The imagination muscle


Detritus Springs - Red Machine. Photographer: Christina Simons for Jill Orr.

By Dr Jill Orr

When next door is out of bounds and the silent walkways of urban bush become peak hour pathways of masked walkers and huffing runners and cyclists, nobody dares look or acknowledge another.

This stage 4 lockdown brings focus to the small, daily and discreet moments when a glance from a stranger overflows with meaning and that is ‘hello’. That’s communication beyond the home. Safe in the knowledge that the stifling environment behind the mask, may harbour our private bugs but protect us from others - any others.

This is a spooky thought that is suffocating. Entrapment is not the end game. It’s not all bad.

Our communities have become havens, a lifeline in the supply chain of necessities. And the idea of trans-national is a click away, collapsing time and distance into the flattening effect of a screen. There is no aroma, no behind, no need to develop wings, no flight but we do need powerful currents working at speeds that cannot be measured without equipment.

No Flight! What! The imaginary is a muscle is a flight machine constantly working out new ways to transform, think laterally, ‘think outside the box’. This is a muscle that thrives in finding solutions, visualising connections that may only be a flicker of an image, but with focus and care can find ways around, through and across any parameters imposed.

Our students and staff are flexing their imaginary muscle every day and getting stronger, more articulate, differently connected and have developed skills that can be used anywhere. They build skills that can be used to problem-solve, visualise and experiment with ideas and materials. They contribute to communities, workplaces and industries with intelligence and ingenuity.

It’s because they find connections and hidden jewels in the gap.

The gap between imagining an image, a possible solution or even just a time to breathe, is one full of potential.  Creatives can see what is in the gap, articulate, describe and devise for others, a pathway through which to feel and respond.

That begins the journey into the unknown where divergent ideas intersect and collaborators, be they local communities, regional neighbours or transnational partners, can come together. Here new and surprising outcomes come into being. Where adaption, response and ability are transferable and skill is a means to frame, shape, survive and thrive.

This is what we do at the Bachelor of Visual Art, Arts Academy, Federation University in Ballarat and The Bachelor of Fine Art, Federation University in Gippsland. Have a look at our Open Day site. See our first-year students’ response in collaboration.

Dr Jill Orr is a Senior Lecturer in Visual Art at Federation University Australia’s Arts Academy

Join practicing artists and Federation University Arts Academy lecturers Dr Jill Orr, Dr Julie Reed Henderson and Chrissie Smith as they discuss the ins and outs of navigating a career in the visual arts in 2020 and beyond.

This informal and open conversation explores the scope of a professional arts practice. The panel will discuss how creative skills are transferrable across different careers beyond their own arts practice.  The webinar is being held on Monday 21 September from 6pm. Register here.


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