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Reflections on This Is Not Art

The Australian independent arts festival This Is Not Art (TINA) is on this weekend in Newcastle (27th September - 1st October 2007). Over the past 9 years TINA has evolved from an underground subculture to become the catalyst for thousands of artistic collaborations and vanguard projects. For its panelists and participants TINA is a very real example of collective intelligence and a rhizomatic network that transcends academic theory to change lives.

I had been in a year of isolation after the demise of 21C Magazine when Sean Healy aka Jean Poole invited me to TINA in 1999. The TINA years from 1999 to 2003 were an intense period of improvised logistics, late-night conversations in the Octapod or on the cenotaph hill, meetings at Goldbergs cafe, crowded gigs, and amazing panels. It coincided with my most creative period as Disinformation's new editor which Healy, Marcus Westbury, Barry Saunders, Erin Clark and others enabled me to experiment with. I started with sessions for Electrofringe and the National Young Writers Festival before ending up in the Student Media Conference, in a meta-reflection on my 1994 stint at La Trobe University's student newspaper Rabelais. Finally, TINA provided a participatory space to experiment with Strategic Foresight frameworks and models, such as running a Spiral Dynamics session on film clips and considering how Octapod could become a Vital Signs Monitor on community futures. In-the-moment experience trumps the artefacts.

By 2005 I'd had enough and wasn't saying anything new. So I've not gone to TINA for a few years although I run into TINA allies in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. In these meetings, I often think of Chuck D's advice that your thirties should be a time of consolidation and building on the energy of your twenties. I'm looking forward to a new period of collaborations with some fellow TINA alumni --- and waiting with interest for what emerges from TINA 2007.


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