bruce nauman nick wilder corridor_web

oh bruce, how i love thee.

there is a massive bruce nauman show at the hamburger bahnhof at the moment and i had the joy of going to see it with a new berlin buddy david bausola.

it was so lush that i’m going to go back and a) see it again on my own and b) do a listening project there.

dream passage was based on all the works he had done regarding corridors, journeys, passages and empty spaces. of course there were a bunch of his neon works there, which were great, but i honestly think that they could have been left out and it would have made no difference.

bruce nauman_trench and four passages web

however, there were other older works from the collection that i loved seeing and felt absolutely relevant: his art make up works – i hadn’t seen them before (and they gave me an idea for future work), his text: flayed earth/flayed self (skin/sink), musical chair,

i pressed myself against the wall (except i did it backwards, for the hell of it) for body pressure and had to be told to do it on the wall, not on the paper (oops!), and then almost ruined the marquette of his room with my soul left out trying to check out the underside, so that was a bit embarrassing.

but apart from those two gaffes, i really enjoyed the show.

the space itself is MASSIVE so i just limited myself to seeing the nauman works, having to pass up works by lawrence weiner, robert morris, yves klein and richard serra. but i will go back for them.

bruce nauman kassell_web

experiencing the kassell corridor was so beautiful. visually, it’s striking, experientially, a wonderful reprieve-space, but acoustically it’s fascinating – a strange amplification that is almost binaural – the sounds are close and far away at the same time. i listened to other people in the space from the outside before i went in and listened to people outside the space from inside the green crescent-shaped crevice.

as i said, i’m going to go back and do a more formal ‘listen’ real soon.

david, the meanie, took me into the bookstore and i promptly spent €25 on two books. fuck! but they were SO cheap: a lawrence weiner for €10 and global feminisms for €15! i just had to. regardless of the repercussions.

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gesture and procedures

there is an amazing exhibition on at ACCA at the moment. i haven’t had a lot of time to devote to checkin’ out exhibitions at the moment, but this one is right up my alley.

the new macpherson commission is bianca hester‘s massive work Please leave these windows open overnight to enable the fans to draw in cool air during the early hours of the morning – it is a whole-gallery installation on action, movement and tension. from the school of fischli & weiss, it’s an opus of balance, possible action, phenomenology and spatial composition.

(that’s her above). bummed i missed out on seeing the horse!

the other show is a group exhibition of artists who work across concept/performance and action – gestures and procedures is great title for it, actually. a whole swag of my personal favs are in the show: marina abramovic, mike parr, francis alys, vito acconci, john baldassari, anastasia klose, beth arnold, tony schwensen and bruce nauman.

it was the kind of show i had seen on my european trips, so a perfect send-off for my impending departure.

i had actually seen a fair few of the works, which is reassuring and comforting sometimes. and they were all good and obvious inclusions. except, perhaps, daniel von sturmer’s works – i would say that von sturmer concerns himself more with traditional, material and construction considerations, rather than process/gesture. but that’s just me being a tad pedantic. and nothing to take away from how good mr von sturmer is as an artist.

i love mike parr‘s early body work – 100 breaths, and the ulay/abramovic aaa-aaa was great to see IRL. as was the abramovic art must be beautiful/artist must be beautiful. i’m reading her biography at the moment and these works are even more powerful within a context of an intense life story.

even though i have to store them in my best friend’s garage for the next 6 months, i grabbed a couple of beth arnold‘s discarded object project posters, one of the objects – an old granny cart – was from carlton north, near my old haunt. i couldn’t help but get a bit sentimental about that one. heh.

i actually really loved the video work by delphine reist of an empty fluoro-lit room in which the fluoro globes would ‘randomly’ fall down and smash on the floor – the noise was amazing and the heist of it was pretty damned delicious too. i’ll be chasing up more work of hers, that’s for sure.

i didn’t have a lot of time to spend in the show, but still a great, great exhibition of works that are about the particular type of art i like – where art is a verb and space is an indirect object.

image credits: acca website, the age and

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camp pell lecture

a couple of days before leaving for my lightening fast sydney/brisbane escapade, lucas (the great connector) emailed me about tony birch/tom nicholson‘s work at artspace, which needed some [artist-as-]participants. i can’t remember lucas’ description exactly, but it mentioned a lecture, tom nicholson, a building in carlton and a spare spot on the 26th february.

lock me in!

i have been really interested in tom‘s work for a while and his sound/performance/list collaboration ‘lines toward another century’ with andrew byrne with had me hopping from side to side.

thanks to a bit of a crazy schedule, i didn’t have time to do any research into the project, which worked in my favour i think. i just rocked up, said hello to the gals at artspace, got instructions and launched into it. no time for over-analysing – plenty of time for that during the performance.

the darkened room featured included 5 desks, with a desk lamp and a series of projections behind the ‘stations’. each participant/artist read the lecture aloud and to themselves, according to the instructions, as we were giving a paper to a room of 30 students. easy. kinda.

the inbuilt difficulties (and points of interest) included reading at the same time as everyone else, the combination of reading internally and aloud whilst maintaining the same timing and the slight physical duress of sitting in the high-contrast environment for 40 minutes at a time. i always forget how quickly my body is affected by durational work.

despite having to concentrate quite heavily, i found myself thinking A LOT about the work in a variety of ways. so much so that it has taken me about a week to work out what the hell i need to say about it.

camp pell is based in and around royal park, melbourne, and the lectures are about a series of images from the state library of victoria. the idea behind tom’s research of the imagery was to not just imagine the context for the photos in question, but to catalogue and corroborate the stories and history of the time/place. unsurprisingly, the complex relationship to imagery, history and colonialisation comes up very early in the piece.

the area in question is very “local” to me – i ride across, around, through there regularly and is a permanent fixture in my psychogeography. reading about this place and its history/image-history was instantly transportive. rather than imagining the events or the landscape of the images, it was like i was remembering those places. the works, for me, were quite different to enacting an arbitrary narrative. they were infused with a sense of my own experience. which, as any good installation artist knows, is the stuff you want people to take from a work.

the sound elements to the work were also interesting to me – the syncopation of vocal relay and the differing tones was amazing. not to mention the randomness of timing. having to share the soundscape with others at times was amusing – another aspect to the territorial nature of the work – but also the sense of authority with which we all projected our voices. in a way, it homogenised the pitch and weight of our ranges. in the way that i guess memory will desaturate imagery, a lecture format desaturated our vocal contrasts. i think this is an area that my vocologist friend tim noonan would have been fascinated by.

reading aloud is physically exausting too, and i think that this shared effort required to communicate the work is another interesting point of connection with other artists and the work itself. it became a visceral task, which has become physical memory, as well as a mental one. something infinitely bound with psychogeography and a relationship with the indigenous manner of remembering ones place.

as well as remembering and listening, i learned a lot. despite the line in my lecture about ‘only the most demonstrative student could have gotten away with not hearing about this history of the ill-fated [burke and wills] trip’ i actually knew hardly any detail about the crazy hair-brained voyage up the guts of the place. in history lessons i only ever remember wondering why the hell they started the trip in the first place and thought it was blatantly obvious to trust the local indigenous kids to help you survive. but i guess, at 15 i hadn’t really discovered the true nature of the proud white colonial male.

as an aside, the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the burke and wills trip is on the 20th august this year and no doubt, there will be commemorations of some kind. it will be interesting to see what, exactly. given that its place as a valuable point in our history has become an uncomfortable indication of our true colonial history (ie bumbling idiots with too much money kill the only help they get and are survived by the only member of their trip who is humble enough to follow guidance from local aboriginal tribe). i’m almost intrigued enough to go along. almost.

other points of goodness in the work are the obvious conceptual links between art and text, art and language, language and meaning, text and meaning. not to mention tom’s regular investigation into publication/archive/library/reading-as-political-action and the contemporary nature of artist-as-participant/audience-as-participant in performative works. i can’t even begin to digest all that stuff today, i’m glad that i was able to participate – it gave me a burst of food for thought and reminded me why i make the kind of work i do, and to follow the lead of artists like these guys.

image credits:

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art isn’t important.


let’s face it, in the whole scheme of things, a lot of artists make a lot of useless crap. me included. we take up resources that could, in a more conscientious society, could be used for those less-fortunate, or could be saved in order to take better care of our planet.

sometimes i think that maybe the world would do ok without artists. and i could be forgiven for disappearing down a nihilist path and refusing to come out of a cave until the world was perfect.

but the other day i had two complimentary conversations with friends that made me realise that, apart from other, more obvious reasons, artists are important. and it’s not necessarily for what we produce, but the process we go through to get to that outcome. by what we see, hear and then pass onto others. in another forum, i might use the word discourse. or even dialectic. luckily, this isn’t one of those forums.

i go to a fair amount of exhibitions. i’m always thinking, looking, reading – keepin’ an eye on what’s out there – it could be said that i ‘consume’ art. i certainly mainline it most of the time and i am hardly ever ‘not working’. when i go into my day job, or catch up with other friends, i regularly talk about the shows i’ve seen, articles i’ve read, cool blogs, podcasts i’ve heard, stuff i’m working on, ideas i’m thinking about, or other random, quirky bits and pieces related to arts and culture.

i mostly do this because i’m a chatty, caring-sharing, annoying type. but i didn’t realise that, in sharing my process in this way, my friends (and family) feel connected to what’s going on in the arts, feel that they can discuss aspects of art/culture and that they feel more “cultured” through knowing me. that’s a nice compliment istn’ it? and it’s quite a nice gift to give someone too don’t you think? one where they feel that they can get access to areas of society that are attractive, but possibly seem off-limits. it makes art truly political.

granted, what i make may not have people feeling “connected” to art or culture, but it seems the open process i go through in order to make those things is just as valuable to those around me.

i like that idea.

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public sound vs accoustic privacy

Broken Sony_StudioL

there have been a few times when i’ve sketched out my research on this blog and i’m afraid i’m going to have to do it again. apologies to those who think it’s frightfully dull. as penance, i promise i’ll soon post about some of the most-excellent exhibitions i’ve seen.

but until then, it’s going to be a sketch on what my masters project is on. i handed in my proposal last week, but the whole thing is going to start taking shape, bit by bit over the next little bit. so i figure, that in the spirit of GenWhy and Web 90210, i thought i might post it here too.

it’s a dry kind of post, but it’s a starting point and i’ll probably expand stuff into it over the next few months. of course, any feedback is always welcome 🙂

Soundproofing the city: Public sound vs acoustic privacy

What do you want to research and with what end in mind?
Investigate the relationship between sound in public and acoustic privacy, and the role that access to silence/quiet urban space has on the public sphere, through art means (as opposed to architecture, design and/or policy).

How will you conduct your research?
Being a conceptual installation artist, I will use a variety of means to conduct the research:

• Initial theoretical work will be done through reading and traditional research on areas of acoustics, sound art, public art and cultural theory.

• Community-based work/workshop will then be conducted in order to ‘test’ one aspect of the research in relational and qualitative terms.

• Using technology and public action in order to test the sonic/acoustic public space and the difference from private sound, in quantifiable terms, with the role of the artist occupying the public sphere as an important factor.

• A series of large-scale and city-wide public works will be developed as concepts, with a view to implementing a select few on a small-scale.

A rough timeline is as follows:

4 April
Community work Harvest Festival CNH

May – June
Public sound drawings/action Selected public locations and institutions

Community work Living in Art Festival

Early September
CBD public works Public toilet

Early October
CBD public works Public transport (possibly for TINA)

October Conceptual works
Building headphone

Why is this research worth doing? (boy i had to resist the answer: “it’s not. art produces enough crap as it is”)

The divide between the public sphere and that of the private has traditionally been a discipline of media/communication/cultural studies. Artists like PVI Collective, Guerilla Disco and Franis Alÿs have begun to address the issue through the visual arts, bringing it into a ‘whole of society’ issue. This research continues an interest in the line between public and private life and aims to improve a functioning public/political life through creating stability in the private life. The political nature of public art and its role in encouraging engagement from ‘the public’ is an important one in a country with an increasing level political complacency.

Simultaneously, acoustic engineering and its role in public policy, urban planning, architecture and landscape development is relatively recent phenomenon (but one with increasing importance) as the city and urban environments become the primary built environment. This research is an added reminder that Public Art has an equally important role in the discourse about die Öffentlichkeit (public sphere).

What will you produce?

Part 1: Mobile privacy

Poorly designed public housing means that residents are deprived of acoustic privacy and security, resulting in sleep-deprivation, insecurity, petty arguments and other anti-social behaviours that infect live in public.

This project is a workshop with the residents of The Collingwood Housing Estate at The Harvest Festival, in which residents will customise headphones, as means to block out ambient noise from public spaces, transport and neighbouring residents, known to cause social problems in areas with high social and spatial density.

‘Mobile Privacy Kits’ will be developed to fasten to the headphones. These include cardboard discs, felt, paint, wire and a selection of text (in English, Arabic and Spanish) including: ‘ssssh’, ‘I have the right to be left alone ‘, ‘having a quiet moment’, ‘privacy’ etc.

Part 2: Public noise vs private sound
Psychoacoustics, or the perception of sound, has links with psychogeography as one way to map, or experience the city and die Öffentlichkeit. This project measures public ambient sound, and private sound taken into the public space – primarily music through headphones and externalises this liminal space.

Drawings will be made by occupying a selection of public spaces (the artist in the public space) and mapping the ambient sound using the online Sound Drawing Tool by ze frank and the iphone application: Wide Noise. The images will represent the sound of those spaces – both private public, and then will be overlaid as the difference between the two. The drawings will also map the conceptual action of being and listening to sound in die Öffentlichkeit.

Part 3: Soundproofing the city
This aspect of the project looks at the spaces of public life that are acoustically sensitive – places in which “private” sound is experienced or that inhabit the divide between public and private spaces, and therefore sounds.

These places will be soundproofed, using a collage of current soundproofing materials and art-based materials: felt, foam, rubber, wool. In order to reduce noise and amplify the experience of privacy. Two types of places have been currently earmarked: a public toilet and an aspect of public transport.

Simultaneously, a building in the CBD will have a huge pair noise-cancelling headphones attached to it. The aim is to have this happen in real life, although this aspect of the project may end up being solely conceptual, due to time and financial and engineering constraints.

Selected preliminary list of readings and references.

People to talk to
Pablo Romera – Arup Sound Lab, Melbourne
Derek Thompson – Bassett Acoustics
Romaine Logere – SIAL
Lawrence Harvey – SIAL
Dan Hill – UTS//City of Sound
Russell Davies – The Really Interesting Group//interestingsounds

Voice Drawing Tool by Ze Frank
Responds to sound through line: a clockwise curve for a soft noise, a counter-clockwise noise with a thicker line in response to a loud noise.

WideNoise by WideTag
Measures and maps the decibel output of its current location.

Public Art, ed Matzner, Florian Matzner; 2001; Ostfildern-Ruit, Germany.

Practice of Everyday Life, De Certeau, Michel; 1984; University of California Press, Berkeley.

Public Good, ed Slater, Marnie and Booker, Paula; 2008; Enjoy Art Gallery; Wellington.

Music, cognition, and computerized sound : an introduction to psychoacoustics; 1999 ed Cook, Perry R; MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.

Master handbook of acoustics, Everest, F. Alton, 1994, TAB Books, Philadelphia

A-Level Psychology Through Diagrams, Grahame Hill; 2001; Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Sensation and Perception: An integrated approach, Schiffman, Harvey Richard; 2001; John Wiley & Sons, New York.

Experience and the Public Sphere, Negt, Oskar and Kluge, Alexander; October – The Second Decade 1986 – 1996, ed. Krauss, Rosalind et al, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.

Listening and Sound: Phenomenology of Sound, Don Ihde, 1976; Ohio University Press, Ohio.

Privacy, A manifesto, Sofsky, Wolfgang; 2008, Princeton University Press, New Jersey.

Human Performance and Ergonomics, Hancock, Peter A.; 1999; Academic Press, San Diego.

Online references
Rane pro audio reference guide;
Wikipedia references on : noise
haas effect

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the role of ‘occupation’ in public art practice.

Art in the public realm has gone through a series of concentric cycles over the last 50 years, with changing relationships to the object, commodity and the ‘spectacle’. Artists have had waxing and waning relationships with the politic of working in the public realm and this brief discussion primarily focuses on artists whose works is grounded in the political and experiential act of occupying it.

The practice involves the occupying public space and consciousness is invariably influenced by both situationism and phenomenology. The situationist rejections of spectacle and object-based commodification of art brings an influence of action and process, while the use of ‘artist as body’ and ‘body as harbinger of spiritual, spatial and political power’ has its root in the theories of Merleau-Ponty and phenomenology.

The definition of ‘occupation’.
The definition of ‘occupation’ referred to here is largely focused on the derivative of the verb, to occupy1 , based on taking up space, settlement, presence and with slightly tactical, or event military overtones 2 – as opposed that related to labour, although obviously the entendre is not entirely unwelcome.
Similarly, this analysis of artist establishing occupation in a public place is also distinct from performance, focusing on the artists’ presence or evidence of presence in the space as a key element to the work: “working in a public, rather than in front of a public”3 , dropping in on daily life, rather than a prescribed or prepared action 4.
This kind of action and concept has its beginnings in conceptual art from the 1960-70s and, it is helpful to track the range of artists ‘occupying space’ since then, through the 1980-90s object-based movements, to contemporary artists, and to place its use and popularity within the aesthetic and public/political contexts over time.

Early occupations, actions, performances and conceptual practice
Art practice where artists’ presence is the work is firmly routed in the beginning of conceptual art in the 1960s, whereby process and action are impressed as vital artistic requirements. Obviously the gallery works and happenings of the fluxus movement at the time are influential on the development of ‘occupations’; however, there is a distinctly different purpose, method and outcome when occupying the public realm. It is in this instance that the relationship with political occupations and strategic warfare begins.

UK artist Richard Long’s A Line Made By Walking, England from 1967 is a major work utilising the public/accessible environment and rooted in concept of process and action. He repeatedly walked a path across a field, tracking his movement and his presence in the space, ‘drawing’ with his walk. This work set up the importance of the artists role as an occupier of space, within which artistic work is conducted, and also looked at the political effects of the work – enabling the work to be created by ‘anyone’ thereafter and encouraging experiential and spatial action as a way to effect ones environment. These considerations, based in the politic, have since influenced a range of artists in varying degrees, across a range of concepts.
Work like Long’s helped shape the tide of conceptual works created at the time, and with most artists were challenging the role of the institution, the gallery and the keepers of art. Joseph Beuys’ theory about the political nature of art, whereby each person is an artist, therefore all action is artistic continued to provoke the public and political actions of artists.
Similarly, Bruce Nauman and his coffee/studio works focused on this process of presence, action and occupation. Whilst initially in the private space of his studio, Nauman often referred to the political or public application and theory behind these conceptual works, which went on to influence his later Art & Language works.

Collaborative team ASCO, working in East LA and raising the awareness of the ‘Chicano’ community, operated specifically in this conceptual realm – working only in public and creating works that sought to reclaim public parts of LA. Their motives were simultaneously aesthetic and political, rooted firmly in the poor conditions and discrimination of displaced Latin American and Mexican people of East LA.

Working during the times of the East LA riots, the ASCO group would commandeer traffic islands, declaring them for art5 , or blocking off the centre lanes of bridge for two hours with a performance and only a series of spray cans left behind as a ‘mark’6. Unlike the gallery-based installations from the time, these ‘actions’ and pieces were scarcely documented, reflecting the intention of creating an experiential work in order to change the perspective of the viewer, rather than an image for posterity or commodity.

These artists were forerunners for a lot of the occupying, active work to come. However, their greater influence and place in public aesthetic would have to wait a generation.

In the face of objectivism and the spectacle

During the 1980-1990s, the primary context for art in the public place was postmodernism and the general feeling of big is better. The Americans – Andy Warhol, Julian Schnabel, Keith Harring, Jeff Koons and Claes Oldenberg’s influence on art – both private and that in the public sphere was exciting and challenged other preconceived notions about art and celebrity. But it left little room for non-objective, action-based work of a grass-roots, political or public nature to really take hold. In fact, in her survey of art in the 1980s, Alison Pearlman refers to “neo-expressionism as a rejection of conceptual art.”

Interestingly, while the cult-of-personality was taking the western art world by storm, smaller occupation works were being lead by artists from emerging political environments: after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Eastern Block at the end of the 1908s, a group of Russians and East Germans, Collective Actions began creating works in Germany and Russia: their Field, which saw a field of artists, drawing with red thread served to highlight the new open spaces, reflect on the role of labour (note the third definition of occupation) and to, in a way, create works of beauty for the sake of it.

In Europe and the UK, aspects of artists ‘occupations’ began to emerge from the body/gender-based performance work and the feminist art movement: Cosy Fanni Tutti’s Prostitution performance at the ICA, in which they inhabited the gallery. The political furore about the public nature of the funding and institutional support certainly brought those works into the realm of the public. Whilst that work didn’t present the other hallmarks of occupation – its strategic/warfare-like action – Katherine Hammnet’s guerrilla fashion works certainly did. Her oversized 58%-Don’t-want Pershing-wear whilst meeting prime minister Thatcher made front-page news and reflected the Punk/Vivienne Westwood-inspired design trend for clothing and fashion – the public personal façade – to be political, anti-establishment and certainly military in its influence.

During the boom of the YBA period of the 1990s, process, presence and occupation began to creep back into the discourse around art, even if the works being produced were still largely objective. The concept of ‘taking up space’ was a hallmark of many YBA artists and perhaps the reason for their sensation. Whilst still primarily for the purpose of commerce and private output (supported by media aristocrat Charles Saatchi), Emin’s Bed, and her collaboration with Sarah Lucas, Shop, Rachel Whiteread’s concrete Untitled (House), Anya Gallacio’s room-sized ice block (Intensities and Surfaces) and Martin Creed’s crumpled paper/tiles/lights/doors in rooms and galleries all looked to occupy space, establish art as a force and a presence. Only Gillian Wearing’s Dancing in Peckham really established art in a place amongst the people, in a ‘political’ setting. Yet this work marked a gradual return to artists occupying public space, as a political and aesthetic statement.

Renewed political statements and reclamations of territory
Perhaps as a result of global concerns about territory, a rise in general political engagement within the arts and a general return to more conceptual works, the last decade has seen a return to artists occupying public space, in various ways, as an artistic process and political discussion.

Global arts practice and the political context of operating in a global community has become a feature of contemporary practice, and as such, is reflected in the public and political nature of works by artists like Francis Alÿs and Santiago Sierra – both of whom have worked within Occupied Territories7. Alÿs’ Walk With a Paint Can through Jerusalem, reconfigures the concept of border/territory/geography as he walks the streets of Jerusalem, tracking his process with a dripping, painted line reminiscent of Richard Long’s Walk in a Field. Sierra’s work in Korea’s Demilitarized Zone [DMZ]8 similarly works with occupying borders, and in his 2005 work, transferred a set section of soil from each territory to the other, only witnessed by those part of the project.

In less politically charged environments, other artists working with the presence of people in public space for the purpose of playful, yet meaningful occupation of space include the Austrians Guerrilla Disco 9 and Cie Willi Dorner, who create public urban ‘sculptures’ from intimate piles and configurations of people, often spilling into the street, or wrapping around public infrastructure 10 . And of course the rise of the absurdist and subversive Flash Mob around the world reflects a common need for people to take up public space in an aesthetic, yet politically meaningful way, disrupting public mindlessness by a large-scale game of ‘Freeze’ in places like Grand Central station 11 .

Occupation of public institutional space, as continuation of works from the early conceptual artists like Yoko Ono and Beuys continues, mostly in the UK and its large public art funding. Ironically, works like Antony Gormley’s Fourth Plinth project 12, in which the ordinary person becomes the public monument, or even Martin Creed’s Turner Prize-winning Work No.85013 in which runners sprint through the hallowed halls of the Tate Britain Gallery are at once focusing on the importance of the politic/person within the public institution, and supporting the spectacle of production, not necessarily process artistic. However, the general acceptance of works like these indicate a change in acceptable public art practice.

Contemporary Australian occupations.
While the practice of aesthetic-political occupying space has largely been driven with European and UK artists, Australian arts practice has a growing number of artists utilising this process as a reclamation or political statement.
Mike Parr, as Australia’s foremost conceptual artist, traverses presence and politics, largely within a gallery setting, but increasingly within the public institution. And, whilst still mostly focused within the interiors of public institutions or facilities, works such as Ross Gibson’s Conversations, seen in the Sydney Biennale, the RMIT UI research group’s recent Occupation at Craft Victoria, and even my own occupation of public toilets in shopping centres show a continuing trajectory of consideration of this area.

In Australia’s greater public realm, work that seeks to occupy space as a process is still largely ground in a combination of performance and relational aesthetic works, however Perth’s PVI Collective TTS bus, Zanny Begg’s politically-loaded Checkpoint ‘soldiers’ occupying the streets of Blacktown and Lucas Ihlein/Squatspace’s projects traversing of Sydney streets and suburbs in the name of ‘ownership’ are all works which have a common need for the presence of people to form and inform the public realm. The role of occupation of land within Australian cultural and political context has been an uncomfortable one, only recently discussed with a level of openness seen in other countries. With subversive indigenous occupation of land being largely based at the Tent Embassy in Canberra, the effect of changing perspectives on land, territory and ownership on contemporary public art practice is unknown, as yet, but will be an important one.

Most of the works and art practices mentioned above are largely temporary/transient works, with reference to Aristotelian peripatetic practice14. However, with associations to shifting politics and possibly the overkill of ‘stuff’ – the object has ceased to be political, just consumptive and part of the spectacle. And whilst aspects of performance are obviously part of the spectacle, the person – citizen, in action has the power to reclaim the political, civic and public space and it is this lean towards action, towards collectivism, to the true meaning of the politic which is gaining momentum, in collaboration with contemporary conceptual art.

1. Occupy. v. 3. Take control of (a place, esp. a country) by military conquest of settlement. Enter, take control of, and stay in (a building) illegally and often forcibly, esp. as a form of protest. Oxford American Dictionary.
2. Also refers to the “ethics of combat”, which relate to the tactical/strategic concept of space, common in warfare, or combat mindsets, but influenced in artistic ‘commandeering’ of public space. Ref:, The Emergence of Social Space: Rimbaud and the Paris Commune, Kristin Ross, within the essay Internal Exiles , C. Ondine Cavoya, in Space, Site and Intervention, edited by Erika Suderberg. Interestingly, Michel De Certeau also refers to ‘tactics’ of relating to the public realm/everyday life in his Practice of Everyday Life.
3. Credited to Vito Acconci, op.cit, Chavoya.
4. Willie Herron from ASCO, “.. we would just drop in on everything in its normal pattern”. Ref: op cit, Chavoya p193: Brown and Christ, Interview with Willie Herron, 1985
5. First Supper (after a Major Riot), 1974. Ref: op.cit, p195.
6. A performance known as Last Rites in the Left Lane, on the Fourth Street Bridge, in which members of a local Chicano gang discover plutonium in cans of spray paint and so begins a nuclear age of atomic gang warfare. Ref: op cit, p196.
7. “Occupied Territories” being nation states whose political and geographic boundaries are contested through “military conquest or settlement” – Oxford American Dictionary.
8. The patrolled, controlled and technical nation-free space, which signifies the border between the Republic of South Korea and North Korea.
9. A pirate radio event, which broadcasts a DJ set to the public through a series of free headphones – a simultaneous public and private space.
12. Supported by both the National Gallery and the Mayor of London. And although Trafalgar Square is technically a public space, the Fourth Plinth is managed by these public institutions and, as such, has in itself become an art institution.
13. Supported by the Tate Gallery and Turner Foundation.
14. Referring to Aristotle’s practice of walking to and fro whilst teaching, in and of itself about discourse and occupying a space.

Conceptual Art, Tony Godffrey, 1998, Phaidon, London.
Practice of Everyday Life, Michel De Certeau, 1988, University of California Press, Berkeley.
Space, Site, Intervention, ed. Erika Suderburg, 2000, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

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