You’ve met the right person who told you the right place to ask. You received the personal invitation to your email inbox and read it twice, grinning and a little nervous. When you arrive, you’re greeted by a smiling lady with short hair and a soft voice, who leads you into the basement below a West End sharehouse-looking place with a sign by the door: “House Conspiracy”. As you walk in, you see a musician grooving before a table full of dials and wires, atop it a violin and a microphone; looking beyond, you see a small group of people moving in strange and beautiful ways with intense concentration. You’ve found it. Welcome to Pollinator.
Be warned: this is no ordinary arts event. Without an audience, a ticketing system or a public Facebook event, Pollinator takes a gorgeous leap away from commercialisation and product-based creative work. Instead, this is a space created by artists, for artists, with the express purpose to experiment, play and explore their own craft.
I came along to the final event of 2019 and had a chat to Saara Roppola, the organiser and facilitator of Pollinator, and her friend Marisa Georgion, a friend and attendee throughout the year. I asked Saara about the idea and impetus behind Pollinator.
“I was looking for a space to have, basically a shared studio jam session between sounds artists and people who move, or draw or paint.
I felt like there was a need for spaces like that, to just play and experiment and dive deep into your practice.”
The ethos of artist-focused space runs deep for her, both as a way of supporting fellow artists and tapping into her own creative practice. As a Butoh dancer and teacher, Saaraemphasised how good it is not only to teach others but to play and practice herself.
She also stressed the importance of the dynamic in the room. Pollinator actively rejects the presence of an audience, instead encouraging all who attend to participate.
“This is pre-audience, or even pre-work; it’s more like a testing ground of, ‘What if I do this?’ And there’s this openness, the chance of different possibilities when you put different people in the room.
Everyone gets a lot out of it, because the musicians get to test out some funky stuff and see how people respond to it.
It’s nice… It’s a free flow between doing your own thing and also sometimes having a weird play with someone.”
Marisa wholeheartedly agreed with the sentiment.
“I come here most months and spend 3 hours diving deep into movement with whoever’s playing… It’s pretty rare to get three unstructured hours of constant, awesome sound.”
After our chat, Saara invited me in to play and see what was going on now the event was starting to get going.
As I came in, I took a moment to look around the room – the concrete floor, the couple of caged lightbulbs casting shadows about the space, the two musicians looping and building an entrancing electronic sound, the three other attendees stretching and moving on the carpets. Saara and Marisa soon started moving to the music with the strange, abstract flow particular to Butoh. I stretched quietly and enjoyed being in a space full of support and creativity, empty of goal-based work and judgment.
I got the sense that Pollinator has become what its organiser hoped: a place for people to play together. As Saara and Marisa told me, Butoh and its sister practices receive lots of weird looks in public spaces. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But looking around the room, I saw artists in their own flow, moving in an environment where weird looks didn’t exist.
“I feel like Brisbane needs more spaces where artists can just be really free, and like, just do stuff without judgment or a need for a ‘product’ even, just a creative space to hone in on your craft or some weird idea, or sometimes work on bits for a show.”
Pollinator is a monthly artist-focused event that has been running for twelve months and is set to continue into 2020. With 1-2 musicians per event and no repeat sets thus far, there’s a decent waitlist of returning musicians to look forward to next year. The event is ably supported by House Conspiracy, an arts collective providing space and oxygen for the Brisbane arts scene based in West End.
Kelsey A attended Pollinator on 13 December 2019. To get involved in Pollinator, email Saara at firstname.lastname@example.org.