relational aesthetics

i’m sure this is so last century, but i’ve recently been hearing stacks about relational aesthetics and i’m intrigued! i guess i took it for granted that people create ‘political’ work, work that relates to their particular situation and circumstance in a meaningful and informative way, and encourages some kind of discussion about that idea, circumstance, etc. but now it seems that there’s a real ‘movement’ of it now. (that all sounds very cynical, but it’s not meant to, honest!)

in reading about artists that have been linked with this idea (those in the T’fouh exhibition, Zanny Begg, Lucas Ihlein, Art Interactive), i have wished that i was one of those artists. i’m generally an outspoken and political person, and when i see artwork, i like seeing works that are responsive to specific things, work that encourages me (and hopefully others) to participate in something other than reality tv.

unfortunately, i’m not one of those artists and it’s kinda got me bummed. i’m having to realise that i’m a daggy, conceptual artist that wants you to think about the human species as a whole, rather than relate to a particular group, event, idea. so last century.

Relational Aesthetics
Aesthetic theory consisting in judging artworks on the basis of the inter-human relations which they represent, produce or prompt.

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geeking it up and swanning around

is it possible to be quite as geeky as me and still get away with fooling that world that you’re actually quite cool? sometimes i don’t know how i do it! ha!

to start with the geek fest – i’ve fallen in love with blogs all over again. i mean, i’ve loved them for a while now, but through following a comment from one blog, to another blog, i found the new love of my life – LED Throwies! Interactive Architecture.Org is my new best friend after introducing me to these things! So many possibilities for fun and games…

LED Throwie, courtesy

So on thursday night on the way home from work, i decided to head to the old DSE and see if i could purchase the bits and pieces needed to make one. And then if i made it work, i could go nuts. The guy behind the counter – whose name for the sake of this blog is James, and i, spent a good half an hour, poring over the LED pages of the supply catalogue, testing out batteries that would suit – trying to find the right luminescence to weight ratio and trying to recall basic electronic theory, which states the the current in a series decreases.. or something, i can’t remember exactly. but boy it was hot – while everyone else was out doing late-night shopping, seeing bands at the youth centre, or having cheap drinks at the pub, i’m in an electronics store geeking it up for the sake of art!
woo hoo! and i’ve got friends? wow!

so to offset that ultimate nerd flavour, yesterday i went to paddington and emersed myself in the über style that is the inner eastern suburb of chic du jour. well, actually, i really went so that i could check out a couple of galleries, but hey – i’m sure the chic rubbed off a little at least.

firstly i popped into Sherman Galleries, largely ‘cos it was on the way to where i was originally headed, secondly, i wanted to check to see what they had on and thirdly i thought i might bump into Lisa who works there and could say hey. the show they had on was surprisingly beautiful. with the first work i saw of philip wolfhagen, i kind of groaned – it had lots of paint, it was landscape and an image of a fire. ugh. however, i persisted and actually went into the gallery and found some incredibly beautiful works. almost the painting equivalent of Bill Henson’ landscape photographs. Huge canvases with, low and wide perspectives of, yes, landscapes, but they were of things like 5 minutes before the storm, or just after dusk across a vacant lot. really quite beautiful and i could have actually looked at them for ages. his choice of light ‘moments’ was great and i was equally pleased to see that these huge, sometimes ominous works were selling well. it’s good for my artist-as-crap-career-choice cynicism to see a bunch of red stickers on work that is worth $15,000+ (in every sense of the word worth). and not only did i get to check out this surprisingly beautiful work, but i got to catch up with a bunch of sherminator gals! tanya and lisa were both there and chayni henry (Primavera, SafARI, etc) had popped in to visit, so it was great to meet her too! see i do have friends!

Philip Wolfhagen, IdyllXXCourtesy Sherman Galleries website

Rose Nolan, See Anything SuspiciousCourtesy Sarah Cottier website

then i dragged my friend down to the new Sarah Cottier. i was excited about seeing this show – i only became aware of Sarah Cottier towards the end of my degree, when they were in Redfern and i have a vague memory of the first show i saw there containing a huge car just sitting in the middle of the gallery floor(?). Maybe i’ve got my wires crossed, but anyway, it was amazing to me at the time and i was looking forward to seeing what the new gallery had installed. After reading artswipe‘s review of it, i knew that i had to make the effort to see the show before it closed and i’m glad i did.

as a complete show, it was nothing to really rave about. as a taste test for things to come, it was delicious.
i totally dig Rose Nolan, and although her See Anything Suspicious work was a slight anti-climax after her huge 32.Banal Ideas Cannot be Rescued by Beautiful Execution. in the Biennale (which i loved), i’m excited about the prospect of seeing more Nolan works. Other works i dug as a taste-test were Koji Ryui‘s Fantasy Drawing, made out of straws (or plastic & nylon monofilament according to the room sheet!), Stephen Bram‘s Untitled (Two Point Perspective) and John Nixon‘s Silver Monochrome. Other works were OK, but not necessarily rave-worth. I am looking forward to seeing the forthcoming shows at Sarah Cottier though.

And then to top the whole experience off, i returned to my geekness by getting deliriously excited about the Neild Maze, next to the gallery. It was so rad! this little slice of childish delight in the middle of oh-so-adult paddington and throwback to european taste. my friend and i took turns in getting to the middle of the maze (which is about waist-high hedge) and taking photos of each other.

how sophisticated!

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celebrity death match: audience vs author

after an update from one of my favourite blogs, the SEE life differently blog, i started thinking about the relationship between author and audience and how that has and will change in future, and also what effect that may have down the line.

the kids at SEE have developed this great interactive technology that they’ve used on a few of their branding projects, as well as in the cafe where it kicks in as they serve your coffee to a bunch of hungry butterflies. it features on their award-winning Elwood jeans website, and I for one was impressed ‘cos it allowed me to scribble over the web page and not get in trouble!! ha ha!
it’s part of their development of branding ‘experiences’ rather than the traditional dictatorial approach to marketing/branding/advertising/selling. Read their thing on it, they’re better at explaining it than i am.

Anyway, in reading about this new way of relating to consumers, it got me thinking about the necessity of current author/audience relationships. How important is that traditional role of audience to author where the author says and the audience responds? As an artist, i don’t want to treat my audience with contempt and force them to experience the work from a particular point of view, but at the same time, the reality of the situation is that i create the work expecting that, based on the traditional role of audience to author, the audience will interact only up until a point, but mostly consume (for want of a much less loaded term). Even interactive works have this as the basis from which they depart to encourage the audience to interact.

If, as i hope they do, companies and brands BEgin to address their audiences on a more authentic and possibly personal level, and consumers, or perhaps people in general, begin to interact on a far more active level, will this lead the way to affecting culture in raising the level of interactivity we will expect? Or will art continue to operate from the tradition standpoint and the divide between art and advertising becomes greater. Does art influence advertising or advertising influence art (by influencing consumers, who then engage with art)?

It will be interesting to see if, down the track, this does see a paradigm shift in the way a person perceives that which is presented to her/him, be it advertising, a performance, an artwork, what the resulting artwork will be. If the beginning point from which an artwork is created is based on a highly interactive audience (as opposed to a more static and reflective one) what will that look like, feel like? Will the work that bases itself on stasis become the new avant garde (as interactive artworks are now)?

I have no answers.

In fact, i don’t really know if i want answers. I could go and study a bunch of theory on the subject – in fact i could probably develop a goddam thesis on it, but just for now, i’m enjoying the questions. I don’t usually think about what form of perception i base my artwork on and just for a while, i’m going to.

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a visit to agnes

While waiting for the Helen lempriere opening to open, I trotted up the steps to ANSW to check out the Giacometti exhibition and the Adventures with Form in Space – The Fourth Balnaves Foundation Sculpture Project (which everyone has reviewed, but hey – i’m gonna jump on the band wagon too)

Two vastly different shows, but equally as captivating.

With my NAVA discount, I got a concession price into the Giacometti and after paying almost $20 for the Picasso at NGV last month, $7 to get in was a treat!! It was a lot smaller than the afformentioned blockbuster, but the difference with this one, there was no filler. The byline for the show was ‘drawings, prints and sculptures from the Maeght Collection’ and the only thing that didn’t come under that heading was a print from Margaret Olley’s collection. But I forgive the slight deviation.

I’m exposing my absolute geekness, but the works were all amazing! The pencil drawings and mostly lithographic prints of his analytical drawings were largely that which I had studied most of my degree and used his technique in a lot of my drawings. It was amazing to see the sculptural quality to them plotting out the figure in space, or the object in space. He is the master of making an incomplete drawing look so complete that it was done before it was started.

His drawings and paintings were all about structure. Provide the structure and the form will appear. What a dream boat. Well, actually, I’m not that much of a formalist, but I good smattering of structure and form will really float my boat

I wished that his paintings were on display. I would love to see his amazing plots of figure in space in brush stroke upon brush stroke that eventually a figure appears. Similar to the way a Frank Auerbach figure emerges from the material, a Giacometti figure emerges from the structure.

The show was clean, concise and succinct. Exactly what I needed. no fucking bullshit. Not too much wall text and NO audio guides! yess!!! exactly what a show like that should be. It’s not rocket science kids – if you want to know more about the artist, check him out on the net, go buy the book in the bookstore, or borrow a book from the library, don’t expect a spoon-feeding – you gotta think for yourself sometime!

After the joy of the Giacometti show, I popped down to the café and treated myself to a chai latté and lemon tart. And boy were they good. But about 2 minutes after getting my treat, fire alarms started going off in the gallery! It was all quite bizarre because I wasn’t sure if they were alarms to start with.. they were quite musical compared to the blare that my work building has to put up with every now and again. So they battened down the hatches and we were kind of stuck in the café. The fire doors were shut off at the start of the downstairs gallery, so I couldn’t check out the Balnaves show, and the other door was at the top of the escalators, so there really was no way out, except to wait.
Or bitch and moan if you were the spoilt teenage princess that was flouncing her way around nearby.

Once all the drama was over and we were informed that it was a false alarm from the kitchen on level 1 (Barry, you burnt the toast again!), I was able to check out Adventures and it was fantastic! Another who’s who of top Australian emerging artists.

Jonathan Jones’ wall of fluorescent lights was actually quite comforting and mesmerizing, John Meade‘s work might have been OK to someone, but didn’t really kick start my heart, Nick Mangan’s work was not nearly as interesting as the one in Uncanny Nature at ACCA and same goes for Hany Armanious’ work: the ‘machine’ looked as though it might have worked, and I liked the allusion to possibility and suggestion of machinery/industry, but the rest of it was kinda.. eh. I did try and make it exciting for myself and blow the candle out on the CC work, but being made mostly of wax and a strong wick, didn’t work. But ultimately, I was kinda bored with his work. And given than I’ve mentioned work by Hany 3 times in the last month, I think I need to see other people.

My favourite works from the show were Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro’s Self Storage. I’ve liked their work for a long time, despite having serious professional jealousy of them, and was stoked to be able to see the work in the flesh. Their garage of stuff was awesome and invoked all kinds of experiences for me, which I think is a fairly mainstream experience, but you can’t get away from it. I loved checking out the detail, the little clues into their life. I noticed the Will Self book and the big can of Polyester Resin and the milk crates of spray cans. I couldn’t help thinking of Matthew Barney when I saw the Centaur mannequin. (Is is still a mannequin if it’s half mann, half horse?).

I did read in the catalogue how the work was devoid of museological reference – no official catalogue, label, numbering system, but was more like a game of tetris and I liked that idea, although I did feel like being facetious and pointing out the labeling system on the frame: Front End, Bott, Top Right, Top Left.

I had 2 other favourites. Damiano Bertoli’s Continuous Moment sublime appropriation of Caspar David Friedrich’s painting Wreck of Hope. There may be a whole bunch of theory behind it, as indicated by the catalogue, and I appreciate the 3-dimensionality that Bertoli added to the idea, but I just liked the work ‘cos it’s a beautiful appropriation.
Simplistic? maybe, but the first time I saw it at the National Sculpture Award (RIP) at the NGA last year, it actually put the idea of ‘sublime’ into context for me. It made it a contemporary idea (which I guess it is in the current political and social climate) and something I could appreciate the beauty of and come to appreciate the original. That in itself is a worthy pursuit (in moderation).

Damiano Bertoli Continuous Moment

Nike Savvas Atomic, Full of love, Full of wonder

And lastly Nike Savvas’ amazing installation of coloured balls Atomic, full of love, full of wonder was rad as well. The gallery guide kept telling everyone it was ‘the highlight’ which I would dispute, but it was pretty cool. While I was there, the fans were on and the back section of the piece went mad with agitation. It was OK, but it just made me want the whole piece to do that and I actually preferred the stasis of the piece. The chasm of possibility, like the whole piece could move at any moment. poised. Similar to the Ranjani Shettar piece from the Biennale, I could have stood in wonder for ages. And I love a piece that does that for me. When I can, for a brief moment forget about the context of a piece and have some fun with it, see it as a child sees it and drink it in.

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he sees red

congratulations to todd mcmillan.

not only as the winner of the Helen Lempriere Travelling Art Scholarship, but to his obvious penchant for red heads. flanked by his good friend Chris Hanrahan and his dealer James fromGrant Pirrie(who could be separated at birth), there was a definite presence of red flowing locks about him after the award was announced.

the man understands the power of red. already a winner, in my book.

I don’t really know todd, but I like his work, a lot. the alone alone show at grant pirrie was amazine and I actually would have liked to buy one of his smaller works. I’m not a fan of NICK DRAKE, but I remember I wanted an E. and for those that are having a quiet giggle, I don’t take ecstasy any more, but even I said to myself while typing it ‘hey, who wouldn’t!’

anyway, back to the Helen Lempriere and the esteemed Todd Mcmillan.

I picked it. in fact I picked it months ago when Zanny told me who the finalists were, I knew it would be Todd that won. and today when the office thought about running a sweep to see who the winner would be, again I said it would be Todd. I had to say it quietly ‘cos I didn’t want Jaki to feel like I wasn’t hoping that she win, but when you’ve got a gut feeling, you’ve got a gut feeling. Next year I’m going to start taking bets.

I’m usually extremely cynical about these kinds of things – the whole show was full, and I mean chock-full of the it-kids of the Sydney art scene right now – artists who are at the peak of their game and producing some really cool shit, but they’re also the names you’re hearing a lot of, so I could easily have whinged and bitched about the winner. and I know that todd is also part of the ‘in’ crowd, but I’m not going to begrudge him this success. he seems like a good guy, plays a good game of netball and isn’t afraid to give his dad a hug, or stand in boxer shorts. artistically he’s also sincere. and I like seeing work that is sincere. ernest even. but not so serious that there isn’t a wry smile in there somewhere.

I’m pleased he won the prize. as they kept banging on in the speeches, the prize has been going a really long time and is one of the largest prizes for emerging artists and it feels nice for once to know that it’s gone to someone who deserves it.

and to someone who chooses his friends by the colour of their hair.

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Top 10 reasons why getting involved in an ARI will change your life

After spending the last 2 years involved in the re-establishment and running of Project, I very rarely questioned why I was doing it. Not because i was mindly following the masses, but the whole thing just felt so right and important that it was almost a rhetorical question.

Having resigned as chair and reducing my involvement considerably, I’ve had time to think about what the whole thing meant and the wider implications having of my heart and souls invested in that space. After giving a guest lecture to 3rd year students about ‘life after art school’, i realised exactly why it was so important for me to be part of Project and for those that don’t know, or have never been part of an artist-run-initiative, here is why you give your life away for a couple of years.

Top 10 Reasons Why Getting Involved in an ARI Will Change Your Life.

1. It’s a crash course in nuts and bolts. no matter how much you think you know about how the australian art scene runs, who is doing what (or who), where all the money goes and why the arts really does get a raw deal, you don’t know it until you’re in the scene itself. filling in grant applications, preparing business plans, organising insurance – all of these things will chuck you in the deep end of the ‘industry’. and once you know these things, the sweet blanket of denial with ‘my work can just speak for itself’ will never feel comfortable again. the other aspect of the nuts and bolts is because you are part of an ARI, you go to other ARIs. like some form of solidarity, you check out who else is doing what. you have something in common now and this only adds depth to the whole experience. and you get to see some wicked shows there too.

2. you feel like you can change the world. once you’re involved, you suddenly have a bit of power. and this isn’t always a bad thing. you feel like you can begin to show the world that there are important things that people are saying and it’s important that they be said. you begin to realise that not being tied to government cash (or not much of it anyway) means that you have the power to open up the space for some incredibly amazing artwork. you begin to realise that as an artist, you can say what you need to and that it may make a difference some day. being in a regional area, and encouraging audiences to engage with a few shows that were almost mind-blowing and certainly so far from the beaches and frangipanis that people were used to was incredibly exciting! that’s the kind of stuff dreams are made of!

3. you start talking a new language. this bit partly relates to the nuts and bolts from above and partly relates to the one below, but you begin to realise that art isn’t always about ‘self expression’ (thank fuck for that) and you start to actually discuss work on a whole new level. you start discussing work in terms of context, execution, content, etc. now this may annoy the fuck out of a whole bunch of people, but it changed my life. i started to be able to think differently about contemporary and emerging art. i started to be able to actually engage with critical debate about work being created based on my own experience – real experience (not just based on a slides from a lecturer). this may seem pretty ordinary or even obvious, but had i been left to my own devices, just reading magazines (maybe), going to the occasional opening and maybe having a bitch about the art scene with friends, there is no way that my interaction with art would continue to be at a deeper and intellectual level.

4. it sorts out the good from the bad and downright ugly. having said all that, you realise that some artists take themselves way too seriously. seeing the range of shows, exhibitions and proposals that you do, your taste in artwork changes and you begin to actually see what good artwork looks like. again, some people may have this knowledge in their genes, but being straight out of art school, i really don’t know shit and it was only through seeing the crap coming through the gallery, seeing the great stuff, going to other ARIs and seeing top stuff and talking with others about it that i’ve come to hone my tastes and opinions. being involved in an ARI and the art scene in general (which, like i’ve said before, means actually going to other ARIs) also means that you begin to solidify your opinions. i’m generally an opinionated person, so maybe my friends will hate this change to my life, but i can now have an opinion and not have it swayed by someone who i think knows a lot about what’s going on in the scene. i still feel like i know squat, but what i do know is based on experience and practice and this makes for quite a nice sense of security. and this security about where you stand in relation to other artists, their work and what they’re investigating is incredibly important in being able to also create work that’s of value. i may not be the greatest artist in the world, but at least i know why now ‘cos i’ve seen a lot of crap work out there.

5. friends? what friends? actually, that’s not true. you make some very good friends being on the board of an ARI, or even volunteering! (go volunteers – we love you all!) and not just any kind of friends, but friends who have a similar interest in being artists, being involved and taking the initiative (pun intended). these are the kinds of friends who you can now share a studio with, go on a road trip with, share houses with, be in a group show with and get them to help install your show! these are very valuable kinds of friends indeed. these are the friends who will not raise an eyebrow when you say that you can’t come to the pub because you’re filling out a grant application, finishing off a work, installing a show or uploading your images to flickr. they’re also the same friends who, when you say ‘ i’m depressed after having my show’ or ‘i’m scared that my work will be crap’ will completely understand, do their best to give you a reality check and not flip you off with ‘it will be fine!’. in fact, they’ll probably help you finish off that tub of home-made icecream, or carton of homebrew.

6. you begin to have a public persona. when i got involved in project, i suddenly became ‘lauren from project’ and a bunch of people from other ARIs i only know as ‘liz from first draft’ or ‘simone from platform’. this may be a little annoying to some, but having that extra identifier changed my life. suddenly people recognised me based on what i was associated with and it opened doors. both for the gallery and for myself as an artist. it sounds incredibly egotistical, but hey, it’s the truth. suddenly i belonged to something, and when you belong to something, people find it much easier to put you into a category and remember who you are and why they’re talking to you. this helps. believe me.

7. when you want something done, give it to a busy person. once you start juggling the myriad of things that need juggling when running an artist-run-initiative, you become incredibly efficient. there are only so many hours in the day and the better you are at finding ways to fit everything in, the better it is for everyone. and the more efficient you become, the more you get done, so while i was writing grant apps, organising committee meetings, putting rent reduction submission papers in, answering enquiries on invitation design and sending out press releases, i also made time to create work for a solo show, set up this blog, work part-time, have a social life in there somewhere and still make sure my cat got fed. granted, living such a hectic lifestyle doesn’t last that long, but being able to manage it will change your life.

8. you begin to realise that 300gsm really does matter. i don’t care what anyone says, if an invitation to an exhibition is on shitty paper, it’s very rare that i give it a second look. this was enlightenment on satin art card! marketing matters and the more i saw invitations for shows, catalogues, etc i realised how important it was for the gallery to look professional, but also for my own stuff to look professional. you are judged on these things, whether you like it or not and the sooner you realise and accept it, the better it is for the gallery and for your practice.

9. you have a space to show your work. it’s not always guaranteed, but i don’t know many artist-run-spaces that don’t provide an opportunity for its directors to show at least once a year. it’s called compensation. ha ha! it’s also a great way to have a couple of shows up your sleeve very quickly, and depending on your cohorts, to show with some great artists to boot! bring on the expanded CV…

10. participation is the key to harmony. as an artist, you probably aren’t really about sitting back and expecting the world to owe you a dime, but getting involved in the art scene is as pro-active as a very pro-active thing. and in the arts, especially in Australia, although i suspect everywhere else as well, being pro-active is the quintessential asset artists have over, say, McDonald’s workers. and sticking your neck out, actually living your career, participating in the guts of it all is a fucking amazing way to live. you may burn out, you may get sick of the sight of a grant application, or spirit level, or the front door of the gallery, but there is no way that the kind of action you get from getting involved will ever leave you. from here on in, you will always give a shit about art. whether it be yours or others, it will matter to you.

For those that have done it before me, I hope you got all these things too and for those that haven’t done it, i hope i haven’t scarred you for life. trust me, it’s worth it!

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