Assembling a different artistic future
Despite a lifetime dedicated to dance, Professor Garry Stewart has always been fascinated by a range of other disciplines, including science. He brings this fascination, and his enthusiasm for innovative collaborations, to his new role as Professor of Creative Arts and the first Director of the Assemblage Centre for Creative Arts at Flinders University.
Professor Stewart has been notable in his other highprofile role as artistic director of Australian Dance Theatre (ADT). Since joining ADT in 1999, he has constantly pushed the boundaries of how dance and movement is expressed in live performance and media.
To expand the possibilities of this idiom, Professor Stewart has long reached out to other disciplines for explanations of how and why we move – through neuroscience, architecture, digital and motion capture technologies, prosthetics, and robotics. He is now excited by the new opportunities to fuse the creative arts with Flinders’ experts in digital design, engineering, robotics, artificial intelligence, and health sciences for unique research projects.
This spirit of innovative collaboration will propel Flinders’ new research centre to forge a nexus point for the University’s existing creative arts disciplines and engage new connections with other academic sectors to promote innovative trans-disciplinary research.
‘Based in the existing Flinders creative arts hub, Assemblage will draw together the significant resources already available across the University and unite them in new collaborations,’ says Professor Stewart. ‘We will also work externally, drawing arts organisations into the Assemblage workspace as well as other industries.’
The first example of Assemblage nurturing new collaborations will occur in The Void. Based at Flinders’ Bedford Park campus, The Void is the largest motion capture lab in South Australia.
‘It’s an advanced facility that brings together filmmakers, actors, dancers, gamers, technicians and more in an environment where everyone is experimenting and exploring, and that brings much possibility,’ says Dan Thorsland, Lab Manager of The Void.
Students who have already worked in The Void, on motion capture video for electronic game development, are excited by the possibilities that the new facility offers.
Jermaine Hampton (BA(Hons) ’17) is a PhD student working on virtual reality research. He says, ‘To learn everything that’s going on behind the scenes in this new media is really fascinating.
‘It’s innovative for how it reveals the next step in movement, and is a great opportunity for students to be submersed in what technology and media is now.’
Professor Stewart’s route to academia has been unconventional but tied by myriad threads over many years. Coming from rural New South Wales, he began studying social work in Sydney before committing himself to professional dance training at the Australian Ballet School. Through the 20 years he has spent at the helm of ADT, he has choreographed more than 25 major productions, as well as video and live performance installations. Much of his work has been notable for its unconventional collaborations.
‘The desire to incorporate neuroscience, biology and technology to dance first arose in my dance production Devolution in 2006, which involved 30 robotic machines including robotic prosthetics and ten dancers,’ he says.
‘I see research and acquiring knowledge as the essential building blocks of any innovative artistic pursuit. I’m exhilarated by alternate ways of thinking that collaborations can assert upon artistic processes.’
Through his work as director of Assemblage, Professor Stewart says he will remain inexorably linked to artistic practice via his own work. However, in this new role he views himself primarily as a facilitator for artists’ and researchers’ own creativity.
‘I intend to be at the centre of Assemblage activities,’ he says, ‘setting up the pathways for opportunities across a vast range of disciplines.
‘It’s thrilling for me to think of the extraordinary creative arts research that is now going to be possible through this unique centre.
Hire The Void
Like to get hands-on in South Australia’s largest motion capture lab? The Void is available for hire, contact Lab Manager Dan Thorsland email@example.com