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.