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Melbourne’s Luke Macaronas deepens his artistic practice in Japan

2019 New Colombo Plan scholar Luke Macaronas was motivated to apply for his NCP scholarship to expand his learning and explore different arts practices across the Indo-Pacific region.

Luke, an artist and performer studying a Bachelor of Arts and Diploma of Languages (Japanese) at the University of Melbourne, is passionate about increasing people’s engagement with art-making practices in their local communities.

“I applied for the NCP because I want to be a part of the new ways of working creatively that are emerging globally, and to support the exchange of artistic practices and technologies,” explained Luke.

Luke’s NCP journey took him to Japan, where he has lived in Tokyo for a year while studying at Waseda University and completing an internship.

Photo of Luke Macaronas standing in front of Red Brick Warehouses
Luke at the Red Brick Warehouse during the TPAM Performing Arts Meeting in Yokohama. Credit: Luke Macaronas.

A highlight of the year was interning with theatre company Gekidan Kaitaisha. “Having the opportunity to work in Japan has been particularly impactful for me. I spent six months working with Gekidan Kaitaisha in Tokyo where I was able to train and perform with professional artists. During this time, I attended the Theatre Olympics at Toga in the Japanese Alps, travelled through the art islands in the Seto Inland Sea during the Setouchi Triennale, and studied under several movement artists and teachers.”

Luke explains the significance of these opportunities, noting “they have really altered my understanding of art making and the kind of work I want to do in the future. It was a unique and humbling experience to be able to work so intimately with these artists, which not only gave me a new perspective but also specific skills and ways of working that are now embedded in my practice.”

Although the move to Japan was overwhelming at first, Luke grew from his experiences and the connections he made.

“It takes time to become familiar with a new place, to fall into its rhythms and find your feet. For me, the biggest challenge was adjusting to the language difference. It took me a while to work out how the different districts in Tokyo connected, where to buy cheap groceries, and how to navigate the university campus.”

He adds, “When I first arrived, there were so many people I wanted to meet and things I wanted to see and do. Despite my enthusiasm, it wasn’t actually possible to do everything I had hoped. Instead, it was the small and repetitive things that had the biggest impact on me: late night rehearsals practising the same movements endlessly, delivering flyers to theatre companies in different parts of Tokyo, making time for a few laps in the over-heated swimming pool near my apartment, meeting with mentors and friends – these tiny things became really special ways for me to unpack and learn from my experience.”

Luke attended several arts festivals and markets during his NCP experience. These include the TPAM Performing Arts Meeting in Yokohama, Japan and the Asia Discovers Asia Meeting for Contemporary Performance in Taipei, Taiwan, where he met with producers and creators from across the globe.

“It is this family of researchers, independent artists, curators and facilitators that I feel most lucky to have encountered,” said Luke. “I find myself constantly returning to the people and organisations I worked with and learnt from while overseas.”

Reflecting on his NCP program so far, Luke has sage advice for future scholars. “Embrace the moments when your expectations are not met. It is often in moments when the satisfaction that you expect to find in a job, a subject, a friendship, or an experience proves elusive, that you have the greatest potential to expand your learning,” he said. “The challenge is to begin thinking creatively and optimistically about everything you do.”

Back in Australia, Luke is working on several research projects on the contemporary performing arts scene in Melbourne.

“The NCP has helped me develop new ways of thinking and working. I am currently involved in several projects, and for each of them I keep returning to the skills and work that I developed while on my NCP. As a performer, it was the specific experiences in rehearsal studios and in collaboration with other artists that had the biggest impact on me.

“I am really excited to share these knowledges here, and to find ways to deepen the kinds of cultural and imaginative connections we can continue to build between Australia and the region.”

Luke plans to continue with his Japanese language study through the NCP in 2022.

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