22/09/2017 - 11:57

Art scene: Proximity Festival

22/09/2017 - 11:57

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With the development of new projects in Perth’s east end under way as part of the Historic Heart project led by Adrian Fini, it is perhaps fitting that the Proximity one-on-one performance arts festival will take place at Cathedral Square for 2017.

Sarah Rowbottam (left) and Kelli Mccluskey say the Proximity Festival at Cathedral Square will provide a unique experience. Photo: Attila Csaszar

With the development of new projects in Perth’s east end under way as part of the Historic Heart project led by Adrian Fini, it is perhaps fitting that the Proximity one-on-one performance arts festival will take place at Cathedral Square for 2017.

To be held from Tuesday September 26 to Saturday October 7, this year’s festival will be the first time the event has been held at a non-arts-specific venue.

A sell-out event every year since its inception in 2012, Proximity provides a unique experience in that it is set up to ensure participants get a one-on-one, personalised viewing of each artist’s work.

With nine artists involved, the festival has curated three programs, A, B and C, made up of three works each.

Each program translates like an interactive tour, taking visitors on unique experiences that might find them weaving from indoors to outdoors and from public to private spaces.

The precinct extends from the Perth Town Hall to the City of Perth Library, to St George’s Cathedral.

Proximity Festival director and co-curator Sarah Rowbottam said it was this versatility and variety of venues that made Cathedral Square an attractive choice.

“I think we were really interested in, not necessarily moving away from an arts institution, but the idea of occupying an urban, inner city space,” Ms Rowbottam told Business News.

“And what was interesting about Cathedral Square was it was just starting to find its sense of identity as a new inner-city neighbourhood.”

In previous years, venues have invited Proximity into their spaces, Ms Rowbottom said, making Cathedral Square the first venue Proximity had approached.

“They have really embraced the idea of it but they’re still trying to understand what it is,” she said.

Co-curator Kelli Mccluskey said Proximity was asking the venue owners at Cathedral Square to take a leap of faith.

“We’ve had four successful experiences under our belt, which gave us the confidence to try explain to those venues that this is how we work, there’s a lot that’s unknown, but trust us and it will all come together,” she said.

“At Cathedral Square, every single relationship we have with the venues is very different to the next, but they’re all very positive.

“It could be the owner of Saint Larry Cafe, and he’s just this incredible entrepreneur who owns several bars, but he just loves the idea of us coming in and engaging in his space.”

 Cathedral Square isn’t the only first for Proximity this year.

The Proximity team has for the first time headhunted artists of interest to them, as opposed to their traditional public call-out curation process, which has resulted in an influx of submissions in recent years.

It’s also the first year Proximity will execute a festival with the help of its supplementary workshop, Proximity Lab.

Launched in 2012 at The Blue Room Theatre, the festival has in the past exhibited at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Fremantle Arts Centre and the Art Gallery of WA, but took a break in 2016, hosting a Proximity Lab workshop to develop artists’ concepts instead.

“We decided we needed a moment to pause, recalibrate and to slow things down for a few reasons,” Ms Rowbottam said.

“The funding climate had changed, the works were getting more ambitious, we were growing exponentially but our resources weren’t growing exponentially.”

After trialling Proximity Lab workshop, the team decided to make the change permanent.

Ms Rowbottam said the Proximity Festival would be held every second year from hereon, with a Proximity Lab held in the off years to allow time to gestate ideas and invest funding in quality, not quantity. 

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