The Conspiratorial Impulse – House Conspiracy – Artist-Runs Now- Interview with Jonathan O’Brien
Hi Jonathan, thanks for your time today. What, who, when, why and where is HOUSE CONSPIRACY?
Hi Paul, thanks, yes, House Conspiracy is Brisbane’s only dedicated artist residency space, located in Brisbane’s creative hub of West End and sandwiched between two massive walls of a late-nineties development that’s left 42 Mollison Street—the address House Conspiracy resides at—a lone surviving Queenslander in a concrete jungle. We’re just across from the new controversial West Village development, which I suppose is also politically significant, and lends a sense of continuity to the building’s identity: the place continues standing strong in the face of development.
House Conspiracy was founded with the purpose of addressing two key issues within the Brisbane arts ecosystem: first, the lack of a dedicated residency space in Brisbane; and second, the lack of events where different art forms and artists are enabled to intersect. Writers hang out with writers, theatre-makers with theatre-makers, visual artists with visual artists, and so on. I don’t think this is a uniquely Brisbane situation or anything, but it’s something I noticed and wanted to change, or at least challenge. When we put this philosophy forward at our consultation sessions, it resonated.
And so we keep it at our core.
In terms of logistics, House Conspiracy facilitates four residents/groups at any given time. They are given 24hr access to a studio, interviewed on the House Conspiracy Podcast, and showcased within the House at the end of their four-week residency. We facilitate any and all art—from sculpture to writing to theatre to dance—and seeing how well people from different backgrounds and in different media mesh together in a space is cool, and when they work together—one artist providing music for another’s performance, for instance—then you’re talking.
House Conspiracy is run by a core team of four (plus volunteers). That core team is:
Myself, Jonathan O’Brien (Founding Creative Director), a Brisbane-based writer and creative producer.
Elizabeth Cowie (President), a longstanding West End advocate, activist, educator, and hero.
Cinnamon Smith (Marketing Manager), a theatre maker, small-town celebrity, and arts marketing mogul.
Lewis Holmes (Logistics Director), a spreadsheet-balancing democratic socialist and actor.
Tell me about the name of your residency program, the story behind the fabulous name house conspiracy? (Sounds like it’s a moniker tapping into and diversifying the current wave of alternative/experimental “house aris” in Brisbane now perhaps?)
Yeah, whoa. This is a long answer. Here goes. House Conspiracy emerges out of Roving Conspiracy, which is an ongoing monthly event that was founded by Jonathan Sri, who’s now the elected Greens councillor of The Gabba Ward where House Conspiracy resides. The event has local bands and artists and audiences come together underneath different Queenslanders all round the West End/South Brisbane area on a Monday night in a non-commercial environment that was welcoming for everyone.
I was producing Roving with Jonathan for a couple years before the idea for House Conspiracy came about—and even then, the idea sorta came about by chance.
What I mean by this is that the space was sorta presented to us before the idea was even formed. Roving was in a spot of trouble and was in need of a space one month—March 2016, I think—and by chance the house where House Conspiracy now is was empty, awaiting a tenant. So on a Monday night we all packed into the space and had a heck of a time together, dancing to music. A few hundred of us. Once we were done with that we knew we had to do it again. So we did. Jono got elected shortly after, and so I spearheaded the project under the guidance of Elizabeth Cowie (now president of House Conspiracy Inc.), and with the support of Remi Roehrs, who departed from the project shortly after the organisation was founded, but who played an important part in forming the vision that underpins it.
Anyway, the point is: the name is what it is for etymological reasons. It comes from a previous tradition within the West End community of giving emerging artists a shot, and it felt like honouring the name—with Jonathan Sri’s blessing—was the right thing to do. Plus, it sounds rad, even if people do interchangeably use ‘House Conspiracy’ and ‘Conspiracy House’ and ‘House of Conspiracy’ from time to time.
Do you work from a particular framework/lens or guiding principle/ proposition(s)?
Yes. On top of a pretty in-depth application process requiring artists’ project proposals and examples of their practice, our curation is guided by the goal of having artists of all different practices within the space at one time. Also, all our artists need to hit the criteria of being local and emerging—it’s a broad definition, but an important one. It would be stupid to create the only residency space in Brisbane and then immediately alienate it from the local population.
Last cycle—Cycle 06—we had a dancer, a fiction writer, and two very different multidisciplinary artists in the space together for four weeks. The outcomes were phenomenal. We had one artist providing music as backing for the dancer’s video work; the writer and another artist talking about shared history. Everyone had a really good time, and it felt like we’d helped something valuable happen.
I think the space curates itself in a way—you put good people together and even where their works don’t intersect at all, there manages to emerge a sort of congruency in how their work shows within the space. The building is really beautiful and strong—I think it guides the art in a not-insignificant way.
Jonathan tell me a bit about your professional and family background and what you are passionate about now? Are there artists in your family?
It’s weird, my upbringing—it wasn’t anathema to art, but I was far from immersed in it. I read a lot of good books; I read from a very young age, but not diversely until maybe my teens. I’m a writer by trade, so I guess it makes a lot of sense that books are the common thread through my life, but I was pretty sheltered in a relatively conservative Baptist home for a lot of my upbringing, so I wasn’t exposed to anything really subversive till we got a good internet connection in around 2010. From there I discovered the music of Steven Wilson, the films of Harmony Korine, the webcomic A Softer World, the literature of Dave Eggers. I see those four bodies of work as pretty formative in terms of shaping my creative tastes and output, maybe.
In terms of artists in the family, I have a charcoal and watercolour on my wall done by my great-great uncle. I never met him, but he was an artist, and a good one. I’m also vaguely related to J M W Turner—I learned this after an experiment in appropriating one of his seascapes back in my high school art class, and I now know that a semi-distant relative of mine owns his paintbrushes. But that’s about it.
Why did you start an artist-run group? There are so many artist-runs in Brisbane now, what makes yours unique, different, complementary, critical, experimental, disruptive? When you set out did you perceive a gap perhaps?
Yeah, exactly. I perceived a gap. I detailed this above a bit, but essentially I saw that there weren’t any dedicated Residency spaces in Brisbane. So House Conspiracy set out to change that. The weird thing about our process is—and I don’t know how common this is—but the space came before the idea. The building was presented as a possibility, and we filled it with ideas—it wasn’t a case of Jonathan O’Brien wandering around with specific ARI/arts non-profit ambitions until the opportunity happened to present itself. The opportunity, the space was already there. Our job was working out how to most effectively make use of the resources presented to us.
That makes us and our origin story different from a group like, say Clutch Collective, who do awesome things with a meat truck. I honestly forget how their idea came about; maybe it was organic, but it seems to me like they had the idea for the truck and so they got the truck. But I could be wrong. Maybe they just found the truck. I talked to them a long while ago. I don’t want to spread misinformation.
Tell me about two or three of your most memorable level artist-run projects so far in some detail, what you truly loved about them, how you felt/feel about them and in all honesty what was of value, challenging and groundbreaking about them from your point of view, how did you meet/solve the challenges you faced/considered? What have you learned from them so far perhaps?
Okay, let me talk both abstract and specific.
First, abstract. The most valuable thing I think we’re doing is some archiving of our own, like ARI Remix, through our podcast, which is called the House Conspiracy Podcast (of course it is), on which we interview every artist that undertakes a residency with us.
It’s got a great response; we have almost 700 monthly listeners, and that’s awesome for a niche podcast about artists in Brisbane. Plus, it’s fun. And genuinely valuable, for all three parties involved: for myself as an interviewer, for the emerging artist as interviewee, and for the audience listening in. So it’s a great part of what the House does in the sense that it’s got such a good value proposition on all fronts. And it’s an archive, too. It’ll exist beyond us. There’s no contemporary equivalent of this sort of audio-based interviewing in the emerging arts sector in Brisbane, and I do believe podcasts are the future, so I think it’s important in that regard.
Getting specific, there is one project I briefly wanna talk about, which was a three-way collaboration between House Conspiracy, Anywhere Theatre Festival, and Vena Cava Productions (QUT’s student theatre company), and was called Dream a House.
The collaborators involved in the project were as follows: Siobhan Martin, Rebekkah Law, Samuel Seagrott, Siobhan Gibbs, Victoria Barlow, Tahlia Downs, Daniel Martinez-Lopez, Elizabeth Hunt, Olivia Brand, Jasmine Kennedy, Perry James and they were all angels. The show was facilitated by Sarah Winter.
The project was a piece of experiential theatre which used the entire house as a stage for a forty-minute show that had only one audience member through at any given time. It was magical. The biggest room in the house was filled with sand and in that room a silent shaman guided you through a ritual; one of the studios had a flower arrangement hung from the ceiling. There was a boat in the backyard with fairy lights run up the mast. It was so goddamn special I can’t overstate how much I loved that project. You couldn’t do that anywhere else: House Conspiracy, I’d wager, is the only Queenslander in the world you could transform into such a dreamscape with as much creative and logistical freedom as we granted Vena Cava. And I’m glad we could make that happen.
Dream a House won an award for being one of the best shows in the festival, and it’s pretty safe to say it earned it. Also, to win a populist award when your show only had 88 tickets to sell (and it sold out fast) is pretty impressive, so props to them for that.
God, sometimes all I want in the whole world is for that show to happen again.
Tell me about one or two of your current artist-run visions/ projects in the pipeline for 2017?
Honestly, we don’t have anything specific lined up. The thing with House Conspiracy is that it’s cyclical, and it’s more of a platform than a curated production; we facilitate art rather than direct it. That’s why my title is Creative Director and not Artistic Director.
Our goal is to be as useful for artists as possible. The House is a utilitarian exercise. That’s the vision: be useful. Depending on your perspective, that could be the most or least radical gesture in the world, but to me it’s all that matters. Pragmatism. Providing a platform. We pick the artists but they pick the way they spend their time. In a way, our applications process is a process of earning freedom—because freedom is in general earned, not guaranteed. Or, it’s guaranteed conditionally—which is a less confrontational way of saying it’s earned. You’re free to the extent you play a given game well, and in this case the game is a good and engaging application.
When an artist is selected, House Conspiracy provides $400/artist and free studio rent for them to do their work, so we couldn’t just give a Residency to anyone, which is why it’s curated—but once we do give the space to someone, that’s it. Our bit’s done. We’re not gonna tell anyone what they can or can’t do at House Conspiracy. That’s not the game I’m interested in. One of our current artists, Tess Mehonoshen, has just a couple days ago put concrete in the communal kitchen doorway. Who are we to stop that happening?
The seems to be an abundance of new artist-runs unfolding/generating in Brisbane now, particularly in the last eighteen months, what is happening, why and how and where? New graduates emerging from universities? Tell me about two or three aris you like heaps, how and why so? Something I have noticed this year and last is just how different these aris are and how supportive and nurturing the scene is right now why is this so do you think/feel?
I think it’s just easier to do this sorta thing now. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still hard, but it’s easier.
The internet has democratised things, and most people out of home in this city are renting Queenslanders, and currently most grassroots ARIs work out of a house like that (The Laundry being the best example) and so of course when you combine those two things (the internet and sharehouses) ARIs are gonna be abundant. And I think a lot of people are excited to support each other, and to put on work that isn’t just their own—a career in the arts is much more than just making art, especially now; it’s about facilitation, and ecosystems, and other buzzwords.
And on top of that starting an ARI is a net good for the community and the industry—so what is there to lose? There are so many people doing good things right now, and more people than ever before with ambitions to do those good things (millennial anxiety). It’s an exciting time to be alive.
And so many different ARI models and methods being used today all around the world, tell me in a bit more detail to above about your artist-run model/methodology (locations, artists, types of events/projects, networking/publicity/media etc.) in relation to two or three other artist-runs happening in SE Qld, Brisbane Toowoomba, Gold Coast etc. ?
I think we’re pretty different from most ARIs, actually, cause although we sorta borrow from a thread that runs through a large part of the current trend within the tradition—in that we inhabit a domestic-style space—we probably resemble more of an institutional model. Legally, we’re an Incorporated Association, and it’s that association which rents the house at 42 Mollison St that is House Conspiracy, has Public Liability Insurance, etc. We also provide our artists with 24/7 access to studio space, a kitchen, bathroom, a small stipend—there’s a lot of flexibility provided for the artists we curate. We also offer out the rest of our spaces—the Galley, underneath; and the Yard, out back—to community and arts groups for meetings and rehearsals and the like. So the space is in this way incredibly flexible and multipurpose, and completely dedicated to the facilitation of new art and community matters.
This is probably the best question to slot in a statement or two about where House Conspiracy currently sits in the scheme of things.
The Council has decreed that to continue operation, House Conspiracy needs a permit that we are simply unable to acquire. Technically, legislatively, this permit is not required, and so we didn’t plan for it, but off the back of a couple noise complaints from the neighbours after our massive launch event in February, the council made a decree and, well, that’s that. We can’t really fight it. I mean, we can, and we have—but, well. It’s not looking hopeful. But there are solutions.
We can’t legally hold public events in the space, so we’ve switched to a private invite-only model for now, which isn’t overly democratic or in the spirit of what we set out to achieve, but it’s a nice compromise that allows for the artists to derive some value from the outcomes of what they’ve spent their time in the space doing. We’re working now on solutions that’ll likely be digital-based, like livestreaming the private events, so people can see what we’re doing even from the outside. There are no perfect solutions to problems like these.
It’s hard. We thought being in the middle of West End would mean we’d have a fair bit of freedom in what we would be able to do, but that hasn’t been the case. The coolest part of House Conspiracy—that we’re sandwiched between the walls of a residential development—has also turned out to be the part that’s hindered us most.
Why do you feel artist-runs matter now? What new knowledge do they bring to the knowledge base? And hc by way of example?
ARIs matter for the same reason they’ve always mattered—I’m always sort of cynical of any questions around the uniqueness of 2017 etc.; I don’t think it’s all that different a time, at its core—they matter because they give a platform for new voices and works and ideas. I don’t think that’s ever not been the case.
The grass-roots is usually where innovation begins, and then it works its way into the institutions. You see this in every industry—artists make a neighbourhood cool and then the rich move in; we’re seeing that now in West End. ARIs are like that but with ideas. It’s a much more benevolent process when you’re only playing with ideas.
Aris are in a constant state of flux, transitioning and adaptation, why so?
Cause this shit’s hard. Navigating the law is hard. Keeping something like this going as a volunteer-run organisation is a stupid proposition.
Remaining interesting and meaningful and engaging and sustainable (if that last one matters??) is really, really tough cause it’s just you out there and you’ve gotta keep yourself going more than anything else. Being a producing team is selfless, probably. It’s about boosting other people, and that’s good; that’s what we set out to do. But you’re always in flux cause you’re always responding to a weird city, and you’re an amateur by nature, and so you’re half-professional at all times, and that’s hard to do for too long maybe. I’m not sure.
I think money’s a big part of it. I know it’s popular to sorta shit on money and capitalism and whatever when you’re in the arts, but don’t think we can hide from how important it is for resourcing and sustainability.
If there weren’t money, there’d be something just as important in its place. Money measures time, in the end, and you can’t defeat that. You can’t defeat time. So money’s just a promise. It’s not the root of all evil, and we need it to keep a functioning society going. But there’s no money in the arts, especially in ARIs, and so we struggle.
Did you manage to visit the ephemeral traces: brisbane artist-runs in the 1980s exhibition about 1980s brisbane artist-runs at the university of qld art museum april- july last year, about an era when artist-runs and diverse “radical” models proliferated in brisbane and in some measure in regional queensland as never before, what did you love or indeed not love about this exhibition? What was astonishing about the exhibition for you, what did you learn, did it inspire you or challenge you in some measure perhaps? Looking back now, what do you feel it’s impact of this exhibition has been, or indeed may be in time?
Dear god this exhibition was good, and couldn’t have been better-timed. It was on right when I finally started pursuing the House Conspiracy project in earnest. Remi and I went in together, pored over everything—aesthetics, logistics, records, all the stuff that was there. I wish that exhibition were still on right now, so I could see what I missed. But then, a lot of it’s online, on ARI Remix, so I’ve been engaging with it in that way still.
Tapping into history is a way of preparing yourself for the future. I think someone else said that; I don’t think that’s an original thought. But it’s true. And to see this city’s past humbles you. You realise you’re not as original as you might have thought if you viewed yourself in a vacuum—these aren’t new ideas you’re having, just old ideas in new contexts. This doesn’t make your ideas or projects less valuable, but it does change the context and ego surrounding them. Which is mostly good, I think.
Brisbane has such a wellspring of artist-run heritage since the mid to late 1970s, in a similar way, what are your enjoying about remix.org.au Ari Remix Living Archives project, Stage One – The Queensland Remix 1980-1990, ( and Stage Two – 1980 to Now unfolding over the next few months) or indeed not enjoying about the archive as it develops now, and do you feel it is useful today in some way(s), how so, why so? Do you feel this archive is making an impact, if so how so, why so do you think?
I think I answered this above, more or less, but I really like being able to access history like that. It’s important to know context. The internet is the most important thing ever invented—it’s the only way such a niche history could have ever been made so accessible.
HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED ANY DIRECT INFLUENCE OF BOTH OF THESE COLLABORATIONS, ART, COLLABORaTIONS OR IMPULSES INFORMED BY THESE EVENTS SO FAR, IF SO TELL ME ABOUT THESE IN SOME DETAIL JONATHAN?
As I said above, knowing your own context is important. I built a Pinterest board a while ago based on this stuff. It’s in my mind when we’re in board meetings: you have to carry an accumulation of historic knowledge with you in order to meaningfully progress. So I do. If you’re going to be part of a tradition, then it’s best to be self-aware about it.
HAVE THERE BEEN OTHER RECENT OR PAST (OR INDEED FUTURE) EXHIBITIONS, EVENTS, COLLABORATIONS OR PUBLICATIONS THAT HAVE BEEN OR A CONTRIBUING TO BE AN INFLUENCE ON HC AS IT DEVELOPS NOW?
The city breathes and we feel the wind of it hit our front windows. Everything influences us—who’s doing what, who’s making what? You’ve gotta keep an eye out cause everything’s connected.
We’re doing what we do, everyone else is doing what they do, but no one’s isolated. If you’re going to support each other well, then you’ve gotta be in communication with each other. That’s the only way you can create an effective ecosystem. No ARI’s an island, etc.
We’re in communication with all manner of arts organisations across town, because of the multidisciplinary focus (or lack of focus) we have, but we’re only four people, and so there’s only so much active communication we can have. We do what we can with what we have.
ARE YOU HOPEFUL FOR THE FUTURE OF ARTIST-RUNS, HOW SO, WHY SO, WHAT VALUE DO YOU FEEL THEY BRING (THAT CERTAIN SOMETHING THAT IS OF VALUE) TO THE KNOWLEDGE BASE, TO ARTS AND CULTURE HERITAGE THAT INSTITUTIONAL SPACES LIKE THE IMA OR GOMA DON’T OFFER, IMAGINE, CREATE OR PROVIDE PERHAPS? AND AN ARTIST-RUN FESTIVAL LIKE THE BARI FESTIVAL A FESTIVAL THAT FEELS TO BE AN IMPORTANT AND VITAL PART OF TODAY’S BRISBANE ARTS AND CULTURE SCENE – I AM IMAGINING A BARI/ GOMA COLLABORATION, THAT COULD BE GOOD?
You have a lot of flexibility when you’re creating your own context. IMA and GOMA and places like Metro play into their own pre-established internal contexts—important contexts, but ones which have existed and been built upon for years and years before the current administration of each organisation in question came into the positions they now hold.
ARIs and small organisations that pop up exist only within an external context—currently: Brisbane, 2017—but have no internal context. When you regard a brand-new ARI, there are no rules, no internal histories of curation—there’s no baggage, because it’s a totally fresh organisation. So such an organisation is totally free to create itself; it’s like an American Dream sorta thing.
Seeing how these new things form themselves, and the patterns of those formations—that’s what’s most interesting to me. But of course, as I said above, the city shifts you more than you shift the city. Nothing is free of its context.
LOBBYING & ADVOCACY FOR ARTIST-RUNS IS AN IMPORTANT ISSUE, CAN YOU TELL ME SOMETHING ABOUT HOW YOU ADVOCATE ON BEHALF OF ARTIST-RUNS, AND INDEED FOR THE MANY IN THE ARTIST-RUN PRECARIAT WORKING AS ARTISTS, ENTREPRENEURS, AND AS VOLUNTEERS?
We’re working on a publication to go out at the end of the year documenting the entire experience that has been House Conspiracy. It’s gonna be pretty useful, I think. I think by the time we’re putting that out we’ll have something meaningful to say—hindsight and insight often go hand in hand.
If I’d advocated or given advice earlier in the year, I would have said some dumb stuff I wouldn’t agree with now. So we’re biding our time before we come out and give any advice or make any rallying calls. Let’s observe how things pan out; let’s not be reactionaries.
It’s a balancing act.
You can’t make everyone happy; you just have to do what you can and trust that you’re doing something useful. If you listen to everyone, you end up with a horrible stew of ideas with no direction; if you listen to no one, you help no one.
A lot of navigating we’ve had to do in this project has involved finding the middle-ground between isolation and consultation in the face of both fixed and changing limitations. I don’t think for a second we’ve got any of this perfect, or that we ever will: it’s all about approximating effective practice as a producing team, and remembering that it’ll always be an approximation.
WHAT ROLE(S) DOES SOCIAL MEDIA PLAY FOR HC? IS IT A VITAL ASPECT OF YOUR PRACTICE? HOW SO?
Yes, it’s 100% vital.
It’s the most important thing.
Cinnamon Smith is dedicated to the marketing of House Conspiracy and she does a great job. Building a brand is hard to do and I think we’ve done okay at it in our first six months. There are things we could do and could have done better, but there’s so much that’s been thrown our way that’s necessarily complicated our communications streams, so we’re getting by. Doing the best we can with what we’re given. Life, lemon, lemonade, etc.
TELL ME ABOUT THE CORPORATE LANGUAGE YOU USE AT HC, IS THIS PARODIC, CRITICAL, IRONIC PERHAPS?
There’s nothing ironic about it. We’re just trying to be clear communicators so everyone’s on the same page in terms of how to engage with the organisation—that way you don’t have to be in on the joke or anything to apply or participate effectively.
Corporate language is what it is because it has utility, not because it’s inherently ‘corporate’. In general, we try to avoid irony because it’s not particularly useful outside of art (and even then?). Honesty is best practice; irony is obtuse by nature and doesn’t actually contribute all that much to the understanding of a given thing.
So we use the phrase ‘Friends!’ to begin a lot of our communications, and we try to engage with people using the same warmth the House Conspiracy space emanates. Effective marketing has to be an extension of the organisation/idea/product that it represents, and that’s what we’re trying to do is be genuine.
CHATTING ABOUT ARTS ADVOCACY AND LOBBY GROUPS, PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS LIKE NAVA AND THE RECENTLY FOLDED QAA, QUEENSLAND ARTWORKERS’ ALLIANCE INITIATED IN 1986, IS THERE A NEED NOW FOR A NEW ADVOCACY/LOBBY GROUP FOR ARTISTS IN BRISBANE? AND IF SO WHAT MIGHT A GROUP LIKE THIS LOOK LIKE TODAY, WHAT WOULD IT DO/ADDRESS AND DEVELOP? HOW MIGHT IT TAP INTO A NATIONAL ORGANISATION LIKE NAVA? OR PERHAPS A NATIONAL CENTRE FOR ARTIST_RUN CULTURE AND AN ARCHIVING PLATFORM FOR ARTIST-RUN HERITAGE?
I don’t know. I think there are groups. There’s the MEAA, NAVA etc. like you said. I think we need fewer groups, actually. In general, a free market around advocacy is a bad idea. Like how there are so many humanitarian charities who perform essentially the same tasks but are all to a certain degree in conflict with each other, and they’re all haemorrhaging money on their own admin staff and all that; it’s foolish—the charity and advocacy industry is probably one of the best examples of a non-government sector that should not remotely resemble a free market. Unions are strongest when they’re united, and I don’t know if an advocate with such a niche focus as Brisbane would be sustainable, or particularly valuable on the whole. The fact that we’ve just seen QAA fold is a testament to this.
My sense is that we should probably aim to augment existing organisations. It seems likely that any new organisation would just create bureaucracies the industry doesn’t need, and ultimately be rendered flaccid and ineffective because of how small it would be. We might as well work with those who already have clout and sway. Go to them and tell them what we need. Not start a lobby group from scratch and expect to be listened to.
That isn’t how this works. It’s not pragmatic. Of course I wouldn’t begrudge a new group were it to start up; I’m sure there’s a chance they could do great things—but my first instinct would be, rather than starting said group, to go to those already entrenched in advocacy and start asking questions.
DO YOU FEEL THAT ARTIST RUNS NEED TO INDEPENDENTLY ARCHIVE THEIR PRACTICES/PRAXIS? WHY SO HOW SO?
Of course. It’s practice. You’re contributing to a tradition of knowledge, and you’ve gotta do that in the most valuable way possible. There is one key problem: documentation sucks as a process. It’s boring. You already did something and now you have to collect and organise all the evidence and that’s a process I don’t think anyone enjoys (although maybe you do, but then you’re doing this from a historical frame of reference; you’re like an investigator; you’re not so close to any of this that it exhausts you directly maybe)—because by the time you’re documenting a project it’s already done; it’s passed; the world, you, your organisation, you’re onto the next thing. But you have to do it, because it’s important. It’s a process of reflection, and reflection is key to progress in any area of life. You can’t go through a breakup without reflecting after and still expect to do better next time. The same is true of organisational practice: if you’re not reflecting, you’re not improving. If you’re not improving, you’re stagnating, and stagnation is a cruel death.
JONATHAN I REMEMBER CHATTING TO YOU LAST YEAR ABOUT ORGANISING AROUND SETTING UP A NEW ARTIST-RUN, TELL ME ABOUT WHAT WAS USEFUL AND NOT USEFUL TO YOU ABOUT THAT CONVERSATION PERHAPS AND WHAT THINGS HELPED YOU IMAGINE THE FUTURE IMPACT OF HC?
Yeah, that was a good conversation—I emailed you after Ephemeral Traces and you let me call you. I recall speaking for about an hour, and I think I have the notes still written down somewhere. I tried to find them but I can’t.
I remember you giving me hints on how to engage artists—on the community element of all this. On how good discussions would function. That was useful. I think I called you between the first and second artist consultation we held; the second meeting felt much better because of your guidance, so thank you. Mostly, the call was encouraging, cause you were telling me stuff I was already chasing: I felt like we were on the right track with this whole House Conspiracy thing for maybe the first time, which was a good feeling.
AND THE WAY IN WHICH HC CONSIDERS/ INCLUDES MULTICULTURAL, FEMINIST and QUEER/LGBTQIP+ PARTICIPATION AND SOCIALLY ENGAGED ART? TELL ME ABOUT THIS APPROACH?
House Conspiracy’s curation doesn’t take into consideration any quotas or identity politics. We don’t ask people about their identities or backgrounds in our application process. Instead, we look for interesting art and diverse practice/perspectives. What we’ve found is that interesting art tends to come from the margins—the fact stands that marginalised people tend to by and large have the voices it’s most interesting to hear in 2017. I think if you’re seeking for interesting work rather than seeking to tick boxes, and if you’re honest with yourself about what’s interesting and necessary in the modern world, then you end up with a phenomenal and diverse group of practitioners. We’ve had over 75% female artists through so far, as well as a phenomenal number of people of colour and people with migrant stories. It’s been awesome to see.
House Conspiracy’s launch party in February 2017 was a massive event held at the House, featuring nine local artists and three local bands. When I say it was massive, I mean we saw over 800 people come through the House that night; for a mid-size Queenslander, this event was at minimum completely chockers.
The artists involved were:
Rhiannon Dionysius: Studio 1 installation
Liam Herne: Studio 2 interactive workshop
James Day: Studio 3 installation
David Oberg: Audio installation 1/3.
Aron Oroszvari: Audio recording 2/3.
Jonathan O’Brien: Audio recording 3/3.
Cinnamon Smith: Common room installation.
Witte: Live mural painting 1.
Mosessa: Live mural painting 2.
The bands involved were:
HHAARRPP x JNXYZ (an experimental audio-visual experiment)
OJ Mengel (rock)
It was a big night and people had fun and maybe for a moment we did something West End hasn’t seen in a long while and—given the local Council reaction—likely won’t again.
Archival Images above:
Event: Launch Party
Date: February 3, 2017
Artist: James Day
Photographer: Perception Productions
Event: Launch Party
Date: February 3, 2017
Artist: Elizabeth Witt
Photographer: Perception Productions
Event: Launch Party
Date: February 3, 2017
Photographer: Perception Productions
Event: Open House 01
Date: February 24, 2017
Artist: Annelize Mulder
Photographer: Perception Productions
Event: Open House 01
Date: February 24, 2017
Artists: Ben Warren (w/ Josh Lyons & Caitlin Armstrong), Unqualified Design Studio
Photographer: Perception Productions
Event: Open House 02
Date: June 17, 2017
Artist: Sancintya Mohini Simpson
Photographer: Tracie Lee Live Events
Brisbane ARIs Now include:
Outer Space Woolooongabba
HOMEGROUND AT BOXCOPY
LAUNDRY ART SPACE
IN RESIDENCE ARI
ORAL ARI ( Closed)
BSAF – Brisbane Street Art Festival