The theme for this week’s Breakfast Club at the Wheeler Centre was Nature Over Nuture? How does your family shape your relationship to art? Our guest speakers Phuong Ngo, Steaphan Paton and Jo Case shared personal stories, struggles and questions to get the room talking. As usual with Breakfast Club, the conversation drifted into unexpected places covering everything from the politics of cultural appropriation to the universality of migrant stories in Australia.
Live Scribe Summary by Joyce Watts
Bright and early at 8am about 100 people gathered at The Wheeler Centre for coffee from Small Batch, a healthy breakfast pot by Yoghurt Culture (cost by donation) and a dose of artistic and intellectual discussion at the Breakfast Club before most of us have had our first caffeine hit and checked our inbox.
The topic was ‘Nurture over nature? How does your family shape your relationship with art?‘. During the hour we listened to Phuong Ngo, an artist who is second generation Vietnamese and son of refugees; Steaphan Paton an artist of Aboriginal descent; and Jo Case, an author who has just published a family memoir around her son’s Asperger’s.
The speakers and discussions got me thinking about certain issues – as a migrant, as an Australian, as a mother and as a blogger. By the end of the morning I was convinced to make certain resolutions:
- I will make sure that my kids talk about and learn about both sides of their family history – second generation Chinese and seventh generation Anglo.
- I will take my kids to visit galleries with indigenous art and read them more stories about indigenous culture.
- If I write about my family I will involve them in the process and ensure that they are comfortable with the details that I’m sharing about their lives.
What surprised me about the discussions was that everyone was willing to share personal stories and very often the topic segued away from the topic to anecdotes about social histories, childhood experiences, interactions with indigenous culture, family dynamics and raising children.
There are no right or wrong answers to these big questions. What Next Wave’s Breakfast Club highlights is the intellectual, artistic, curious and sharing natures of Melburnians. I came away from the morning energised and loving the fact that Melbourne has the time and space to support these sort of stimulating discussions and that we live in a city that’s enriched by art and debate.
Read Joyce’s full Post on MEL: HOT OR NOT
Live Scribe Summary by Emily Stewart
Breakfast Club is, as Emily Sexton put it at the start of this session, an attempt to ‘do conversation’ beyond the traditional panel discussion format. This allows fresh ideas borne from the personal experiences of artists to cross-pollinate and reseed. This week the kinds of discussions held by the breakfast clubbers focused a lot on the value of using personal experience in one’s art practice, and the challenge of keeping true to this without causing undue harm to others.
A particular concept that came through strongly for me was the idea of lineage – both genetic and migratory – and the informal ways in which artists become role models and educators when they take ownership of their histories.
As always the breakfast was too brief and yet this is also, I think, the point. I left to the rest of my workday feeling energised and restless, full of ripe, unresolved questions about the ethical responsibilities I have to those I write about, and to myself. The question of how best to redress our own degrees of ignorance about the experiences of others is one I suspect I’ll be returning to for a long time.
Join us next week, Wednesday 26 June for A Calmer Debate: is that what feminism needs?