outer limits

after a discussion with a director from another gallery yesterday, i feel the need to jump on a bit of a soap box, and plug my upcoming project at the same time. the discussion began about the work at Campbelltown for the Sydney Biennale and how it’s slightly tokenistic, and a long trek for sydney-siders to head there, for 6 artists, one artist talk and a lot of wide open space. i can kind of see where this is coming from and i’m all for making a much bigger deal out of shows in the regional areas in general, however, there is still that Sydney-centric attitude that comes with that idea. firstly, those from the outer limits trek for over an hour each way to see crap shows in Sydney all the time and although we complain about the train timetables, rarely do i bitch about having to have a ‘bigger deal’ about the show to go and see it. i don’t expect an artist talk for every art exhibition i see, in fact i’m pleased that i don’t have to deal with that each time! a spectacular takes the artwork away from being part of the vernacular, which is what we want (and that kind of rhymed nicely, don’t you think..)

and back to the Biennale.. as a very outer suburb of Sydney, I think it’s great that the Campbelltown show is as understated as the rest of the satellite venues – there is almost 3 months to check this work out – an extra hour on the train isn’t going to really kill anyone and the fact of the matter is, it’s about inclusion and not being patronising or condescending about the distance between the metropolitan centre and the outlying suburbs/towns. “Oh, the poor gems don’t get much good art, so we have to really spruce it up a little”.. OK, so we may have a much smaller percentage of decent contemporary art in these areas, but it’s still up to us to produce the gritty artists without the constant reliance on the city centre. it’s called sustainability.

Aaron Hull,Corroded Memories – Tainted Vision (video still)

which segues nicely into the plug for the show i’m co-curating with moira kirkwood: liminal personae. opening night is on Friday 30th June and it features 11 diverse artists: Susan Norrie, Laurens Tan, Anita Larkin, Aaron Hull, Megan Sproats, Jade Pegler, John Massingham, Joanne Handley, Luis Trujillo, Iain Whittaker and May Barrie.

Laurens Tan, Dance of Trucks

the exhibition is partly about investigating these same issues of attitudes towards artists from non-metropolitan areas, both from the satellite town and from the metropolis point of view but the exhibition itself doesn’t have a singular theme, per se. instead, we chose a selection of artists who personify liminal personae ‘threshold people – who live on the edge, who are on the outer, who walk the line or who flaunt it in various ways. and most of those artists happen to live in wollongong, because we live here, but the idea applies to anywhere or anyone that isn’t part of the sydney/melbourne art fashionista enclave. that all sounds a bit spiteful, but it’s really about creating the sense of possibility. artistes sans frontiers maybe?

Anita Larkin, Terra Firma

in having such an open premise for the exhibition, it’s been hard to categorise, summarise or pin down, which reflects exactly the nature of the show and the artists themselves anyway, so i’m pleased about that. and i’m really excited about the collection of artists who are on board, as well as our fantastic essayist, shivaun weybury who has gnawed on the ideas and ramifications of the show, and come up with a fantastic essay in the really spiffy catalogue. and although it’s going to wreck me, i’m actually loooking forward to installing on the weekend. there are bits of walls being pulled out and lights being flashed all over the place, huge paintings being hung on specialised pulley systems – Project is going to get a real working over and that in itself is really exciting!

John Massingham, Untitled 4

and after it’s all over, i’m going on holidays i tells ya!

Check out these sites for info and a peek into a couple of of the artists’ lives: projectgallery.org, spek.com.au, joannehandley.com

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trials and tribulations of an installation artist

Yesterday I went to Campbelltown Art Centre and saw the fantastic pieces from the Sydney Biennale there. Two pieces really got me – the Dream House by Šejla Kameric was beautiful, so soft yet dark – the way the house seemed to rise up, was evocative of old 80s cult horror films. The other work I liked was the Liisa Roberts photographic work. I’m not exactly sure who the people were, but in my mind, they were Russians in their homes and at their places of work and it seemed a lot of them were working in creative industries – museums, architects, designers, etc. One element of the works that i kept noticing was the presence of oil heaters! In almost every image, there was an oil heater installed in the room and the more i looked, the more heaters i saw! it’s amazing how the oil heater is an object that you just don’t really see all that often in images of Australian houses or workplaces and i’m sure the Russians just take them for granted!

On the way back from Campelltown, we detoured to Mt Kembla to check out the possible site of a guerilla installation that i wanted to do. There’s a copse of tall, thin gums that have regenerated from bushfires that sit beautifully surrounded by greenery, while appearing majestically metropolitan. I wanted to create a horizontal line drawing with red paper with them and was hoping to sus out the possibility of doing that. The closer i got to the area, the more signs i saw saying Entry Prohibited, Catchment Area, max fine $11,000! Now, I’m not averse to skipping a fence and being a little naughty with creating an artwork, but i had to say goodbye to that idea yesterday. I don’t really want to pollute the catchment for the area with run-off from red paper and roughhousing from climbing up and down ladders. I also really can’t afford an $11,000 fine. This is a huge bummer and i guess it’s part and parcel of wanting to create environmental work. I have to consider the environment and sometimes accept that it’s more important than art’s sake. I’m now on a mission to find a similar space that i can get away with intervening, minus such a costly repercussion.

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ketchup and inspiration

it’s been ages since i’ve written a blog here and i’ve had so much to catch up on! last wednesday was a day of inspiration for me: went to the preview of the Sydney Biennale and saw some great stuff, but the Antony Gormley Field was fucking amazing. It’s been a really long time since I’ve stood in front of a piece of artwork and had goosebumps, and this piece gave me a serious case of them. It was sublime. Standing in front of it, i almost cried with the expanse of it all as well as, for me, a sense of history about the work. I felt like i was looking at a historical movement of a population for a greater cause.. may not have been the intention of the work, but it sent shivers down my spine nonetheless. the other highlight from biennale stuff is blatantly egotistical, but hey. when Fiona Tan came into town last year, i lent her some of my photo albums with which to do her vox populi work. When i rocked up to AGNSW, i had forgotten about the work and when i stumbled upon it, i found 2 images from my albums in there, neither taken by me. the first one is a hilarious photo of my stepfather with deep red lipstick on in a gaudy stylised smile shape.. it is both hilarious and awful at the same time! and then an image of me, taken by my ex-boyfriend, with my huge blue mohawk in the back alleys of Stanmore. it was a nice little treat for the day.

there were heaps of works throughout the other 2 venues i saw (MCA and AGNSW), but the truth of the matter is, i can’t remember a whole bunch of them. that, i think, is the reason that the biennale is on for 2 months. time to revisit and absorb so much. i’m really looking forward to going back to some of the venues i’ve already seen, and to venture to some of the smaller venues as well.

other major highlight for the day was the talk by Mike Parr. As part of the SafARI fringe contemporary art festival, Mike was speaking about the beginning of inhibodress, one of the first ARIs in Sydney as well as his own early practice of that time. In the SafARI zine, I’m quoted as saying Mike is ‘the best thing since sliced bread’ and i stick by that. He’s managed to continue creating thought-provoking, inciteful and insightful works for the last 35 years and when he spoke, i was captivated. Now, when some people contradict themselves, i’m the first one to tune out, but hearing Parr talk, i didn’t care that he did that. I didn’t care that I’d heard some of it before, like a mantra about not getting sucked into the lottery of government funding. I really needed to hear what he was saying. I loved hearing how important it is for ARIs to push the boundaries, despite it being impossible to do so these days, but that at the same time, it’s important for us to show works that will never get shown in a commercial gallery because its, well, not really gonna ever get there. I had also been driving myself nuts with the fear that i have all these ideas, not enough money and not enough time to get my artistic career where i want to go, and I heard the word ‘longevity’ that night. It was like a bright light in a dodgy park and seems to have been the salve for what was ailing me. It’s about continuing to keep plugging away, do what you do with as much integrity as you can muster in this cut-throat world. Perhaps a little dramatic, but hey.

I was so fucking inspired that within 24 hours, i had come up with 3 new ideas for projects about rhythm and time that i thought i was going to burst! This is, in and of itself, not a new phenomenon, but it felt different this time. I felt like i had been given a huge kick up the ass, with a lunchbox and swag with which to move forward. So watch out world, here i come. Even if i only arrive in 30 years’ time, it will have been worth it.

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oh, the paperwork

Part of the inspiration for setting up this blog was an piece by Gregory Pryor in a publication called Artists Talk, published by west space.. It was a copy of his diary over a week and notations of all the things he had to do as an artist, especially in the week leading up to a residency in Queensland. He mentioned the paperwork. Now I’m mentioning the paperwork. Outside of my almost-full-time job, I am the chairperson for Project Contemporary Artspace and a practising artist and this week, i’m working on 5 grant applications. For those that understand – yes 5! For those that don’t, here’s a breakdown of my life, otherwise known as a timetable.

This week –
work – 30 hours.
commute – 20 hours
ministry grant – 4 hours
wollongong city council small grant cat 1. – 3 hours
wollongong city council small grant cat 2. – 1 hour
wollongong city gallery residency – 3 hours
liminal personae content – 1 hour
project fundraiser trivia night – 5 hours

Total work: 66 hours
Total pay: 30 hours

Next week
work – 30 hours
commute – 15 hours
wollongong city council small grant cat 1. – 4 hours
wollongong city council small grant cat 2. – 1 hour
wollongong city gallery residency – 3 hours
rent reduction submission to council – 2 hours
liminal personae content – 4 hours
project fundraiser trivia night – 2 hours

Total work: 61 hours
Total pay: 30 hours

That’s 2 week’s worth of unpaid work, in order to possibly get some more money, in order to create more unpaid work – either for the gallery or myself! Does any other profession produce that much paper work, unpaid, in order to get more unpaid work? Possibly the unemployed…

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Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought

Boy do i love this book! I’ve been working on some new projects recently and doing some research and theoretical thinking about a few things and whenever i’ve looked up a relevant topic in this book, my mind just explodes with the relevance of it all. One project I’m working on is a public art project based at a development site and i’m going back to the stacks of red, but instead of milk crates, i’m looking at fibreglass red cubes. I looked up a reference for ‘development’ and found the following:

developmental cycle: Concept develped by Meyer Fortes to understand the changes which take place within the Domestic Group. It provided as a concept the link between the individual and society. Fortes analysed the domestic group as the focus of social reproduction, where members move through a cycles of recognised roles at different stages of their lives. The cycle is expressed in spatial or residential arrangements. Fortes identified 3 phases in the developmental cycle: 1. expansion – the period of marriage, birth and rearing of children; 2. fission – the marriage of children, departure from the domestic group and the establishment of a new conjugal group; 3. replacement – death of parents and birth of children to second generation. Relations between individuals within the domestic group may be reflected in its different stages of development; e.g tension between father and son over succession may be lessened through the establishment of a separate residence.

For me, that stuff is loaded with connections to the work i was thinking about and has completely validated my original idea – not mention giving me further study for some of the relations between groups and within groups!

After the slog of putting on a show, it’s so nice to move onto the next work and see it rolling out before your eyes. Other projects I’m working on have also had connections to theories in this fantastic publication and i’m sure i’ll be quoting it again really soon!

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Room 2

From behind the black curtain, you can hear snoring, groaning.. “i said, Fuck Off!” and “What the fuck do you want?”, then an almighty scream. I hear this day after day while i mind the space. The rest of you hear it for a minute.

The videos begin to illustrate the point of impact. The time when a woman officially ‘loses it’. Whatever ‘it’ is. Little vignettes of that point in time when she’ll see red, the blood boils and whatever has pushed her to the limit is now in danger of not existing at all.
These woman commit heinous crimes – stabbing, cutting, choking in rage. Or is it just in their heads. For most women, this is the place that is the most violent of territories and this projection room has that cerebral kind of feel. But the works actually bring such violence into the open. It is now seen in real time, with sound and movement, not hidden or secret.

This element of the installation is the crux of the show. It’s about actually representing women’s violence and being aware that it exists. In fact, all humans are violent. We commit the most disgusting atrocities on each other, on animals, on the environment. This exhibition doesn’t condone violence, but simply presents it. The sooner we accept our violence, perhaps the sooner we will be able to refrain from bowing to it.

And the videos provide women with an opportunity to see their violent minds enacted. The next room provides the evidence, the blood and gore and the aftermath of these acts.

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