Thursday, July 24, 2008

Abandoned city buildings/city buildings - we abandon

"Artist collectives do not make objects - they make changes. They make situations, opportunities, realizations, understandings. They work to keep the experience of art collective, rather than ceding all territory to solipsistic reverie and the reification of investment capital." Alan Moore, Collectivity in Modern Art.

"Is everyone taking crazy Pills??" Mugatu, Zoolander.

And so we gathered in the hearth to lend our eyes and ears to the work of Ben Riding as he wraps up his ArtSlab residency and launches into his next big thing: The Linden Project in Melbourne.

A very big thanks to all the artists that participated in ArtSlab #1 and #2 and to Ben for his insightful presentation on the work he is doing with LAUNCHart on sites/happenings in abandoned buildings. (watch this space for announcement of the artSlab#3 residency artists)

Perhaps it was a happy coincidence, or merely the interference from unreal estate signs cluttering our brains, that this talk created an opening of its own into more practical issues to do with site. And the question of whether to install artworks in abandoned buildings - or perhaps take our art and abandon the city buildings altogether (and run for the hills)

These questions emerge in the midst of an interesting proposal from property developer Frasers Greencliff for artists to occupy a warehouse on the fringe of their CUB development site (Kensington St Chippendale to be precise).....for FREE (eyes roll to back of head, temporary loss of balance).

The Carlton United Brewery site is a veritable suburb at 6 ha., and in the age of carbon footprints represents an opportunity to do things differently. Or at least try out a new marketing approach. And so Frasers have been chatting with City of Sydney about bringing artists onto their slab of land as both a gesture towards the City of Sydney's 2030 cultural plan, and in response to more global conversations taking place about the creative economy and the rise and rise of knowledge-based industries. Oh and Melbourne's laneways.

Conversations about Melbourne and its laneways reached a feverish pitch around the time the NSW liquor licensing came up for much needed revision. Hole-in-the-wall conversations became urgent as we suddenly realised that ridiculously oversized flat screen TV's mounted above our heads were distracting us with way too much Rugby and Channel V, while we tried to have a conversation with another human being. That and the pokies, the exodus of live music, prohibitively expensive licensing fees and draconian laws slapped onto low impact spaces. Melburnians must think we are idiots for putting up with this.

Meanwhile, artist run spaces have continued to spring up and down in the city, defying these silly laws, and in the process we have created some pretty cool stuff. But have we taken time to really reflect on the possibilities, and imagine the reality of where the global economy is taking us? We seem to be losing our fight with the invisible barons of real estate. Our wing and a prayer approach of lurching from one demolished warehouse to another in waiting is quite frankly running out of steam. And shine. Our little red caboose, running on the smell of an oily rag, may sadly be destined for a train museum. Carriageworks? Mmm, nup. I don't think we can afford that. Errr... is there anywhere else we 'creative types' can play? (I hear that lounge rooms in cosy overpriced terrace houses will do for rehearsals and devising new works...)

So as we enter the age of 'creative knowledge and innovation', perhaps we should ask what sorts of spaces does this industry really require. As Neil Armfield asked one rainy evening at Town Hall:

“Who is looking after the breeding grounds, the grasses at the end of the creek where you find the little fish feeding, the place from which a culture can grow with safety and strength?”

Perhaps it is artists themselves who should look after their breeding grounds. Perhaps we need to do things that ensure our ecosystems are robust and sprightly. And maybe these are opportunities for us to talk to one another about how we would imagine a city we could survive in. Instead of one where we scramble for the last crumbs off the table, the last warehouse in the city, or stare perplexed at the last empty monument to 'Art'.

Its vitally important that artists are looking after the breeding ground because it means we have a sense of confidence and autonomy over the circumstances in which we create our work, try out new ideas, spread our wings and take flight on some fanciful caper. And to exercise the kind of decision making which is so crucial to the creation of new work and new ideas, new directions.

ArtSlab is an idea + space for brewing creative collaborative adventures; driven by hope and desire. Hopefully through these encounters, the desire for survival can latch onto a thread of strength and optimism. And our crazy ideas can breathe life into this city, instead of medicating us with impossible market realities and speculative real estate scandals.

Is everyone taking crazy pills?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

artslab show off this Tuesday, the 22nd July

Bill+George would like to invite you to our artslab show off starring resident Artist Laboratorist Ben Riding TUESDAY 22ND JULY 630PM.

Ben will show off his site specific project "The Linden Project". We will then segue smoothly into a free range facilitated discussion about disused and underused sites in the city, including some references to the Fraser's Broadway project which you may have heard about in some rumored form or another.

To be followed by a refreshing glass of wine and general chit chat.

Would be great to see everyone who is interested in space/site and this city come along and contribute to discussion!!!

the crew at bng