Interview with Anna ZSOLDOS
the ephemera interviews
In this series of interviews artists directly involved in ARIs and artist-run culture 1980- 2000 speak about the social context for their art making and provide insights into the ephemera they produced or collaborated on during this period. Artist ephemera includes artworks, photocopies, photographs, videos, films, audio, mail art, posters, exhibition invites, flyers, buttons and badges, exhibition catalogues, didactics, room sheets, artist publications, analogue to digital resources and artist files.
Anna Zsoldos was born in Sydney in 1964 and moved to Lake Cooroibah one year later. She grew up on the Sunshine Coast and moved to Brisbane in 1982 to study at Seven Hills College of Art. Anna currently works and lives in Melbourne.
Today Anna works in the environmental sector looking out for the health of Melbourne’s 8400 km of waterways. She has also dabbled in the world of textiles and is developing a passion of weaving. Her most recent foray in weaving was studying with a Zapotec master weaver in Teotitlan del Valle whilst holidaying in Oaxaca, Mexico in late 2014.
Anna graduated from art school in 1984 and founded The Observatory gallery along with Lehan Ramsey and Robyn Gray in 1985. The three all studied photography together and the gallery was established to show local photographers. They also built a darkroom which was for hire.
The Observatory was located in Little Roma Street in an old multi-storey building that was earmarked for demolition (as was the flavour of Brisbane in the early 80’s under the Joh Bjelke Peterson regime) with the final show aptly named the ‘Demolition Show’.
Anna exhibited at The Observatory a couple of times and later was the co-creator of The Billboard Project with Lehan Ramsey in 1990.
Anna then became immersed in the world of community arts for 10 years, where she worked mostly with young disadvantaged people and people from different cultural backgrounds.
In late 1996, Anna relocated to Melbourne and after completing a short botanical illustration course, studied Horticulture at Burnley College.
Today, Anna works for Melbourne Water in the river health area advocating for the health of urban waterways and helping to build capacity within the community to be custodians of river health.
Anna Hi and thanks, why does a public archive mapping artist testimonies and artist histories about the ephemeral nature of the vibrant Queensland 1980-1990 artist-run scene matter to you?
I believe it’s important these untold stories are put on the public record.
I too was directly involved with several QLD artist-runs during this 1980 era including The Queensland Artworker’s Alliance, The Observatory artist-run space in Little Roma Street, That Contemporary Art Space, The Billboard Project located at 18 Haig Street, Milton.
As a Queensland-based artist at the time I was working mainly with photography.
From my perspective artist-run spaces at this time provided many artists like me with a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose, a sense of the future, a sense of hope and great sense of camaraderie/community .
Artist-run spaces also provided us all with a place to exhibit, to network and to meet other contemporary artists. This was invaluable at the time as there were no venues, institutions or galleries that would even consider exhibiting my work or promoting my art practice, at a time when women working in photography was becoming more valued and widely recognised.
From my point of view it is sad that documentation and ephemera from this era has not been collected and published. I understand that this REMIX project is a useful way to change this and will provide an excellent resource tool for students and recent graduates alike.
And that REMIX is designed as an online project is terrific. It will make these interviews, resources and archives available to a wider audience online, from Queensland and elsewhere, and for much longer period than any exhibition can even attempt to provide. This is important to me.
Today I work leading a team of environmental workers in waterway health and looking back now at my involvement with ARIs like The Observatory and the artist community of that era, has provided me with an invaluable creative experience that continues to serve me well in my professional work and in my daily life.
It was a vibrant time where folk ‘had a go’ and were well supported by peers to make things happen – it was great!
The Joh regime, your thoughts Anna?
We all thought how could it be that Joh continued to be elected – naive. We did our own thing, exploring, pushing boundaries, expressing ourselves, house parties galore – dancing! It was expected that the police would find ‘issue’ with one of us or one of our kin.
And the type of art work you were making at this time?
Photography – predominately black and white; beautiful, heavy, archival paper…hand colouring, portraiture…film like sets.
The Little Roma Street precinct at 92-102 was more than just the artist-run The Observatory Collective, Jewel Palace for instance?
The Jewel Palace – fashion designers Kathy and Spina. Such fun – fabric and garments, textures, fashion parades and photo shoots.
A family biography snapshot?
I have Hungarian heritage – my father immigrated as a refugee in 1949 going to Bonagilla and then to the cane fields in FNQ. My mother is second generation Australian with Polish and German heritage. Mum and Dad met in Cairns and moved around for many years in Sydney and QLD before settling on the Sunshine Coast around 1965.
The Billboard Project collaboration with Lehan Ramsay?
I remember Lehan and I walking come from the local hardware store in Milton with the largest sheet of fibro we could carry. It slotted under our arm pits and off we trundled to Haig Road to the share house we were living in. I don’t remember who built the actual billboard structure however.
There were two seasons of the Billboard. We asked our friends to participate and thus in 1990 the Billboard Project was born. I exhibited under the pseudonym Stella Star – a play on language inspired by my learning of Spanish in Sydney in 1988.
My memory tells me the book was of the first season only and I can’t remember why we didn’t do a second. I did the lino cut for the embossing of the front cover and bound the book using my newly learned skills from a short book binding course I did. Lehan and I took the photos and the prints/colour photocopies would have been done at Lehan’s parents photocopy shop.
There was the incident of the overnight billboard guerrilla art attack – ‘Remake-Repaint’ and there was the gorgeous 3D piece Ivan Nunn created that lit up at night and spun ever so slowly around. I recall the neighbouring local yoga studio loving it because of the message it portrayed – it resonated with them. I believe this was the last piece of the project.