In mid-February 2018, Griffith Asia Institute (GAI) Director Professor Caitlin Byrne and Professor Ruth Bereson, Dean (Academic) Arts, Education and Law group, designed and led the project “Regionally Speaking: Cultural Advocacy, Diplomacy and Leadership from ASEAN to Australia”.

ASEAN-Australian Art Practitioners, GAI Director Professor Caitlin Byrne and Professor Ruth Bereson, Dean (Academic) Arts, Education and Law group.

The five-day Regionally Speaking project, made possible with funding from the Australia-ASEAN Council (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade), brought together cultural practitioners from ASEAN and Australia to explore, through personal narrative, how contemporary arts and cultural practice can serve to shape engagement within and between nations.

The process aims to develop a network of influential “regionally minded” cultural advocates and leaders and to form a sense of collective agency and responsibility. Attention was paid to the diplomatic skills from which arts leaders can benefit, engendering understanding of participants’ respective countries and cultures, and deepening insights into issues of common significance.

“The project reminds us that contemporary diplomacy requires considered investment in relationship-building: people-to-people, people to place, and country to country”,said GAI Director, Caitlin Byrne.

ASEAN-Australian Art Practitioners

“It is a process that evolves incrementally, to deliver understanding, respect and over time, trust.”

The program also drew on the richness of Brisbane’s cultural landscape. Participants had the chance to address the ‘challenge of collaboration and co-creation’ with the Asia-Pacific Triennial curatorial team (QAGOMA); to explore the ‘significance of story’ with the Des Power, founder of the Asia Pacific Screen Awards; and to challenge the relevance of political institutions, like ASEAN with Joe Sidek, Director of the George Town Arts Festival. The final two days were spent immersed in the best of contemporary performing arts at the Australian Performing Arts Market (Powerhouse Museum).

Ultimately, the Regionally Speaking project gave the opportunity for all ASEAN-Australian participants to come away with a deeper understanding of each other’s cultures, as well as knowledge of common issues faced within each nation and their responsibilities to promote dialogue and engagement through arts and cultural exchange, not only within their own nations but across the region.

A special thanks to all our supporting partners: Australia-ASEAN Council – Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA), Australian Performing Arts Market (APAM), Griffith Film School, Queensland College of Art and Queensland Conservatorium. Further special thanks go to special guests Justin Macdonnell (Executive Director, Anzarts Institute), Sarah Gardner, (founding Executive Director, International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture – IFACCA) and Cynthia Schneider (Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy; Former US Ambassador to the Netherlands) for participating in our program. A final thanks to Dr Nico Meissner, Senior Lecturer, Griffith Film School and his team for documenting this process in film.

More photos may be viewed on the Griffith Asia InstituteFacebook page.