‘What is the expression which the age demands? The age demands no expression whatever. ‘
– Leonard Cohen
In just a few short months, everything has changed.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted us all. For some, the impact will be relatively small. For others, this extended health, economic, social and political crisis will foreshadow enormous hardship and difficulty. We do not presume to know your circumstances, nor are we able to generalise about our own.
The impact of social distancing measures has been significant across all sectors of Australian society, and has exposed the financial precarity and uncertainty that is the hallmark of the Australian arts sector. We know from your communication with us that our many Peril communities: our readers, contributors, volunteers and supporters, have been deeply affected by these profound changes. We have been inspired by the resolute compassion that has been demonstrated by communities of colour in offering support to one another.
We often repeat: Peril is people. Not robots, not grant deliverables, not show ponies or empire builders. We are a group of first-, 1.5-, second- or third-generation migrant Australians who care about diverse and complex representations of race, creativity and culture. Now, more than ever, the phrase “Peril is people” means something to us.
Last week, we brought together our Peril people, our editors, board and volunteers, to discuss what we could and should do in these unprecedented circumstances. Words like, “nourish”, “empathise”, “respect” and “integrity” featured alongside the desire to demonstrate, in our words and deeds, a spirit of calm, care and sustainability in our dealings with each other and our communities.
The situation we are faced with changes every day. There is a lot of noise. Anxiety, uncertainty and instability abound.
We are a small organisation, volunteer-run and community focused. We are grant-dependent and each year face new challenges about whether or not we will have the financial and human resources to sustain Peril. We remunerate our editors and writers with honorariums, but on top of those modest fees, they contribute $40,000-$60,000 of unpaid volunteer labour each year. That labour is often made possible by cross-subsidy with other income sources – like most arts workers, everyone at Peril has a side-side-side hustle to make ends meet.
Now, more than ever we believe that cultural experience and expression matters. We believe that the stories we tell to each other matter. That who tells and who listens and how we bridge the artificial divide between those people matters. We understand that making meaning of the world through art, story, music, song, performance, play and poetry are intrinsic components of our shared humanity. We are worried for the “arts industry”. But we are not worried about “culture”. Culture is bigger than that. Cultures change, are changing, all the time. Sometimes there are external forces explicitly intent on silencing cultures. But still, cultures endure. We are now in a process of seismic shifting. Who knows where we will emerge on the other side?
But we want to be a part of creating that story.
We need you to help us create it.
From now until the end of September (with the good grace of Creative Victoria and Australia Council for the Arts), we have funding and support to celebrate, recognise and bear witness to your stories.
We are open – as of now – for an unthemed edition for writers and artists of all persuasions. If your work can be shared online, we will work to find a platform for it.
Without limiting your ideas, we welcome you to consider:
- Art that endures. Story making and creating that brings beauty, succour, challenge, intent, consciousness and grace. As always, we are passionate about Asian Australian arts and culture and your work should have relevance to our communities, but don’t be limited by what has come before. These are uncharted waters: dive in.
- Collaborative work. Now is a time to reach out and co-create. We welcome artist-artist collaborations and beyond. Perhaps there is someone else out there: friend, family, familiar stranger whose story is waiting to be intertwined with yours. Pitch us – we’re friendly!
- Long-form essays and reflections that contextualise the current crisis within a broader historical, social or political understanding. We are not a news organisation, but this is a time for holding artistic and critical mirrors to the world around us.
Often, we issue an open call then divide the total artist fee pool equally between the submissions. While this has meant our fees sometimes vary, we have hoped it offered a kind of equity between creative forms.
For this open issue, because we don’t know how many contributions we will receive, we are offering:
- $200 for poetry, visual art, fiction, non-fiction, essays and political op-eds
- $300 for extended essays, and long-form prose over 2000 words
While we have to acknowledge that the bulk of our funding is appended to Australian contributors, we welcome international contributors to email us and discuss.
You may have noticed that we’ve added a small popup to our posts asking you to consider making a donation if you’re able. Your support means we can remain the free-to-access publication we’ve always been and, by supporting us, you’re directly supporting the writers, artists, and creatives without whom Peril would not exist.
In saying that, we understand that times are tough, and financial support might not be an option for you right now. Maybe in the future, you’ll think of us. In the meantime, we thank you for your nearly fifteen years of support in reading us, sharing us, and being such enthusiastic advocates for and participants in the work we do.
We hope to continue in the spirit we began: we are movement, not a moment. Thank you for walking alongside us.