CLUTCH COLLECTIVE – Queensland Artist-Runs Now
Q. What, who, when, why and where is Clutch Collective?
A. CLUTCH Collective is a Brisbane-based ARI that runs one night shows in the back of a three ton truck. We are Holly Bates, Naomi Blacklock, Tayla Haggarty and Annie Macindoe. Our exhibition program runs shows each month. Why? Because we can, because we set out with an ambition to do something exciting, something other than another Brisbane house ARI, and we think it’s working, so why not? Where? Anywhere (kind of). We have no fixed location and each of our shows has been at a different site – from residential backyards, driveways and apartment blocks to public parks…
Q. Tell me about the fabulous name of your collective, it’s mechanical moniker. And a bit about each of yourselves as artists?
A. CLUTCH Collective was named following extensive synonym searching around concepts of feminism and female anatomy. The idea of the truck came after the establishment of our name and turned out to be a rather serendipitous and perfect match for the term CLUTCH – relating also to the mechanics of a vehicle. And here’s a bit about each of our creative practices;
Naomi Blacklock is a current PhD candidate who primarily works with sound art and objects as a way to enact the contemporary witch figure through ritualised installations in order to fragment and examine the positive possibilities of the fury, superstitions, knowledge, and agency of wild women archetypes.
Annie Macindoe is currently undertaking a Master of Fine Arts and is interested in the use of text and moving image in her work. She uses text and video installation to explore themes of personal narrative, loss and trauma, and the inherent difficulty of articulating these experiences.
Holly Bates uses mediums such as painting, installation, performance and video to challenge pre-conceived notions of female sexuality depicted by patriarchal culture. Holly also works together with Tayla as the collaborative art practice Parallel Park.
The focus of Parallel Park is concentrated on playfully exploring the external influences that impact lesbian sexuality and the intricacies of the artist’s romantic relationship. The collaboration heavily employs play as process, which takes form through found objects, performance, video and installation.
Tayla Haggarty’s practice explores the complex question of what constitutes a lesbian feminist artwork, and more specifically, how one can effectively represent the personal lesbian erotic. These investigations take form through installation, sculpture and durational performance.
Q. Why an artist-run collective?
A. As well as being practicing artists and regular attendees of and exhibitors at local art events, artist-runs, we started CLUTCH because we saw an opportunity to contribute to the Brisbane ARI scene in a new and innovative way. We wanted to challenge ourselves and our artists to create new works that effectively utilize the space of the truck, which has certain limitations that other spaces don’t have. For example, we can’t screw directly into or attach anything to the body of the truck, which forces artists and ourselves as facilitators to think literally outside of the box, to find creative solutions and new ways of presenting works that respond directly to the limitations and new opportunities that a space like this presents. I guess you could say that CLUTCH is inspired by the work we see around us, our peers and those we look up to as artists, curators and directors of ARIs past and present. We have taken this inspiration and turned it into a drive, both literally and figuratively, towards invigorating the Brisbane ARI scene with an alternative, unconventional and experimental approach to exhibiting.
Q. Tell me about Clutch Collective artist-run projects so far? What are some memorable moments?
A. As well as being involved in the HOMEGROUND project at Boxcopy recently, which was a really important project for us in terms of cementing our emergence in the Brisbane ARI scene, we have hosted four shows that have all been exciting, moving, sensitive, beautiful, funny, inventive and outstanding in their own way.
Our first show, which presented works by Callum McGrath, comprising a lot of memorable moments. Namely it was the first time that we had coordinated the hiring, driving and successful delivery of the truck from one side of Brisbane to the other to park at the location of the show – an effort that was justifiably awarded with applause many sighs of relief. On top of that, we had a total time of less than one and a half hours to install the work which was pulled off perfectly in time for the due start of the show (credit to the artist’s prime organization skills). The show presented two highly saturated videos projected onto screens built to fit the exact dimensions of the truck. The pink glow from the work could be seen from quite a distance as the audience approached the truck down a long driveway. It was a really beautiful and ideal way to kick of our exhibition program for the year.
It also confirmed to us that our ambition to present shows in the back of a truck was not out of the scope of what is possible even though it might’ve seemed so at times.
Another memorable moment for CLUTCH was when we presented Louise Bennett’s site-specific video work ‘The Sun From Your Past’. It stood out because it was the first time we fully utilized the mobile attribute of the truck and took it out of a residential setting and into a public park location. Parked adjacent to the Government House property at Norman Buchan Park in Bardon, the somewhat isolated and nature-surrounded site of the show enhanced the ability for the light of the projected video work to travel out of the truck and contrast against the dark landscape. There were common challenges that came with being offsite such as power access and limitations to beverages being served, but this all ended up working out to strengthen the experience of the show and it’s site-specific nature.
Q. Tell me a wee bit more about the Clutch three tonner’s most recent exhibit?
A. CLUTCH most recently presented the work of Brisbane-based duo SHATRICK (Shannon Tonkin and Patrick Zaia). The truck was located in a backyard of a friend’s house, which was convenient for the set up of the work and also allowed for alcohol consumption and a sizeable crowd. The work, GORGEus, saw SHATRICK sat atop a paper-mache feast. A table ran the length of the truck and was cluttered with all kinds of sculpted paper-mache food/cutlery/dish/creature hybrids. The medieval setting was confirmed by the constant rhythm of a melodic, repetitive and almost sinister soundtrack. Banners were hung from the inside frame of the truck and paper-mache chairs with faces were scattered across the yard.
If the feast vibe wasn’t already obvious to the audience – it only took a proper look into the back of the truck to see what the work was really about. SHATRICK positioned themselves at the head of the table – overlooking their creations – with baked dough-like bras and strapped on bellies. The bellies, filled with all kinds of ingredients, became the substance that enabled the performance, which SHATRICK devoured consistently from each other’s bodies for the duration of the show. The artists presented a work that was equally as seductive as it was repulsive – it was amazing to stand back and watch a constant crowd of people enter the truck, look intently at the smaller objects on the table, and almost cower away as they approached the performers at such an intimate proximity. The tension however was inevitably broken by a few brave viewers/participants who decided to jump right in and sample the delicacies for themselves.
Q. The seems to be an abundance of artist-runs unfolding/generating in Brisbane this year, why so?
A. This is very true! It seems as if a current of change has been brewing – perhaps something about moving from the art-saturated environment of our university institutions out into the everyday world for the most part is what inspired a variety of Brisbane ARIs this year, largely run by university graduates, emerging onto the scene in 2016. We are close friends with many of our fellow ARI directors, which has been mutually beneficial in terms of cross-promoting clashing exhibitions and literally working alongside other ARIs through being part of the accumulative HOMEGROUND project at Boxcopy this year.
On top of this, as artists we have each presented works with multiple other Brisbane ARIs. Collectively, as well as in group and solo exhibitions, the CLUTCH directors have had past exhibitions/are due to exhibit at the following Brisbane ARIs: Boxcopy, Cut Thumb, The Laundry Artspace, FAKE Estate, Kunstbunker, In Residence, ORAL ARI and Aggregate Projects. So obviously we have close ties to the following ARIs but we are also very excited to see even more new initiatives popping up around Brisbane and can’t wait to see how their spaces and exhibition programs develop.
We would, however, like to give a special mention to FAKE Estate, who, unknowingly, we had organised our most recent exhibition on the same night as theirs. FAKE Estate jumped right on board with cross-promotion even without a conversation about it. Because of the close location of the shows, as directors we were able to attend each other’s exhibitions (albeit briefly) and had a crowd of keen art goers walk between the two locations. We thought it really showed the spirit of what an arts community should be like, a place where ARIs are mutually supportive rather than competitive, and where an audience is committed to attending and supporting a multitude of events that can sometimes occur on one night.
Q. Wow, so many different models and methods being used today, one nighters, three tonners, multiple loci, and globally too?
A. Our model of running an ARI is something that in some ways is quite standard in terms of opening up applications, selecting the artists that we think are the most appropriate for the space, confirming our exhibition program of monthly one-night events and also leaving space for other opportunities that might pop up along the way. The difference with CLUTCH is in our space and its nomadic nature. CLUTCH, while as organized as we can be, does however rely on the support of a broader network of friends, family, our university connections and other supporters to pull off the logistical challenge of driving and parking a large vehicle at a specific location for which we (sometimes) require permission, and facilitating works with technical equipment and supplies borrowed from necessary sources. From what we understand, these kinds of networks are used by most emerging ARIs who are similarly self-funded and ambitious as we are.
Because of the social aspect of the Brisbane art scene and our networks that have developed through university and broader art contexts, we have the benefit of having regular and sizeable crowds of friends and art show regulars (which for us are one in the same, really) that support our shows. As well as self-promoting through social media networks, CLUTCH is regularly supported by the Brisbane Art website and social media pages who share our events at a broader audience than any of us are able to personally. Again, this is a method that is fairly standard for local ARIs as a way of spreading the word about upcoming shows and sharing documentation and essays of past exhibitions too.
Artist-run initiatives matter for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, they are the most accessible and unpretentious format of exhibition space that is available to emerging artists. They are spaces where practices develop and find confidence in the freedom of peer critique and encouragement. They are affordable, DIY, community-based, open environments that truly foster experimental practices in ways that art institutions, commercial galleries and other organizations don’t.
Q. Did the Clutch crew manage to visit the Ephemeral Traces exhibition about 1980s Brisbane artist-runs at the University of Queensland Art Museum April- July this year?
A. Yes we did! It was a really inspiring show in terms of placing ourselves amongst such a rich history of Brisbane ARIs. It was almost chilling to take a step back and think that in 30 years time another retrospective could potentially present an archive (probably online, however) of our contribution to the ARI movement, which seems to be having another strong resurgence not unlike what happened with the emergence of spaces and activities in the 1980s.
We were especially excited to see hiding away off to the side of the first main exhibition space, documentation of a work by artist Mark Webb. Mark was a supervisor to all of us throughout our Honours projects, and as long as we’ve known him has kept his practice very much a secret. It was amazing to see his work, as we had assumed, as part of a truly strong movement of rather radical work happening throughout the 80s.
Another aspect of the show that resonated with us was the rebellious nature of a number of activities that were happening during the 80s. For example, artists reacting to lack of funding and exhibition spaces for emerging practices by hosting shows in abandoned buildings or office blocks that were due to be demolished. We related most definitely to the experience of a lack of funding in the arts as well as a strong ambition to find alternative spaces and potentially disobey the law in terms of seeking (or rather not seeking) permission to park our truck in public or private spaces.
Q. Brisbane has such a wellspring of artist-run heritage since the late 1979s, in a similar way, what are your enjoying about the ARI Remix Project here, artist-led archives 1980-1990 in development now?
A. We find the richness, quantity and quality of content in the project amazing, and think it’s a really necessary part of any arts community to archive an ongoing history. As active members of a current arts environment in Brisbane that we believe is pretty thrilling in terms of ARI activity lately, we think it’s essential to understand the historical context in which we exist. Without projects like ARI Remix, it’s impossible, especially for many of us as young ARI directors and artists, to grasp the width and breadth of what has come before us in terms of experimental, guerilla and total anti-establishment ARI histories in Brisbane. ARI Remix brings a new life to past ARIs, exhibitions, activities, artists and audiences, and allows for current initiatives to draw connections and parallels to a shared and timeless experience of a desire for artist-run and non-institutional spaces to contribute to the development of experimental arts practices.
Q. Thanks, Im sure the ARI Remix Collectve will be chuffed to hear this testimony, and what enticing bits n pieces is Clutch Collective planning for 2016 and 2017?
A. CLUTCH has another great show planned for September – so keep your eyes peeled! We are in the process of planning a show to be included in the BARI exhibitions program running in October, which could see the truck parked at a landmark Brisbane location. As well as this, we are excited to be contributing to a panel discussion as part of the BARI festival program.
In regards to longer-term plans, we will soon release a call for applications for our 2017 exhibitions program, and are in discussion with a fellow ARI regarding a collaborative curatorial project and location coordination. We feel like our wheels have only just scratched the surface in the Brisbane ARI scene, and we can’t wait to really dig in and have a number of equally great shows and artists as what we’ve presented so far in 2016.
Q. Are you hopeful for the future of artist-runs, how so, why so, what value do you feel they bring to the knowledge base, to arts and culture heritage that institutional spaces like the IMA, QAG or GOMA don’t offer or provide?
A. YES! We absolutely are. We think there is a new air of ambition and passion around Brisbane ARIs, not just because there are a lot of them, but because artists are making strong works that are being presented by ARI directors who are equally as passionate about art as their exhibitors, and who know the ins and outs of their spaces and their networks. It is the combination of these elements that we believe makes things work, and what is driving an exciting flood of artist run activity in Brisbane as of late and will continue to drive things into the future.
A. As ARI directors, it is clear to us that our fellow directors and artists are mutually concerned with continuing to support each other’s projects in order to contribute to the livelihood and longevity of local artist-run activity. We KNOW that without ARIs, many artists wouldn’t have an opportunity to get their foot in the door (or in the truck) and are left feeling pretty disconnected without the opportunities that ARIs offer to emerging arts practices. For many artists who have recently completed university degrees, it’s quite obvious that there’s a long journey that comes between leaving the safety blanket of an art school and the convenience of the facilities and exhibition spaces it provides before being able to even fathom the idea of presenting in an art institution like IMA or GOMA (if that is even the goal of an individual at all).
We see artist-run initiatives as an experimental and safe space for the development of emerging practices. A lot of ARIs and artists alike approach projects as works or bodies of work in development rather than a final iteration of a fully developed and resolved exhibition. The social nature of and peer support that is prevalent at ARI shows is fundamental to the working process, support and critique that is a necessary and ongoing step for any developing practice. While more established artists also show at local ARIs, the spaces maintain a total non-pretentious feel and are always open to discussion of an artist’s ongoing growth and refinement of concepts and installation methods. Institutions such as the IMA and GOMA are not accessible in this way. They are much less about supporting open environments of critique to assist the growth of local artists as they are about presenting well established early/mid/late career artists with generously funded projects and publications.
From our perspective – ARIs are significantly more valuable to emerging artists than art institutions ever will be because they are run BY ARTISTS, FOR ARTISTS, and are supported largely by the attendance OF ARTISTS. This is not to say that ARIs present and exclusive arena for artists only, in fact it’s quite the opposite. ARI events are as much about socializing and networking as they are viewing the work of an emerging artist. We believe that the value they hold is immeasurable, but certainly is something we can say we’ve all felt as exhibiting artists and as the directors of CLUTCH Collective.
As the crowd gathers eagerly around a work, as they applaud the end of a two-and-a-half-hour endurance performance, as they generously donate a little extra in exchange for a wine that’s in reality at least a third of the cost, as an artist expresses gratitude for an opportunity to finally share the work they so meticulously put time, money and tears into…. that’s what the value of ARIs feels like to us, and why we believe their impact on the cultural heritage and the arts community of Brisbane is immense and will continue to be for as long as we can imagine.
Clutch Collective – Artist’s Websites:
HOMEGROUND at Boxcopy
Brisbane ARIs Now:
Read More about Brisbane’s Artist-Run Festival here: