Andy Dexterity on the future of art and creativity in Sydney – and beyond

Andy Dexterity. Photo: Dan Ostergren/supplied.

Newly returned to Sydney from LA, Andy Dexterity of The Voice Australia fame speaks to the Sentinel about art, creativity, sign language – and his next move. By Mike Hitch.

Although Andy Dexterity has had as hard a year as any other creative, he hopes to push himself and other Australians further in a post(ish)-Covid world. Despite the setbacks that have become all too familiar since the pandemic began, the 35-year-old ‘starving artist’ is feeling positive about the opportunity to help rebuild Sydney’s once-bustling art scene. 

Speaking to the Sentinel, Andy discussed the importance of looking to the future as a chance to empower local artists and re-establish Sydney’s reputation as a cultural hub.

“It’s the perfect time to leave your house and decide what Sydney is,” he said as he slowly sipped a bottle of Furphy (he’s adamant we won’t get drunk during our interview).

“We’re moving into a new world. We’re not going back.”

– Andy Dexterity

“We have to see it as building a new playground, for people with or without money. I mean, things got pretty bad even before [the lockouts] but this is a good chance to ‘rebrand’ Sydney, as it were, and give more opportunity to the creatives.

“People, me included, are questioning ‘Who am I outside my front door?’ I think that’s the most exciting thing because we’re literally moving into a new world. We’re not going back.”

While Andy moves in and out of deep thought, his dark sense of humour still shines through.

“There are whole [scenes in] Sydney that weren’t there before Covid, and those changes are exciting because we get to decide what that is going to be. As people who are, well, alive in Sydney now, we can decide what Sydney is. It can be the greatest place on earth for the arts, if that’s what we want to charge it with.

“That’s what America does best.,” he continues. “They’ve got this slogan of ‘America is great,’ and they live up to it, or at least try to. I’m not saying we become America – God, no. But if we want to rebuild the creative scenes, we should do it head first.”

Using sign language as his performance art, Andy is known for pushing the envelope, and the limits of his famously curled moustache. 

Many Aussies will remember Andy from his run on The Voice Australia this year, where he championed the need for more people to learn the art of sign language. 

The Blind Auditions: Learn More About Andy Dexterity | The Voice Australia 2020. Video: The Voice Australia/YouTube.

His appearance on The Voice received a mixed response, given that he never actually sang during the ‘blind auditions’, but signed instead.

The reason? Well, as 466 million people worldwide have difficulty accessing the average hearing range, sign language is an essential form of communication for many who fall outside the able-bodied spectrum.

Andy believes that sign language should be seen as a form of expression, as well as communication.

“A gesture or a body movement has the potential to express so much more than any spoken or written language,” he says while waving his hands in the air, noting that he’s always been someone who ‘talks with his hands’.

“Our body is actually already talking before our mouth opens, like there’s a conversation already going on that we’re not even paying attention to.

“And there’s so much power in that because it takes us out of our head. It takes us out of the future or takes us out of the past, which is fear, regrets, doubt … all of that. It brings us here in the present moment where none of that exists, and we’re free from the drama of our minds.”

Scorpio by Andy Dexterity. Video: Andy Dexterity/YouTube.

It’s this emphasis on self-expression that’s allowed Andy to take part in myriad opportunities. Having been a regular cast member for The Wiggles as the ‘Mayor of Wiggle Town’, Andy is taking his next steps in children’s entertainment – with a twist, of course.

While he can’t reveal too many details about his upcoming series on an ‘unnamed’ streaming service, Andy is excited about ‘family fun’ through a queer lens. 

“Being a school teacher for fourteen years, I always used my students as a doorway into pop culture. It’s kept me topical and savvy, so I can speak the language and stay relatable,” he says, rolling his third cigarette.

“So, think of it as a mixture of The Muppets with a bit of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Aussie charm of Play School.

Andy Dexterity. Photo: Dan Ostergren/supplied.

“It’ll be for the whole family, not just children’s entertainment. I’m hoping for a variety show style, and each episode will have its own theme and special guest. I want it to be fun and easy, but also accessible to everyone, no matter how they communicate and interact with the world.”

While Andy is nervous about this next project, he believes it’s time to “shake things up” and use a left-field approach to performance and expression.

“Whatever art and entertainment we were doing up until this point served its purpose, but we can’t move forward doing the same shit we were before,” he says.

Andy and I chuckle; Wiggles alumni aren’t supposed to swear.

“If I can get the general public, even a small bunch of people excited about being embodied rather than stuck in their heads, then I feel like we’re working towards a better world. I mean, whatever we were doing before didn’t work.

“The fact that Covid has stripped away live performance venues to the point of no return – where does performance exist in the world now? Those urges are still there. How do we get our fix when we can’t go to the theatre? Well, until venues reopen, we have to reach people in their homes.

“It sounds like wankery, but let’s get people excited about this new era that has begun – and let’s start making different things that help people.”

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