Musical Partners: Kieran Welch and Allison Wright

Musical Partners: Kieran Welch and Allison Wright

On the power of collaboration and the meaning behind ‘post-genre’.

Musical Partners: Kieran Welch and Allison Wright

On the power of collaboration and the meaning behind ‘post-genre’.

Firstly, how did you meet and what was your first collaborative experience?

Allison Wright: I met Kieran at Bang on a Can's Summer Festival in 2016, where we were both performing fellows. Though we didn't collaborate at that festival, I was keenly aware of Kieran's work once I heard him ask a question in a seminar about funding his concert series. How he described his artistic vision for Dots+Loops sounded extremely similar to my vision for the concert series I had been running for a few years; Kammervolk. Naturally, it didn't take long for us to get talking about what would happen if we were to team up. Our first official collaboration was for Dots+Loops' Synthesis project in March this year. It saw Kieran commission me to compose a new work and I had the opportunity to perform in two other pieces on the program, which was a huge honour and a lot of fun. 

Kieran Welch: Despite living in the same country, Allison and I only met for the first time in North Adams, Massachusetts, at the 2016 Bang on a Can Summer Festival. But after two short years of knowing and working with each other, it feels like I've known her my whole life. From artistic goals and dreams to obscure memes, we just seem to be on the same wavelength, and even better, I think our differences compliment each other too. Things that I wish I could do just seem to come naturally to Allison, and I feel so lucky to have come across such a great collaborator. Technically our first collaborative experience was at Bang on a Can, working through the most difficult chamber orchestra piece either of us had ever played—It was touch and go for a while, but we both emerged triumphant at the other end. However, our first properly collaborative project was the Dots+Loops Companions festival last year. I had Allison up to Brisbane to talk about her career and artistic output in a fantastic workshop about career development for young musicians, but she quickly and easily slid into the role of co-producer of the festival. I've always found it so hard to even explain to anyone else how to help me run a Dots+Loops show, but Allison just got it and was getting things done before I even had a chance to ask.

Tell me about the Liminality Festival - what it's all about and where your role comes in.

Allison Wright: For me, the meaning behind the Liminality Festival is twofold. Firstly, it's a celebration of the new artistic partnership between Kieran and I, and secondly, an opportunity to present music and live art that explores the magic feeling of things in transition. The works being presented all have a particular link to this feeling, but achieve it through very different means. I've stepped into the role of co-artistic director at Dots+Loops, which sees me curating one full day of the festival. This is a really exciting opportunity for me, and the artists I've gathered are phenomenal. In addition to my role as curator, I'll also be co-composing an audio/visual work with Elliott Hughes & Tilman Robinson which features the three of us as performers, in conversation with the work of an exceptional team of visual & digital artists including Robert Jarvis, Sean Healy & Ellen Sorensen. So my creative role is diverse, but on Kieran's line-up, I'll be running around as a stagehand and most likely pouring you a glass of wine. 

Dots+Loops is all about creating immersive experiences based around post-genre music and collaboration. What does post-genre mean here, and how do you connect with audiences through the performance experience?

Allison Wright: This is a phrase that Kieran introduced me to; it baffled me at first but now I adore it. The ethos behind it links back to our shared passion for inclusivity, whilst also including our passion for innovation. We want to produce gigs that anyone and everyone can attend, regardless of education & socio-economic position. There is a financial barrier for a lot of people to attend traditional programming in traditional concert spaces, which is caused by a multitude of reasons, some unavoidable and some not. Then there's also the socialised associations and stigmas around performances in those spaces, which is a whole other can of worms. The idea of our programming being 'post-genre' means we don't belong to an entrenched aesthetic, which we find better reflects the diversity of our artistic community. It also allows us to combine elements from all over the place in order to best suit the creative expression, without being tied to the expectations of a genre. This means we get to make art for art's sake.

Kieran Welch: Post-genre means the freedom to create music and art without borders. With Dots+Loops, that means non-hierarchically taking aspects from different musical and artistic worlds, and combining them in a way to create something exciting and new. Everyone who comes will find something familiar and welcoming, but also something exciting and different. It's a place where audience, performers and creators are all valued as equally important parts of the artistic process—and can all have a great time too!

What interests you about cross-city collaborations, and what is the value of working across both Queensland and Melbourne, from an artistic perspective?

Kieran Welch: More and more I've started to find that it's weirdly easier in Australia to find opportunities and funding to perform and create art overseas than it is to do so interstate. I realised last year that the major Australian cities all have a very distinct sound as far as art music goes, and while having a unique sound and tradition is something each city can be proud of, it also seems to me that the scenes are weirdly isolated from each other, and that at times the unique approach and sound of each city I mentioned is simply due to a lack of opportunity to collaborate with Australians from other states. I strongly believe that Brisbane has one of the most exciting and unique post-genre scenes in the world, but all the amazing work we're creating often ends up staying close to home. Likewise, every time I go to Melbourne, I'm blown away by the creativity and vision of the arts practitioners there, in particular, the uniquely multidisciplinary approach they have in so many things they do. There are few people I've come across who tackle this multidisciplinary approach in a more exciting way than Allison, and I can't wait to share the stuff she's curated with our amazing artistic communities here in Brisbane. And likewise, I'm so excited for the opportunity to bring a touch of Brisbane's own unique artistic vibes down to Victoria.

As a co-artistic director, what do you hope to achieve through your programming at the Liminality Festival?

Allison Wright: My style of curatorship has always been a focus on bringing exceptionally talented people together, putting them in a room with each other and seeing what happens. It never fails to surprise me, as collaborations in this way always produce something completely new. Doing things this way also fosters a sense of community by linking other artists to each other and to our audiences. 

Kieran Welch: This is the thirteenth Dots+Loops show I've curated, and throughout this process I've realised that my programming can be about much more than sharing bangin' tunes with lovely people. I've realised that in my own small way, it can also assist in creating the kind of world I want to live in — that is, I can reflect my social values through what I do, and I'm actually in quite an amazing position to do so. I'd never program a concert without music by a female or non-binary composer, and always aim for at least equity in this respect. I can support and champion amazing local and young talent. I can encourage inclusivity, and supportive, active artistic communities through the way I enact the whole concert. But at the same time, the reason I started Dots+Loops was to create a chilled out, fun and social way to enjoy bangin' adventurous tunes—something that I'd actively want to go to on a Friday night with my mates—and the series will always be equally about that. And most luckily, in Allison I've found a collaborator who gets all of the above and then some.

How has your past experience as a curator and performer influenced your approach to this project? What learnings will you be bringing to the festival?

Allison Wright: I'll be bringing my experience as artistic director of Kammervolk Collective into this project in the form of multi-disciplinary performance, which is always something I've been passionate about. Liminality features the same team of mixed media artists we worked with on Kammervolk's 'The North Voice' in September last year, who were added into that project quite late into the production period (literally the day of the performance!!). We had such a fantastic time working together that we vowed to find an appropriate time to stage such a collaboration again and with much more production and development this time around. Calling themselves 'comp.artmental', the group is led by Robert Jarvis (video artist) and features Sean Healy (video synthesis) and Ellen Sorensen (papercraft, puppetry), and their work will be featured in the collaboration with myself, Elliott Hughes & Tilman Robinson. 

Support the Liminality Festival by donating to the Australian Cultural Fund campaign