Since its inception four years ago, The Mill has grown and prospered on the back of a guiding principle: collaboration. Now, with a growing list of international partners, The Mill aims to provide South Australian creatives with the opportunity to collaborate both at home and abroad.
Amber Cronin, co-founder and co-Artistic Director of The Mill along with Erin Fowler, tells The Adelaide Review that “2016 has been a really big re-grouping year for us, particularly looking at where we fit in the local arts ecology”.
“With all the arts funding cuts that happened last year, this year was definitely about how we can better fit into the arts ecology in South Australia and nationally, as well as how we can link up internationally and provide those opportunities in a way that’s useful for people in the state.”
The Mill is best known as one of the Adelaide’s first ‘hub’ spaces, where a litany of businesses and arts professionals provide a wide variety of creative products, services and art. If we look at Adelaide’s creative scene as an ‘ecology’, as Cronin describes, The Mill’s Angas Street warehouse that currently houses 37 tenants might be a fertile garden, where new ideas and expert creative practices intermingle and cross-pollinate.
The Mill does much more than house nascent and growing businesses, though. It also houses its own gallery, regularly hosts creative workshops and offers opportunities for artists to make international connections.
The first big international connection for The Mill was made a few years ago with Sweden’s ilDance company, and continues to bear fruit. The company has visited The Mill numerous times, hosting workshops here in Adelaide. This year Cronin travelled to Sweden with two local dance graduates as part of a pilot exchange project with ilDance.
“It was amazing to go across and see the dancers there on residency, under the support of Helpmann,” says Cronin. “We hope that in the future we can create an ongoing annual opportunity for a graduate in ilDance’s summer program to continue this relationship, and give a local dancer a chance to expand their horizons.”
Closer to home, Cronin and a delegation of Mill creatives are currently in Indonesia, setting up a similar partnership with the Balinese collective and ‘hub’ group, Rumah Sanur. The month-long pilot project aims to establish an ongoing and collaborative connection with the Indonesian crew by collaborating on work right away.
The group is composed of Cronin herself, who is helping to administrate the project and develop installation style art, Erin Fowler, who will work on choreography, Tom Borgas, as a sculptor, Jian Liew, an Adelaide-born, Berlin-based music producer, and Dom Symes, a writer who aims to document the collaboration. This eclectic group of creatives will work with a variety of local Rumah Sanur artists, including dancer Adhika Annissa (who will in turn visit Australia next year).
While their skills might seem disparate and unrelated, Cronin expects the group to work together. She says that the project will be guided by “The Mill’s interest in audience focussed, immersive, collaborative and multi-disciplinary work,” but avoids pre-empting what the outcome might be.
“The only way to collaborate on something is to come at it with a blank slate and not have any preconceptions about what you expect it to be.”
Cronin says that Indonesia’s creative community is ripe for Australian artists to collaborate with. As an enormously diverse nation, the potential for inspiration and expression is high.
“Looking at Indonesia, there are so many subcultures within it,” she says. “Bali is a fascinating place because it’s the only Hindu island in Indonesia. That poses a whole new landscape of cultural background, rituals and mythology and things we might like to incorporate into the project.”
True to Cronin’s refusal to pin-down exactly what the work that comes from this pilot collaboration might be, she strikes down the idea that this sort of activity will necessarily be “a commentary on our cultures.”
“It’s going to be the people collaborating, those artists and whatever they bring to the table.”
Cronin and Fowler will also be scoping out the Rumah Sanur venue with the help of an ex-Adelaide creative, Summa Durie, who now works as the studio’s Artistic Director with her partner, who owns and runs the business.
“Rumah Sanur is amazing,” says Cronin. “The space is great and they have a lot of socially-engaged artists and artisan practice going on. It’s a really big community of people who are interested in empowering local people to take responsibility for themselves and stop looking outside for support. Erin and I will go over and see what we can do with the space and what’s possible.”
This first expedition to Bali is funded through Arts South Australia, and Cronin hopes the project will secure future funding for the exchange of artists going forward. Even if that funding falls through though, Cronin has committed to making this international relationship a permanent one, and hopes it will enrich South Australia’s cultural ecology.
“This will be a long term relationship,” she says. “The more of a connection we can get with artists and locals on the ground over there, the better. What Erin and I have committed to is that we something taking place there every year. So if an artist ends up having to supply their own funding for that, we’ll provide the framework and that’s what it will be.”
Casting her eye across the globe again, Cronin says there are more international partnerships on the horizon, particularly in Canada and Spain.
“We’re in conversation with Toronto Dance Company for them to come and do our Choreographic Futures, which is a biennial residency for dancers,” Cronin says. “They’ll be here for two weeks, doing multi-disciplinary work, so not just with dancers but other people who work in creative fields who want to collaborate and learn more about audience engagement.”
And in Spain?
“We’re also talking to a residency pilot project in Spain for next year. That’s at Can Serrat, a big artist residency villa in the foothills outside Barcelona. That’ll be a similar framework to what we’re doing in Indonesia, and that connection came to us through Heather Croall. We’ll be going over in August next year to hopefully set that up.”