Connecting communities through memories and music
When I am writing or drawing, I often visualize places and locations where important or trivial things have happened to me. These places give perspective, and a kind of anchor, to the ideas and emotions that I am trying to express.
When Courtney Barnett started out as a musician, she drove vast distances through the Australian bushland and desert, passing through small towns and grabbing meals at gas stations. Eventually, she’d arrive at her tour destination, unpack the car, and perform. On her early albums, Barnett sang about not only the big cities but the countless other places she’d seen through her windshield.
As Barnett’s audience grew, she’s traded driving herself around Australia for buses, planes and regional tours of Europe and North America. In these new continents, she continued her process of finding inspiration in places and building memories about their unique characteristics.
This summer’s “Here & There,” is a boutique touring festival featuring a rotating line-up curated by Barnett herself. It’s important to her that the audience feels an immediate sense of belonging at each of the locations; and can share in an emotional connection with the tour’s other sites.
As part of that effort, the “Here & There” website asks fans questions like “Where do you go to find peace in Seattle?” “What is the most beautiful thing in Cleveland, and how would you describe it?” or “Are there any acts of service that you enjoy doing in St. Louis?”
A Microsoft AI model, which has studied over a thousand original works of art by Barnett, converts the answers into drawings—channeling Barnett’s specific illustration style. These drawings showcase the lives, local memories and experiences of Barnett’s fans and will be displayed prominently at each stop on the tour.
Barnett is still not sure if the “Here & There” festival’s name (which came from her 2012 song ‘Scotty Says’) “was meant to be interpreted as a geographical, emotional or philosophical journey.” But, in searching out that answer, she is exploring the intersection of art and technology and discovering new ways to connect with her audience and the places they call home.