Let’s face it. A lot of us have been there: “…maybe I should move to Melbourne?” The siren call of Victoria’s capital has seen many of Adelaide’s brightest leave their hometown behind, and until now it’s a migration pattern that has largely gone unscrutinised.
Verse spoke with Adelaide-bred, Melbourne-fled curator Tahney Fosdike about their upcoming Fringe exhibition I get it, you moved to Melbourne. Describing the exhibition as “contemplative, fun, non-linear”, Tahney says the exhibition examines tensions triggering city abandonment through an idiosyncratic assemblage of visual art, video, creative writing and historical archives.
What was it that sparked the exhibition?
Since I moved [to Melbourne] in 2017, I’ve met so many young, creative people who have also moved from Adelaide to Melbourne. It’s always been easy to bond over the reasons behind our relocations, make cheap digs at Adelaide and feel self-gratuitous on how the move has benefited us personally and professionally.
While moving from one Aussie city to the next might seem routine and mundane, these conversations revealed some of the many juicy social forces at play. I found that, despite Adelaide’s ‘brain drain’ being endemic—changing lives of those who move and those left behind—there is not a lot of content (art, literature, media etc.) focusing on state-to-state migration.
I shaped this repetitive narrative into a kind of ‘pop up social museum.’ Although I now work in the visual arts, I also have a background in history and anthropology and, within the exhibition, wanted to lean into social history discourse. While it’s trendy for exhibitions to be obtusely poetic and abstract, I’m unabashedly influenced by the playful storytelling techniques of theatre and film, which is why my curatorial approach has been unambiguous, almost satirical, within the show’s structure and themes.
Loss of creative minds hurts Adelaide more than it helps Melbourne, a city with already large influxes of intelligent migrants from around the world. Although I was having these initial conversations in Melbourne, I thought it was more important to explore the issue back in Adelaide. An exhibition would allow for a conversation between artists—young bright minds who had made the move—and Adelaide Fringe audiences—the people who still live in Adelaide.
Loss of creative minds hurts Adelaide more than it helps Melbourne, a city with already large influxes of intelligent migrants from around the world.
Can you tell us about the artists who feature in the exhibition?
A truly multidisciplinary exhibition, I get it, you moved to Melbourne features a breadth of creative professionals working across the arts industry, based in both Adelaide and Melbourne. Angus Hamra and Jenny Allnut, the only visual artists involved, similarly present oil on canvas works with personal whilst enigmatic undertones. Under the direction of Amalia Kreuger, a group of performing artists—former highschool classmates who have all moved to Melbourne—have produced an experimental film. Two Adelaide-based creatives complement the perspectives of the Melbourne-fled: Grace Harper, the writer behind the popular blog Finding Adelaide, presents a 1.5 metre tall Farmers Union Ice Coffee sculpture to challenge perceptions on Adelaide while, on the other hand, emerging artist Abbey Whitcombe considers her future plans as she grapples with creative life in Adelaide post-graduation.
There is a lot more room for movement and experimentation in a place that celebrates its creative industries rather than segmenting them to once a year before claiming ignorance for the next 11 months.
Why is there such a ‘move to Melbourne’ mentality? What do you think marks Melbourne as better than Adelaide? What is its appeal?
As cliche as it sounds, it comes down to a vibe. Due to Melbourne’s year-long cultural calendar and progressive mindset, the arts are integrated into the city’s fabric while, in Adelaide, there is an attitude of the arts being this quirky once a year thing. They are a spectacle the community indulges during Mad March. There is a lot more room for movement and experimentation in a place that celebrates its creative industries rather than segmenting them to once a year before claiming ignorance for the next 11 months. When you’re young and restless, you don’t want to be in fear of missing out and wasting your mind, you need the freedom to explore your creative energy. It’s convenient to take the 800km plunge to a place with a strong emphasis on creative community. I am seeing this from a creative person’s perspective, but I know such ‘industry ambition’ extends to other sectors, where professionals are sick of being a big fish in a small pond.
The exhibition “scrutinises tensions triggering city abandonment”—what kind of tensions are these?
The tension between Adelaide and Melbourne (and not vice versa, Melbournites have no idea any such rivalry exists) exists because Adelaide is self-conscious in the shadow of its bigger, cooler sister. It’s a tense position to be in: living somewhere when your eye is wandering, considering whether the grass is greener on the other side rather than being committed to stay and strive despite your city’s shortcomings. From my research, this tension is caused by a myriad of things—from Melbourne’s high gay index, Adelaide’s high unemployment rates, Melbourne’s more spirited cultural policies, Adelaide’s conservative lifestyle, Melbourne’s dense urbanity in contrast to Adelaide’s spacey, family-orientated suburbia. Strong contrasts make it appear Melbourne has better offerings at only arms reach at the cost of destabilising Adelaide’s character.
Everyone I’ve met tried to make it work in Adelaide for a couple of years. A lot of people don’t want to leave, they just don’t feel they have much choice.
How should we, or should we even, try to encourage Adelaide talent to stay in Adelaide?
Everyone I’ve met tried to make it work in Adelaide for a couple of years. A lot of people don’t want to leave, they just don’t feel they have much choice. I don’t think they need to change their minds or be encouraged but, rather, Adelaide needs to show a better hand. I don’t have the answers, I can only make some non-revolutionary suggestions. The government needs to reinstate the Department of Arts (both at state and federal levels). Infrastructure that supports city vibrancy, such as extended opening hours and more efficient public transport, is required. The community needs to look beyond Sunday outings in the North Terrace cultural district and support grassroots arts initiatives. There needs to be more initiatives supporting emerging creatives, such as Carclew’s Creative Consultants program. Once there has been a culmination of change that makes Adelaide a worthwhile place to live, rather than a place that undercuts people’s potential, then we can start encouraging people to stay.
What are your biggest insights from curating the exhibition? What was expected and what has surprised you?
I was surprised to grow a new tenderness toward Adelaide, replacing the resentment I’ve felt in the past, to the point I am excited to stay in Adelaide for a week and enjoy some sense of professional purpose in my old home. In a way, I found what I expected—stats to back up that hordes of young people leave for brighter futures in Melbourne and artists who would testify to this dichotomy. But it’s also been cathartic to research and collaborate with artists, gradually inching toward a natural point of being ready to open up an honest conversation in Adelaide, while at the beginning of preparing for the show I was fearful of bringing forward a harsh, petty critique. Now, I am really curious (and anxiously awaiting) responses from Adelaide audiences.
Join Tahney for the exhibition launch this Saturday 29 Feb, 6-8 pm at the Migration Museum’s Chapel. I get it, you moved to Melbourne runs over the weekend before relocating underground at the Lion Hotel’s Tunnels in North Adelaide from Wednesday 4 until Saturday 7 March.
Interview Anna Day
Feature Image Angus Hamra, Badlands, oil, aerosol and enamel on canvas, 120 X 160cm