Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Where are you sleeping tonight?

Housing affordability in Sydney is a hot issue right now. For artists living in Sydney's ridiculously overpriced housing market it is slightly more tricky than your standard Aussie Dream.

We started Bill+George in 2007 after a year of searching for the right place, which we found through a dodgy real estate and his equally dodgy slumlandlord; a beautifully unkempt cheap warehouse space in close proximity to our previous locale (Chippendale) and public transport. Since then we have had our share of dramas, from 'unsavoury types' residing on one side of our warehouse to the conservative landed gentry on the other who regularly accuse us of being a 'disturbance to the local amenity' including one lady who told us she was 'sick and tired of picking up needles in the park' implying that we were a front for a heroin dealership. Sigh!

Yep, its been a roller coaster. But the space we built from scratch is a base for 14 artists who range across art forms, in particular performing artists who rely on large space to work collaboratively in. But our local artist habitat is disappearing. At a rate of one space a year. Actually that figure is made up, but if we were to collect the data that would be useful project. Since we collaborated on Gang Festival in 2005, most of the artist run spaces we used to host events and projects in, are gone. including the one everyone loves to romanticize about, Lan Franchis. But it was the live culture of Lan Franchis that everyone pegs their fond memories to.

At present we are at a stasis in regards to our DA which would license us to hold 3 'showings' per month, bringing our community together to review work in an affordable manner, which would elsewhere require more money and more time in setting up. These gatherings also ensure dialogue and connections get made with new work before they embark on more serious presentations with higher production values.

What has any of this got to do with Housing? As we struggle to establish our right to conduct our business in these spaces, elsewhere the cost of residential has been steadily reaching new heights. So what is the point? Once we have established our right to be here, what good is it if we can no longer afford to live near our studios, and our communities become scattered and fragmented? The point is that these issues are not mutually exclusive.

Artists need to take a good hard look at themselves if they want to retain their communities and build a more sustainable base from which to work from. And not just artists. Artists need to connect with the communities that they are in. They need to care about gentrification, and understand how they are implicated in it.We need to engineer ways that start a reverse gentrification in the areas we are currently in. Is this possible?  Lets starts talking. In the meantime, check out these 2 exhibitions Right to the City and Housing Crisis this week.