Founded in March 2018 by Alison Croggon and Robert Reid, Witness is an forum for independent critique and debate about the Australian performing arts. We want to rethink criticism, placing contemporary performance into its social, aesthetic and historical contexts.
If you want to keep up with what’s new on the site, you can sign up to our newsletter for free. However, if you value our coverage, please think about supporting us: a membership costs between $5-$15 a month. You can sign up as a Witness member at this page and support the future of Australian criticism.
We have put together reports of our activities over the past two years, including what we covered and who covered it, which you can find below.
We believe performance is much more than a product: it’s a nexus of ideas, memories, disciplines, communities and social and individual histories. At Witness, we aim to trace some of these ideas, memories, disciplines, communities and histories. This means that we are proudly non-commercial: we are interested in talking about the art of performance. That means we focus particularly on covering independent works, as indie artists are the powerhouses of Australian culture.
As well as current reviews and features on performance, Witness publishes podcast and video series that expand discussion beyond the usual publicity-driven coverage of what’s on now. Throughout 2018, Robert Reid uploaded an entire series of Video Histories, which cover the history of Australian performance from pre-colonisation to the present day. Our podcasts include interviews with notable artists who might not be in the headlines, but whose practice uniquely contributes to our performance culture, in this year we’ll be launching our Podcast Specials, in-depth creative investigations of issues in the performing arts.
A central part of our mission is nurturing and mentoring new critical voices, especially from communities marginalised in mainstream critical discussion. We believe that the future health of our performing arts culture depends on nurturing these voices. We launched with the Witness First Nations Emerging Critic program, and worked with Carissa Lee throughout 2018. In 2019 Carissa joined us as an assistant editor and Jacob Boehme became the second Witness FNEC. Unfortunately, as we were unable to secure funding in 2020, we have had to discontinue this program: but we routinely commission Indigenous critics and writers besides FNECs – voices published here include Monique Grbec, Angelina Hurley and others – and other writers from marginalised backgrounds. Weplan to continue this policy. Whatever our budget, we pay our contributors.
In 2018 we also we collaborated on the New Review program with Footscray Community Arts Centre’s West Writers and Malthouse Theatre, mentoring and publishing four emerging critics, and delivered masterclasses with Yirramboi’s Blak Critics program. We also actively seek out new voices when commissioning work. In 2018, we published 215 works from 20 contributors. Of those writers, 14 were women, 3 were Indigenous, 4 were from CALD backgrounds, two were Disabled and one was 13 years old.
Witness is proudly made on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin Nations. We respectfully acknowledge their Elders past and present.