In October I went to Dubbo for the biennial Regional Arts Australia conference ARTLANDS. It was my first experience of ARTLANDS, which is aptly described: part conference part festival all arts. Thanks to Regional Arts NSW QUICKS funding I could attend the conference itself, which was empowering and eye opening. It was an immersive, thought-provoking, fun and productive four days. Festival director Greg Pritchard filled the program with artists and companies from regional New South Wales.
I was there primarily as an artist in Future Public, an exhibition of propositional public art curated by Alex Wisser (Cementa, Kandos). The work I made, No Fixed Trace, was a kind of distillation of the exercises, or interventions, or interruptions, that I have been concentrating on for the last little while. The idea was to make a new piece each morning in a different location in Victoria Park where most of the Future Public artists had installed their work. My materials were timber slats, some that I’ve been working with for a while, and some that were kindly donated by Macquarie Valley Blinds and Awnings who I’d approached on my site visit in June. Picking up their boxes of donations was exciting as I had no previous idea what size or colour the materials they were keeping aside for me would be. As soon as I saw those offcuts new shapes and glyphs became apparent, sparking my imagination, which was great as I wanted that element of spontaneous response in my work.
During the site visit, I’d been thinking about making ‘moment’ specific rather than ‘site’ specific work. Work that reflected the goings – on between people as they entered into conversations and performed actions; the day-to-day filling of reality. Responding to ideas as they occurred concurrently. Responding to spoken word exchanges and also the more intangible elements of communication. I was, still am, interested in the idea of representing energy traces left by human activities and interactions in public spaces, and the conference seemed like an ideal place to test this, in real time. Each day there was a set theme to keynotes, panels and masterclasses. I attended as much as I could, not as much as I would have liked but there was so much to do and see in the festival too. By the third day I managed to let go of the fomo and just let my experience curate itself. Plus I had to make my work each morning for a few hours. I drank lots of caffeinated beverages! Anyway, although primarily the work I made was more about filling a space and playing with removing permanence and fixed location from ideas of what is integral to public art, I couldn’t set down this idea of responding to the conference as it occurred. I had also thought about the ways the conference would be recorded, ways that the exchanges and idea-making could be represented (the traces that could be left) aside from text and audio visual recordings. Could what I made be an alternative trace of the conference?
Leading up to ARTLANDS I looked at the temporary works I’d made in the last year, making a collage on my studio wall, re-read my notes about this aspect of my practice, and conceptualised a few main shapes/glyphs that I wanted to work with in No Fixed Trace. I touched lightly on the conference themes but didn’t want to set anything in stone. To be responding to moments within that setting I had to wait until I was down there and experiencing them. The four artworks I made for Future Public were a combination of ideas I’d had prior to and what I experienced daily during the conference, both externally and internally. Each morning I removed yesterday’s piece from the site, chose a new site that harmonised with structures and plants in the park, and the other artworks, and created a new piece. Interestingly, I found that the absence of the piece from the site once it was removed was quite startling, something I haven’t felt before when making this kind of work. The absence of the artwork seemed to make me perceive the whole space and relationship between objects within the space differently. I’m looking forward to exploring this concept in depth in future work. I’m really grateful to have had the opportunity to make this kind of work in this way, it is the creative investigation that I’m most passionate about. Big thank you to Alex Wisser, Greg Pritchard, Geoff and Pepper, Orana Arts and Regional Arts NSW.
Below are some slides of each day’s work. I’ll be opening a dialogue on regional-based contemporary art practice with more info about conference sessions and other exhibitions and performances from the festival at Yellow Brick Studio on Friday 16th December at5:30pm, anyone interested can come along.
No Fixed Trace – Artists choosing sites, Thursday 27th October 2016
No Fixed Trace – Regeneration, Friday 28th October 2016
No Fixed Trace – (Conversation on) Connectedness, Saturday 29th October 2016
No Fixed Trace – Emergence, Sunday 30th October 2016