Interview with Gary WARNER

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.

Gary Warner setting up for Performance Week, That, 1986 Photo: The Shared Camera

BIO

Gary Warner lives and works in Sydney.

 

Born in Brisbane in 1957, Gary works across a wide range of visual, performative and sonic media. His work is polyvalent in approach and has a life-long passion for artist collaborations and for representing both natural and human made phenomena through the blended lens of Eastern and Western Philosophies.

 

During the late 1970’s and early 1980’s Gary was an active participant in the underground art and music scenes in Brisbane, producing posters, record covers, sound art cassettes, mail art, super 8 films, performance events, and the photocopy ‘zine ‘Decay’ which ran to eight issues. He was directly involved in a range of early Brisbane-based artist-run culture projects and artist-run space initiatives in roles as artist and curator, including Red Comb House at 190 Roma Street and One Flat at both 19 Edmonstone South Brisbane and at 355 George Street Brisbane CBD. He collaborated with John Nixon in the Anti-Music scene and the Society for Other Photography and was a Guest-Curator at HIP DEEP, Video Art Exhibition, Bureau Artist-run in 1989. During the period 1985-1993, Gary curated and presented a series of programs of video art and Super 8 films at the One Flat spaces, Brisbane Independent Filmmakers and the IMA.


 

PA: 

Thanks for your time today Gary, a long while ago; 1980’s Queensland-Brisbane Social History: what sort of world was this Queensland for you?

 


 

GW:

I was both politicised and developed my interest in art while attending Yeronga State High School 1970-74. It was here I met and became firm friends with artist Adam Wolter, whose father was somehow involved with the Theosophists and had a library of weird and wonderful books that Adam and I would rummage, including DT Suzuki, Carlos Castaneda and the like. Adam and I were also avid readers of science fiction – Asimov, Heinlein, Philip K Dick, etc.

 

The school was gender segregated, and by years 11 and 12, some of us thought this was archaic nonsense. A Russian heritage classmate (George Dubric) lived across the road from the school and on occasional lunch times we’d go over to his house, where he lived downstairs in a huge bedroom with his own stereo (!) to listen to Bob Dylan and The Beatles.

 

Adam and I had another friend, a girl no less, (Tricia Stoll) whose parents were Jewish refugees of the Second World War with European high culture tastes in art and music. Tricia also had a large downstairs room where we’d listen to Leonard Cohen, read Jean-Paul Sartre and work how to fix the world.

 

I went on my first street marches with Tricia – who wore a motorcycle helmet so the police truncheons wouldn’t cave her small head in as we yelled feminist slogans on the steps of the Treasury Building at the top of Queen Street, agitating for the decriminalisation of abortion. Many other street marches followed – for the right to assembly, Hiroshima Day commemorations, the no nuclear movement, pacifism and women’s rights.

 

I had been physically and psychologically bullied at school from the beginning – too smart and with no interest in or skill at sport – and had a perhaps overactive sense of the world’s injustice and an inchoate anger about that, with little insight of how to effectively channel my discontent, dissent and rage.

 

At the age of 12, my mother signed me up for an audition at TVQ-0, a local television station with a popular 3 hour live Saturday morning children’s show. As my secondary schooling commenced, I started working on this show, on-air, as a child presenter, twice a month. This introduced me to an unknown adult world, and I was enthralled. It paid well, but also led to a sharp increase in schoolyard bullying. But by this time I’d fallen in with a group of other outsiders – a Vietnamese boy (Lucky Park), a couple of Welsh brothers (the Llewelyns, whose parents spoke Welsh at home), tall lanky effeminate David Dolly and uber-nerd big-brained Adam Wolter.

 

Adam and I were barred from doing Art as a subject because of our perceived abilities with maths and science, but we protested and were; we were told, the first students in Queensland allowed to combine Arts and Science curricula. The art teachers were a married couple, Mr and Mrs Willis, with progressive ideas about art education – especially Mr Willis, who created a partitioned space at the back of the class where students like Adam, David and myself could sit and listen to Beatles 45s, while making photo-collages, cutting lino or preparing screens for printing. He also helped us convert a small locker room into a dark room, so we could develop our own photography, and I bought a Super 8 camera so we could experiment with film making.

 

Seeing Damien Hirst’s spin paintings recently rekindled vivid memories of us all setting up a powerful motor on the concrete walkway two stories below the art classroom, and leaning out the window with cups and containers of paint to pour down onto the rapidly spinning paper below. Mr Willis taught us that Art could be fun, experimental and without limits. Another vivid memory is my friend David Dolley’s end-of-year art project – a block of wood in a bird cage, which he called his Dada masterpiece.

 

My sense of the world’s injustice, informed by reading, Tricia’s strident feminism and exposure to the existentialist, anarchist and hippy perspectives of the friends of older acquaintances, led me to reject the education ‘system’ – I refused to participate in the senior exam and couldn’t wait to leave school and go live on a beach. Which I did for a few weeks before my mother came to tell me that TVQ-0 were offering me a job – and I decided to take it.

 

From 1975 to 78 I worked at TVQ-0 on Mt Coot-tha as a camera operator, floor manager and then producer of afternoon children’s programs when television was live, local and black and white. The different programs I worked on – news, children’s, variety, current affairs, talent shows, etc – provided me opportunities to meet politicians as diverse as Gough Whitlam, Malcolm Fraser and Russ Hinze to musicians Split Enz and actor Jack Thompson, and many others. And the good money I was making enabled me to fly to Sydney to see The Modern Masters exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW – which was a formative experience, seeing the actual paintings of Juan Gris, Braque, Picasso and others – images I was only familiar with as tiny, poor quality reproductions in school art curriculum books.

 

But I was dissatisfied working in the world of commercial television, which behind the scenes was a grubby, deeply sexist, mysoginist and racist milieu – though there were some good people there as well who were good friends and who I shared many important experiences with – particularly Hector and Sharon in the art department. As they didn’t work weekends, I would often fill in for them making end credit and graphics cards for the various shows.

 

At some stage in 1977 I started working Saturday mornings at Discreet Import Records in Elizabeth Arcade, which came about because I used to frequent the Red and Black Bookstore next door, looking for books and getting involved in the street march culture of the day (e.g. as anarchists, they used to stage impromptu events like ‘Rally for the Right to Say Fuck’ at the Roma Street parklands, essentially to rile the police and disrupt Brisbane’s deeply conservative bourgeois culture).

 

My work at Discreet coincided with the British punk eruption, and the sudden proliferation of independent music. Each Saturday morning – while I ran the store with his partner Mary, the store’s owner Phil Smith would go out to Brisbane airport to collect from Customs the new shipment of air freighted vinyl. And each Saturday afternoon, after closing the store at midday, we’d excitedly open the boxes and play as many of the new releases as we could, at volume!

 

In 1978, I rented a shop further along Elizabeth Arcade and opened ‘The Aleph’ to sell imported art books and prints. I asked Adam Wolter to work there, a I was still working at TVQ-0, and the place ran, at a loss, for perhaps eight months (maybe a year) before I could no longer afford to fund it, and The Aleph was no more. But I decided to quit working and elected to live my life as an artist, whatever that might be and however it might be done.

There was no inter web – communication was largely through paper media – handbills, flyers for bands, posters for bands and street marches; lots of collaging for mail art, some like Terry Murphy drew all the time; I made my little Decay series with fragments of words from Adam and others, my hand-developed photos, magazine shreds, newspaper ‘screamers’ nicked from the local news agencies at night…
Gary Warner

 

PA: 

The Bjelke-Petersen Regime, “The Police State” political backdrop how did it impact upon you, if at all?

 


 

GW:

Heavily. There was a distinct ‘them and us’ culture.

 

We felt, and acted, marginalised. We built our own cultural frameworks, dressed provocatively, drank too much and experimented with drugs and sexuality. We were outraged, felt disenfranchised and politically voiceless. But this oppositional estrangement fueled and amplified our creative lives. Bjelke-Petersen had been Premier of Queensland since 1968 – he seemed immoveable, even though, to us, the system was so obviously corrupt, sexist and archaic.


 

PA: 

And on the type of art work you were making at this time Gary?

 


 

GW:

All my activities were oriented around an alignment with and allegiance to the spirit of Dada and anti-art.

 

Inspirations were found in photo-collage, the cutup strategies of William Burroughs and Brion Gysin, the music of Throbbing Gristle, the Gang of Four, the Pop Group, Talking Heads, the experimental music of Brian Eno’s ambient records.

 

As well as playing in bands, I made Super 8 films and musique concrete with a variety of cassette recorders, took many Polaroids and self-developed black and white 35mm, made a lot of collage, explored performance, mail art and cutup writing projects.


 

PA: 

Kinship Gary? A brief biography.

 


 

GW:

Perhaps anthropologically – I’m the eldest of five siblings, having two brothers and two sisters. My parents were both single off-spring, though my mother had a much older half-brother. My parents were thoroughly working class – father apprenticed as a boiler maker, mother was a stenographer. They met while ballroom dancing and married young.

 

My childhood memories – beach holidays at Surfers Paradise, Burleigh Heads and Mermaid Beach; going to the cinemas there on holidays; going to the Skyline drive-in south of Brisbane; my father’s large aviary full of budgerigars, finches and small parrots, and having to tend to the water bowls and feed trays; Christmas parties at the Tiptop bakery where my grandfather worked; staying overnight at my grandparents house and reading phantom comics and Coles funny picture books by nightlight; practicing freehand copying comic book characters with pencil and pen; chemistry experiments and microscopes; in a backyard treehouse, listening to The Monkees 45s with the daughter of one of my mother’s friends; talking over the back fence with the ancient Mr McConachy; walking to school and noticing the wasp nests in the fir trees; being bashed for the first time in grade two and wandering home with a bloody face, wondering if I’d get in trouble for leaving school and not being able to go in the front gate of the house because of this anxiety…


 

PA: 

Thanks Gary and are there other artists in your family?

 


 

GW:

There are – my younger brother Carl is a well-known Brisbane based artist photographer who shows with Jan Manton. We have been together in one group show, but often talk about our projects and over the years there have been some uncanny synchronciites with our interests in music, art and personal creative trajectories.

 

My youngest sister is a skilled painter who has for some years been working with books as a medium for creation of sculptural objects and installations. In 2014, she curated a large international exhibition of artist books that showed at the the State Library in Brisbane and at the UNSW Gallery in Canberra.


 

PA: 

Is there a vivid memory from your childhood when you knew you wanted to become a professional artist or media producer?

 


 

GW:

There’s no locative experience for me – I was able to read before I went to school and was always ‘creative’, enjoying school plays, reading aloud and making up little parodic vignettes with friends. In grade seven at school, a small group of us used to put together a weekly half-hour of comedic sketches that we played out in front of the class. I used to draw a lot, mostly copying images from magazines and comics, and my parents bought an old upright piano which I liked to improvise on. But the key inspirational experiences for me were in the art class of Mr Willis, making photography, collage, spin paintings, stop-frame films and sound works with cassette tape with my pals David Dolley and Adam Wolter.


 

PA: 

And “Higher” Art Education?

 


 

GW:

Because I rejected the idea of a ‘state’ education, and completely believed as a young person that we had to take total responsibility for our own future, I didn’t go to university or art school. In that sense, I’m completely self-taught – but in fact, I learnt a great deal from others about what it is and means to live a creative culturally oriented life – people like Terry Murphy, John Nixon, Jenny Watson, Adam Wolter, John Willsteed, Peter Milton Walsh, Jeanelle Hurst and so many others…


 

PA: 

Tell me about this self-directed education?

 


 

GW:

I taught myself how to make films, how to take and develop photographs, learnt about screen-printing with artist Brian Doherty out at the UQ Activities Centre, and I learnt on the job at TVQ-0 about making television and production methodologies, taught myself music to play in bands, taught myself how to use tape recorders, video cameras, photocopiers and computers by using them making mistakes and finding ways to circumvent their constraints.

 

I have always been a ‘big reader’ and for a long time read a lot around the sciences and contemporary art via magazines, catalogues and library borrowings – the internet is now a big part of all the work I do from a research perspective but I still buy a lot of books…

 

My digital media production, museological and exhibition design skills and knowledge have been developed since 1993 when I took on the job to produce all multimedia for the innovative Museum of Sydney project and in 1997 established my cultural media production company CDP Media.


 

PA: 

Tell me about your sense of place at the time living in Brisbane, what made you feel connected to this place, what made you feel that you belonged, if at all?

 


 

GW:

I didn’t really feel that I ‘belonged’ anywhere – I left home the day I turned 18, and was glad to do that. It’s only in my later life that the powerful psychological sense of being a complete outsider to ‘ordinary’ society has abated.

 

It was the people I knew – like Adam, Johnny Burnaway and John Willsteed who gave me some sense of belonging to something.


 

PA: 

Café/foodie culture in 1980’s Brisbane?

 


 

GW:

My own interest in food didn’t really develop much until I moved to Sydney in 1981 – however, before that, while in Brisbane, I was mostly oriented to vegetarianism through the hippies I hung with (particularly Tricia’s friend Kathy Cook and her brother John) and I worked for quite some time at The Source vegetarian cafe in Elizabeth Arcade. This is where I learnt how to cook, because one day the cook didn’t show and the arch hippy Wayne (who ran the place) convinced me to step in – the cook never came back so I became the cook, making innumerable pumpkin pies, apple crumbles, veg stews and so forth for perhaps a year.

 

Other than that, once I was ensconced in the share house culture of the New Farm days, food was pretty haphazard ‘cause we were more intent on drugs and alcohol than on fine dining. There was a lot of budget cooking and people taking turns to prepare communal meals – not in any scheduled way, just by necessity…


 

PA: 

Artistic influences from this time in your life Gary, a period of vibrant and intensive collaboration for you?

 


 

GW:

John Nixon was the biggest influence on me, when he came to Brisbane with then wife Jenny Watson to run the IMA. We hit it off immediately and I started volunteering alongside Ted Riggs with gallery duties – one of my first jobs was to paint out a huge Howard Arkley dot painting downstairs in the old Eagle Street premises, and I distinctly remember treating the job as a ‘work of art’.

 

I collaborated on many projects with John – making films with and for him, making anti-music after hours at the IMA, making Polaroids and ‘other photography’, and so on.


 

PA: 

And looking back now, has this time in your life left a significant impression or imprint in your consciousness or world view?

 


 

GW:

True. It’s got to be in there somewhere – and its strange the things that stick – listening to Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, seeing films at the Schonell and later the the AFI Cinematheque, playing in bands of course, Frank Wolter’s books and presence as an intellectual enquirer, Adam’s brilliance and humour, Jeanelle Hurst’s energy and wildness, Eugene Carchesio’s decision to quit the railways and be an artist – so many formative experiences that do indeed remain in effect and affect.


 

PA: 

Was the popular 1981 TV show Max Headroom an influence?

 


 

GW:

Not particularly – the show Max Headroom was interesting for its innovation. I wasn’t much into MTV – my tastes in music have always been largely outside of ‘popular’ – ambient, world, art.


 

PA: 

Pop Culture influences?

 


 

GW:

Doing the promo poster for, and seeing the band XTC perform at Cloudland – almost everything at Cloudland was memorable; seeing Talking Heads perform at Festival Hall, and spending the night afterwards drinking with Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz (David Byrne kept his distance, smoking cigarettes across the room); showing multiple projections on stage with Zero when they supported The Cure at UniQ refectory, and getting complemented by Robert Smith for it; gigs at the Curry Shop.


 

PA: 

Where else did you hang out daily for your 80’s arts and culture fix?

 


 

GW:

Red Comb House; both One Flat incarnations; Curry Shop; Elizabeth Arcade (Red and Black Bookstore, Discreet Import Records); IMA (Eagle Street); A Room (for its brief incarnation); THAT; QAG; Bellas Gallery; artist studios; the Valley practice rooms; the Schonell Theatre and the AFI Cinematheque for film programmes and occasional speakers like Kenneth Anger; John Nixon and Jenny Watson’s flat (they always had great music, art magazines and books); the state library at North Quay (for art books); La Boîte Theatre; SGIO Theatre.

 

Hung with Johnny Willsteed, Adam Wolter, Tim Gruchy, Terry Murphy, Jeanelle Hurst, Adam Boyd, Russell Lake, Clare Mackenna, Michelle Andringa, Eugene Carchesio…


 

PA: 

Tell me about your most vivid and early exhibition/arts event experience, pre all this ARI endeavor?

 


 

GW:

Flying to Sydney in 1975 to see Modern Masters: Monet to Matisse at the Art Gallery of NSW.

John Nixon’s exhibitions of contemporary Australian artists at the IMA 1981 etc


 

PA: 

And community radio 4ZZZ since 1975?

 


 

GW:

Yes, artist Tim Gruchy and I did a midnight shift ambient music show on zzz for a while, but I’m not sure of the dates, possibly 1979? The station was a hub for political protest and were responsible for mounting regular gigs at the UniQ refectory.

There was no inter web – communication was largely through paper media – handbills, flyers for bands, posters for bands and street marches; lots of collaging for mail art, some like Terry Murphy drew all the time; I made my little Decay series with fragments of words from Adam and others, my hand-developed photos, magazine shreds, newspaper ‘screamers’ nicked from the local news agencies at night…
Gary Warner

 

PA: 

Was Punk sub culture ( New Wave/ Post Punk etc.) meaningful for you at this time?

 


 

GW:

It was meaningful to me, yes – Punk, its anti-authoritarianism was a glove fit with the troubled youth of the Bjelke-Petersen era; I worked weekends at Discreet Import Records from about 1977-1980 (not sure of the actual dates) which was the principal outlet for independent music label, especially 45 rpm singles – each Saturday afternoon we’d receive boxes of vinyl from the US and UK and spend the afternoon listening to all this new music. The shop was therefore an important hub for the underground music culture, especially because the Red and Black bookstore was next door.

 

Importantly, it wasn’t only punk – this was just one sub-cultural stream – Phil Smith (who owned the store) had a broad knowledge of jazz and experimental music, so there was the entire catalogue of ECM records and labels like Brian Eno’s Ambient, and Folkways. This introduced me to a fantastic range of music. I had little interest in mainstream popular music and bought and listened to all the Ambient releases, a lot of ECM, and oddities like french spoken word (Paul Valery, etc), the Minutes series, William Burroughs readings, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, etc.

 

Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, Bauhaus, Joy Division, Talking Heads, Wire, Gang of Four, The Pop Group were also on high rotation…We made screen-printed clothes – t-shirts and second-hand business shirts with slogans, cutups and collages; printed posters; made music; drank, experimented with drugs and sex, lived mostly by night, shared resources, went to marches,


 

PA: 

Tell me in some detail – if relevant- about any direct measure of support, patronage and interest from established Brisbane/Qld galleries/institutions you received during this early time in your career?

 


 

GW:

Yes, thankfully, the key thing was the exhibition ‘Without Number – Gary Warner and Adam Wolter’ staged in Gallery 14 at the QAG. But I cannot remember how this eventuated…


 

PA: 

Last year was the 40th year anniversary of the IMA, tell me a wee bit more about the role of IMA for you?

 


 

GW:

Yes lots in conversation before, but yes – I used to go to the IMA a little prior to 1981, and the main thing I remember is the sense of it being a very rarified place – I recall the cool, quiet space and the pleasure of this in hot humid Brisbane. I recall strange sculptures of glass and stone (Mario Merz maybe?), but mainly that all the art came from somewhere other than Australia. It seemed like ‘real art’ was only made overseas, or (only) in the 1890s or 1950s if it was Australian.

 

Then John Nixon arrived and it all changed overnight. I became directly involved with the gallery, assisting with exhibitions and also spending time in the space after hours making anti-music with John and others.

 

Later on, after the IMA had moved to Edward Street, I did a series of Super 8 film screenings that enjoyed good attendance. And of course did a couple of exhibition projects there while Peter Cripps was director, 1984-1987 from memory.


 

PA: 

Where did the developing ARI scene at this time fit into this broader infrastructural scenario from your point of view Gary?

 


 

GW:

My early involvement in ARIs was with One Flat, and we just did it all ourselves, both where it all began in Edmonstone Stree and then Turbot, then George, One Flat in the old Bank. . Jeanelle Hurst was terrifically supportive and enthusiastic – it was her dynamic energies that served as the locus of One Flats existence and activity.

 

I wasn’t involved in the A Room project in 1984, other than to make a short Super 8 film about Adam Wolter and Bronwyn Clark-Coolee’s show ‘The Theorem of Pythagoras’.

 

I was mostly living in Sydney by the time in 1985 THAT was up and running, though of course did have some supportive engagement there, in particular with Michelle Andringa’s 1986 Performance Week, a series of performance art and sound art events.


 

PA: 

Tell me about your most vivid memories about EMU in Woolloongabba with artists Luke Roberts, Georgina Pope and Ross Wallace?

 


 

GW:

Wasn’t there at all.


 

PA: 

Tell me about your three or four of your most memorable share house experiences, an important networking aspect pre-internet perhaps?

 


 

GW:

Harcourt Street,and Moray Street New Farm were the two key share houses for me – and a bit later on, I would stay with Eugene in another share place in New Farm where we made many impromptu sound recording projects.

 

Harcourt Street was circa 1982 where John Willsteed, Johnny Burnaway and myself first got together and started making music, listening to music, hanging out, reading Burroughs, seeing films, making films, photography, partying. That was definitely an exciting and formative time for me – I’d quit my job at TVQ-0 and begun my life of creative unemployment. We all met through Discreet and all moved into that large share house over a period of a few months. It was already a house of musicians and artists, slightly older than us, and we filled spaces as some of them left.

 

Yes the question of networking – the house had no phone (I don’t think I ever did while I was there). and we’d go out to a phone box nearby to call people to arrange meetings. There was a lot of walking across town – occasionally someone would have a car (Clare McKenna had an old Peugot). There was a lot of mail art being made. People met at gigs and made arrangements for other get-togethers, mostly parties. Or people met by chance at places like Discreet, or just generally wandering around the city.

 

Moray Street came next – I stayed in various flats there – with Adam Wolter and Linda Sproul, and upstairs with Stevie Pritchard, Judith Pfitzner, Tony Milner and others. There were eight or nine flats, all with musicians and artists of different persuasions – Ed Wreckage, partner Tracy and baby Che lived in a ground floor flat, Adam and Linda in another, fashionista Jane Johnston and others lived on the middle floor – and a passing parade of others. It was a very social building, with many weekend parties and post-gig after parties.

 

However, most of the people in these houses weren’t that interested in contemporary art – more popular culture – so there were very few direct engagements, but some crossovers.


 

PA: 

Tell me about your most vivid memories about EMU in Woolloongabba with artists Luke Roberts, Georgina Pope and Ross Wallace?

 


 

GW:

Wasn’t there at all.

There was no inter web – communication was largely through paper media – handbills, flyers for bands, posters for bands and street marches; lots of collaging for mail art, some like Terry Murphy drew all the time; I made my little Decay series with fragments of words from Adam and others, my hand-developed photos, magazine shreds, newspaper ‘screamers’ nicked from the local news agencies at night…
Gary Warner

 

PA: 

Tell me about your most vivid memories about the Red Comb House precinct 1981-1982

 


 

GW:

Adjacent to the then Police Headquarters in Makerston Street, at 190 Roma Street. A lot of chaos – but I only visited a couple of times when up from Sydney – my memories are of making improvised sound art recordings with Adam Wolter and others – I’d set my Marantz stereo cassette tape recorder running in the centre of one of the huge abandoned spaces and we’d just wander about making noise, playing instruments, reciting, reading aloud, singing, whatever…

 

Jeanelle was there of course, and Adam and Eugene, Russell Lake and Adam Boyd and many others.

 

I had been spending time in Sydney prior to 1982, and was out of town for much of event-based activities at Red Comb. As above, re collaborative sound art making – these tapes are still extant.


 

PA: 

Your ‘Polaroids’ exhibition at One Flat in 1982?

 


 

GW:

Polaroids were ‘important’ for me as I wanted to demonstrate a use of photography as art, that is, the everyday making of images, capturing of moments of fascination, presented in the context of the gallery as a legitimate form of art practice. This was slightly before, or coincident with John Nixon’s use of Polaroids and his formation of The Society of Other Photography.

 

I posted the Polaroids to Jeanelle, in their little Polaroid boxes which I consider part of the work and have asked the University of Qld Gallery, who now own the work, to always conserve them.

 

They were taped together in series of nine (from memory) – and they were to be installed in any order, but in two identical lengths one above the other – to create a long work that viewers would have to walk along to examine.

 

Having two rows, randomly place, forced associations between the images. Amongst them is probably the best photo I ever took of Clare McKenna, a conceptual moment with John Nixon where we took photos of each other at the same moment then exchanged the images – a kind of early selfie made by an other. And many other pics each with its own rabbit hole narrative…


 

PA: 

Your One Flat installation ‘No Use No More’, 1982?

 


 

GW:

Yes, the title was actually ‘No Use and More Trouble’ – an allusion to the use role of art in culture as it was then…

 

The exhibition was a couple of hundred A4 pages hung in strips vertically – each page was a rubbing with crayon and/or pencil that I’d made on the floor of the little room I lived in at 605 Bourke Street, Surry Hills – I made a variety of cardboard cutout symbols of houses, TV sets, animals, stars, satellite dishes, rockets and other paraphernalia, and scattered these on the floor over and over, making a rubbing of parts of each scatter.

 

From a distance, the installation looked like a very rough grid of colour tiles – up close there were all sorts of little assemblage worlds, drawings. It needed to be simple and inexpensive – a show that could be posted in one envelope, but that could have some presence in the front room at one flat…


 

PA: 

The question of ephemera and ephemera making, it was an important thread to each and every one of these artists you mention today and the ARIS they collaborated with, or instigated and ran, why did ephemera matter at this time?

 


 

GW:

None of us had any money, but we all wanted to make stuff. Mail Art was happening – poster art was happening – xerox machines were just starting to become easily available and affordable (Terry Murphy, Adam Wolter and I used to go down to the xerox place under the Storey Bridge near Bellas Gallery to make copies, including some of the first colour photocopies…)

 

There was no inter web – communication was largely through paper media – handbills, flyers for bands, posters for bands and street marches; lots of collaging for mail art, some like Terry Murphy drew all the time; I made my little Decay series with fragments of words from Adam and others, my hand-developed photos, magazine shreds, newspaper ‘screamers’ nicked from the local news agencies at night…

 

We didn’t think of it as ephemera per se, just something to do while unemployed, trying to make music or films or photos, while drinking, taking drugs, chasing excitement…

 

Designing and screenprinting the poster for the XTC gig s cloud land at UQ was a lot of fun for Johnny Willsteed and me – we really enjoyed making that poster – I don’t have one, but there are some still kicking about…

 

Making the boycott poster after I got bashed at the Exchange Hotel by the manager when he started man-handling Clare Mckenna and I intervened – with one mighty punch he sent me flying out the front door and onto the road – I was very lucky not have been brain damaged or worse – by the time we got the Valley police station he’d called ahead and got the cops onside – they did nothing for us, and threatened to charge us when Irena Luckus got argumentative… so we talked to a lot of the bands and together decided to boycott the place – Johnny and I did a simple screen-printed agit prop poster for it and stuck them up around town…

 

There were many other times like this…


 

PA: 


And the notion of archiving and photo documentation Gary, was this important for you during your Brisbane years, so as not to forget, to obtain funding and so on?

 


 

GW:

The answer is no – everything was so random, so infused with a ‘no future’ rhetoric that I just didn’t pay enough attention to it – I remember being amazed by John Nixon’s assiduous documentation of every single thing he ever did, whether it was a show for one hour in a friends apartment or showing at Documenta..

 

I just wasn’t any good at it,and this was probably also wrapped up with a debilitating lack of self-worth – but that’s another story…

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