Introduction  –  

Jeremy Eaton and Kelly Fliedner 

To cite this contribution;
Eaton, Jeremy, and Kelly Fliedner. ‘Introduction –’ Currents Journal Issue One (2020),

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Naarm/Melbourne and Boorloo/Perth are cities by the ocean, port cities whose residents share a nationality, but whose geographies are distant. We are connected by land just as we are connected by ocean; from Doogalup/Cape Leeuwin to Mendi-Moke/Flinders through southern waters that route and re-route our pathways of possibility, which suggests we might come to rest in places known and unknown.

Currents takes its title from such a sensibility, from the desire to reach out, to connect; to make sense of the spaces between tides and time, between institutions of learning, states and cities that represent and are representative; between orientations of Pacific and Indian, American and Asian. It comes from a saltwater consciousness, a port awareness, a belief in continents that are more than nations; all as a way to share in research and development—to share thoughts and art.

Hosted between the University of Melbourne and the University of Western Australia, Currents was initiated in 2019 with these sentiments in mind, as an interdisciplinary journal that encompasses art, theatre, dance and music history, theoretical developments, and contemporary cultural practice arising from each of the geographically distant institutions. This was before the prevalence of the pandemic and the ensuing year of lockdowns and the eclipse of our work and education processes by the digital.

As this year advanced, Currents continued to develop in a context whereby our local, national and international movements were limited, and changes to the forms and processes of higher education were implemented. And while we all experienced these unprecedented physical and social restrictions, from an education, research and arts perspective, 2020 could be characterised by a kind of agility, as everyone has repeatedly ‘pivoted’ in response to the ever shifting government edicts dictated by the circumstances of the pandemic.

It is from within this context that Currents has emerged. By necessity and by design, Currents has come to embody elements of the agility and responsiveness required of us in 2020. We have negotiated and renegotiated the shifting circumstances of research and the opportunities afforded by digital publication. As the title Currents suggests, the journal has become defined by a type of movement and responsiveness, from the peer-review process, collaborative exchanges, editorial processes to the style of its serial publication.  

Furthermore, this period has necessitated a change in how we work as well as why. There is certainly more online activity, from classes to seminars to journals like ours. And so, it seems important to consider how we connect across and within and through digital divides, platforms, possibilities—all as a way to think about a new reality, a moment in need of articulation and consideration. We situate our work in light of this, thinking, too, of how we might begin to practice our craft as postgraduate scholars.

As a research journal, Currents was initially established with a relatively conservative understanding of peer-review, which derives from the sciences. We were following a process whereby each paper was anonymously reviewed by two experts in the field against a prescriptive set of criteria. What we found was that the interdisciplinary nature of Currents and the unique research styles and methodologies of each contribution did not necessarily benefit from this traditional approach to review and feedback. While articles methodologically defined by an ethnographic approach to research benefitted from structured reviews, other papers that took a subjective and exegetical route through creative practice benefited from reviews responding to specific prompts that elaborated on aspects of the author’s research.

This flexible approach to different styles of research in conjunction with mentoring and collaborative editorial approaches, has assisted authors—all of whom are at various stages in their research degrees—to sharpen and deepen aspects of their field of interest. As editors, we have become comfortable with this experimental and more collaborative approach to peer-review, and we anticipate that this will develop further as we receive more experimental submissions in the form of creative works, music scores, scripts or the like.

Indicative of the interdisciplinarity of Currents, the first issue includes papers from students in visual art, art history, production, theatre studies and film. It takes to task various critical and social understandings of each of these discrete disciplines. Working through these exciting and various takes on the topics has allowed us to gain feedback from researchers who may be from laterally related fields, providing valuable and, at times, unusual insights into each of the papers.

Issue One, in a broad sense, seems to be characterised by questions that surround performance and institutional structures. There is an analysis of the workplace politics implicit in theatre from Madeline Taylor; Chelsea Coon’s exploration of phenomenology and endurance performance; Alex Hedt’s critical analysis of Auslan interpretation in theatre; Paul Boye’s discussion of feminist post-humanism as it relates to Jean Francois Lyotard’s Les Immaterieux; and, a critical consideration of the ‘feverish’ institutional collecting practices of August Sander’s photography from Elizabeth Smith. These papers strikingly interrogate and critically analyse aspects of their field in a way that is sustained, deep and valuable for the fields under discussion.

We return once again to the open ended possibilities of Currents, of how we maintain, sustain, and go on, in the context of both this health crisis and the digital itself; of how to distribute our work to an emergent field while acknowledging the disparity of possibility itself. This open-ended sensibility means that Currents, as its title suggests, is about the wave that comes after the wave and that comes before the wave that comes again and goes on. It is a praxis, a project, a potential that is open source, open access, and opens itself out to what it can develop into, over time and with different scholars, as their interests change along with the possibilities of institutional collaboration. What we hope to cultivate is a safe, inclusive, rigorous, dynamic and challenging intellectual space that is able to consider and re-consider the arts in its richness, fecundity and depth. That might be the qualities that help keep us current all along.

Currents could not have progressed or developed without the support, guidance and contributions of a range of people. We would like to thank our Advisory Board: Dr Clarissa Ball, Dr Darren Jorgensen, Dr Tessa Laird, Prof Su Baker, Dr Danny Butt and Vikki McInnes for their insights and critical support. We would like to thank our Editorial Committee: Paul Boyé, Emily Collett, Jonathan Graffam, Donna Lyon, Hannah Spracklan-Holl and Emanuel Rodríguez-Chaves for their conversation and support in the formative stages of Currents. In particular, we would like to thank Jonathan Graffam for his crucial contribution and energy; who initiated, directed and informed many of the formative editorial aspects of this journal. We would also like to extend our thanks to the Centre of Visual Art (CoVA), University of Melbourne and, through CoVA, the Dr Harold Schenberg Bequest for support and hosting of this new initiative. We would like to thank all our reviewers for their engaging and sustained feedback throughout the extraordinary circumstances of 2020. And most of all we would like to thank our authors for their ongoing and rigorous engagement with their practices and research throughout the development of these papers.

About the authors:
Jeremy Eaton is an artist and writer based in Melbourne. He is the gallery coordinator of KINGS Artist-Run and the editorial coordinator of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art and an editorial committee member of un Magazine. Jeremy has exhibited throughout Australia participating in exhibitions at Sarah Scout Presents, Dominik Mersch Gallery, West Space, BUS Projects, CAVES, Margaret Lawrence Gallery and the Centre for Contemporary Photography. Jeremy has also written extensively for artists, galleries and publications including: the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Art + Australia, un Projects and Gertrude Contemporary.

Kelly Fliedner is a Perth-based writer and curator who is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Western Australia in the School of Design. Her research is, in a broad sense, interested in the discourses of postcolonialism and decolonisation as they manifest in, and are related to, contemporary art of South Asia. She is also the editor of Semaphore, a publication about art from Western Australia and convenes the Perth Festival’s Visual Art Writing Group.  Kelly has worked for a broad range of organisations as a writer, artist, curator and editor  including the Perth Festival, Tura New Music,  Kochi-Muziris Biennale,  Sydney Biennale, Next Wave Festival and West Space. 

Currents  is a collaboration between the Centre of Visual Art (CoVA) at the University of Melbourne and the School of Design, University of Western Australia, and is funded through the Schenberg International Arts Collaboration Program. The Advisory Board and Editorial Committee are comprised of staff and graduate students from across the University of Melbourne and the University of Western Australia.
Currents acknowledges the traditional owners and ongoing custodians of the land on which this journal is produced—the Boonwurung and Wurundjeri people of the Eastern Kulin Nation and Whadjuk people. We pay our respects to land, ancestors and Elders, and know that education involves working with their guidance to improve the lives of all.

ISSN 2652-8207