During their time at Testing Grounds, Aphids will workers of the gig economy to create a new live artwork called Easy Riders, which asks: how much of our daily lives should be lived by others? What are the moral and social implications of outsourcing? And who do we become once we become fully outsourced?
APHIDS is a 25-year-old artist-led experimental art organisation based in Melbourne, Australia. Collaborative and future-focused, APHIDS is led by Co-Directors Eugenia Lim, Lara Thoms and Mish Grigor. The work of APHIDS is feminist, intersectional, angry and funny; bringing artists into meaningful exchange with audiences through performance, critical dialogue and unpredictable encounters in the public realm.
Past APHIDS works have been presented in major venues in every state and territory in Australia, and in more unexpected places: in ricefields and samurai hotels in Japan, churches in Finland, industrial zones in Bulgaria, and beamed into outer space. Our collaborators have included funeral directors, scientists, regional societies, motorcycle and senior citizens’ clubs. Our projects promote open, accessible yet complex and rigorous encounters between artists and public.
APHIDS was founded in 1994 by Artistic Director/composer David Young, writer/musician Cynthia Troup, visual artist Sarah Pirrie and fashion designer Kath Banger. In 2010, Willoh S. Weiland joined the company as Artistic Director putting her own unique mark on the company ethos with an experimental and innovative program fusing music, performance and new technologies. In 2019, APHIDS enters into a new era to make urgent art for urgent times, led by co-directors Eugenia Lim, Lara Thoms and Mish Grigor.
The APHIDS team have been heads down the last few weeks, deep in production for our upcoming show Exit Strategies, which opens at Arts House on the 14th of November. Please come along!
Exit Strategies is about leaving. It’s about feeling stuck, of wanting to know if we should stay or go. The feeling you get when you’ve just ordered at a restaurant and then a rodent catches your eye as it dashes from one side of the kitchen to another. Or when you consider breaking up with someone but stay, even though you know its the wrong thing; because there is something unknown and unspeakable holding you in that room: habit or fear or comfort or whatever. It’s the feeling that dredges through you when you think about the country you live in, and wonder if you belong there – perhaps because you’ve been displaced, or moved around from where you want to be, or if the people in charge of that place just don’t represent you, or maybe because you want to escape and start fresh. These thoughts of leaving form a scale in Exit Strategies – from big exits to small ones, from meaningful endings to cheap avoidances.
This is the first chance for the APHIDS co-directors to work together on new work in an intensive way. Eugenia has taken on set and design and Lara is dramaturg, Mish as a performer. After ten months of Co-Directing together at APHIDS, this has been a great meeting of skills and minds.
APHIDS has been busy busy busy in Nov/Dec presenting the world premiere of our new theatre piece EXIT STRATEGIES (at Arts House North Melbourne) and doing a creative development of our 2020 keynote project EASY RIDERS across the road at MPavilion. Both shows grapple with the complexities of living in the contemporary world: from leaving and remaining as an artist in Australia / in the Brexit era through to the ethics of outsourcing in the digital era. This means we’ve mostly been outside our studio! Our work is largely made for specific venues or in responses to sites and communities, so when we’re in the studio, we are mostly doing project management and art admin, talking and problem-solving together.
We are a collaborative company and each director brings concerns which we share with the group. Mish’s impetus for EXIT STRATEGIES came in part from conversations with artistic elders who urged her to move to Europe – suggesting only ‘real’ artists can be based in Europe or in the ‘real’ centres of culture, not in Australia. She was interested to push back on this Eurocentric narrative, as is APHIDS as a whole, as we are proudly based in Australia and our work is embedded in and inspired by our location – but we see our work as part of a global conversation. EASY RIDERS is the key project we are developing while at TG and it is hugely inspired by the work of Mierle Laderman Ukeles who celebrated the work of the 5000+ New York Sanitation Department workers and service workers in Europe and Japan through her ‘work ballets’; but at the same time, deeply concerned with the rise of casualised and outsourced work via digital platforms.
We are reading, working with choreographer Nat Cursio to think through how to move/why we move; we are talking to different experts or activists whose work intersects with the gig economy and decent work.
This month we are hosting a book club discussing Heike Geissler’s ‘Seasonal Associate’ at MPavilion, which is based on Geissler’s time working overwinter in an Amazon ‘Fulfillment’ centre in Leipzig, Germany. Geissler believes that every job should be at least partly creative – and that the dehumanised nature of work in our neoliberal globalised world and the never-ending need to be ‘productive’ and efficient (whether you are at the top or bottom of the food chain) is making us all more like the machines that may one day outpace and replace us. Keep making art or make space for it in your life as a matter of survival!