It was a absolute privilege to be in Melbourne last month to work with members of the ensemble during this important year - Tristram on [Terrains] and Daryl Buckley on my new electric lap-steel guitar piece [Lichen].
Perhaps even more important to me was the opportunity to view the ensemble's extensive 30th anniversary exhibition at the RMIT Gallery (Melbourne). This video will form a part of it (alongside other recent work made by, for example, Richard Barrett, Timothy McCormack amd Liza Lim) and will be shown in the gallery until the exhibition closes next month.
With ELISION's archive laid open for all to see, there was a real sense of something important present in that space. A history of people and ideas. And of a boundless approach to sharing and making, devoid of international and intercontinental lines in the sand.
The legacy of works, recordings, performances and projects that this family of musicians is responsible for is breathtaking. But amongst the old rehearsal schedules, concert imagery and words to and from composers (actual letters, written by hand, discussing preliminary titles of works that have subsequently gone on to achieve iconic status within the new music world - I believe something called The Opening of the Mouth was mentioned in that context), there is another history present. As a much a political history as a celebration of artistic achievement.
The ensemble's endless battle for funding and support is as present here as are its resulting pioneering accomplishments. Conversations recorded in the early 1990s stood as near-verbatim transcriptions of contemporary debates concerning support for the arts - or lack thereof. The requirement to constantly re-argue and re-explain the value of art-making to the various funding institutions that have come and gone, some seemingly hellbent on forging socio-cultural progress via other, perhaps more politically profitable, means, is entwined within every narrative turn. And what this renders so tangible is the extent to which every project, every performance, every result was laboured agonisingly into being. Often against prevailing headwinds. And always as actions of sheer personal will.
If the ELISION story were to ever end - and I obviously hope it never does - the question in my mind is which of these histories will we be allowed to remember? The one of astonishing artistic accomplishment, national ambassadorship and vision? Or the one made of continuous questioning of value, relevance and wider cultural purpose?