• Sandpit in progress at Studio1. Photo by Georgia Haupt
    Sandpit in progress at Studio1. Photo by Georgia Haupt
  • Sandpit at Studio1. Photo by Jade Ellis
    Sandpit at Studio1. Photo by Jade Ellis
  • The creative process - Sandpit. Photo by Georgia Haupt
    The creative process - Sandpit. Photo by Georgia Haupt

This year, Brisbane’s Studio1 has hosted three free afternoon sessions of creative-play led and devised by independent movement artist Jag Popham. According to Studio1 Director Lisa Wilson, Sandpit has been an excellent program for building community but perhaps its biggest benefit is in bringing artists from different mediums together to collaborate without the pressure of having to develop a finished, audience ready product.

Jag Popham talks to Dance Australia about the Sandpit program so far and his plans for it into the future.

Was Sandpit your idea?

Sandpit was an idea I had in response to the direct need for regular play sessions with other artists, without the expectation of the product being shared as part of a performance season. I have experienced several projects overseas that had similar intentions, but found these initiatives often lacked regularity, participant numbers, or diversity of the disciplines of the artists.

I wanted to create a model that fosters communities of artists who wish to practice their practice, together, who believe in the power of collaboration, and that pressure is a privilege. What I find so exciting about Sandpit is the pace and innovation. It’s such a short amount of time to create a brand-new work in response to a stimulus presented on the day, often working with a group of artists you’ve never met from a broad range of mediums.

How would you describe Sandpit. What is it all about?

I describe Sandpit as a condensed creative process, a space to play, fail, and grow with other artists. The challenge is to create a performance piece of 1 second-10 minutes, within an hour and a half work session, share it, then receive supportive and critical feedback. It is open to all mediums. We’ve had dancers, musicians, photographers, journalists, and playwrights create together.

We refer to it as an artistic practice, although how often is our craft actually practiced outside of work or a project? By setting the bar laughably low (each group needs to create at least 1 second) this means you’ve already ‘succeeded’, and are free to play, fail, and create with an easeful mind. There is a clear objective, allowing the teams to focus and create. It’s based upon a spirit of collaboration, where creation is a sacred act. All artists are encouraged to serve the work, first and foremost.

We run by the axiom: “Failure is Freedom” - Charles Bukowski. 

Have you observed any growth/development in participants so far?

There have been quite a few people attended to more than one iteration, each time they are calmer throughout the creation phase, and better able to offer bold choices, whilst encouraging their team and maintaining a state of play.

Sandpit aims to hold a ‘brave space’, and it’s exciting to see participants be courageous, supporting their fellow artists and allowing themselves to receive the support necessary in creation. It is delightful to witness this growth. 

The quality of the work seems to increase with each iteration. As the participants don’t have the opportunity to dwell on decisions due to the time constraints, they must lean into the pressure and trust their instinctual responses. This trust in their artistic compass seems to be a skill that is being developed by the participants who attend multiple iterations. 

Do you have plans to continue the Sandpit program into the future?

Yes. As well as continuing Sandpit at Studio1, Meanjin (Brisbane), I have plans to facilitate iterations on Kabi Kabi country (Sunshine Coast) through 2024.

I’d like to continue adapting the model, as the current parameters are set up for a particular style of creating - each group led by one person. Perhaps this is not the best way, but due to it being the most commonly employed model, it is the one we started Sandpit with. 

I’m curious about the impact of time on creation, as a container is always filled, no matter the size. The current model doesn’t allow much time for refinement, so I’d be fascinated to see how a group’s approach changes and how a piece shifts, heading back into the studio for a second development after receiving feedback.

I’m interested in taking this model to various locations and working with different artists.

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