Cementa inc, with the support of Sydney Mechanics School of Arts, Create NSW and Dlux MediaArts has begun the delivery of our program of artist workshops to regional schools and communities. Artist Michael Petchkovsky and Cementa creative director Alex Wisser climbed into a ute on a freezing June morning to drive from Kandos to Wellington and Dubbo. Michael is an electronic artist who scavenges tips, op shops and garage sales for disused or obsolete technology which he then adapts to make audio/visual artworks.
For this trip, the ute was loaded with security cameras, old analogue home video cameras, an array of old video monitors and a couple oscilascopes salvaged from a university dumpster. We showed up at Wellington Primary school and quickly unpacked the ute and started plugging things in. We had been expecting around fifteen students, but the half of the class that wasn’t supposed to be participating couldn’t repress their curiosity and so we delivered to around 25 students.
The enthusiasm and curiosity of the kids was unrestrained, and Michael and I struggled to keep up with the questions and ideas that they constantly threw at us. It was an exhilarating start to the program. Perhaps their favourite item was the oscilloscope through which they could generate visual waveform patterns from audio signals or inversely, produce sounds from video input. The louder, the stranger, the more unexpected the sound, the better.
The older kids at Wellington High School and Dubbo Distance Education High School were a little harder to crack. They tended to begin the workshop leaning against the back wall of the room with their hands stuffed sceptically in their pockets. It took a bit of coaxing but eventually they fell under the spell of the technology. It hadn’t occurred to us before, but most of the kids had never known anything but digital technology, smart phones or ‘screens’. There was a lot of conversation around the difference between analogue and digital media and how the former was an interesting source of art making because it was much more unpredictable and didn’t do exactly what you wanted it to.
The high school kids, being clever, took the workshop another step by integrating their phones into the mix, recording and modifying the effects achieved on the analogue devices.
In the end, we were incredibly gratified by the inventiveness, enthusiasm and fascination that all the kids brought to the workshops. It was especially rewarding to see the students begin to invent ways of using the material that we couldn’t predict, and the gratitude and appreciation expressed by the teaching staff, who confirmed for us how valuable and needed this contact with artists was for students living in the regions is, made the whole trip worthwhile.
Workshop Roadshow was made possible with funding from Create NSW and Sydney Mechanics School of Arts in partnership with Dlux Mediaarts, Orana Arts and Arts Out West.