Barossa is Bringing SexyBack

Anlaby Station

Anlaby Station

No longer can I claim to never win anything.

The drought has broken.

Yesterday, I pressed ‘enter’ on a competition I barely read the details of. Something about the Barossa, a weekend away, food. It doesn’t take much more to pique my interest. It was a vendor that I trust and it didn’t take me to any dodgy links or spam, so why not.

Within a couple of hours, an unfamiliar number rang on my cell phone and I was told I had won two nights away at Anlaby Station in the Barossa Valley and a dinner at fermentAsian. Just like that.

The contest, run by Glam Adelaide for the South Australian Tourism Commission. builds on a recent, deliciously controversial, new ad campaign to lure savvy overseas travellers to our gorgeous wine region.

The ad – part of a $6 million tourism campaign – goes way beyond the well-known wineries though, wooing viewers with sumptuous produce and beautiful people. Lots of suggestive scooping of oranges and freshly-laid eggs, rolling around in fine Barossa dirt, a woman in a white dress and a man who might as well be shirtless for all of the ad’s lusty feel.

The tagline reads simply: Barossa, Be Consumed. You can watch it here.

Is the Barossa is bringing SexyBack?

Anyway, I’m yet to set a date for this adventure but as we roll towards our second anniversary since moving to Australia, I think a weekend away is in order.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, yes, hubs will get first dibs on accompanying me …

Oh Deer!

Deer

This adorable chap made his way home with me after a recent browsing afternoon on Magill Road. There was just something about hot pink antlers that I  couldn’t resist.

Thankfully the family realised his charms and my deer made his way above our bed, like some sort of hunting trophy.

For patchwork, Liberty-esque deer busts and other outlandishly individual homewares, furniture and art visit Louis Bond at 133- 135  Magill Road, Stepney.

Oi You! Urban Art Festival Brings Banksy to Adelaide

Banksy Reworks Warhol’s Monroe

George Shaw, a self-described ageing punk, says buying a loud shirt back in 2005 at his wife’s urging led to an obsession that changed their lives forever.

He picked up the well-cut shirt – with green felt running down the sleeves and a plasticised stencil on the back – in a UK boutique to wear to a friend’s 40th birthday bash. When some lads from Bristol mentioned that the stencilling on the shirt was reminiscent of the rogue street artist Banksy, who cut his teeth on the rough Bristol streets, Shaw’s curiosity piqued.

“I thought Banksy sounded like my kind of guy,” said Shaw.

“Through a hangover the next day, I Googled Banksy and I felt a rush. I was so excited – it was the first artwork that I really related to. It was a bit like the punk movement, it really had something to say.”

That loud, well-cut shirt and the street art obsession it inspired will bring Shaw, his wife and creative partner Shannon Webster, and more than 70  pieces from their urban art collection, including  22 Banksys, to Adelaide this month for the Oi You! Urban Art Festival.

The duo has run the festival in Sydney and in Nelson, on New Zealand’s South Island, where they live. Shaw says they approached Adelaide City Council (ACC) with the idea to host one in Adelaide, and the council saw its value. ACC, through Splash Adelaide, is backing the event with the State Government and theAdelaide Festival Centre, which will be the hub for festival events, including an exhibition, an art hunt, a scrawl wall and outdoor installations.

“There’s a fabulous local street art scene in Adelaide already,” said Shaw. “Hopefully this festival will allow for it to win an even broader audience and be a bit more cherished.”

To be sure, Adelaide has a healthy obsession of its own with random artworks popping up on buildings and in alleyways. The South Australia Illustrated: From the Street exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australialast year helped legitimise an artform that has long been maligned.

As part of the exhibition, Adelaide-raised street artist Peter Drew invited fellow street artists to ‘respond’ to an unfinished portrait of Adelaide’s founder, Colonel William Light. These were hung briefly on the Gallery walls, alongside traditional, historically important paintings. They were then plucked one by one and hidden around the city, sending anyone from students to office workers running through the CBD in a game of finders keepers.

Elusive and anonymous

Elusive and still anonymous, Banksy is one of the world’s best-known street artists for his iconic and satirical stencil art in public places. His last major show saw some 300,000 people queue for hours to get in and his art fetches hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction houses in Britain and the US.

The Oi You! Festival will host 22 Banksy pieces, along with work from other leading graffiti artists around the globe, including Faile, Swoon and David Choe from the US, the UK’s Antony Micallef and Paul Insect, and the artist known as Milton Springsteen from NZ.

“I like a lot of art but street art really speaks to me, probably because it’s not exclusive. It’s inclusive, it’s populist.

“The way I look at street art: it’s almost like you think of traditional art as the theatre – street art is the cinema. It’s for the people.”

Matt Stuckey adds colour outside the Adelaide Festival Centre

Since 2005 Shaw and Webster have collected about 100 urban artworks, among them Banksy limited edition prints such as the Kate Moss image channelling Warhol’s iconic Marilyn Monroe and the original Flower Thrower canvas, the cover image for the Banksy bestseller War and Piece. Both works will be part of the exhibition in Adelaide.

Shaw says they have spent the best part of seven years following Banksy’s shows around the world, including war-ravaged Palestine and the more high-end Los Angeles for Banksy’s Barely Legal show in 2006, where Shaw found himself shoulder to shoulder with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

“It’s been surreal. We found ourselves at the epicentre of this phenomenon that just exploded across the world.”

Obsessed stamp collectors

Unlike the collectors who buy art on a hunch that an artist will make it big and their works will command big price tags, Shaw says he and Webster just bought what they liked, and they liked a lot.

“We’re like obsessed stamp collectors.

“It began with an interest in what Banksy had done and we kind of went overboard. If there was a new piece out, we had to have it.

“Most people start collecting art when they are rich but we weren’t rich – we were comfortable I guess – but we still sold both our cars and went to the bank to support our obsession.”

Their next goal is to find a permanent home for the Banksy collection, ideally in earthquake-wracked Christchurch, New Zealand, which is in the midst of a massive rebuild.

“We’d really like to see Christchurch become home to an annual Oi You! festival and to our collection.

“They’re going through a very significant rebuild there and we like the idea of being a part of that.”

Adelaide is sister city to Christchurch so it’s fitting perhaps that Adelaide will get a taste of Oi You!

The festival kicks off with an Opening Night party on 19 April before opening to the public from 20 April to 2 June. The Opening Night party will give fans a sneak peek at the exhibition and feature talks from some of the artists as well as a DJ set from local electronic artist, Oisima.

A large annex built outside the Artspace Gallery will provide plenty of space for budding local artists to express themselves. One side will be a ‘scrawl wall’ covered in chalkboard paint and the other, made from corrugated iron, is dubbed ‘corrugated irony’.

And while you won’t be able to take a Banksy original home, local duo Ankles and Smile, known as Rawhide, will give everyone the chance to own some art in The Great $5000 Art Giveaway. On Saturday 27 April and Sunday 28 April, 38 tokens will be hidden across the Adelaide Festival Centre Plaza, corresponding to 38 works of art. Find a token and take home a piece of art – it’s that simple.

Australian street art gurus Anthony Lister, Rhone and Beastman will be in town too, to create large works on big walls. Matt Stuckey will create a number of installations on the plaza outside the Festival Centre too.

Among other festival events are street artist guided tours of some of Adelaide’s best urban art sites, and a Street Art Film Night in the Space Theatre Foyer on Friday 10 May, featuring screenings of locally-produced documentary Who Owns The Street, and the Academy Award-nominated Banksy film Exit Through The Gift Shop.

As for the shirt that started it all, Shaw reckons he might wear it on opening night.

“It’s all come from that shirt. Our whole life changed in that moment.”

Visit the Oi You! Urban Art Festival on Facebook for all the latest news

 

 

 

 

Miffy is in the house

Miffy has arrived.

The much talked about and anticipated bunny is the latest and possibly the final member to join our household. She is of course utterly adorable. A seal point, lop eared dwarf (or do I have to say bunny of short stature?), Miffy is somewhere between a pale gray and a very light cocoa. The breeder says this colouring is particularly rare.

I say it works in beautifully with our dark wood floors.

The progeny of mother Gypsy and father Thomas, Miffy was born 23 October 2012. It happens that she shares a birthday with Grandma, Mo’s mother, which the kids find especially amusing.

Artist Dick Bruna’s Miffy

Her name, which means little rabbit in Dutch, is in honour of the Miffy character illustrated in  series of picture books by Dutch artist Dick Bruna. The first Miffy book was produced in 1955 and has since inspired two television series. Our children happily watched Miffy for many years on public televsion in the US – so it was a no brainer that our little, female rabbit should be a Miffy.

Miffy has been with us for only two days but so far she is curious,  spunky – and fast. She’s a tiny, fluffy bundle of energy; easily startled like all small bunnies but still gutsy enough to explore our turf on her terms.

The children are probably a bit too excited for Miffy to warm to them just yet. They are busting to play with her but don’t seem to understand that she needs to suss them out first – have a sniff and wander around them calmly before they can lunge and pick her up.

That will come in time, we hope.

Ho Ho Ho Hum

I’ve been mulling the whole Christmas thing en route to work each day. The bus takes North Terrace, a gorgeous boulevard of historic buildings – the cultural hub of this pretty city – and yet not a single red bow or decorated store front. There’s not a thing to indicate that Australia is still one of the countries where Christmas is a big deal, celebrated or at least recognised by the majority of the population.

New York, in contrast  (yeah here she goes again) is a decorating dream come the holidays. It’s all out warfare among window stylists at the big department stores as they compete for the glitziest, most innovative and cleverest store windows.

ABC Carpet & Home, where a lovely old-school Santa greeted our children for many years, twinkles with gazillions of sparkly decorations, and Rockefeller Center is a winter wonderland, with the massive lit tree and ice-skating rink front and center. Even in Brownstone Brooklyn, there were pop-up nativity scenes, inflatable Santas and light-up deer in people’s front yards and outside stores.

Interestingly, we were the only Christian family at most of the annual Christmas parties we hosted in Brooklyn. There were Jews and Muslims, and then us. We were also often the only Christians at the Jewish Hannukah parties that coincided with the Christmas festivities.

None of it mattered. It was the holidays and everyone was merry in one way or another, for one reason or another.

But in lovely Adelaide, where most of us are celebrating the same holiday, there’s nary a wreath or a red bow in sight, let alone a nativity scene. I read with interest Susan Mitchell’s column It’s a Christmas dark age in Adelaide in Indaily last week. She said exactly what I was thinking. For all the waffle about making our city vibrant by attracting people to live, work and play in the CBD, the lights are out and apparently nobody’s home.

sad and sorry snowflakes, the lone and seasonally inappropriate ode to Christmas on Gouger Street

Even in the office where I work, there is little in the way of festive cheer. Admittedly I have been here only a year, but even so a couple of Christmas cards and some tinsel strung about our desks is about it. There’s no crazy office party since apparently some anti-drinking chap moved to a top job and outlawed fun, not that we would necessarily expect him to come party with the plebs.

I fondly recall working for gritty newspapers in the days of long, boozy Christmas lunches and gifts of wine or leg hams or hampers arriving for staff.  Even at stitched up Bloomberg in New York, where we worked very hard, we played hard too. In the old days before the boss became the City Mayor,  Bloomberg marked the holidays with an extravagant soiree for staff and their partners at the Museum of Natural History. Sushi and caviar were served aplenty from beneath the huge suspended whale skeleton. Those were the days.

We do have an annual social club lunch at my current workplace but  even that requires arm twisting to convince people to come, and after a couple of hours feasting, we dutifully return to work.

Maybe it’s something about the mercury soaring here at Christmas that makes decorating too sweaty a prospect. But it was hot when I was kid too and yet I fondly remember my mother taking me for dusk strolls around the neighbourhood to see Christmas trees lit up in people’s front windows. We had a massive holly tree in our front yard and people would pull up and ask to pick a bunch.

It was friendly and neighbourly – and Christmassy.

We have a wreath on our door this year and the kids had a blast hanging everything but the kitchen sink on our Christmas tree. But ours is the only decorated house I have noticed on our street.

We do live in an unusually aged street but still – don’t people turn it on a bit for the grandchildren? Even the local shopping mall (if one is allowed to call Burnside Village a shopping mall …?) isn’t particularly festive. And as our kids noted when they visited Santa, he was kind of over it. He didn’t ask the obligatory ‘have you been good’ or ‘what would you like for Christmas’ questions, but rather chugged kids through for the obligatory photo op.

So what gives? Are we all hamstrung by the threat of the global financial rumblings finally reaching our shores, or does the prospect of a holiday that unites families to gather and feast just not do it for us anymore?

For the record, we will be gathering and feasting and hopefully having a lot of laughs on Christmas day. We light a candle or two in honour of the Jewish Hannukah celebrations which have just ended, we may even light one for Kwanza – the African American holiday that coincides with Christmas – and we recognize Eid for our Muslim friends. Never let it be said that we don’t like a party.

 

 

What I Like About You …

Our seven-year-old declared tonight that we all seemed happier living in America, and my heart broke a little bit.  She put into words what I know I’ve been thinking – observing – for awhile now. We moved to Australia for all the right reasons – family, space, and a good lifestyle – but I have to agree with the little one, we were more functional in our Brooklyn community.

The kids were well adjusted and generally happy.

Many of the things we moved here for now seem to have been a mirage, or just no longer exist: the extended family that congregated often for laughs and feasts and creating good memories; the big backyard, fishing and beach houses; seafood and generally terrific food aplenty.

The family is a soap opera in the making, we have a nice place in a good suburb but no big grassy backyard, and everything is ultra expensive. The cost of living in Australia is through the roof compared with the US and Adelaide can be mighty cliquey if you’re a newcomer.

Maybe we haven’t given it a fair go. Maybe things will get better. I hope so, because the thought of packing up and moving overseas AGAIN just makes my head hurt.

And if I leave again, I know I’m never coming back.

As the Brooklyn saying goes, ‘not for nothin’ I’ve decided to write a random list of what it is I miss about the US. Perhaps it will help give me some perspective and make it easier to just shutup and stick it out in Adelaide. If nothing else, it may be cathartic to at least think about what I miss. So here goes, in no particular order:

Friends and family, of course: the kids especially miss their paternal grandparents and their cousins, who are closer in age to them than their Adelaide relatives. We took for granted how well the kids all played together and the strength of the bonds they forged with their grandparents and aunt and uncle, even though we didn’t see them often enough.

My hairdresser: Michelle at Serendipity in Soho – you cannot be replaced. I have had three haircuts in Adelaide; one was a complete botch job, the other two were just ok. I went to Michelle for many years, from before I was even married to the week I left NY – she will be one of my first stops when I go back to visit.

Cheap manis/pedis: never underestimate an inexpensive mani/pedi from one of the hole-in-the-wall Korean nail joints in Manhattan or Brooklyn. For peanuts you can get your feet rubbed, scrubbed and toes polished and looking clean and shiny for weeks to come. I had one pedicure in Adelaide and besides the woman gouging my nail until it bled, the polish peeled off in a day – and it cost about $45.

Walking: it goes without saying that NY is a walking city. I walked the kids to school and back again everyday, I walked to the shops, I schlepped my groceries home. You walk and walk and walk – even when you ride the subway – you walk at either end. You don’t notice how much you are walking but your body notices when you stop walking and start getting into a car to run errands, to get to school or go around the corner.

To be sure, my husband and I have noticed a HUGE change in Adelaide since we first came here together to visit in 2000. People are getting heavier– there are more chubby folk than ever before squeezing themselves in and out of their enormous, sole-occupancy, gas-guzzling vehicles to go 15 minutes in any direction. I reckon it won’t be long before Australia was more heavy people per capita than the US.

Subway, Stoops + Street Noise

The subway; you can go anywhere at anytime. Enough said.

Stoops: there’s nothing nicer than hanging out on someone’s stoop – chatting to neighbors, watching the world go by, or holding a stoop sale. Stoops bring communities together. Front fences and gates and intercom-activated entry does nothing for community.

Street noise: even the occasional gunshots and police helicopters were okay. You knew you were living a city and there was life going on outside your four walls.

Neighbors: knowing that there were other people nearby whose door you could knock on it you needed to borrow a rolling pin, or a cup of sugar was comforting and handy. We could send the kids upstairs to a favourite neighbor’s apartment with a plate of cookies or some leftover dinner, without fearing they’d be abducted.

Cheap cabs: speaks for itself really. You could always find a way home, without breaking the bank.

Coffee: just a regular cup of joe from a street stand, with a splash of milk for a buck 25 – that’s $1.25 – not the average $4 you pay for a coffee here. I still haven’t worked out which coffee I actually like drinking here either. I just want a big cup of black coffee that I can pour milk into, godammit.

Delivery at all hours; one of the biggest issues with living in a small city like Adelaide is that you cannot eat after about 9pm. Kitchens close. Delivery is almost non existent. I miss the Spanish places on Smith Street that would bring beef stew, and rice, beans and plantains at 10pm for $12; I miss the pizza places that would deliver a piping hot pie at 11pm.

Pizza: there is no match for a good New York pizza. All the organic flours, handmade, flown-in-daily artisanal mozzarella and toppings in the world are no match for a plain NY pie.

That’s round one. I’ll add to the list as I think of things, but I already feel better for spilling my guts and remembering the good stuff.  I’m not trying to piss off anyone in Adelaide. This is a great place to live and raise a family – I wouldn’t have chosen to live here if I didn’t believe it, but I didn’t think for a New York minute that it would be so hard to settle back in.

 

Shhhh …where is your favourite quiet place?

Jason Sweeney chilling in a quiet place

In Japan they have pods; small, quiet cocoon like capsules where people can seek out silence. In Adelaide, a favourite quiet space might be a trickling fountain in Victoria Square, a non-descript city car park or a narrow thoroughfare off a main street.

Jason Sweeney, a self-described introvert, is morphing his search for safe, quiet places into an ever-evolving sound-art project. Stereopublic: Crowdsourcing the Quieta tech-savvy pursuit for web and smartphone, will launch at the 2013 Adelaide Festival.

With roots in music, from playing in bands to community radio, 41-year-old Sweeney calls himself an interdisciplinary artist these days. A composer for theatre, dance and film, he has worked with companies including State Theatre Company of SA, Vitalstatistix, Chunky Move, Belgium’s SOIT, Restless Dance Theatre, Tanja Liedtke, Closer Productions, Force Majeure and UK-based DV8.

He has been releasing his electronic music compositions internationally with bands Panoptique Electrical and Pretty Boy Crossover, via the record label Sensory Projects, and he is in the thick of creating a feature film The Dead Speak Back slated for 2013 release.

But Stereopublic is something “I’ve been working on for years in one form or another. I knew it would shape shift and have different incarnations. It’s just incredible how well received this incarnation of it has been,” said softly spoken Sweeney. He said he pitched the idea in an email to David Sefton, Artistic Director of the 2013 Festival and a fellow electronic and experimental music enthusiast,  and Sefton was quick to jump onboard.

Poster Child for Quiet

“This is one of the most important projects in my life. It’s hugely personal,” said Sweeney, who for all his music-making and current it boy status, is something of a poster child for quiet. The concept for ‘crowd-sourcing the quiet’ grew from Sweeney’s own inherent discomfort in crowded, noisy places.

He tells a story of a basement apartment he rented in Melbourne. “There was no natural light, no air – but when I stepped outside I was right on Flinders Lane, one of the busiest places in Melbourne. I lasted eight months there and then I had to come back to Adelaide. It was such a relief to come home.”

With support from the TED Prize-winning City 2.0 Award, Arts SA and the Australia Council’s Creative Australia New Art initiative – as well as Adelaide City Council –  Sweeney and a team from Freerange Future, a design studio made up of designers, web and app creators, are developing an online space where people can geo-locate and crowd-source quiet spaces.

Their aim is to increase the “sonic health” of the city— both for everyday introverts, and potentially for people with mental health issues or disabilities such as schizophrenia or autism, who crave less sensory stimuli.

Jason Sweeney seeking solitude

At a time when the Government and the Adelaide City Council are gung-ho about making Adelaide pulsate with activity and are encouraging pop-up creativity from the laneways to the parklands, a quest for solitude might seem off kilter.

Quietly Vibrant

But Sweeney says “quiet can have a vibrancy of its own.”

“This is a community-building project; I really want to connect it to the city as much as possible.” In Adelaide, for instance, a favourite quiet space could be beneath a tree in the Botanic Gardens, among the crowds in the Adelaide Central Market or in a department store restroom high above the hustle and bustle of Rundle Mall.

For someone unnerved by heavy-duty social contact, Sweeney interestingly has conceived an art project that relies on participation for it to work.

From 1 March, 2013, people will be invited to contribute to the sound map online at www.stereopublic.net as part of the Adelaide Festival. There will be an Adelaide-centric app that includes a map of quiet spots around the city and the website will act as a portal to other relevant quiet events, including quiet walks, workshops and talks.

Ultimately, Sweeney says he’d like to implement a ‘quiet hour’ or even a full ‘hushday’ as part of the Festival. And down the track, he said it’s possible the Stereopublic model could be set up in other cities, with their own city-specific app.

One of the coolest features of the Stereopublic app draws on Sweeney’s musical talents.

Once participants find their quiet place, they can record the sound of that place, write about it, give it a mood through a colour chart or take an image and post it. As a reward for the input, Sweeney plans to offer a composition relating to their chosen quiet space.

‘I figure if I’m asking people to commit physically to finding a space, the composition is a reward of sorts.”

He says he expects the project will attract lots of young people because it’s about using technology in a very engaged way as a creative tool.

“I hope it will appeal to introverts too, and be unashamedly appealing to people who want to be antisocial,” said Sweeney, who is only just catching on to what a big year he has ahead. “I’m starting to realize how large scale this is and it’s starting to give me heart palpitations.”

And with that, Sweeney continues his search for a quiet place to recharge.

 

Helpless from afar

I know how my parents felt now.
Watching Hurricane Sandy rip through the East Coast of the United States from a comfortable, dry and unthreatened space in Adelaide, South Australia, has been a daunting experience. And not knowing if family and friends in the path of fierce winds and flooding were safe was stressful.
Now I know how my parents felt on the many occasions when I was in New York and bad things happened. Bad things like the 911 terrorist attacks on the city and bad things like tornadoes in Brooklyn and snowstorms that cut power, halted the subways and closed schools.
Or bad things like when I had to have emergency open-heart surgery without any warning to them that something might be up.
Unsurprisingly, I have slept with my cell phone close by the past few nights, monitoring Twitter and Facebook and keeping tabs on friends and family through email. Thankfully everyone in my world in Brooklyn, Manhattan and New Jersey is alive and well and by now, suffering from cabin fever and frustration by cuts to power or water, or both.
But many others have lost their homes and businesses. Neighbourhoods like the lovely Red Hook on Brooklyn’s waterfront are in soggy ruins. I’d like to be there to take the short stroll from our old apartment in Carroll Gardens to Red Hook to help toss ruined possessions onto the mounting trash heaps on the sidewalk, or to help bail water from residents’ flooded basements but I’m on the other side of the world.
I know how my parents felt now. Helpless.
Americans are tough, New Yorkers especially so, and I know they’ll pull together for the rebuild because there is no other way.
All I can do is send good vibes and support.

 

Bill Shannon: Crutch-Wielding Provocateur

Bill Shannon at Kumuwuki / Big Wave. Photographer: Chris Herzfeld

Bill Shannon had to change the wheels on his skateboard when he hit the rough textured streets of Goolwa. Surfaces are an occupational hazard for this American improv artist, who mixes street dance, skate and hip hop to create his own brand of creative expression.

Even more challenging; Shannon does it all on a pair of rocker-bottom crutches and with a tonne of don’t mess with me attitude.

He was in the river-port town of Goolwa south of Adelaide for the Regional Arts Australia National Conference, Kumuwuki/Big Wave. As Keynote Artist in Residence, Shannon was everywhere: he opened the four-day gathering of artists, arts workers, and regional and community specialists with an address that was both entertaining and provocative.

He hosted a masterclass and workshop for 10, exploring the idea of public space and its connection with personal identity, and led the ScrLK program. Featuring some of Australia’s best-known disability focused organisations including Back to Back and Restless Dance Theatre, the program presented screenings based around disability-led digital arts projects and discussions on how emerging digital technologies, cultures and the National Broadband Network will significantly affect disability culture in regional areas.

“I was interested in programming Bill Shannon to speak as his practice represented a form of creative resilience that was being discussed as a theme throughout the conference,” said Steve Mayhew, Artistic Director of the 2012 Regional Arts Australia National Conference.

“I was hoping that the experiences from this particular viewpoint and perspective would subtly inform people living in regional areas who are dealing with similar issues, access being a very large example of this,” said Mayhew.

In-Your-Face Choreography

Through his blend of energetic, in-your-face choreography and simple video techniques, Shannon deals with the public’s hopes, assumptions, fears and misinterpretations of what an artist with a disability is. He raises questions around how you engage with public space and how you use your own body as a canvas for performance art and experimentation.

He uncovers a world of prejudices that disabled people encounter daily and questions his methods – often involving a hidden camera – as he readily takes advantage of strangers’ good Samaritan impulses to make his point.

“Performance art grew out of my childhood experience. I was always a spectacle.” said Shannon, speaking at a Disability and Arts Transition Team gathering in Adelaide this week. He demonstrated how he had to walk in a semi squat as a child growing up in Pittsburgh, PA, to alleviate pressure on his malformed hip joints.

He had a brace and crutches and to top it off the leather squeaked when he walked. “It was a very intense spectacle. But I didn’t really have a big emotional reaction to it as a kid.”

Shannon was diagnosed at five with Legg-Calvé Perthes disease, a disorder of the hip joint in children that can limit the amount of high-impact activity that an otherwise healthy child can take part in.

The Crutch Master


One of a series of CRUTCH! videos on Bill Shannon, Directed and Produced by
Sachi Cunningham and Chandler Evans.

Now 42, that kid with crutches is known around New York’s dance scene as the Crutch Master, and is widely sought around the globe to showcase his flamboyant and seriously athletic dance style and to talk about it. He’s become a poster boy for disability, albeit reluctantly.

Shannon said “peer pressure to keep up with the other kids led to a relationship with creativity.”

“I call it creative necessity – creativity as survival to keep up with peers. I was challenged constantly with these hurdles like jumping through the hedge. All the kids would do it and I had to figure out how to do it with my crutches. I had to get creative to keep up.”

Shannon is a showman, to be sure. He’s a performance artist, melding street dance with the influences of skate and hip hop cultures. Armed with a BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago, he counts poetry and sculpture among his art forms.

And author: he’s working on an outline for a book that will lead readers from his beginnings to the development of the Shannon Technique, a how-to-guide for his style of dancing on the so-called rocker-bottom crutches with U-shaped tips.

He’s a bit of a psychologist too, creating names for some of the scenarios he has encountered when interacting with able-bodied people. There’s faker squared, a reference to the people who think he’s faking his need to use crutches to get around. He can actually walk unassisted but not for long periods or without pain.

“Sometimes I’ll lift up the crutches and do a little tiptoe to give people the satisfaction of thinking they’ve caught me faking. I have the satisfaction of hosting their discovery.”

“If I fake the faking, I take possession of the faking and that’s empowerment,” Shannon said.

And there’s the moment of projected narrative. In one video sequence, a hidden camera shows Shannon’s efforts to pick up a bottle at a marketplace in Russia, while an older local woman looks on, willing him to succeed.

Over the past two decades Shannon’s installations, performances, choreography and video work have been presented in the US and internationally at events, venues and festivals including Sydney Opera House, Tate Liverpool Museum, NYC Town Hall, Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, The Holland Festival, Amsterdam and Temple Bar in Dublin.

Cirque du Soleil

Shannon also completed a project with Cirque du Soleil where he choreographed an aerial duet and a solo on crutches for their 2002 production Varekai.

It was an offer to tour with Cirque du Soleil that prompted Shannon to devise what he calls theShannon Technique. Unable to leave home base for months and endure a grueling performance schedule, Shannon said he started to name his dance moves so that he could pass them onto others.

The Shannon Technique “is a contribution to the history of dance. I never had a class to learn to dance on crutches – I never had the shoulder of the giant to stand on.”

“I decided to lay it all down so that in the future some other individual serious about dancing on crutches can use this as a guide.”

“It’s all about the economy of movement,” he said. As for skating in Goolwa, “it’s like skating on sandpaper. I had to change out the wheels on my skateboard.”