There’s a vivid sensation about being surrounded by creatives that can often feel overwhelming. Wedged between the intersections of awe and envy, there’s an unspoken fever pitch between artists and their circles; an awkward but rewarding clamor as each individual attempts to navigate the fast world of social media, art shows and press articles. While artists use these tools to their advantages, there are many invisible tiers they have to reach before they become accessible, and these noticeable qualities are often only highlighted by the big publications. Motivated by breaking the invisible autonomous force that celebrates creatives, Persuader Edition is a publication elevating these spaces between art and artist.
Conceptualised in a Vietnamese diner, Randall Stagg and Jade Mulvaney put together their first loves to create an ethos that moves beyond typical promotional editorials. Focusing on the motivations and spaces of creatives, Randall – better known under his music production moniker, Fresh Hex – encourages artists to communicate freely, directing his energy into the writing and editing of Persuader Edition. Creating the visuals for each interview and collaborating with editing, Jade captures artists through her candid and delicate film photography, escalating their presence to reflect their work and her style as 35jfmm. Coming together to discuss Persuader Edition, the duo are constantly drafting questions for creatives they are inspired by; hallmarking their original content with a strong sense of community and love.
How did the concept for Persuader Edition come to fruition?
Jade: I remember it quite clearly because we were in Footscray eating Bahn Mi talking about a project we both can work on that allows me to regularly take photos and communicate with artists and creatives. It’s also a bit like a treasure hunt, trying to find these rare and special creatives within the Victorian community.
Randall: In my mind it was about creating something from nothing. There’s a lot of beauty in that. It was the creation of a platform to appreciate things we felt were deserving of praise. Also yes, for those people wondering, the finest Bahn Mi can be found at Nhu Lan in Footscray on the main drag (Hopkins Street).
Celebrated as the collaboration between both your passions, what elements of your creative work do you exercise in Persuader Edition?
Randall: I’ve never considered myself a writer or a journalist. I’m horrifically under qualified and too inexperienced to label myself as such. But I think that’s the beauty (and obviously the problem) of our modern age. The rules, the piece of paper that says “you can do this now” holds little bearing for me anymore. I enjoy the challenge of drafting questions for artists across all fields. I think a lot of people underestimate the broad nature of artistic appreciation within the individual. What I enjoy and appreciate on a creative level extends far beyond the shiny world of the music I create and doesn’t really come into play with PE. Fresh Hex is almost like a separate human being. In Persuader Edition I try and use the opportunity of asking other artist’s questions about their work as a learning experience. Investigating each artists approach to their work and discovering their motivations can sometimes be invigorating and refreshing. I want our audience to learn about these people and their practices but also receive a level of guidance and reassurance from them too. I think the idea that other artists could read interviews with Persuader Edition and be motivated within their own creative exploits very thrilling.
Jade: I love photographing my friends and souls that I meet in places we travel to and I think that is probably the biggest element I bring to Persuader Edition. The more interviews we do for this, the more relaxed I feel about asking questions and photographing people. There is a balance between a conversation and an interview that I’ve found now.
Capturing the intimacies of artists in their space, does Persuader Edition attempt to breakdown the invisible boundaries in the Melbourne arts scene?
Randall: It’s interesting because in some instances acknowledging the context in which an artist creates their work is almost irrelevant to how the art is received. With Persuader Edition I don’t think it intended to be about breaking down boundaries of the Melbourne art scene, but we just want to present the artist humbly. They pick their clothes, they pick the setting, the poses they pull. It’s unequivocally them and I think for fans, admirers and the audience who might adore these artists, the opportunity to see their space is really quite an intimate and enlightening experience.
“The spaces in which people work are so varied from one artist to another, there are chaotic spaces with musical equipment strewn everywhere or a painting studio with overwhelming amounts of light and plants. The spaces are enriching the artists as much as the artists enrich the space.”
Jade: I have so many creative friends who either have a studio space at home or elsewhere and I find that photographing people in their own spaces is a less contrived and a more comfortable space for them to be in. There are so many people who get a little freaked when you are taking portraits of them so it’s better to do it in a place they are familiar with. The spaces in which people work are so varied from one artist to another, there are chaotic spaces with musical equipment strewn everywhere or a painting studio with overwhelming amounts of light and plants. The spaces are enriching the artists as much as the artists enrich the space.
Instagram has recently become an accolade for success in the arts, especially when connecting with a local, millennial audience. For Persuader Edition, how has social media changed the way you consume arts and connect to others?
Randall: In terms of photography I think Instagram is the strongest place for artists to present their work, to arrange collaborations but also to receive equal measures of criticism (hopefully constructive) or praise. It’s instantaneous communication with the world as an artist and allows you to present your ideas to anyone. I don’t connect with conceptual art on Instagram very well. For me, scale is of the upmost importance and the near tangible experience of approaching art from a distance and getting closer to the wall it is attached to cannot be beaten. It’s not hard to float through Instagram mindlessly and say “that’s cool” without it really penetrating your brain. My own personal cynicisms aside I welcome any platform that allows artists to communicate with the world for free.
Jade: I agree with Randall that the instantaneous aspect of Instagram makes it so accessible to such a large audience of users. I think most social media has evolved so quickly since I first started taking photos, I used to upload hundreds of my film photos onto Tumblr or Myspace and not curate them at all. The selective aesthetic is something that has changed with Instagram I think. Creatives and creative collectives have very defined thematic approaches now to what they are sharing with their followers. We also curate the photos that we use but it’s important to us that the content is ours.
“We are an underground platform of expression and exposure… I would very much like for Persuader Edition to be an instigator of collaboration between artists and creatives.”
Assisting in these online connections, do you feel there is paradox of being online 24/7? Does Persuader Edition aim to reduce this creative noise, both in who you follow and support?
Jade: We are trying to break it away from being this ethereal online ‘space’ and pull the audience into a highly personalised environment where we are discussing everything from what the creatives eat, to their stance on their own creative growth. We’ve attempted to make the format simple but not overly clinical.
Randall: I don’t enjoy constantly being connected to the internet, despite the normality of it. The internet isn’t a real place but the community you can create and build from it is pretty amazing. Everyone has the benefit of being able to create their own world and invite others to be connected to that process. It’s all about how you repurpose what you achieve in an online world to translate to reality that makes it exciting and vice versa.
Stepping away from the fast arts of social media and follower counts, how does Persuader Edition set out to challenge or reconnect the arts community?
Jade: Social media influences creatives and creative mediums too heavily now, so Persuader Edition was meant to be a platform that didn’t reveal anything but the creatives working on their craft. I think that it’s important that the audience choose to look at the work after the interview, rather than us showing it straight away. The act of doing is what we seek to display in Persuader Edition.
Randall: We aren’t here to challenge. I believe it’s up to the artist to challenge the community and our society. We are an underground platform of expression and exposure so in terms of reconnecting, I would very much like for Persuader Edition to be an instigator of collaboration between artists and creatives.
From the powerful and art-conscious feminism of Sleepover Club Initiative to the intelligent and focused mediums of Eden Fiske, what draws you both to share the stories of other creatives?
Jade: Initially it was the desire to interview creative friends of mine or people Randall and I admire, it then became more of a hunt for these creative souls in Victoria. Being surrounded by friends with endless amounts of talent makes me want people to appreciate them the way I do! Sometimes as a creative it seems like sharing your work is self-serving, but that perspective is redundant because people love to see other people’s creations!
Randall: As Jade said, between us we have many talented friends who have been hugely influential to us. I have always found reality and honesty to be a very beautiful thing and it’s our prerogative to give these artists the voice to share their views, their struggles, influences, inspirations or their triumphs in an honest and real way.
What dialogue are you wanting to explore and open as Persuader Edition progresses?
Jade: In some of our interviews we have asked political questions that are hovering over the creative fields right now in Australia and about the future of the creative mediums people are in. I’d like to continue with some more challenging topics but also keep the humour and relaxed format we have right now.
Randall: I think openly discussing the challenges and triumphs of the young contemporary artist have to continue. I’d love to have some influence over people’s decision to enter a creative field and to be inspired by what they see and who we represent.
“There are many tiers for an artist to conquer before most publications would consider them ‘featurable’ and we want to tear that shit down.”
Who can get involved with Persuader Edition? What kind of creative are you looking to support?
Randall: We are open to support anyone and everyone from Victoria and even throughout Australia who are producing work that is challenging or charming, different or exciting. I think we will always try and open up conversations and instigate features on artists who have never been interviewed before. Not so much to propagate a “we were here first” mentality but more so because if we don’t feature these people there isn’t really a dedicated platform for these artists. There are many tiers for an artist to conquer before most publications would consider them “featurable” and we want to tear that shit down.
Jade: There are people making work every single day that people are yet to be exposed to. I want to find people for Persuader Edition and also for myself as an artist, it’s a goal to seek out as many people as possible to talk to about their work.
And finally, is Persuader Edition working towards any goals in 2016 you’d like to both share?
Randall: For me, it’s definitely about locating new artists and turning strangers into friends. There are no grand plans, just grand interviews and imagery.
Jade: I think the main goal is like Randall said, to keep finding people to interview! We also had an idea about getting a media pass for a festival to do a little Persuader Edition music festival edition with people in their camping space. I never want to set too many concrete goals just in case life goes in a different direction.
Support the local art scene and scoop the full interviews of each artist on Persuader Edition. All images by Jade Mulvaney (35jfmm). Artists and collectives featured in order of appearance: Minna Leunig, Eden Fiske, Kinai Wong, Paul Ceraso, Bedroom Studios and Sleepover Club Initiative. Love this story? Follow Monique Myintoo on Instagram or Twitter for more.