SunRice Mill Seized by The Cad Factory | Colleambally26.09.2013
Last Saturday, the 21st September, The Cad Factory and SunRice presented “A Night of Wonder” at the SunRice mill in Colleambally. This performance of sound and video installations projected into the night sky, was the culmination of months of work that The Cad Factory artists have dedicated to uncovering the world of the rice growing community. Estelle Pigot interviewed Vic McEwan about this very unique project.
What was the working process between yourself and the other artists?
This project was a collaboration between me, Mayu Kanamori (Sydney) and Shigeaki Iwai (from Japan). We had all worked together before so knew something of each other’s practice.
Mayu and I visited the mill for a week earlier in the year to get ideas, meet people and take photos. I also visited SunRice a number of extra times to think about the site more. From that we sent through a lot of images and information to Shigeaki in Japan and chatted online.
With modern technology we can work together over great distances, which is what makes it possible for us to live and work in Regional Australia. Having said that, the importance of a robust NBN plan is critical as we can see a huge array of benefits to our future projects, resulting from a stable and reliable National Broadband Network. In fact I still feel our activity is limited by poor access to reliable internet.
We all arrived on site together to live and work for three weeks. This was in the form of a ‘tour” around the site where the audience would experience different installations or performance. Together, we could determine which sites we would like to work on individually and which sites we would like to work on in collaboration. We roughly followed the path that rice takes from the moment it arrives in trucks on the weigh bridge until it leaves in its various forms. The audience stood onto the weigh bridge at the beginning of the show to discover that we had over 13 tonnes of audience members.
What was the significance of the cross-cultural exchange for this project?
In Japan, rice has been eaten for a long time; since before 2000 B.C. It has a much deeper cultural meaning in Japan where there are rituals and beliefs of faith which involve rice.
In Australia this isn’t the case, so the project really explored these different positions that rice holds in our communities. As Shigeaki wrote in the program, in Japan rice has a lot of cultural baggage and he saw the rice fields of Australia as a symbol of freedom from this. I think SunRice were also interested in this project from the Japanese perspective as this is a potential rice market for them.
What was Sunrice’s part to play in the project?
I initially approached SunRice and proposed the project. I said that I would raise the money to realise it and that we wanted them to contribute their workers to participate in the creation and presentation on work time, so that the millers and staff were all being paid when they did workshops with us. SunRice agreed to give us access to the mill site, set up an office and studio space on-site for us. They really held up their end of the bargain, we had almost limitless access to the site and staff was always happy to help out with whatever requests we had. We really felt welcomed there, and felt able to explore and experiment. SunRice also invested heavily in the project with staff time and access to their equipment and resources.
How was the final outcome different from your original vision?
Our only original plans were to work with the rice growing community. As this project was funded by The Australia Council – Community Partnerships – the community were very much at the heart of the project. We managed to achieve the balance of remaining true to the community story and at the same time satisfying our own artistic ideals.
What was the final result – The Night of Wonder – like?
I was really pleased with the final outcome. It was huge, immense. We really achieved something much greater than our budget and resources suggested we could.
I have received numerous emails from the community since the event, saying things like “It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen” and “I drove 5 hours to see it, and it was well worth it!” So, I think the aims were definitely met
For me, this is the start of The Cad Factory’s research into: “How can business achieve some of their goals by working with contemporary artists?” In this case, I read the vision statement and corporate objectives of SunRice and was able to go to them and say “A project like this really achieves your goals in terms of community relations, public perception of SunRice as an innovative company, employee relations as well as the Japanese connection.”
I am working on creating a model that delivers arts projects which are paid for by business, so this project is about exploring that idea and creating a model that allows the artist to create work for the sake of their artistic practice and in this case using the beautiful, large scale industrial infrastructure of a rice mill.
It is a model that frees up reliance on arts funding by showing the corporate world the value of the arts in their own business language. Our next stages of research are into areas like how artists can work with corporations in the Change Management field.
I am very excited by this idea of projects that focus on the “people” element when working with big business because as well all know; artists are adept at stretching budgets to achieve big outcomes.
The soundtrack for this film, recorded by The Cad Factory, was made entirely with sound recorded at the mill.