Collective Haunt Inc. [Adelaide] – Interview with artist and artist-run co-ordinator Jane Skeer – October 2020
the ephemera interviews
In this series of interviews artists directly involved in organising Australian ARIs and who have participated in or are participating in independent D.I.Y artist-run culture past, present and future speak about the social context for their collectivism, their art making and diverse collaborations, and some provide practical tips as well. They provide an insight into the analogue or digital art ephemera they have produced or produce. Artists’ ephemera re-presented is drawn largely from current or past ‘hidden’ or lost’ personal collections of D.I.Y archivists and these resources include 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.
Collective Haunt Incorporated is Adelaide’s newest artist run initiative opening its doors to the public in March/April 2018. Located at Level 1, 68 the Parade, Norwood, it comprises 15 artists’ studios and a 7 x 3.5m exhibition space. Collective Haunt is focused on supporting a diverse range of artistic talent through its studios and exhibition program.
Collective Haunt Inc. invites the public inside a fully functional contemporary arts hub. Our exhibition space provides additional opportunities for Adelaide artists to experiment, play and task risks developing new works. Collective Haunt Inc. encourages an effective team work environment delivering skills in curatorial/installation practices and nurturing various leadership roles.
Jane Skeer graduated from Adelaide Central School of Art with First Class Honours in 2015, her work Quiet Square was selected for Hatched: The National Graduate Exhibition at PICA, Perth.
Skeer has been actively exhibiting work throughout South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia. Skeer’s calendar for 2018 was bulging with activity, from collaborating with South African artist Francois Knoetze, to activating the Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre, Mount Gambier. Skeer represented South Australia at BOAA – the Biennale of Australian Art, Ballarat. In 2018 alone, Skeer was Artist in Residence at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre and Loreto College, Marryatville and was recently awarded the 2018 Emerging Visual Artist of the Year at the Adelaide Critics Circle, 22nd Annual Awards for Excellence in the Arts. In 2019, Skeer was a finalist in the North Sydney Art Prize, Pro Hart Art Prize and she is currently a finalist in SALA: The Advertiser Contemporary Art Award and the Churchie National Emerging Art Prize at IMA, Brisbane. She has also just deinstalled a major installation, her largest immersive work to date, Twine at the Walkway Gallery, Bordertown.
In 2017, Skeer worked at the Adelaide Festival Centre as the Artist in Residence for both, the DreamBIG Festival and the SALA Festival. Her work, Flyers, earnt her the 2017 SALA Emerging Artist Award. In June 2017, she participated in a mentorship with the City of Tea Tree Gully – IGNITE public art incubator and installed her first public artwork in the main street of Port Pirie.
Jane Hi great to meet you at Collective Haunt in 2018 during the FELTForum symposium at ACE Open, a lot has happened in the past two years since you began the Norwood ARI. Tell me about the artist-run approach you use, the artists involved today and how, why, where and when Collective Haunt Inc. was initiated?
In January 2020 we extended our current 3-year lease for a further 4 years. We can proudly say that we intend to be on The Parade now until February 2024. I am super proud of what we have achieved here at Collective Haunt, we have created an active, vibrant, and extremely nurturing arts hub containing 15 studios, 23 practicing contemporary artists and 2 gallery spaces, currently booked out until July next year. Collective Haunt is focused on supporting a diverse range of artistic talent through its studios and exhibition program.
Established in February/March 2018 after deciding that Adelaide needed more spaces for artists to work and exhibit, and, there was a strong demand for this kind of space. As artists we need a place to come together, to support each other, to work, discuss and create work in a positive and supportive environment. Listening to my peers, I decided to open a space that provided additional opportunities for South Australian artists, especially emerging artists, to experiment, play and take risks in developing new bodies of work. Collective Haunt Inc. encourages an effective teamwork environment delivering skills in curatorial and installation practices while nurturing various leadership roles.
Occupying a residence on The Parade, Norwood, 2 kms east of the CBD in a trendy cosmopolitan environment was the perfect community to invite the public inside a fully functional contemporary arts hub.
Tell me about your own art practice during the past two years and how this is unfolding while running an artist-run, a huge voluntary undertaking, with so many day-to-day challenges, highs and transformations?
I graduated from Adelaide Central School of Art in 2015, my work Quiet Square was selected for Hatched: The National Graduate Exhibition at PICA, Perth.
In 2018, I was Artist in Residence at The Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre, Royal Adelaide Hospital, and Loreto College. I was awarded the 2018 Emerging Visual Artist of the Year at the Adelaide Critics Circle. In 2019, I was a finalist in the North Sydney Art Prize, Pro Hart Art Prize, Advertiser Contemporary Art Award, the Churchie National Emerging Art Prize at IMA, Brisbane and exhibited my largest installation to date, Twine, Walkway Gallery, Bordertown.
In January 2020, I was awarded the ACE Open/Kochi Biennale Foundation, four-week residency in Kerala, India. In May I spent four weeks in residence on Kangaroo Island supported by Country Arts SA & Catherine Murphy, Palace of Production and have recently deinstalled a successful solo exhibition Embedded Landscape, a response to the 2019/2020 KI Bushfires. I am currently Artist in Residence for City of Adelaide & Guildhouse exploring a more participatory side to my art practice. During the past 4 months I have been sitting on the streets of Adelaide listening to people, researching their mood, thoughts and feelings living through Covid19 and recording these findings digitally.
I have been beyond busy. I recently finished a mentorship with Melbourne Painter/drawer Richard Lewer who suggested that opening an ARI was the worst decision I made, and I tend to agree, but I also love it. It is hard work and at the same time it teaches you everything you need to know about building an art practice. It’s exhausting but rewarding, it builds a wonderful support system, structure, a place where we can run ideas around, a place of friendships like no other, a place to work away from home. Collective Haunt has transformed over time and I believe we are now stronger than ever; we have found our community and our audience is growing.
On reflection Jane, what are some of the most vivid highlightsfrom Collective Haunt’s activities during this time ?
I feel the key reflections are;
Watching each other grow into strong, determined and valued contemporary artists.
We really look forward to our open studio weekends held once a year for the South Australian Living Artist – SALA Festival. This year we had well over 300 people through our doors over 2 days, the excitement throughout the space was felt by all, rewarding the viewers with an extremely vibrant artist studio tour.
Still the most vivid highlight will be surviving 2020. This will be our strongest year of growth in so many different fields. We have bonded as a group, we have outsourced and built future arts relationships, we have supported each other through our struggles to grapple with these trying times, we have nurtured and exhibited continually through Covid-19, whether it be online or actual live exhibitions.
We have filmed and presented artist talks of exhibiting artists and have sold a large amount of work to local purchasers entering our space to support an artist. We have been astonished and blessed by our public’s affection and will to give.
In January 2020, pre-covid, I asked our artist community to donate a work to be auctioned off in aid of the 2019/20 Bushfires and was humbled to donate $17350.00 to the Kangaroo Island Bushfires Mayor Relief Fund. Artists do make a difference and we are always the first people to do so.
And soon, on Friday 30th October we will be escorting the Honourable Stephen Marshall MP on a special guided tour of Collective Haunt Inc. Feeling terrific this year despite Covid-19 challenges.
Adelaide has a rich and vibrant ARI ecology and history (a continuum that is largely untold) tell me about the network of Adelaide ARIs Now from your perspective, and how Adelaide ARIs are adapting to the Covid-19 experience, what matters most during this time and what these ARIs are bring to the world of contemporary art right now from your perspective?
Yes, true. This year Adelaide ARI’s varied their responses to Covid 19, some closing their doors completely during this time while others turning desperately towards social media outlets. Landlords played an important role in enabling ARI’s to survive.
Many received free rental periods, some received funding through Government bodies, we however only received reduced rental but miraculously survived through lots of hard work, heavy social media presence and continued exhibitions. We have had to adapt, rethink and research new methods of promoting and exhibiting our artists. I can not speak for others, but we at Collective Haunt Inc. have sold a record amount of art works this year with many new viewers buying work simply to support a struggling artist. We have been humbled by the public’s response to our gallery and studio events.
People matter most, honesty, constant support for each other and the fact that we are all in this thing together gets us through. As chairperson I have had to have larger ears and a bigger than ever heart and have gone completely out on a limb for my peers.
I am constantly suggesting to our fellow studio members that the best art will be getting made right now, throughout this complex period and we are the lucky ones to be in and amongst it. I believe we will look back on this time as game changers in the Contemporary Art scene in Adelaide.I feel strongly that ARI’s are the engine room of contemporary art, needed more now than ever before.
You mentioned one October highlight, what are some of the related activities and events being planned now for Collective Haunt later in 2020 and in 2021?
We are currently fully booked out in both gallery spaces until the end of August 2021 and our studio spaces are extremely active 7 days a week; there is always 3 – 4 artists working in the studios on any given day. We are looking into activating our carparking area more consistently into the future and are discussing different ways to activate the street front.
In December we hope to have a Christmas style party exhibition, bringing back some of our exhibiting artists who paid for exhibitions during the closures of Covid19 but never physically had their work seen. We plan to exhibit their works once again (with no fee) and mix it with some new works created by fellow studio members as a kind of positive fundraising event looking towards a brighter 2021.
We have a strong cohort of studio artists these days and I am releasing a lot of responsibilities at last, before I break down 😉
Why do you feel artist-run initiatives matter and are an important element of today’s contemporary art sector; as an ‘engine room’?
We have built a community, a thriving and friendly studio environment here in Adelaide.
We are looked up to for advice, for guiding others wanting to similarly build a workspace. ARI’s help to form strong friendships, kindred bonds and sustain creative thinking. ARI’s provide a space to creatively participate, experiment, share information and discuss new ideas, actively learning through practice, gaining much needed support and acceptance together with many like minded people.
If you were starting an ARI today, from scratch what do you feel you may do differently with the benefit of critical reflection?
I would not do it on my own! It’s a team game. Form a committee of fellow artists with different skills needed to run a small business, ask people for their strengths and weaknesses. It is important to have knowledge in all aspects of business, ie: marketing skills, accounting skills, etc.
Luckily for me I have always run my own business, but not having a team to handball jobs to has been hard. Most people respect the work that I do, but would never commit to do what I do.
With that in mind Jane what is the kindest advice or insight would you give to a group of artists setting out to start a new Australian ARI right now?
In a dot point form; perhaps;
• We had a lawyer help us negotiate the lease and documents to begin with.
• Talk to as many people as possible and listen, take notes.
• Take particular interest in knowing all extra fees, budgeted outgoings.
• Factor in CPI increases to lease when budgeting, do a three-year budget, look ahead, and use worse possible scenarios.
• Meet with your local council, they can usually assist with some financial things.
• Surround yourself with good positive like minded people.
• It will always cost more to start an ARI than first thought of.
What are the aspirations you hold dearly now as an individual artist who started later in life and how it feels right now two years into Collective Haunt to be a “late beginner” as you have mentioned, and to be participating actively with so many new experiences, collectivising with artists and “non- artists” alike and this year during Covid-19 ?
I am going to make art now until the day that I die, and I am hoping there is enough time left to share all there is to show 😉.
I had quietly walked through life, non-participating, observing from a distance, afraid to step up, until now. I was young, innocent, had a zest for life, which apparently was an invitation.
I cannot wait to wake up everyday and head off to the studio. I have a new zest for living. I have a passion for learning new methods of art making and I want to share it with the world. “Art is life is art” I see things differently to most and I work tirelessly to share the way I see things.
The disturbing is everywhere, I don’t look for it, I know its there but I am focused on the beauty I see every day. I guess you could say that I see the world through rose coloured glasses and what I don’t see this way I reinvent and make it beautiful again. Corny I know.
I feel a little like Tinkerbell splashing fairy dust over everything to transform it into something magical.