Jasmine Hirst, Technical Girls Collective Calendar, 1984
“a set of practices which takes as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space.” (Bourriaud 2002: 113)
Artist-Run Initiative (ARI)
noun. An artist-run initiative is any project run by visual artists to present their and others’ projects. They might approximate a traditional art gallery space in appearance or function, or they may take a markedly different approach, limited only by the artist’s understanding of the term. …“Artist-run means initiating exchange; emphasizing cross and inter-disciplinary approaches to making art; developing networks; through curation, putting creative ideas and arguments into action”
Catalyst Arts (1996), Life/Live, Paris: Musée d’Art Moderne, p. 45
Towards remix.org.au 1980-2000 – a new public archive and ARI heritage transmedia project (2014-2018) including artist interviews, ephemera, contextual interviews, useful links and eresources.
Social History Context – Artist-Runs, Relational Art, Infrastructural Activism in the age DIY behind The Banana Curtain – Qld 1980-1990
In the popular imagination 1980’s Queensland is often touted as the “Police State” years, a decade of menace during the final leg of an oppressive twenty year right wing regime. The Joh Bjelke-Peterson Government was known locally, nationally and internationally for many things, for its inappropriate police powers and extensive police brutalities, for citizen disappearances, for deaths in custody, for its state-sanctioned disavowal of dissent, of community consultation and collaboration, its hubris surrounding truthful media reportage and public accountability, for its gross disregard of civil liberties and human rights, for its vehement disregard for refugees, for racial diversity, for transgender politics, for homosexuality, for feminism, for migration, for refugees and perhaps most pernicious of all, for its anti-integration policies, its desecration of the social and ecological frameworks that formed the cornerstone of an ancient aboriginal heritage at the heart of Queensland’s rich, diverse arts and culture history, a police state in denial of aboriginal land rights, a state regime that promoted the sale of aboriginal lands and sacred sites to foreign investors; to boost uranium and natural resources mining, to boost corporate and private investment.This regime was a regime that dismissed, abused, vilified, demonised and derided the world’s oldest living culture. This period of oppressive social history was commonly referred to The Banana Curtain or The Police State years.
During this spectre of both the Bjelke Peterson regime and the Brisbane City Council led under the iron fist of Lord Mayor Sally Ann Atkinson (1985-1991) together with their corporate pundits this regime produced a Disney-like Expo 88 to show the world how truly global Brisbane was at the time. A Glossy Expo veneer featuring an oversized Frilled Neck Lizard was produced at great public expense as a way of masking the wake of a decade long series of legislative atrocities, heritage demolitions, widespread urban renewal, roads and infrastructure, private property development and gentrification, the removal and displacement of communities including the homeless, the sick, the poor and most of all at the expense of diverse and formative inner city arts and culture communities.
These precincts including artist-run communities building, growing and proliferating during this time were akin to and collaborating with who, what, where, how and what was happening with artist-run culture in Canada in the East Village in Downtown New York City, the Docklands areas of London and the cracks and fissures in other major centres around the globe. During this period Brisbane artist-runs collaborated with peers located in these scenes and this ARI Remix project will bring some measure of these collaborations to light, these global forays have received little or no attention in the canon as we know it today.
Expo 88 presented a formidable “high-tech” masquerade to the world, all glitz, all glamour, all big things and sparkles under the pretense of global awareness, an awareness at the time filtered through the lens of xenophobia, racism, homophobia and a grand disconnect from the day to day realities of local communities. In this frame, the attitude global meant western, first world, white, male heterosexual, privilege, status, hubris, power and ultra-conservativism. An attitude formulated at the expense of local colour, community engagement, community consultation, collaboration and a diverse range of diverse social and cultural histories.
Ironically Expo 88 at the time also provided many significant employment opportunities to Queensland artists and co-creatives and in turn ushered in a wave of creative energies and artistic talents from interstate that enlivened an arts and culture scene in South East Queensland over many years to follow.
Fortunately today 1980’s Queensland is also known for many other inspirational things including the early inception of the Southbank Cultural Precinct in 1985 and in 1989 The Fitzgerald Inquiry which brought justice and favour to Queensland from both inside and from the outside the state once again. These “pressure cooker” years under the Banana Curtain are also well known in the popular imagination for producing a proliferation of live bands, music scenes, performance art, spoken word, performance poetry and DIY recordings that had truly captured the global attention economy long before Expo 88.
Arguably, while there has been a long and organised media stream chronicling dissent, civil disobedience and Queensland counter-culture it is only now that these broader interpretations of history are coming to light in more amplified, considered and measured ways.
For example in recent years the lively and anarchic 1970’s and 1980’s indie music scenes in Queensland which spawned bands like The Saints, The Black Assassins, The Leftovers, Razar, Xero, The Riptides and The Go-Betweens are receiving a considered and long overdue examination and revision of their formations and popular impact, producing legacies in academia, in the media and in popular culture on a global scale.
In a recent ABC TV documentary Stranded, 2015 screened in September this year and most particularly in the short testimonies of musicians John Willsteed and Irena Lukas there was mention made of an intellectual/ art impulse that was beginning to influence and inflect the Brisbane music scene in the early 1980s.
This intellectual/art impulse was not unpacked in considered detail in the ABC TV documentary and it s this impulse where the ARI Remix Project is located, in its aim, in its scope and in motivation. That is to say, this project is motivated by mapping the unmapped, untold, invisible stories of the artist-runs during the Banana Curtain years.
In the Stranded documentary musician Anne Jones sums up these diverse profilerations of difference during a series of vivid anecdotes, along the lines of while all the Brisbane Bands were idiosyncratic in tenor, approach, sounds and styles to the shifting ground of popular music, they shared one thing in common and it was this absurd state of oppressive rule that prevailed in Queensland.
The same applies to the diversity of artist-runs during the period; from the collectives of artists organising around the Student Union administered and funded Activities located at the University of Queensland in St Lucia, to the artist studios and events held at Red Comb House in Roma St in the early 1980’s at the vibrant One Flat exhibitions and events in both Edmonstone Street, South Brisbane and George Street locations, A Room in George Street in 1984 and mid eighties artist-runs which built upon these artist-run DIY foundations including That Contemporary Art Space, The Observatory, John Mills National, Axis Art Projects and Bureau.
These histories of artist-runs are less well known in the popular imagination this cross-pollinating impulse is the very subject of the ARI Remix Project.
Until now in the digital economy at least, this historical proliferation of artist-runs, unprecedented in Queensland social history have been largely invisible, hidden, forgotten and neglected. This is a public archive designed for Word Press, one simple step we are collaborating on here throughout 2015 and 2016 in beginning to address these interesting neglected and hidden histories.