Engagement is the theme of the Australian Council of University Art and Design Schools conference in Melbourne on 31 October to 1 November 2019 with pre-conference meetings and masterclasses on the day before. The conference reflects on Bauhaus Centenary in the Australian political context to “focus on the meaning of engagement for contemporary art and design schools: across disciplines, nationalities and cultures; but also with industries, communities and the world at large”. The draft program looks amazing and I’ll be speaking on Friday morning:

Two decades ago, I spent a formative year at the Bauhaus, collaborating with a global team of architects, academics and artists in the interdisciplinary mode that had long since shaped the school. This work grounded my approach to strategic leadership, inspiring a practice focused on the creative, spatial and political conditions from which new thinking could emerge. A legacy of methodologies rather than design objects is what has long sustained my interest in the Bauhaus; the institutional and civic critique fostered there is even more relevant today – an active citizenship led by artists.

My work in the arts then went on to focus on the leadership of many key organisations, while maintaining a critical relationship with architecture and a deep commitment to civic engagement. Today, as Executive Director of NAVA, I lead policy, advocacy and action for a contemporary arts sector that’s ambitious and fair, ensuring that the arts perspective is heard on matters of national interest.

Meanwhile, Australians’ confidence in public institutions is in decline, arts and culture are neglected, public education is threatened, scientific facts are questioned and politicians distrusted. Rather than foster a nation of critical thinkers and active citizenship, our Prime Minister prefers a nation of “Quiet Australians” who aren’t “complaining about their rights”.

How must education and creative practice engage beyond our immediate communities? And what’s at stake if we fail? In this keynote, I will outline an ethic and a practice of engagement – and what the artists, designers and citizens of the future need from all of us right now.


>>> ACUADS conference registration


HEADER IMAGE: The second of the two times that I’ve appeared on Sky after dark. The first was as the object of abuse on Paul Murray’s show, complete with unauthorised image, full-screen quotes and a panel of attackers to whom I was never invited to respond. The average audience of these shows is a small fraction of the ABC’s.