You are done, congratulations; you have developed and produced a piece of art. You have written your reports, ticked all the boxes, done a critical analysis and even talked to your external evaluators. Wow. What do you do now?
How do you benefit from all this evaluating? How can you apply it to your next work? This is really where the 360 strategies come in to play – and most of this only makes sense when you are thinking and working with a holistic, non-linear understanding [while still going through the more linear structured production process…]. We don’t just evaluate at the end, we constantly re-assess and respond and change course on creative projects. If you have a grand idea in development but it doesn’t quite meet the expectations of your participants, you change your tactic and as a result, the project changes.
For example, during production of Flow, we negotiated with the third party, the Department of Water, that they would provide us with 3D maps to use as on-screen content. During the negotiations in pre-production, we came to realize that mapping involves naming of places and that the departments approach was to deliver fully rendered and baked-in animations to us, giving the producers [us and the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority NRA] no control on how to show the Coorong and Murray Mouth and how to name areas of interest. This developed from a simple design and resolution issue into a political producing struggle, which benefited the project hugely: we had to take on producing our own maps, as the department was not happy to pass over the raw data necessary to render the maps, and the NRA opted to use colonial naming system as to not hand over their traditional names and loose control over their cultural rights and knowledge.
Even though the third party funder was slightly miffed as they had invested into the 3D maps their end, but without consulting us, and now couldn’t use their work, we developed a new skill set, navigated a really important issue in the politics of the project and delivered a result that all parties were very happy with – and we immediately got offers to do more environmental projects.
The point here is: Ongoing evaluation and recognition of negative indicators [aka problems] as opportunities, offers you a chance to take risks, innovate and make better work, which also can result in new commissions and partnerships.
Back to your project again: how do you leverage your problems, your mistakes?
Who were your real clients and partners in the project? To whom you fell you have delivered? And who will really be using the work?
The partnership with the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority has strengthened as a result, as they saw us negotiating rigorously on their behalf. Yes we took the risk to alienate a powerful government department, but we assessed that they were not our client and not likely to provide funds to us in future projects anyway – but they still would benefit by been seen to support an authentic and equitable project [especially since the South Australian Government had signed a Nukkan Kungun Yunnan Agreement with the Ngarrindjeri to respect their traditional knowledge].
When we tackle a challenge that is threatening to derail a project, we most likely are disrupting the due process – and yes many projects may just work because we stick doggedly to process - this disruption can be a small thing, an irritation, a weird phone call with a creative partner, a client, a sense of foreboding that something isn’t quite right. Use this knowledge, see it as part of your growing expertise. It is not about fixing the problem, it is about allowing the problem to become clear in your mind, allowing it to disrupt the routine and forcing you to come up with a better idea to make this work.
Fixing is band-aid stuff; disruption is more of a holistic, evolutionary approach. Progress, science, societies and creative art works don’t work linear, on track and on time, they all jump and sputter and stop and start over. These jumps can get really scary – who likes to tell their people that the plan is NOT WORKING - but the moment you realize you have a problem and allow that recognition as a positive part of the process, everyone has a chance to learn and grow and create a better system. Don’t panic, enjoy being an innovative disruptor.
The Ngarrindjeri Culture Hub is an ongoing Change Media and Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority partnership to create and promote Ngarrindjeri arts and culture, in collaboration with Ngarrindjeri artists and their communities across Ngarrindjeri country.