Friday, March 30, 2012

Elsewhere we are headed

In May until August two Bill+George artists (Rebecca Conroy and Tessa Zettel) are heading to the United States of the Amerikkka. We will be attending the Open Engagement Conference at Portland State University and then heading onto to check out artist run spaces in Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit, North Carolina, Philadelphia, NYC, and Washington, and back to LA. We are on the hunt for fertile exchange points, with the view to cultivating some links for a possible exchange event between our spaces in Sydney and the US of A in late 2013.

Here is an interview with local Redfern artist Jordana Maisie who recently did a residency at Elsewhere, in North Carolina, one of the spaces we intend to visit.


Elsewhere is a total trip. It was definitely the most unique, hands on, community oriented residency experience I have had to date. I loved it.

It was interesting for me primarily for these reasons:

1) It is a site specific residency. You make with the "collection" (almost anything in the building). The idea is to not bring any new materials in.  This ensures the maintenance of the museum's collection and the ongoing regeneration of the space. I love this intention.  Especially in the context of site analysis, systems design and cycles of re-use. 

2) Group discussion and sharing of ideas are encouraged. It is a very social space. There is a food co-op: so we cooked and ate together.  In fact, there was a lot of group activity. 

3) Development of work can easily become collaborative. I collaborated with another artist in residence when I was there. Made a 'Hot Chocolate Sauce Distribution Machine' for the final course of his travelling sensory dinner... (pretty fun) There are shared work spaces and a notion of 'play' always running through the space.

In some ways it is a fairly structured process with a strong public / community engagement program. As a resident you have to present a project proposal to the board within the first few days. The doco team, production team, building team, education team all check in to see how your work is developing, but there is no pressure to produce finished work if that's not where you're at. A lot of the staff / interns return to the Museum across multiple years / seasons so there's an organisational coherence / lineage.  The space is obscure and mind blowing (a 60 year collection of goods), like walking into a time warp of consumer history.

The project I began there is called 'Sipping the Air': Designed for spaces with high levels of humidity (like North Carolina), Sipping the Air, is an multidisciplinary project, utilising design thinking to bridge the gap between art, education, science, technology, architecture and sustainability.  The project takes greywater extracted by a custom-built dehumidifier and channels it through a large-scale DNA styled steel water sculpture, into a filtration system. The filtration system cleans it, makes it potable and redistributes it to the public for drinking.   

The dehumidifier and filtration systems utilised in the work are powered by PV solar panels, which generate electricity for the systems to run. The artwork itself provides fresh clean drinking water for the museum community whilst offering an alternative to conventional wastewater management.  Infusing a sense of wonder at scientific innovation and art and allowing us to begin shifting the way we engage with materials.

So that's what I'm up to. 

Enjoying the challenge of creating art projects that push the boundaries of the imagination and the way we approach systems design, art and science, working in support of, and harmony with, the other elements existing in any given environment. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Let's not grow the economy any more

The idea of growth belongs in the soil. 

Not in spreadsheets.

If we are going to grow anything - let us grow culture (among people and in cities, and in the soil and in our stomachs); Culture that helps things to grow through a feedback loop that is negative (and thus positive). 

Lets not grow economy anymore. 

Economic growth is the destruction of our biodiversity and hence the systems that give support to all life

So much of our language (and hence our lives) is poisoned by this confusion and contradiction in meaning; Words have become so far detached from their actual meaning, like civil war, and intelligent missiles, and collateral damage.. 

Engagement is also becoming contaminated. So rapidly. In the most spurious use of the word it is used to mean the "engagement" of more people in mass consumption. Diversity is the answer to sustainability. There we go again: sustainability. In the increasingly common scenario the word "sustainability"  is used to promote and maintain a system that is based on scarcity - locking up resources from those who need it by those who sole interest is to increase profit margins. And in general it promotes a pollution - by hoarding surplus and disposing of waste in the most unnatural and idiotic way. All because it aids and abets this insane notion of "3% annual economic growth".

Other words like public, community and politics, have all been contaminated. Currently, the largest education industry globally is - MARKETING. The art of manipulating people into working jobs they hate so they can keep buying shit that don't need.

This is an intolerable situation. 

War over resources - oil and gas -  is destined to shift into a war over water. The war is NOT over scarcity (locking up resources so one group can generate exclusive private wealth from it)  - the War is over one tiny group of people who declare war on everyone else in order to maintain their hegemony over extracting the maximum amount of wealth out of our collectively owned resources. Extracting and industrialising resources in the stupidest way ONLY SO THEY CAN SELL MORE SHIT AT THE MAXIMUM PROFIT. 

Well the joke is on us. As Michael Reynolds pointed out last weekend in Sydney as his earthship presentation - WE - the western world - represent only 17% of the world. So our interests are in the minority. Our consumption (or overconsumption) many times over trumps the consumption in the third world. 

We are living the dream in the worst kind of nightmare possible.

What goes around, well….it comes around.

Time to take action. 

Stop living the dream, and start making the reality. 

From Milkwood this weekend I was emphatically and passionately reminded to: Start by questioning where everything comes from, and work out an alternative so you can circumvent the system. This means not just your food, but your news feed as well. And bring people with you. Tell stories, and learn the stories about where things come from. Share. Don't shop at major supermarket chains. Don't shop for the sake of shopping. Stop shopping. Live off less. Live better off less. Give things away (objects, energy, food, attention, care, concern). And take on more responsibility for your immediate communities, through action, stories and building infrastructures for communities to flourish in.