Experimental Criticism

 My experimental criticism projects use the tools of criticism in creative, responsive ways to most fully capture an artistic experience, to explore new ways the written word can approach talking about art, and to consider what revels itself to us when we look at performance and criticism from an unexpected angle. 

This work moves away from my traditional practice in reviewing performance, and instead looks at the way we can engage with digital technology, contemporary approaches to digesting news, and altering the way art and criticism interact and intersect. It looks for the possibilities of criticism itself as an artistic act, and positions itself firmly not as ‘the final word’ on a piece of art, but rather as just a moment in an ongoing conversation between artist and audience. Using both digital and artistic tools, this work lends itself to the idea that your engagement with a piece of art starts the first time you ever hear about it, and ends the last time you ever think about it: thus both the piece of art itself as well as any response written to that art are but brief moments in a continuum where art can shape our lives.

Simple Art Transfer Protocol and Jane Has A Newsletter are available for remount; I would love to discuss new commissions or collaborative projects. 

[Jane] goes to places in criticism that few people in Australia are prepared to
— Steve Mayhew, Performance & Art Development Agency

Simple Art Transfer Protocol

Simple Art Transfer Protocol, commissioned by Performance & Art Development Agency, was a consideration of performance criticism as an internationally collaborative medium. Based at PADA's Near & Far exhibition, in Adelaide's Queen's Theatre, and communicating with critics in Sydney, London, and New York City, with subscribers from 29 cities on five continents, SATP tied a hyperlocal art form up in international conversation. In a collaborative and spirited discussion, it explored the shared and disparate social and cultural references held by writers; email and the internet as both work and leisure spaces; and international friendships. Beyond discussions on art, SATP turned inward, discussing criticism as an act that is exhilarating and personally gratifying, as well as physically exhausting and emotionally taxing.  It exploded criticism out from a stagnant piece of writing into a possibility where arts commentary could be ever expanding, ever reconsidering, and ever global. 

Over five days, conversation between myself, Cassie Tongue (Sydney), Megan Vaughan (London), and Nicole Serratore (NYC), along with our subscribers, generated 73 emails totalling over 33,000 words. Jumping off just four works in Near & Far, we weaved a conversation capturing 80 other performance, live art and theatre works we had seen or were seeing, along with references to dozens of books, films, television series, visual art works and festivals. This created a glance at the intricate web of references writers take with them to see performance, and the often complex and tangental thoughts that we carry with us as we begin to write. 

Read the Simple Art Transfer Protocol archive. 

This email thing has somehow managed to be two things at once; it is a continuation of that endless game of survival [...], but it is also a reminder of what lies beyond.
— Megan Vaughan
I am so grateful for this thread. I’d hoped to get to at least one night of Near and Far, but parental responsibilities across activities and normal colds and flu has made it impossible. And yet through your musing and responses, I feel like I’ve been able to attend Something. I’ve watched videos, missed references, nodded in agreement and raised eyebrows and I’m all the richer for it.
— Kristin Alford
passionate, articulate and deeply personal
— Ben Brooker, RealTime

The Importance of Seeing Earnest: A Critical Experiment

The Importance of Seeing Earnest: A Critical Experiment was a documentation of how two different people approach a theatre work. Written in conjunction with my editor at the Lifted Brow, Simon Collinson, over five days we emailed each other about the State Theatre Company’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest, exploring the show and what it means to see a script on stage for the fourth time and for the first. The conversational review was subsequently published over email over five days, asking our readers to invest in the review rolling out in the same manner in which we wrote it. Written by two people, it highlighted the need for multiple critical voices and perspectives, with the emails from Simon highlighting the idea that someone doesn’t need to be a trained theatre critic to have an opinion on a work – and it is imperative that we broaden our platforms so more voices can be heard.

Jane Has a Newsletter

The Next Wave Festival, held bi-annually in Melbourne, is a festival of young artists pushing themselves to create their most ambitious work to date. The work is frequently political and cross-discipline, stretching the artists, the audience, and the art form itself. Jane Has A Newsletter was a criticism project in this spirit of the festival. Launched through a twine-based introduction that forced the potential audience to literally click through many html coded frames before they were able to subscribe, this introduction explored the way technology – often characterised as instantaneous - can force its audience to slow down and acknowledge text, asking people to be prepared to spend time with my mind and my narrative surrounding the project. Because they could not skip over the explanatory text, everyone who subsequently subscribed would read the emails in a prepared state of mind.

Jane Has A Newsletter was only published through email and is not archived online*, and appeared throughout the festival in tandem with my traditional reviews written for Guardian Australia. Characterised as criticism ‘with all of the context and none of the opinion’, each email listed every work I saw the day before – encompassing dance, theatre, visual arts, etc, ultimately capturing over 80% of the work in the festival – and linked each piece to a series of essays, books, other art works, and podcasts to explore the way the knowledge we take with us into a theatre or gallery impacts the lens through which we see art. Not being archived online, the work also explored the uncomfortable relationship between the ephemeral art form of performance and the permanency of criticism as its record.

From what I’ve read so far of Jane’s newsletter, it is as experimental and interesting as the festival itself. I also highly recommend.
— Jana Perkovic, Guerrilla Semiotics

*An archival version of Jane Has A Newsletter is available on request. 

Roman Tragedies: an almost live review

Roman Tragedies from Dutch company Toneelgroep Amsterdam played at the 2014 Adelaide Festival of Arts. A six-hour interval-less staging of Shakespeare’s trilogy of Roman tragedies, the audience were asked to commit to the whole six hours, but were able to move around the theatre and interact with the piece through social media. 

Working with Melbourne-based literary journal The Lifted Brow and editor Simon Collinson, Roman Tragedies: an almost live review was an attempt to use digital tools and the written word to capture the atmosphere of the work. A 3000-word time-stamped review, it followed the work from curtain to curtain, embedding tweets and intstagrams from audience members who shared the theatre with me on that night, and utilising white space and the scroll function for readers on both desktops and handheld devices to capture the intensity of the work when words would only fail.

Howard’s review gives a thrillingly immediate sense of what it was like to be in that theatre on that night, using the tools that the company itself used to frame the production.
— Alison Croggon, AustralianPlays.com

Life & Times: Verbatim Review

Life & Times: Part 1 – 4 is a theatre work from New York based company Nature Theatre of Oklahoma that played in the 2013 Melbourne Festival of Arts. The work spans ten hours, following its central character from birth to age eighteen. A verbatim theatre piece, all of the dialogue on stage is taken from phone conversations with one of the company members, the artists excruciatingly recording and reproducing every halted word and every beat of a laugh. For Life & Times: Verbatim Review I imitated this process, recording myself discussing the work and then transcribing the audio with complete accuracy. 

I love that it will make no sense to anyone who wasn’t like there. I want to see it again.
— Anne-Marie Peard, Sometimes Melbourne (@SometimesMelb)