‘The experience of 2020 really needs to be celebrated and used as a platform for diving into the future … we mustn’t go back’
For this Witness Interview, we’re taking a look behind the scenes at what happened last year when the pandemic hit a major arts festival, and how the producers and artists behind a very complex live event responded to the huge challenges it presented, changing the nature of their events. These challenges led to a series of innovative decisions that opened out new ways of working in both local and international collaborations.
Asia TOPA 2020, the second Asia Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts, opened in the week of February 17, 2020, when Covid-19 was just beginning to signal its massive impact. Some festival events were already affected by the novel coronavirus that was beginning to hit world headlines: for Asia TOPA, this meant that some of their scheduled events had to be rescheduled or recast, due to a travel ban on China took effect on February 2. But a week into the festival, live performance began its Australia-wide shutdown.
Ben Keene talks to Asia TOPA creative director Stephen Armstrong and director of design studio Sandpit and Asia TOPA digital dramaturg Dan Koerner about what followed: an unleashing of innovation across digital platforms that highlighted the potential of digital collaboration and performance. It included the creation of a Virtual Creative LAB that supports artists in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Hobart to connect online with artists in Jakarta, Hong Kong, Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Seoul, Paris, Bergen, Beijing and Singapore, and Asia TOPA Connected, which presented and documented work online throughout 2020. Arts Centre Melbourne has just initiated a second Asia TOPA Virtual LAB series.
Arts Centre Melbourne’s Asia TOPA Virtual LAB series has been supported by the Sidney Myer Fund and Playking Foundation
Virtual LAB direction is by Stephen Armstrong with Digital Dramaturgy by Daniel Koerner of Sandpit