Melbourne Independent DIY ARIs Research – Field Notes – October 2019
Walking into BLINDSIDE artist-run initiative this month I was astonished by the fragility of the multimedia installation immersion Chain of Ponds by Queensland-based artists Jude Roberts and Helen Hardess.
Comprising works on paper, found objects, natural sediments, industrial materials, video, casting and constructed objects and framed through the lens of contemporary discourses on land, water access and usage in the Maranoa and Warrego catchments of Western Queensland the elegant and precarious assemblage of materials and ecological issues was enthralling.
The artists were documenting the installation just prior to their opening night launch on Thursday 10 October 2019. We enjoyed a discussion about higher degree research in the creative industries in Queensland and in particular artists working with art and ecology today in varied ways and the artists direct experiences of fieldwork and making ephemeral work on country. I was struck by affinities with this installation and work by artists Sharon Jewell and Tricia Dobson and introduced Jude and Helen to the important work of the Canaipa Mudlines art and environment artist-run initiative and shared the ‘mudliner’s’ newly launched website, social media page information and diverse approaches to residencies and ephemeral art making by both artists and ‘non-artists’.
This month’s field work in Melbourne was largely prompted by an invitation by BLINDSIDE Gallery and Gallery Intern and University of Melbourne Researcher Julia Flaster to participate in research about ARIs and the role of digital archives. Julia explained that BLINDSIDE is a case study in the research and that a key focus is scoping some of the issues, challenges and ideas circulating now about the expanded field of digital archives, varied methods and approaches in a networked culture of participatory practices.
During the interview we spoke about many aspects of archiving Australian ARIs including BLINDSIDE’s own 10 year publication and the influence of Brisbane artist-run culture on BLINDSIDE’s founding and emergence in 2004, the significant work of All Conferences networking with 15 Australian ARIs in generating a library, discussions and events about Australian and Melbourne focused ARIs, arts policy, governance related ARI issues ( https://allconference.org.au/content/1-library/blindside-to-the-left-and-back-some/blindside-to-the-left-and-back-some-2.pdf) and the important work by researcher and editor Din Heagney in the 2007 publication Making Space: Artist-run initiatives in Victoria you can read about here https://www.dinheagney.com/making-space-artist-run-initiatives-in-victoria
It was a series of visits to Melbourne based ARIs the previous week that helped me immeasurably with Julia’s researcher interview. Speaking with Bus Projects acting director and video artist Anatol Pitt and gallery volunteers was a lively insight into the future of the Melbourne ARI experience including the eagerly awaited publication edited by Channon Goodwin Permanent Recession: a Handbook on Art, Labour and Circumstance a multi-authored enquiry into the capitals and currencies of experimental, radical and artist-run initiatives in Australia and a series of speculations by Bus Projects artists about the potential of relocating the new Collingwood Arts Precinct in 2020 including greater co-operative overlaps with potential for new works and new interdisciplinary collaborations between artists keep reading here –
Speaking with gallery crew at Gertrude Glasshouse; Gertrude Contemporary’s satellite space, Seventh Gallery, at TCB and at Kings Artist-Run echoed similar feelings and a collective mindfulness about the way Melbourne arts precincts are becoming increasingly decentralised from the CBD.
Field work, artist researcher discussions and meeting artists working in Australian ARIs in varied ways and on their own terms is one of the evergreen joys of being an artist researcher with the ARI Remix Living Archives and Social Memory Project since it was founded in March 2011.
A highlight for me was actually being in Melbourne when so many ARIs were open, yay. It was during participation in the 2017 Art as Archive: Archive as Art & The Imagined Archive conference ( Monash Centre, Prato IT) where I met artists and activists who are running and expanding the contemporary Indigenous-run art gallery & performance space Blak Dot in Brunswick Melbourne. Artists who were also presenting papers at the conference around the challenges of community archives more specifically challenges for first nations peoples in the archives. I was delighted to discover that during this recent longer fieldwork trip from Brisbane, the trip coincided with many galleries weekly opening hours (often Wednesdays to Saturday) and I was able to experience the Blak Dot experience first hand, and enjoy AJA – A SOLO EXHIBITION BY: WENIKI HENSCH
Catching up with longtime ARI enthusiast and sound artist (Tell Me Strangely and The Drunken Boat) Dale Chapman is always a treat and listening to his updates about a new EP launch during scintillating sonic treat overlapping with shared and convivial chats with writer curator and doctoral research candidate Peter Anderson and artist Jennifer Bartholomew in the Fitzroy kitchen provided me with renewed vigor as we set about making the third and final stage of the ARI Remix Project – Australian ARI Heritage – A Queensland Remix Post 1970.
One of my all time favourite Australian regional galleries is the Latrobe Regional Gallery in Morwell and one of the many boons of this fieldwork trip was witnessing the extraordinary and rare collection of artists’ books and zines from the State Library of Victoria archives celebrating the power of indie DIY self publishing.
SELF-MADE: ZINES AND ARTIST BOOKS is a touring exhibition from State Library of Victoria on from 10 August – 10 November 2019 in Gallery 4 and after two trips to the gallery I was still needing more time to turn pages and soak up the diversity of artistic approaches, themes, subjects and general feeling of empowerment by artists bypassing gatekeepers.
It was a work by Bonita Ely that had me feeling deeply affected and enthralled; a 1980 artist’s book from her ongoing series of works and explorations about the Murray River with local aboriginal communities and conflicted feelings surrounding the catchment and water management that introduced poisons into the river system.
Uncanny in a way as the following day I met with artists Patsy, Caroline Phillips and Leia at the Women’s Art Register at the Richmond Library. Caroline explained the almost forty year relationship Bonita has with this long-term artist-run archive, one of three such feminist archives in the world cared for, preserved and run by artist volunteers. The discussions were rich with social memory, both Patsy and Caroline shared vivid memories of attending at Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party (1979), a large artwork by the North American artist Judy Chicago at the Melbourne Exhibition Buildings comprising a shared triangular table setting at which places are laid for the women that are missing from conventional historic narratives.An emblematic feminist work in the minds of both Patsy and Caroline. It was like being there as the artists shared their memories while simultaneously working out how to make and market their archival tote bags for a new fundraiser being planned now, the fruits of a recent artist residency with archives Screenprints by Julia Boros, as part of the Women’s Art Register Artist-In-Residence program., you can access the website here: http://www.womensartregister.org.
The Women’s Art Register is Australia’s living archive of women’s art practice (cis,non-binary and trans inclusive) and a National, Artist-Run and Not-for-Profit community and resource.
Assessed as a ‘Collection of National Significance’ through the Heritage Collections Council in 2009, this unique archive houses the images, catalogues, posters and ephemera of over 5000 Australian and International artists.
Since 1975 the Women’s Art Register has provided an inclusive, independent platform for research, education, advocacy and support for its members and the Arts, Education and GLAM sectors, enhancing the status of women artists and addressing issues of equity, professional practice and cultural heritage.
And this month ARI Remix launched our first foray into philanthropic fundraising to help us preserve and expand the ARI Remix Project and become more self-sufficient into the future. Dear reader you too can donate and share the link here:
Thanking you for reading.