Interview with Tim GRUCHY

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.

BIO

TIM GRUCHY: MULTI-MEDIA ARTIST, VISUAL MUSICIAN, CREATIVE DIRECTOR AND PRODUCER

 

Born in Towyn, Wales, 1957, immigrated to Australia in 1958, currently lives and works in Auckland and Sydney.

 

Tim has been a practicing and exhibiting artist since 1980. His work is polyvalent in approach, including music, video art, performance and installation, photography, participation in artist-run collectives, and infrastructural activism.

 

The recurring key ideas, interests and philosophical tenets of his practice are the research, exploration and composition of immersive and interactive multimedia through installation, music and performance while redefining it’s role, challenging the delineations between cultural sectors and seeking new cross disciplinary forms. Persistent themes include human perception, artificial intelligence, synaesthesia, memory and cultural identity.

 

Tim has been actively engaged in the research and development of the Arts and Culture Sector during this time. In fact this is and continues to be an essential aspect of his practice. Significant roles include curricular advisor to the education department of Queensland at primary, secondary and tertiary level to the introduction of computers into the arts curriculum.

 

Tim undertook research at QUT into interactivity in a performative context which led to the establishment of QUT’s inter-disciplinary research lab; a sub-strand of which was researching disability and interactivity. He wrote the multimedia curricular with his brother Mic for NIDA. Informally the Brothers Gruchy have been very instrumental in advocating for dedicated video and multimedia departments in the major performing arts complexes throughout Australia. He has also contributed significantly to the development and understanding of multimedia design and integration in the Museum sector.


 

PA: 

Tim the late 1970s and early 1980’s social history, tell me about the milieu you experienced during this time as a young artist living, working and collaborating in Brisbane, what sort of world was this Queensland for you ?

 


 

TG:

For me it was a time of great unrest. I was very involved in the political activist scene at the same time as my creative pursuits and there was a degree of tension between the left political world and the art world or at least from some quarters in the political scene.

 

It is difficult to unravel really because at the same time it was a relatively small place and everything was intertwined. Bearing in mind that it was tremendously ideologically factionalised; the left scene that I was a part of generally took a position that art was a bourgeois activity and at odds with revolutionary aims. The punk movement of the late 70s was very enmeshed with the politics, many of the bands espousing left political fervor and in fact having bands playing at political benefit events was essential, there was a natural anti-establishment fit. However some of these groups and groupings were interested in a creative mode that went well beyond the initial punk momentum.

 

Musical exploration, multimedia and performative modes and a broad diversity of activity and engagement were all being undertaken and at a time where the technology and what it brought to bear was just beginning to evolve rapidly.

It was the cusp of the digital revolution. Especially in terms of audio technology initially with vision to soon follow. I was excited and drawn across all these strands, refusing to be pigeon holed or limited to any one scene or mode of activity. I preferred an active engagement across these modes.

 

This definitely created social tension in my life, my 21st birthday party in 1978 being a memorable example of the misfit between these different realms. As the 80s progressed the left political opposition became ground down by the right wing Queensland government regime and for me, street politics began to give way to more art activity.


 

PA: 

The Bjelke-Petersen Regime, “The Police State” – Political backdrop, tell me in a little more detail about the political climate during the late 1970’s and early 1980s (up till 1984) and how this impacted- or didn’t impact upon you and your art making?

 


 

TG:

For those people who were not there it is difficult to really impress what an extreme state of affairs existed at that time. It truly was a police state.

 

Attending demos every weekend with the possibility of an arrest was commonplace. I literally lost count of how many times I was charged. For complex reasons tied up with my older sister Jane who was heavily involved in left politics, I too became a target of considerable police harassment as did many other people and activities. I once saw my special branch file; it was very weighty.

 

Musical events were an easy target. Perhaps art events slipped under this radar a little. It was impossible to avoid as this all impacting on people’s lives and activities. In many ways I think it made for a much more anti-establishment self-propelled scope of activities which made for a very vital scene across the board.

One aspect of this however was the brain-drain.

 

Gradually, over time, more and more friends and colleagues gave up and moved south or overseas. To be fair some of this was rightfully motivated by seeking a bigger pasture too. It was a palpable effect though and for those of us that stayed it created an odd resolve to make things matter and carry on regardless.


 

PA: 

What type of art were you making at the time?

 


 

TG:

In the 70s I was mostly making experimental video with the B&W systems available through the Community Video Access Centre and through the QIT students union.

 

Alongside this I was working extensively with early modular analogue audio synthesis. I also did some stills photography and darkroom experimentations. Being aware of the left media culture movement in America and Europe my main motivations were experimentation and a sense of developing something culturally entirely new. The outcomes were often performative, the audience, whoever was around at the time.

 

By the 80s access to video equipment was no longer so easily possible, so I began a deeper exploration of analogue visual mediums. I had worked with standard 8 whilst still at school and in my home environment, similarly slide projectors. Increasingly I became very interested in slide projectors and projection.

 

Bear in mind video projectors were not really available at this stage. Exploring process using photocopiers and graphic art cameras, hand painting and complex combinations of all three became an important medium to me that I continued to explore for most of that decade. Music and the use of tape recorders and synthesizers that were starting to become digital continued to be an inherent part of my practice.

 

The outcomes were mostly projected, and performance and immersive installation were clear trajectories that I follow to this day. Music, vision, the body and the role and manipulation of human perception is my terrain.


 

PA: 

Tell me in some detail about what you witnessed of colleagues who were gay, lesbian or trans during this period?

 


 

TG:

Sexual identity was a much more fluid thing in the circles I mixed in then. Trysexual. I comfortably mixed in many scenes some of which I suppose were somewhat extreme if you care to take that view but somehow it was all just normal. I was aware of sexual and gender politics especially feminism going back to the early 70s through my older sister and her friends.

 

It was something that I took for granted and stood up for along with a range of other issues from politics, such as socio-economics, environmental issues through to transport, labour and race issues.

 

Everyone was resisting government oppression and to varying extents social prejudice. It was across the board. My friends who became public about their sexuality tended to either just slip out effortlessly or come out screaming, as sociopolitical expression was particularly strong at the time. I fully acknowledge that this was not the case for everyone and these issues were undoubtedly a cause for much personal pain.


 

PA: 

And your direct experience of colleagues who were migrant, indigenous or different in any way during the regime ?

 


 

TG:

The disparities and gross inequities especially for Aboriginal people was clearly apparent and as I moved into the 70s a growing socio/political awareness began to burgeon. This would also have been predated by my early and strong rejection of the church. By the time I moved to Brisbane in the mid 70s I was highly politicized and active in a variety of ways.


 

PA: 

A brief biography Tim?

 


 

TG:

My mother was born in Canada to Scottish immigrants, my father in India to an Indio Armenian mother and British father. Both had returned to Britain by the end of the 1930s for different difficult reasons. My father grew up in difficult circumstances and was able to put himself through medical school on sporting scholarships and met my mother in London while they were both students, in free matinee filler seats in a West End theatre in fact.

 

I was born in Wales whilst my father fulfilled his conscription obligations. These finished later that year and with no prospects in the UK due to the circumstances around the setting up of the NHS he was off to the colonies.

 

We emerged after assisted passage into the harsh sunlight of Bundaberg in the late 50s. Though having arrived with virtually nothing but myself and my older sister, my father’s profession in the context of a country town soon afforded a comfortable position in the local community.

 

Though having no actual art precedence my parents were worldly and culturally aware especially in the context of regional Queensland and engendered this into me and my siblings along with a strong sense of social justice and racial acceptance.

 

A sense of inquisitiveness and criticality was always encouraged too.

 

Through the 60s the family owned cameras, slide projectors and standard 8mm film projectors and a reel to reel tape recorder, all of which I was encouraged to use. A combination of all of these factors opened my path.

 

I never set out to be an artist as such. I thought design, particularly architecture would be my trajectory but as things unfolded particularly with the growing emergence of the changing popular culture through my high school and the early subsequent years, it was the creative use and application of technology that captivated me. Fortunately I never felt constrained to maintain this within the historical boundaries.

 

By the end of the 70s I was very clear that a self driven practice / research based career was my path, with sound, vision, human experience and perception, science and the evolving technologies filling my vista.

 

My brother Mic is the other artist in the family. He went into acting after school and later began working in technologically mediated performative contexts with me around the mid 80s which gave him a new direction in the arts.

Being an immigrant myself, albeit from a very young age, I was brought up to be open to people irrespective of race or ethnicity. In the sixties Bundaberg, where I grew up, had a relatively high proportion of European and Chinese migrants as well as a large indigenous population all of whom were part of our social milieu both at home and school.
Tim Gruchy

 

PA: 

Art Education- Self-taught to Higher Education: Tell me about your early adult arts training and education Tim?

 


 

TG:

Secondary school at Bundaberg State High was a boorish affair at best. Excelling at technical drawing I was excluded from studying art by their draconian streaming model. By great fortune the now Brisbane-based artist John Honeywill took his first posting upon graduating as an art teacher at our school in 1972, arriving in and old Citroen with a surfboard on its roof I took notice.

 

Despite never actually having him as a teacher we became great friends and are still to this day. He mentored, encouraged and taught me informally. The art block became a refuge where I would spend most lunch hours and could often be found after school.

 

Design Studies or Architecture at QIT was where you were sent by the vocation officers if you were creative and they did not know what else to do with you, especially if your marks were good. I lasted less than two years there but received a good grounding in problem solving, lateral thinking and a true love of learning, something that had been absent at Bundy High.

 

Since that time I have maintained a strong auto-didactic bent. I was also fortunate to be mentored by the now Sydney-based media artist and academic Stephen Jones who was working in the Architecture department at Qld Uni at the time, we undertook all sorts of workshops projects and endeavors together. Many of which were about the experimentation and application of early video and analogue audio synthesis technologies into installation and live performance outcomes.

 

The seeds were now truly sown. By the end of the 70s I was clear that I wanted to pursue this as a lifelong direction and began skilling up in an array of areas from music, electronics through to performance and graphic skills; always with the idea of combining them into complex outcomes.


 

PA: 

Pop Culture- Tell me about two or three vivid recollections about the popular culture that mattered to you most at this time?

 


 

TG:

Ah! Now this is where it gets more difficult. I was spending a lot of time at nightclubs and going to concerts.

 

I shared the weekly ‘Weird Show” at 4ZZZ with Matt Mawson and Damien Ledwich for three years in that period. ZZZ was axiomatic to a lot of my activities, Joint Efforts were a constant.

 

The Curry Shop on George St was an important venue. I often DJ’d there, early Severed Heads concerts come to mind. Later the Mars Bar is where I first started doing visual production in clubs, a practice I approached as art installations. Euphoria was another.

 

I then started doing lighting and projections for the dance parties Jane Grigg and Tim O’Rourke were putting on in venues and at artist-run spaces like That Space. These were great fun and a wonderful playground for me that expanded that aspect of my practice considerably as I went on to design and produce many of Brisbane’s parties, also leading to me becoming a member of the RAT team out of Sydney.


 

PA: 

And the idea and growing tendency of DIY perhaps, your sense of agency and what you did about it – or didn’t do about it – at that time?

 


 

TG:

I was always very self motivated and organized from a very early age. Having broken through the boredom of high school and developed a taste for a love of learning during my brief initial foray into tertiary education, I quickly developed a growing propensity for auto-didacticism. I have only ever had one salaried job, working for 18 months as the AV technician in the Anatomy Dept at the University of Queensland after that experience I swore I would never do that again, a promise I have maintained.

 

And since 1977 everything I have done has been self-driven and much of what I have learnt has been self-taught. It is just an intrinsic part of my being.


 

PA: 

Three key exhibitions performance or exhibitions you collaborated in during the 1980’s?

 


 

TG:

ZIP Projects No3 with Terry Murphy was a commissioned immersive multimedia installation for the opening of the Queensland Performing Arts Complex in Brisbane in 1985.

 

It inhabited one of the internal foyer spaces. Entirely an undertaking of Terry Murphy and myself not the larger ZIP group, it was an immersive audio visual installation incorporating a prerecorded soundscape synchronized to a large number of slide projectors, within a custom built multi-screen array within which the audience wandered. All the slide imagery was camera-less using a dense combination of graphic, photocopied and hand drawing processes.

 

Ironing Board Dances & Brave New Works -The Zip Performing Group undertook a series of works nationally over three years to 1986. These culminated in a double header of the Ironing Board Dance and Brave New Works last performed at the Adelaide Fringe Festival in 1986.

 

This activity grew as a natural extension out of the original ZIP group. Mark Ross and I along with John Willsteed had all met as students at QIT in 1975. He had then gone on to study dance. The ZPG was initiated as a combination of my AV concerns and Mark’s choreographic/design interests. With the inclusion of David Clark and Antony Patterson, the four of us began an extensive exploration of performative outcomes. John provided much of the live musical accompaniment initially though later I took over this role with prerecorded soundscapes.

The work took two trajectories: one was physical theatre combining bodies with unorthodox use of everyday objects. This culminated in the Ironing Board Dances, four boys and 14 ironing boards to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. The other trajectory was placing bodies into highly mediated space using an array of lighting and visual technologies, including slide and film projectors, flash units, torches and custom-made lighting.

 

By 85 we were a very solid working unit often presenting a double header program of the Ironing Boards, which had a strong reputation as the main draw with what came to be known as the Brave New Works as the opener. This culminated at the Adelaide Fringe Festival in 86 where we attracted considerable attention. I resigned from the group for complex reasons immediately after these performances, ZPG disbanded soon after.

 

CLOUT – Fine Fragments was a full-length multimedia performance piece presented in Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide in 1986 and 1987.

 

CLOUT was my next major undertaking following on immediately from the demise of the two ZIP strands. I was determined to fully direct this project. I was already working a great deal with producer Mark Louttit in various capacities, similarly performance artist Virginia Barratt and artist musician Eugene Carchesio, so it was easy and obvious to collaborate with them.

 

Initially there was a musical bed, which first manifest as a cassette release however the key venture was to develop a major performance work involving complex relationships on stage between multi-slide and film projection dancers and musicians.

 

There were a number of precursor performances including Apparent Transitional at the IMA as part of Know Your Product exhibition curated by Ross Harley in September 1986 but is was not long before the full-scale production had a season at the Cement Box Theatre at UQ before seasons at Performance Space in Sydney and later at Adelaide in 1987.

 

Loosely, half the people involved in these three projects were either gay or identified themselves that way a some point, however I don’t really believe this has much relevance to the work. Both the performance pieces involved high degrees of body contact and physical intimacy along with a certain amount of cross-dressing. I think this was more a reflection of all the people involved having a similar openness and an unquestioning acceptance of people’s sexual orientation and a comfortable ability to mix it all up as the work required. Virginia was the only woman artist collaborator across the three projects, being primarily a dancer and performer in CLOUT.

 

Again I don’t think this reflects any under representation of the involvement of women in my projects or undertakings. I was working a great deal with performance artists Virginia and Michelle Andringa particularly at that time both being in their works and vice versa. We were also working closely with designer Chrissy Feld from Belltower circa 1985 and later in 1988-1989 Glamour Pussy with her design colleagues and cohorts.

 

My decisions about who to collaborate with and the roles played were based on skills, availability and of course creative empathy.


 

PA: 

Thanks Tim for this measure of detail, and a few of your most vivid and memorable Qld ARI moments ?

 


 

TG:

Zip and Climbing Frame from Sydney performance/installation at the IMA.

 

Janelle Hurst covering the whole frontage of the One Flat Exhibit in George St in human hair, not to mention her fabulous haircuts.

 

The Artcask gig somewhere in the western suburbs where one of the bands went back and stole the PA in the early hours of the morning, but foolishly threw a collapsed drunk in the van too; who later identified them to the police.


 

PA: 

Your participation in the Political Theatre scene in Brisbane at La Boite, Rock and Roll Circus for example?

 


 

TG:

I had been involved particularly in political street theatre and some film projects in the 70s. As my activities shifted more from politics into art in the 80s I continued involvements in political theatre, many of which were for fundraising purposes. Increasingly my role was more as social observer though and from my perspective after the intensity of politics as the core and urgent focus in the 70s, significant shifts as the 80s unfurled.

 

The Bjelke Peterson Government through the extensive use of its police state mentality and associative legislations had in many ways exhausted the opposition. One must remember that gatherings of more than three or four people in public were outlawed by this point, the situation was extreme, untenable and highly oppositional and only shifted with the Fitzgerald inquiry by 1989.


 

PA: 

And the Qld arts publications at the time, or the lack of arts publications ?

 


 

TG:

I think independent fanzines and artists’ books and publications such as Cane Toad Times (more architectural students) were the only things locally that was on my radar then.

 

Semper from the UQ Student Union though not an arts publication did pay attention to art and music events to some degree. In my own archive trawling I have been very focused on video tape to date and have barely begun to work my way deeply into the realm of paper.

 

More generality I was much more interested in what was happening internationally and had been importing music since the 70s and subscribing to various things such as ID from the UK, NME from London, Global Television from New York and File magazine from Canada so my reading focus was more in that realm.

I never saw my practice as located in galleries even though I work there from time to time. My rampant individualism and diverse pluralist practice have kept my attachments very fluid.
Tim Gruchy

 

PA: 

Your involvement with other galleries and art spaces like The Blunt Focus Cinema Collective based at the Brisbane Community Arts Centre by way of example?

 


 

TG:

I never saw my practice as located in galleries even though I work there from time to time. My rampant individualism and diverse pluralist practice have kept my attachments very fluid. I can’t even recall Blunt, apologies to those involved and the BCAC was used as a hire venue for a few of our activities but I cannot recall any other involvements beyond that.

 

Most of my direct involvements with spaces have been touched on already, the notable ones would be OneFlat, That Space, John Mills National and the IMA as well as close personal engagements and collaborations with the respective people driving them.


 

PA: 

Your memories about state sanctioned demolitions of heritage sites including Cloudland and the Bellevue Hotel?

 


 

TG:

I was an architecture student at the Gardens Point QIT ( now QUT) campus and was already part of the transport activist movement demonstrating against the destruction of houses for freeways in the mid 70s. This meant I walked past the Bellevue everyday for nearly two years and many other notable sites on George St.

 

There was a hotel, The Cecil if my memory can be trusted, it still had those colonial colonial swinging fans and perhaps the location for my first gin and tonic somewhat appropriately. So seeing the rampant demise of that part of the city was acutely painful. The loss of the river reach of the city to the freeways was also an irretrievable mistake that has negatively determined Brisbane’s character.

 

I was working a lot with artist Terry Murphy in the early 80s and he lived on Bowen Hills just down the lane from Cloudland. Having been there for many punk and new wave gigs which brought a whole new meaning to the sprung wooden dance floor we were very aware that it was in peril. The night they began the demolition it was Terry who first alerted the media. As was our way we scrounged around these sites and to this day I still have a set of drinking glasses that came from their extensive catering kitchens that were being bulldozed.


 

PA: 

What did you hope your immersive exhibition/events collaborations with artists like Terry Murphy, Virginia Barratt and Michelle Andringa would foreground at the time and, now, perhaps, looking back?

 


 

TG:

Never fitting comfortably into any one sector of the arts, in fact working specifically against that notion, I never concerned myself with judging the outcomes of my undertakings against mores of the day. I fully acknowledge the importance of critical and theoretical thinking and practice, but I have always found them to be quite insular, conservative and slavishly voguish in our part of the world.

 

Seeing myself clearly as a practicing artist was and still is my main concern; being able to practice on my own terms and I feel privileged to have perpetuated a career successfully without compromise. So much expectation and evaluation was and is measured and articulated into traditional models, I have chosen mostly to live and practice outside that mode of thinking.

 

Looking back I can see how all the diverse activities I was involved in through that period have informed my evolution and development as an artist. Having understood by the late 70s the nature of what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go with it, this desire and ability to undertake many different things in many different contexts was strategically intentional from that point onwards.


 

PA: 

The Red Comb House ARI Precinct 1982: – Tell me one or two of your most vivid recollections about this early ARI precinct?

 


 

TG:

My fondest memory of Red Comb House is breaking in to and exploring the building immediately behind. It had been the government planning departments map and drawing storage department.

 

My recollection is of an enormous room with row after row of floor to high ceiling wooden paper draws, something like Raiders of the Lost Ark. Having won the Queensland State Technical Drawing prize in my last year at high school and done my brief stint studying architecture, not to mention my now somewhat renowned propensity for organising things in drawers, it was an overwhelming dream come true.

 

Despite my intentions I never managed to wrestle any of them out of there though as the demolition ball was swinging close by now and like so much of Brisbane’s heritage I imagine it ended as landfill. I do recall going down the day they actually smashed the building to dust.


 

PA: 

ARIs and their diverse models and methodologies question earlier, can you elaborate?

 


 

TG:

 

I had been actively networking via mail since my school years in fact, so making connections with other artists, groups and institutions locally, interstate and internationally was just a natural part of my practice by the 80s. This also exposed me to a breadth of thinking it terms of the models that were possible.

 

Artist Gary Warner had moved to Sydney early in the 80s as a p;art of this exodus I mentioned earlier so through him I was exposed to goings on in Sydney and he facilitated some activities there in that context. Specifics are eluding me. No Frills Fund at the Australian Film Commission, was one of Gary’s roles for short experimental film and video based works for a number of years.

 

Internationally the mail art or mailing art swapping movement was an important conduit Terry and I partook in and later with the ZIP packages, Terry, Matt and I established exchanges with a number of artists groups in the UK, America, Sweden and beyond. Gary was also involved in this movement.

 

Sonya Jeffries ran Manic ExPoseur initially out of Perth in the early 80s then later Melbourne. It was an important conduit in Australia for a wide rage of independent artists publications. We became friends and a co-mutual engagement ensued well into the nineties.


 

PA: 

Earlier you mentioned artist Jeanelle Hurst covering the One Flat exhibit in hair, tell me a little more about your involvement in the One Flat Exhibit ARi in the early 1980’s.

 


 

TG:

ZIP had a show very early on at One Flat South Brisbane, an exhibition with one performance night. As I mentioned I was not that interested in the gallery space construct and what I perceived as constraints at that time, though in the end I enjoyed the challenge. I was involved in other groups of people like Mark Louttit and Michelle who ran Artcask and I was also in a changing array of bands.

 

Thus we often played or did things at the George St site. One Artcask event in particular has fond memories. My other recollection of George St is the artist, designer and collector Mal Enright and I doing our own bit of deconstruction and re-appropriation as the wrecking ball demolishers moved in. I always enjoyed the social and generally wild varied and chaotic nature of what went on around George St and the One Flat crew were always edgy, fun and challenging.


 

PA: 

A ROOM 1984 – Tell me about the ARI in George Street?

 


 

TG:

I certainly recall going to shows there but nothing much impinges beyond that.


 

PA: 

IMA: This year marks the 40th year anniversary of the IMA, tell me about the role the IMA played in your personal experiences towards the development and promotion of an ARI scene in Queensland during the 1970’s and 1980’s?

 


 

TG:

I visited the IMA in the seventies and experienced a few shows that began to broaden my notions of art and what was possible in the way of exhibitions.

 

Later in the 80s it came more into my sphere of interest and I presented a number of things there in that period. The ZIP/Climbing Frames series of performances I mentioned before was particularly satisfying.

 

I was always a bit critical through the Melbourne years at the IMA, what I perceived as a lack of support of local artists and endeavors and too much focus on the south.

 

In hindsight this may well have been a healthy invigorator of local ARI activities and my engagement with them. When Nic Tsoutas became director he invited me to be on the IMA board. He had curated me into things in Sydney and knew my work.

 

I also began working with performer Peggy Wallach in this period, mostly as a contributor to and performer in her projects. I believe Nick had a much wider gambit than some of the other prior directors. To be honest I don’t think I contributed much to being on the board.


 

PA: 

Long before social media share houses ( and/or shared studio/gallery spaces) in Brisbane and Qld were an important and vital means for networking with artists?

 


 

TG:

Both share houses and later on shared studios played a huge role in the 70s and 80s. There was also much more fluidity in personal affairs in the pre-AIDs era.

 

4ZZZ played an important role. Terry Murphy, Mark Ross, John Willsteed were all artists I had met studying architecture/design in the mid 70s and continued to be a big part of my development into the 80s.

 

Artist Gary Warner was without doubt the most influential though.

 

I have often said that Gary is the person who has most singularly influenced my art practice, although ultimately I do not believe in absolutism.

 

Artists Linda Wallace, Chrissy Feld and Maria Cleary were also influential in that era. Stephen Jones continued and continues to inspire also despite being at the time based back in Sydney. John Honeywill whom I mentioned earlier has been a continuous through-line, even sharing house for a while in the 80s.

Every thing was primarily self generated in those days using the technologies that were at hand. Posters and fliers were the two key propagators. Full colour posters particularly.
Tim Gruchy

 

PA: 

Tell me about the ephemera the you produced and collaborated on for the events mentioned earlier?

 


 

TG:

Screen-printing, photocopiers and later offset printing were all utilized, even the now ancient technology of gestetners. Terry Murphy had a graphic arts camera, Zip had a relationship with a printer named Ken, and we did a lot of screen-printing at the UQ Union workshops, Activities, where artist, screen printer, designer Brian Doherty worked for many years.

 

The West End photocopy shop was king. By the time of CLOUT I had become good friends with Mal Enright who was still enmeshed in the commercial art sphere. I ran his PMT camera for a number of years and he designed the CLOUT material and had it printed through his connections, thus it was a step up in production values all round.

 

Distribution whether it meant getting out with the brush and gluepot or doing the rounds of friendly shops was nearly all done personally. ZIP Projects did come under the umbrella of the QPAC launch and it’s publicity machine so it fitted into that as well. Similarly the Ironing Boards in relation to Adelaide Fringe Festival and Performance space. Actually we even got some TV coverage in Adelaide I recall.

 

One must also mention word of mouth and notoriety. I moved in multiple circles and was socially gregarious. The Ironing Boards particularly had a momentum of their own.

 

There was much more fluidity and pluralism at that time and the whole population was small really, thus we did not really think much about who our audience was. We just put stuff out there and hoped for the best. By and large it was successful. We always seemed to get audiences and even though one always wanted more and we never really made any money somehow it was all sustainable.


 

PA: 

Infrastructural Support?: Tell me about the measure of support, patronage and interest from established Brisbane/Qld galleries, networks or institutions you witnessed during the early to mid 1980’s for yourself or indeed, others?

 


 

TG:

Well this question is easy to answer. There was absolutely none whatsoever.

Even Qld Govt funding for individual artists didn’t start until post the Bjelke Petersen regime. Any interest from QAG only came in the very late 80s and only through performance.


 

PA: 

Thanks Tim and how did it feel when you finally left Qld and what did you do next, how was that for you?

 


 

TG:

Relieved! In the early 90s I had established living and studio spaces in Brisbane and Sydney for two years and finally in 1992 after pulling out our projectors from a club in the middle of the city I was gay bashed quite savagely and seriously injured.

 

There was considerable conservative aggression bubbling just under the surface at the time. I was over Brisbane, and decided to move full time to Sydney.

 

Once there I regretted not having made the move earlier and never looked back. Being based fully in Sydney allowed me to ramp up my activities there and nationally, extending and building on the strong base I already had well in place. I still have and maintain many family connections and close friendships with Brisbane.


 

PA: 

Exodus: To stay or go, to be in Qld or not to be in Qld?

 


 

TG:

For the decade of the 80s I strongly resisted the move south that so many of my contemporaries made. With cheap living and studio space it afforded a scale and modes of practice that were more difficult elsewhere.

 

Increasingly I saw Brisbane as a useful base to work nationally and internationally and was successful in this modus. There was also a huge advantage in that I became the Brisbane port of call to international guests from the electronic arts and media community such as artist and scientist Donna Cox and Artcom founder Carl Loeffler.

 

I renovated a large house with bespoke studio spaces that supported my practice and could both accommodate people as well as offer some studio options to artists. I made many friends and acquaintances in this time and had what I now see as privileged opportunities as a consequence.


 

PA: 

Thanks Tim and how did it feel when you finally left Qld and what did you do next, how was that for you?

 


 

TG:

Relieved! In the early 90s I had established living and studio spaces in Brisbane and Sydney for two years and finally in 1992 after pulling out our projectors from a club in the middle of the city I was gay bashed quite savagely and seriously injured.

 

There was considerable conservative aggression bubbling just under the surface at the time. I was over Brisbane, and decided to move full time to Sydney.

 

Once there I regretted not having made the move earlier and never looked back. Being based fully in Sydney allowed me to ramp up my activities there and nationally, extending and building on the strong base I already had well in place.

 

I still have and maintain many family connections and close friendships with Brisbane.


 

PA: 

Other comments or vivid memories in hindsight you would like to add Tim?

 


 

TG:

Interestingly I am involved in many research/archival projects including this one that are looking back at activities of 25 and 30 years ago.

It has been a cause for much reflection, revisiting, reassessment and revision. It was a formative, particular and special time and I was enormously active on numerous fronts. I am extremely pleased that opportunities are unfolding now to articulate and secure this history that is very important to myself and others.
Tim Gruchy

 

PA: 

Perhaps something a bit philosophical – I am interested in your thoughts about analogue looking back now from a digital perspective, the number of video formats involved in archiving now for example, jeepers?

 


 

TG:

I feel somewhat privileged to have begun my career firmly in the analogue era and traversed the transformation into the digital, and am now still being embroiled in it’s relentless growth and complexity.

 

The tactility, immediacy of outcomes within very limited bandwidths, and the uniqueness of every step of the analogue process are all things I still cherish and try to apply to my voracious use of digital technology.

 

It allows a perspective that digital natives mostly completely miss though a few yearn for and seek it out, I am pleased to observe. Today I am combining elements of the analogue, particularly references to slide projection technologies, into my digital practice.

 

The 80s particularly was a time of tectonic shifts as the technologies and processes turned digital. In many ways the present outcomes have already exceeded our imaginings.

 

Having a career that entirely surmounts the history of videotape I am acutely aware of the interesting archiving problems this generates. With care and effort these issues are surmountable and require attention.

 

I was a very early adopter to digital networking in the early 90s when the only others to communicate with were internationally-based. This came about through my association and friendship with the ArtCom crew from San Fransisco. There foresight opened me up to the important of the internet very early in it’s move into the public sphere.

 

Making interactive works has a huge set of associated issues. Hardware, operating systems, and storage mediums all become redundant. Many of my works from this era are lost forever and having been through the process of resurrecting ‘Synthing’ based on the Amiga platform to sell to ACMI in Melbourne in the 90s, I vowed I would never again go through that process of redeeming extinct works. Take away the lure of salvage.

 

Given that so much of my work has been temporal and that in the 80s cameras, particularly video cameras, were incapable of documenting the types of low light work I was making, I became comfortable that at the end of the day these works could only really live on in people’s minds. Fortunately, I am still often reminded of these projects and sometimes by people I never knew at the time. None of which is to say that documentation is not important and I am deeply engaged in this.

 

Thirty years later I am very pleased that there seems to be a growing interest, academic, archival and research based. Much of my work and the activities that took place in the ARI scene were mostly overlooked by the establishments of the day so it is time for a revision.

 

We must remember that cameras were not as ubiquitous as they are today, let alone being technically capable of what today’s technology can deliver. The technological enhancement that is possible and occurs today was certainly never the case in the 80s. What times of true wonder and experimentation we traversed, although we never quite realised it at the time.

PA:

Thank you for your time, your considered and vivid recollecting and your thoughtfulness Tim I am truly grateful for this interview.

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