Citizen 457

Citizen-457-dance

Local based dance theatre company, in Helvetica’s new work delves into contentious conversations around citizenship. In Helvetica is a contemporary performance ensemble, based in Upwey, making unique and quirky new work through improvisation and play. Comprised of contemporary dancer Sara Di Segna, performance maker Toni Main and musician Gene Holland, In Helvetica explores the everyday world through movement, storytelling and sound.

Their new work, Citizen 457, will open next Wednesday as part of the La Mama Explorations Program. Citizen 457 is an improvised dance theatre response to the legislation in our country regarding emigration, refugees and citizenship. In Helvetica have drawn from their experiences and struggles with national pride, visa applications, and ineffectual compassion. It explores the questions around what it means to belong.

To belong to Australia.

To be a citizen.

It gets harder to answer these questions in a world that more often raises walls, protecting the borders instead of the people.

Ensemble member Sara Di Segna is originally from Italy, currently living in Australia on the controversial 457 visa. She left Italy in the throes of economic turmoil and has been in Australia for five years. She has been creating and performing with in Helvetica for four of those years. Earlier this year, her right to stay in Australia came into question which became a springboard for the development of the work. Gene Holland explains what happened,

“We were working together on a children’s show, and in our breaks we would often find ourselves discussing the political climate, trying to come to grips with the decisions our government was constantly making for us, but this all came to the front when Sara’s ability to stay in the country came into question through no fault of her own. The government decided to abolish the 457 visa, the visa that enabled Sara to live here, and the ramifications of this decision where a big unknown. In the end there were no changes to current holders of the visa, but that moment of instability rocked us.”

The three performers felt hurt, let down, angry and afraid. So, they decided to express themselves by making a work that unpacked the situation that they, and many others, find themselves in.

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There are two sides to the performance. On the one hand there is Sara’s story; the story of the migrant, trying to find her place, and on the other hand there is Toni and Gene. They are Australian, born and raised, but what does that mean? How can they have pride in their country when they are confronted with what Australia is doing, the disgusting way we treat refugees, the devastating destruction of our natural environment, and the complete disrespect for the indigenous people of the land on which we live.

Are you a proud Australian?

The in Helvetica ensemble asked themselves that very question and out came Citizen 457.

“Many of the values Australians hold dear regarding our country, such as mateship and a “fair go”­, are not being upheld in our legislation, and we are passively allowing them to be eroded from our culture, particularly when it comes to people seeking a fresh start in this country. Many of these people have a greater appreciation than many of us for the relative privilege we live in, and feel an affinity to a society with a rich multicultural history. As someone who was born and raised in regional Australia, I’ve held pride in the opportunities my country has been able to provide people from many different backgrounds. Our diversity is our backbone. To feel belonging is to be welcomed with open arms.” – Gene Holland.

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Citizen 457 is the response. It isn’t asking questions, and it’s not finding solutions, it’s exploring the response; those moments of confusion, frustration and anger. Coming to terms with our perceived inability to do anything about the politics and dealing with the possibility of displacement. In exploring these emotions, the ensemble found that there was also joy and companionship within the connection between people, the moments when someone supports you, stands up for your rights and helps you to continue the struggle.

Whether you agree or disagree with us, let’s start the conversation

Citizen-457-dance1

Citizen 457
6.30pm Wednesday 13th December
8.30pm Thursday 14th December
6.30pm Friday 15th December

La Mama Courthouse theatre
349 Drummond st, Carlton

Book at: http://lamama.com.au
All tix $15

Citizen 457 will be performing as part of the La Mama Explorations 2017 program.

To find out more about in Helvetica go to www.inhelvetica.weebly.com
or their facebook page.

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Get poor quick

Cameron-Semmens-Get-Poor-quick

Tell me a bit about your latest book.

Okay, so the book is called:

GET POOR QUICK through Poetry (and other arty enterprises)
101 super easy steps to obscurity, disappointment and straight-up cashlessness.

It’s the mutant book-baby of a troubled artist and a life coach. It’s a self un-help book. It’s petite – 5 x 7 in old-school inches, 130 pages. Hopefully it’s a feather to the funny bone, and chink in armoured self-righteousness.

Most simply I would describe it as a funny, self-help parody for artists and art appreciators.

Are these ‘pearls of wisdom’ derived from your own life experience or are they more universal?

Basically, yes, this wisdom (if you can call it that) has emerged from my life and experiences. I’ve been a poet for 26 years now, and Poetry and Poverty have always gone hand-in-hand for me. And recently, I just got to the point where, instead of trying to fight that, I thought I’d embrace it. Perhaps ironically, I do sort-of survive as a poet, doing workshops and school incursions and gigs and selling a few books here and there. I don’t earn much, but it’s just enough to survive with other little bits of book design work.

Universal wisdom? I’m not sure if there such a thing. Because the same single piece of advice can be perfectly correct for one person at their stage in life and development, but completely wrong for another person at different stage. So I ‘spose I’m saying I’m slightly dubious of any universal truths. But, at the same time – paradoxically – I DO think there are some universals and absolutes that do apply to all humans. So as you can see, I’m a deeply confused individual. The perfect person to write a book about obscurity and disappointment.

 Are self-help books really helpful?

Yes, I think some self-help books can be properly helpful! BUT some are not! The ones that I have a problem with are those that strongly assert with absolute certainty – they make me dubious. I think we as humans often want things to be more clear and simple that reality is. Maybe it’s because of my age, or some of the heartbreaking experiences I’ve had, but these days I am just very cautious around simple assertions of certainties which some self-help books are prone to.

You mention ‘brainstorming this book with arty friends’, is this book just for artists?

Yes. It should be illegal for anyone who is not an artist to read this book. Anyone who does not have a full-time, full-on creative practice should be forbidden from consuming these illuminating instructional insider insights!!!!!!

Or… on second thoughts… my sister’s a civil engineer, and she said she really liked it.

So actually, I think, anyone who enjoys the arts will enjoy this. As well as artists themselves.

If being rich is most people’s idea of success. What’s your idea of success?

For me, money has never been my currency. That’s not me being noble or anything, I just can’t get myself excited by it. I know we all need a bit of money. Because if you don’t have enough for rent or food or for when the car suddenly breaks down, life just gets way too stressful.

I’m totally open to being rich. I think I’d be really good at it. And I’d be willing for this book to sell millions and set me up for life. That would be the most hilarious irony. But earning money is not the primary motivation for doing books and projects like this.

The richness I value sits more around authenticity, communication, friendship, openness and community. So success for me usually has something to do with enabling these things in myself and in others.

You’ve written 21 books, what do you most enjoy about the writing process?

I remember in high school I just loved doing projects – the process of getting information, adding pictures, finding a sense of flow or narrative and then packaging it up into a pretty little self-contained entity – was just fun and satisfying for me. And these days, doing a book, is just like doing a high school project, but then I try to sell it to people! It’s just been a natural evolution.

And there is something unique about working towards writing, producing and designing a physical book. It can really focus your mind, because you know it’s going to go out into the world, and potentially be around for hundreds of years. This motivates me to produce the best result I can in that moment.

Where and when is the launch and where can people get the book?

The book is available locally at the Belgrave Book Barn, Little Rebellion and Grunge Cafe (thanks to those guys for the lovely local support!!!). And you can also buy it directly from my website www.webcameron.com, and I’ll mail it out to you promptly.

The launch is on Dec 11, 2017 between 6 and 8pm (7pm formalities)
25 Matson Drive, Upwey, VIC (just across the road from Burrinja).

There will be light refreshments, and dark refreshments.
RSVP: Yeah, go old-school and tell me if you’re coming, it’ll help with catering:
0438 72 55 88

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