of 19 and 80. This was an incredible experience talking about landscape, notions of paradise, feminism, their grandmothers, race, slavery, tourism, white creole identity, gender dynamics in a post-colonial Caribbean  space and their visions for the future. This was largely thanks to our amazing hosts who introduced us to a range of funny, insightful, thoughtful, creative Caribbean women and put the call out for us.

I continue to be haunted by the past, by the blood pressing up into the soles of our feet. My interest in the Caribbean is very much connected to a desire to connect to our own blood-soaked history as Australians.

The place of connection in this project is landscape and imagination, exploring notions of paradise and idealized landscapes. I'm interested in the way in which we are enchanted by landscape, dream about it, feel connected to it and respect its power.

Although you only recently returned from your trip is there any impact that you can see from of your time in Barbados?

This is a project about place, landscape and connection, or lack of connection to it and the way we over romanticize landscape. It is essential that this work is being created through genuine cultural exchange and dialogue with the Caribbean landscapes, people and through experiences in the region.

Crawl Me Blood was conceived in the Caribbean during an initial creative development stage the artists undertook in 2011. Willoh and I travelled to Jamaica, Belize and the University of Oklahoma where the archive of Jean Rhys' writing is held. After undertaking a further development in Australia,  it was essential that the next phase of development of this work take place in the Caribbean region. This residency will have a profound impact on the way the work develops as it engages directly with the location and culture, language and people

After the residency in Barbados we went straight to the glamour of Port Adelaide in winter and participated in a further development of our project (hosted by Vitalstatistix) including three public showings of the work in development. It was clear through the showings just how much the residency informs  the work we are creating.

One of the successes of the showings of the work in development in Adelaide, was that we led the audiences on a journey of "this is about the Caribbean, this is about them, relax everyone…then bam, this is about us" – that's what we want to do. That is satisfying.

For this project, the residency is an invaluable experience that gives us a strong foundation for this particular project.

Any tips for people intending to apply for an Alcorso Residency?

I think it's just about making a solid argument about why this, why now. And as always, the luck of the draw!

Anything else you would like to add?

I feel incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity to pursue my ideas and I'm excited about the work I'm going to make as a result of this time away.

Click here for more information about the Arts Tasmania Claudio Alcorso International Residency program.