Tuesday, August 25, 2015

ARI Remix - Artist Jeff Gibson - The Ephemera INTERVIEWS - remix.org.au

Interview with Brisbane-born Artist Jeff Gibson

The Ephemera INTERVIEWS excerpt:

Brisbane-born and raised, Gibson studied journalism, media theory, modern history, and the visual arts at the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education (now the University of Southern Queensland) before moving to Sydney in 1981 to co-manage an artist-run space, Art/Empire/Industry.

He then studied art and critical theory at Sydney College of the Arts (1984–85) and co-managed another artist-run gallery, Union Street (1985–86). Over the following twelve years he mounted numerous solo shows at commercial and public spaces in Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne, including the Mori and Gitte Weise galleries in Sydney, the Michael Milburn Gallery and the Institute of Modern Art in Brisbane, and Tolarno gallery and the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in Melbourne.

During that time he participated in group shows in Australia and abroad, including exhibitions at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, and Artists Space in New York. In 1988 he began working for Art & Text magazine, becoming associate editor in 1991 and senior editor in 1994.

He taught in both the painting and print media departments at Sydney College of the Arts from 1991 until 1998, at which point he moved to New York to work for Artforum magazine where he is currently managing editor. Since arriving in New York, he has produced two artist’s books, exhibited on the Panasonic Astrovision screen in Times Square as part of Creative Time’s “59th Minute” program, and mounted solo shows at the New York Academy of Sciences, Stephan Stoyanov Gallery (New York), and The Suburban (Chicago).

Throughout January 2011, two of the artist’s videos were projected onto the facade of the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York, as part of a curated series presented by Light Work and the Urban Video Project. His video Metapoetaestheticism, 2013, was exhibited in the 2014 Whitney Biennial.

PA: 1980’s Social History: Jeff tell me about the milieu you experienced during the early to mid-1980s as a young artist living, working, collaborating in Toowoomba and Brisbane, what sort of world was this Queensland for you?

JG: I attended what was then the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education (DDIAE) in Toowoomba from 1976 through 1980. I was born and raised in Brisbane but elected to study in Toowoomba because I was restless and wanted a change of scenery. I was a rebellious, dyspeptic upstart primed for punk. Drawn to art, music and exposition I started out in journalism and media studies since writing seemed a more sensible option than art.

I glommed onto Marshall McLuhan and the Sex Pistols, then switched, after a year of journalism, to the art department. I dove headlong into art and soon after also formed a band—the Sad Cases—with Stephen Butler, Kieran Knox, and James Rogers.

I found Brisbane very oppressive at that time. I would participate in demonstrations and street marches and then retreat to Toowoomba. I guess to some extent I “dropped out.” I lived in farmhouses—dystopian art punks in a rural/hippie setting. It was fun in its own way, but of course Toowoomba was even more reactionary than Brisbane.

As an anti-authoritarian malcontent, I had plenty to push against. I learnt an awful lot at college but by the time I was half way through my visual arts degree it seemed to me that the culture and politics of the state of Queensland were not conducive to a full creative life, so I committed to moving to Sydney as soon as I’d completed my course.

PA: Tell me about your exodus from Queensland in 1981?

JG: I didn’t really participate in the artist-run Brisbane scene. I bummed around for a year after high school then moved to Toowoomba in 1976 to study for four years. After that, I took a bee-line for Sydney. As soon as I got to Sydney, I helped open a gallery on Sussex Street—Art/Empire/Industry—with James Rogers, Gayle Pollard, Calvin Brown, and Glen Puster. There were other artist-run spaces in existence, but it was all pretty rogue and subrosa until the mid-‘80s when ARIs became more formally integrated into the art world, attracting a little assistance from the Australia Council. A/E/I only lasted a year (it resurfaced later without me and James). The absurdly cheap-to-rent loft was sold out from under us. Shortly after, I started a postgrad course at SCA and co-organized another gallery, Union Street, with artists Deborah Dawes, Deborah Singleton, and Jelle van den Berg.

Things were changing. There was a new professionalism creeping into artist-run culture in Sydney. An actual scene was beginning to take shape. Art & Text delivered a fresh discourse that launched a seemingly cohesive generation of postmodernists quite distinct from previous generations of artists, even progressive ones. Stephen Mori, Roslyn Oxley, and Kerry Crowley opened galleries that were sympathetic to these concerns. ARIs in career-minded Sydney were at this point as much professional launching pads as they were cradles of experimentation. Comparisons were often made between Union Street and the East Village New York artist-run galleries that catapaulted 80s art stars like Richard Prince, Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, and Robert Longo into the stratosphere. Obviously, the cultural and financial stakes and rewards were much lower in Australia.

In time I came to know more of early Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne artist-run spaces through conversation, conferences, travel and the occasional reference in Art & Text, Art Network, and Tension magazines.

Jeff Gibson Interview- ARI Remix

Sunday, July 19, 2015

ARI Remix- Jasmine Hirst On Artist-Run Culture Australia 1980 -1990 - The Remix Project - Paul Andrew INTERVIEWS


Jasmine Hirst is a filmmaker and photographic artist living and working in New York. Her films are collected by the NY Filmmakers Co-op of the New Cinema Group, and have screened at the California Museum of Contemporary Art, London’s Horse Hospital Gallery and the Sydney Underground Film Festival to great acclaim.

Jasmine Hirst's photographic art is represented by Illuminated Metropolis Gallery in New York and the Mori Gallery in Sydney and has been exhibited internationally, including at the Casa Del Pane in Milan, Sprengel Museum in Hanover, and Perth Institute of Contemporary Art.

Jasmine has ongoing collaborations with Penny Arcade, ex-Andy Warhol Superstar, and Lydia Lunch. Jasmine’s art delves into the darkest recesses of humanity’s most ferocious wounds: abuse, broken hearts, suicide and murder. Her work attempts to make sense of the senselessness and brutality of this world.
In this interview jasmine speaks to ARI Remix researcher and artist Paul Andrew about her archive and her direct and active participation and engagement in the diverse artist-run culture scene in Brisbane and Sydney, Australia during the 1980's.


Late 1970s and early 1980’s Queensland/Brisbane social history, what sort of world was this Queensland for you?


In the 70’s I was still attending school, graduating in 1980, so my experience of Brisbane’s art scene was confined to a somewhat sheltered typical teenager life at this time. I was raised in a homophobic, racist, misogynist, conservative suburb in Brisbane’s north steeped in the on-going culture of the ‘tall poppy syndrome’.

I had learnt from a very early age that to shine or excel is a very dangerous thing. And to be different in any way is social suicide. So I hid my academic successes and my magical overseas experiences afforded me by my traveling family.

My parents took me to London in 1979 for a vacation, where I experienced the Punk and Skinhead cultures for the first time. They took me to see Lindsay Kemps’ ‘Flowers’, a stage adaptation of Genet’s, ‘Our Lady of the Flowers’.

I was a naive 15 year old, with no understanding of the true meanings of this performance, but I was truly mesmerized. What an incredible gift my parents gave me, to witness Lindsay Kemp in the flesh.

An equally compelling experience was almost being mugged by skinheads on the London Underground on the way back from this show. I was amazed by their aesthetic, unknown in the suburbs of Brisbane at that time, shaved heads, and bovver boots.

This introduction to Punk/Skinhead phenomena was mixed with terror as I watched them eye my mother’s handbag and felt the energy of intended violence. Although, having being brought up in the Australian suburbs, I was unfortunately accustomed to being in a state of hyper vigilance of potential male violence.
I had learnt from a very early age that to shine or excel is a very dangerous thing. And to be different in any way is social suicide. So I hid my academic successes and my magical overseas experiences afforded me by my traveling family.


Punk Consciousness when how and where did that begin for you in Brisbane?


Also in that year a new girl came to school with short red dyed hair. I remember her carrying around a copy of an Iggy Pop album, his incredible wiry naked torso against an all-white cover. Punk was slowly making its way into Australian society and my psyche.

I completed High School in 1980 and in 1981 I went to Queensland University to study subjects that my parents decided would be appropriate for me so as to make a living in the future. My heart however was with art.

Although my father had a darkroom in our house and had taught me how the develop and print Black and White photos, when I was aged six, I began photographic classes as an extra curricular activity.

I joined the theatre and filmmakers groups at Uni. I remember creating a dance to the Moody Blues’ song “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour”, having had studied classical ballet since I was five years old. After having spent weeks choreographing this performance, the director, who is now a very famous theatre director in Australia, was incredibly rude to me and I walked out. This was my first lesson in learning that a disrespectful and rude nature doesn’t impede a person’s climb to fame, in fact it seems it is a necessary component in making it to the top. Living in the Art World has thickened my skin but not dulled my memory.

In hindsight attending twelve years of school was a total waste of time for me. The only valuable thing they taught me was to read.

My real education began when I met a girl, we shall call X, in my first year of University. She had been a punk, way ahead of her time in Brisbane culture. She introduced my to the world of underground music, literature art and film. We would see foreign movies at an art house cinema in Windsor, The Crystal. We attended the New York Underground Film Festival held in a little office-like projection room somewhere.

X educated me in the music of Patti Smith, the Sex Pistols, Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground; Andy Warhol’s Factory scene and learnt about the lives of Jayne County, Edie Sedgwick, Taylor Meade and the Factory habitués. I would attend shows and exhibitions at a theater in Edward Street where the Blunt Focus Cinema Collective was housed at the time. The theatre also there in the then Community Arts Centre. One of the highlights for me was Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” performed, as originally intended, by all men, with Luke Roberts (http://lukerobertsartist.com) as the incredible Martha.

I volunteered at night as a dresser at the La Boite theatre in Milton and met Michelle Andringa, a Brisbane based visual and performance artist. Through Michelle I met number of artists, many of whom were connected to the Architecture School of Queensland University, it was a time when there were many cross overs between ‘schools’, the Q scene was very active, the Student Union, Activities, 4zzz radio was located there at the time and was a voice of dissent. Michelle and I continued our friendship when we both moved to Sydney.

My memories of this period are very spotty. It was thirty five years ago and I have trouble remembering where I put my coffee one minute ago. But these are the memories that remain:

Attending a performance of the Go-Betweens at an amazing Brisbane venue, which was a pool in Spring Hill, The Spring Hill Baths. Alcohol and swimming pools a dangerous mix! but I don’t believe anyone drowned that night.)

Listening to 4ZZZ radio. The Home of Punk and the punk band scene, The Riptides, Plug Uglies, The Leftovers, and Halfway.

Seeing The Saints somewhere. An interesting note is that Artist Linda Dement, a mainstay of Cyberfeminism in the early 1990’s, who I hadn’t met yet, was in the Saints’ ‘Temple of the Lord’ music video.

Watching The Sunny Boys somewhere, Noosa maybe?

I attended parties in a line of terrace houses near William Terrace, these terraces were squats from memory. These events were filled with artists and musicians and the outsiders of society. It was fascinating to me as I was still very sheltered despite my early excursions into the alternative lifestyles of Brisbane in the 1981-82 period. There was a raw energy I was experiencing that was new to me. I couldn’t quite name it but I longed to live full-time in this world. The energy was of course, Creative Energy. It lit me up.

I filmed my first music video for a band at UQ, but now, looking back, I can’t recall their name.

Frequenting nightclubs in the Valley, when it was like New York’s Time Square or Sydney’s Kings Cross in the 70’s. I have vague recollections of dancing at The Beat, Hacienda Hotel, the Silver Dollar, Terminus and the Wickham Hotel. It was a dangerous area but I had no fear because, as I said before, I was already trained to endure the danger of living in Brisbane’s suburbs.

I was also oblivious to the criminal underground taking place there. When I was still attending high school I would frequent a cinema next to The Valley train station, The Valley Twin. With my best friend we would watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show over and over again. We had no idea we were walking through a red light district to get there. The Bathhouses, Bubbles, the secret places.

Punk entered my life in full force when I moved to Darlinghurst, Sydney in 1983. That’s where I met my soul mates. Punk is the great evener. No one cared what gender or sexual orientation or race you were. Punk encompassed and embraced all the outsiders of the world. If you had been an outsider in school, this is where you were an insider. The whole world should adopt this tenet of Punk.

Seeing The Saints somewhere. An interesting note is that Artist Linda Dement, a mainstay of Cyberfeminism in the early 1990’s, who I hadn't met yet, was in the Saints' 'Temple of the Lord' music video.


The Bjelke Peterson Regime, “The Police State” – the oppressive political backdrop, the state sanctioned vice and corruption you touch upon now: Tell me in some detail about this political climate in Queensland during the late 1970’s and early 1980s?

My parents weren’t politically conscious people, so my life growing up entailed other perceptions of the world. I have always been somewhat introspective so the political climate of the day made no impact on my young soul. I just went with the flow of what was happening politically in my world. My parents were my immediate Prime Ministers!

My focus was directed to the inner landscape of pain, since that is all I really knew. I was born into the Jo Bjelke Petersen Regime so I didn’t know anything that existed outside of this. The only impact changing governments made on me, was their different directives on arts funding. For example, when Bob Hawke came to power he instigated funding programs for women artists and filmmakers, which afforded me the opportunity to participate in the Premier’s Department programs, Technical Girls Collective and receive grants from the Women’s Film Fund of the Australian Film Commission when I was squatting in Darlinghurst. 

I was more impacted by the endemic nature of misogyny and of male violence towards women, more than the prevailing Government at that time.


Tell me in some detail about what you witnessed of colleagues who were gay, lesbian or trans, what you witnessed about their ordeals with coming out and the oppression and prejudice you and they experienced in the Bjelke-Peterson Police State during this period?


I lived in a bubble. I was totally unaware of gay politics and oppression until later on when I lived in Sydney and matured and became more conscious of the world around me. I remember a boy in primary school calling me a ‘lesbian’ as a derogatory term. Neither of us knew what it actually meant. I called him a ‘lesbian’ back. And then I learnt that to be a ‘poofter’ was one of the worst sins in the world. All I knew was that all the abuse I received was from heterosexual males. Gay men don’t drive around in cars dragging young girls off the street and gang raping them.

I was recently shocked to read that homosexuality in Queensland, the sodomy laws the Labour Goss government changed in 1990 after the Bjelke Peterson regime, still apply. And I believe Gay Marriage is still illegal in Australia. I can see that the homophobia of Australian culture hasn’t changed one little bit. It’s 2015. This world bewilders me. Thank God I live in New York City, a melting pot of different sexual orientations, races, genders, religious and non-religious beliefs. No one here cares if you are gay, straight or otherwise.


Tell me about these direct lived experiences around Bullying, Brutality, and Violence while living in Brisbane?


School was a war zone. Boys were hitting me on the head when I was five years old in Infants School. I was sexually assaulted by a stranger at six, on my way home from school. The boys at both Primary and High School were constantly grabbing at me. I remember the Keperra Gang racing around terrorising girls in the suburbs. Sexual assault is the normal socialisation of the girl child in our society. One in three girls, and one in five boys, are sexually assaulted by a male family member before the age of 18.

I believe these statistics are low in reality. I made art about this for years. But nothing changes. And it got worse when I left school. A Taxi driver drove me to isolated part of the city one night, when I was coming home from a club in the Valley. There are too many incidences for me to recall, nor do I want to recall them. These experiences formed the core subject matter of my Art-making.

I was asked years later to participate in an exhibition about the murder of Anita Corby. The horror of the brutal rape and torture of a woman walking home in the suburbs from the train station resonated so profoundly within me. I could have so easily been Anita Cobby, many times over.

And of course one of the male artists asked to participate in this exhibition About Anita, chose to paint the perpetrators. So predictable. He wanted attention for being controversial, he got it.


Kinship: By way of a brief biography of your immediate family background?


I grew up in the suburbs of Brisbane into what one would term, a lower middle class family. My father was an artist, but chose to take a job in the Government to support his family. He was a photographer and a filmmaker (Super 8 filmmaking which was popular in the 1960s and 1970s), home movies were big and experimental filmmaking at home too, and my father liked film techniques like superimposition and printed his own Black and White photographic work in a darkroom he had set up in the back room.

In my childhood he would make Super 8 films of me acting out fairy tales and nursery rhymes. He also filmed New York in 1968 on a vacation there and I don’t know where the footage is. Super Eight film has left a wonderful impression. I remember it to be an amazing visual slice of New York street life, a treasure chest that I have since lost.

His creativity was also manifested in entering competitions with magnificent elaborate three-dimensional entries. He won many things over the years, many vacations overseas and weird objects.

Dad had long wanted to work in television and took me to many films in the beautiful old theatres of Brisbane, The Boomerang, The Regent, they all had great names. He would also take me to Arthouse cinemas and so I was introduced at a young age to the outside cultures through cinema. He was also a big traveller and adventurer, taking us to exotic places, Timor, the Pacific Islands, Europe and USA.

One of my fondest memories is driving over a hill and suddenly seeing the Manhattan skyscrapers. I was fifteen years old and totally mesmerized. This was in 1979 when New York was a dangerous place to visit and certainly not tourist friendly. I fell in love with that city right there and then. He took me to see the Broadway show, Dancin’. I stood over the subway grates like Marilyn Monroe and was absolutely thrilled.

I remember music being everywhere. It’s the same today. The most talented musicians in the world perform on streets and in the subways. Music blares out from cars and apartments. I am so grateful to my father for giving me such precious gifts. I had a life long dream of being an artist in New York City, and here I am. Thank you Dad and Mum.

One of my fondest memories is driving over a hill and suddenly seeing the Manhattan skyscrapers. I was fifteen years old and totally mesmerized. This was in 1979 when New York was a dangerous place to visit and certainly not tourist friendly. I fell in love with that city right there and then. He took me to see the Broadway show, Dancin'. I stood over the subway grates like Marilyn Monroe and was absolutely thrilled.


Where there others, other than family members, whom you considered your significant kinship, circle, the gay scene for example?


Punks were my family. Punks, artists, outsiders, the quiet ones sitting in the corner, the abused, the disenfranchised, anyone who wasn’t one of the ‘cool’ ones in school, the bookworms, the introverted, the damaged, the lost, the tortured bright ones, the loners, the depressed….

Art Education- Self-taught to Higher Education: Tell me about your early adult arts training and education?


I began my creative life as a dancer. I studied classical ballet from five years old. When I left high school I started taking classes in modern dance and jazz. It was my dream to become a professional dancer.

I was too tall for classical ballet as the boys needed petit dancers to pick up. But in modern dance I could be any height. I took classes at Kelvin Grove College and in the city. When I moved to Sydney in 1982 I began classes at the Sydney Dance Company under Paul Saliba’s tutelage.

I had also begun art classes at night so I could build a portfolio to apply for an art college. Because I had only taken academic classes in High school and University I had no concrete artwork. I knew I wanted to be an artist. It was in my blood but at age eighteen I was still discovering what medium suited me. I finally had to make a choice between dance and visual art. When I got accepted in to East Sydney Tech (Now the National Art School) I gave up dancing.

In the years 1983 and 1984 I went to night art classes in drawing and painting I also partook in a government funded project to teach young women how to make videos. This changed my life and led me to a life of a filmmaker. It was funded by Community Trans-Ed Program, Outreach-Randwick and the Women’s Co-ordination Unit (Video Section) of the Premier’s Department. It was supervised by Aquarius Youth Services in Darlinghurst. We made a video about unemployment for girls in school.

But I don’t think the Education department ever approved of it as it advocated creative unemployment…that was important for us at the time. Artist and Writer Barbara Karpinski was one of the members and I believe she went on to be a full time writer in the Arts world. From this group of girls we went on to be the Technical Girls Collective, and created a calendar and postcards and learnt many different art skills. I have shared some of these images here.

At East Sydney Tech I majored in painting but it was soon obvious that I had a predilection for photography. I do like the instant gratification of photography, as I could spend a year on a painting and still not be happy about it.

However my greatest and most profound education is always from other people.

I met Geoffrey Levy while I was at Technical Girls Collective. Geoffrey was an artist and a punk and one of the most amazing people I ever met. He introduced me to the work of Andre Gide, Jean Paul Sartre, Italo Calvino, Jean Rhys, Albert Camus, the Existentialists, Jim Carroll, and Herbert Selby Jr….. He taught me that everything was Art and that inspiration can come from anywhere, from a music video, a TV Show, a magazine article, a stranger you meet on the bus, not just an art gallery.

We spent magical months, making art, reading, writing, walking around Sydney, hanging out, going to nightclubs such as 45’s, Patches, the Exchange Hotel and Critter Canyon in Elizabeth Bay. And then Geoffrey killed himself.

My world fell apart and it took me a long, long time to recover from this loss.

But Geoffrey left me the legacy of making art to transmute pain. Another precious gift he gave me was introducing me to artist Linda Dement. I first met Linda sitting in the gutter in King’s Cross, having just got a tattoo of a blue dinosaur.

And it was this gutter meeting led to a life-long friendship and creative collaboration. Linda was my next wave of education. She introduced me to the writings of Anna Kavan, George Bataille, The French Feminists…. I participated in her production of experimental Super 8 films, and was the subject matter for her photography and book cover designs. In fact Linda is still educating me to this day. We have corresponded with each other since 1984 even when we lived in the same city. Linda still sends me new authors, and music and artists who she finds. She kept me afloat when I was in the pit of grief over Geoffrey’s death. And Linda keeps me afloat today.

In 1991, I was accepted into the Masters Program at University of NSW. I majored in photography and film. I made mural sized photographs, which I printed myself, with Linda’s help, in the gigantic darkroom they had in the basement. Thank God we are now digital!

I also studied video making, having the luxury of access to spectacular film and video equipment. In one of my classes after showing my film work, my lecturer asked a boy in the class what he thought about the work. His face was bright red and he said, “I’m thinking about how hard I would like to hit a ball with a baseball bat.” At one of my exhibitions in the art gallery there, a male left a death threat note on my work. …mmmmmm...

Geoffrey was an artist and a punk and one of the most amazing people I ever met. He introduced me to the work of Andre Gide, Jean Paul Sartre, Italo Calvino, Jean Rhys, Albert Camus, the Existentialists, Jim Carroll, and Herbert Selby Jr..... He taught me that everything was Art and that inspiration can come from anywhere, from a music video, a TV Show, a magazine article, a stranger you meet on the bus, not just an art gallery.


Tell me about the Technical Girls Collective in a bit more detail?


I can’t remember how I heard about the initial girl’s collective formed to produce a video. But it was certainly life changing. We were young and punk and wanted to make art.

Communication back then, was largely word of mouth on the streets and at parties and events. Margie Medlin was involved in this group as well. Margie became a well-known artist. All I remember about this time was the excitement of having found my soul group, and running around making art and dying my hair green. 

I was living in a huge warehouse space on Oxford Street in Darlinghurst, a very different Darlinghurst to today. My room was a loft bed built over the stairs. It was hair-raising to get in and out of it. I had met friends who lived in the Alpha and Beta Houses in Newtown. They were squats which housed a plethora of artists who would hold events and happenings.

Our headquarters for these two collectives was Aquarius Youth Services on Burton St, East Sydney from memory, a little old workman’s cottage made of stone. It was mouldy, dank and dark and I had the time of my life in there making art with others.

We also used Darlinghurst CYSS, which housed art equipment and facilities. Creativity was alive and well in inner Sydney in the early 80’s. Many of the projects were funded by Government agencies. And sitting in that ghost-ridden workman’s college is where I first laid eyes on Geoffrey, who had come with to visit Margie Medlin.

Geoffrey changed my life. He was the most instrumental person in affecting my life as an artist. Art-making lives in your blood, it is a 24/7 job. It doesn’t matter whether one’s work ever gets into a gallery or not. It may never been seen by anyone, until twenty years after you die and someone finds a box of your negatives in a garage sale and makes a book out of them.

Some of the girls from Technical Girl’s Collective continued to meet and wrote a film script, which was funded by the Women’s Film Fund of the Australian Film Commission, “With Inertia”.

“With Inertia” was eventually screened on SBS and made it to Berlin Film Festival and Melbourne Film Festival. It was a surreal snapshot of life in Darlinghurst in 1983. We had a twenty two strong all female crew. Which was great that so many women were learning skills in filmmaking, but I found interacting with twenty two other people incredibly stressful.

I prefer to work alone or collaborate with one other person. Otherwise there are too many egos clashing at once. And everyone’s childhood wounds are bashing their heads against each other.

There were three other very important artist run scenes occurring at this time. Nothing was really established or named or categorised into a neat package as it is today, terms like emerging artists or ARIs were not as commonplace as they are today.

These artist-run spaces organically came together. The streets were the internet. The Oasis, where I lived for a time, was the old Women’s Prison, where East Sydney Tech was housed. It was a beautiful 1800’s mansion which a mini jungle in the centre of it. It attracted the artists and outsiders. Everyone was a practicing artist with elaborately decorated rooms. One German artist built his room to match the inside of a heart. I lived in a room that was the servant’s quarters. I painted it all dark blue to match my blue mood.

The Gunnery was in Woolloomooloo where Artspace now stands. It was a large squat with no electricity and filled with artists and punks. It had been an old Navy training building and housed a round theatre on the top floor. 

I remember going to the bathroom, which was a series of bathrooms, under a foot of water and in complete darkness. The Gunnery was divided up with sheets and canvases and other structures as walls. Hellen Rose Shausenberger lived and performed there. She has since gone on to become a well-known performer and filmmaker.

I would attend punk bands performing in the old theatre, which consisted of screeching metal on metal and screams and candle light. Armageddon! Hellen later ran a gallery that had been a funeral home and was shaped like a casket, at which both Linda Dement and I exhibited in. Artist Juilee Pryor ran Art Unit in Redfern another significant and lively ARI, a performance venue, studios and printmaking, so many screen printed posters produced there.

The other ARI’s were Alpha and Beta houses in Newtown. I was a regular visitor there but have few recollections of it. I do remember seeing a performance of Butchered Babies’ there, a gothic punk underground performance group led by the beautiful Wendy. Wendy was one of the most stunning girls I have ever met, who I believe is now a teacher of circus acrobats. Sometimes they would hold parties in the abandoned subways in Sydney. I would take my saxophone and screech out ugly free flowing sounds.


ARI collaborations aside, your “official” art school educators, visiting scholars or guest lecturer did they make an impact on you?


There wasn’t any educator at any of these institutions who made any real impact on me. They taught me skills. They gave me an art school controlled aesthetic. It took many years to shake off my art school training boundaries. I needed to unlearn.

I was mostly inspired by other artists, Geoffrey and Linda Dement in Australia. And the work of Lydia Lunch, Joel Peter Witkin and Nan Goldin here in the USA. And as Fate would have it, I am now collaborating with Lydia Lunch who brings such immense joy into my life, as a person and as an artist. And ironically Lydia Lunch’s photograph appears in one the pages of Technical Girls Collective’s calendar all those years ago.


Pop Culture?


I had no TV or phone or radio. No one did. I had no money to buy magazines.

I did have a turntable and would play Lou Reed over and over, The Blue Mask and Patti Smith’s Horses.

A couple of years ago I was smoking a cigarette outside a restaurant in New York and Lou Reed walked past me. He gave me a dirty look….hahahaha, I guess perhaps because I was smoking and he had given up. So I smiled at him and he smiled back. His music got me through a lot of pain in the 80’s so I was thrilled to have seen him in the flesh.

Popular culture most impacted me through films at the cinema. And via books from the library and from friends.

I’d spend endless hours researching Andy Warhol and everyone involved in his Factory scene. Edie Sedgwick entranced me.

Recently, I was fortunate to have met Bibbe Hansen, who was the youngest Andy Warhol Superstar and mother of Beck. She was a close friend of Edie, so I was able to get a first hand account of the true essence of Edie, and Andy and the other characters of this exceptionally creative time in New York City.

I remember seeing the film ‘Sid and Nancy’ at a beautiful old cinema in Sydney, which no longer exists. Most of the audience were in the bathroom smoking. It was incredible to see my sub-culture up on screen.

And finally Punk has made it to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York! That means punk is truly over. My opinion of Punk is that it began and died with Sid and Nancy in the Chelsea Hotel, although I know many people would argue with this. New Yorkers say Punk began with Jayne County and the New York Dolls and Malcolm McLaren stole it and marketed it back in London.


And the idea and growing tendency of DIY in the 1980’s, a 1970’s punk tendency perhaps?


I was mostly rejected by the mainstream art world because of my subject matter, the sexual assault of women and children and the impact of these experiences on their lives. That kind of art isn’t a valuable commodity.

I saw a lecture by Lydia Lunch at Metroscreen in Paddington in 1997 the one she gave about NO-Wave films in New York City. She said: “Don’t wait for funding or approval by the powers that be, just make the work.”

Amazing and I have followed this advice ever since. Lydia has NEVER received funding by an Arts Body, neither has Penny Arcade. They just make the work.

I had received funding from traditional funding bodies, AFC, NAVA and the Australia Council, which I was incredibly grateful for. But my subject matter continues to be a major block in receiving funding in the last decade, or maybe it’s not that, maybe I’m just not a very good artist…hahahaha.

And I’m certainly dreadful in writing applications. I don’t have a grip on that kind of Art Language, so I’m doomed.


Tell me in some detail about your participation in the Political Theatre scene in Brisbane at La Bamba (late nights at La Boite, you mentioned La Boite a little earlier, Rock and Roll Circus and related theatres or performing arts groups at the time, perhaps?


True, I volunteered as a dresser at La Boite Theatre in 81/82. I was still a teenager and didn’t know yet what route I wanted to take as an artist. I just wanted to be involved in the art world somehow. All I really learnt from this period is that some actors have huge difficult egos!


You mentioned that walking the streets in Sydney, and in London and New York as a teenager, was where you began many of your life long networks, tell me in some detail about the role share houses played for you at the time in terms of artist networks?


For a while I lived with artist and performer Zoe Long in the Bakers Dozen in Darlinghurst. Zoe was a phenomenal creative talent and way ahead of her time. She performed in the gay bars on Oxford Street in the early 80’s.

No one knew if she was a girl or a boy.

Zoe dressed as Nosferatu day and night with a shaved head. On the few occasions when we were awake during the day and walking around, she would horrify passer-bys. Once a group of office girls were staring at her and saying derogatory things so she chased them into a building.

Once a little boy with a bald head from cancer treatment came up to her in the street and asked her if she had cancer too? She answered that she shaved her head because she liked it. His broad smile made our day.

I would photograph Zoe and attend all her performances. We were indeed vampires, living only at night. Other drag performers would visit the house and I would photograph them too. Madam Lash is another. They were all incredibly talented artists and lived day and night creating costumes and performances.


The impact of HIV AIDs on you around this time?


I think AIDS was identified as a disease publicly in Australia around 1984. It had been a reality since 1981 here in NYC.

With HIV AIDS our world became like the Vietnam War. The carnage was traumatic and widespread. So many beautiful and talented artists died horrible and lonely deaths.

And we also had to contend with the barrage of public opinion and horror bestowed upon HIV positive people. Homophobia was rampant, not that it has ever disappeared from Australian culture, and the spectre of HIV AIDS gave homophobes license to be violent.

I have witnessed horribly violent incidences at the Sydney Lesbian Gay Mardi Gras parade. Things I wish I didn’t still have imprinted on my memory. I also remember gangs of heterosexual boys coming in from the suburbs and attacking gay men with baseball bats. I was attacked by skinheads on Oxford Street when I was just walking along with a female friend.


Your Pre Sydney Exodus: So many creatives left Queensland during this 1980’s period, for you it was the malevolent series of male violence and attack against women, where there other contributing cultural factors of this Bjelke Peterson regime era?


I also left Brisbane because I couldn’t deal with the extreme conservatism of that city. Also I was a teenager and wanted to leave home. I wanted to go to New York but instead I chose Sydney. It was absolutely the right move for me.

Within a short amount of time I found my soul mates, other punks and artists and musicians. A whole new world opened for me. I found people who accepted me for being me.

I was free of the judgmental nature of the people I went to school and QLD UNI with. I blossomed. We are social creatures and we all need somewhere to belong. And I found my society in Darlinghurst, Sydney.

Read more about Jasmine here >

Jasmine Hirst - The Ephemera INTERVIEWS

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Remix Project - 1980-2000 Australian Artist -Run Culture Public Archive- INTERVIEWS

INTERVIEWS - is having a short break- meanwhile this is a related neglected histories project being researched now - in a sense this project is a prequel to INTERVIEWS- 

Remix.org.au – Stage One- The Queensland Remix -1980-2000 Queensland Artist-Run Initiatives (ARIs) – Public Archive Analogue to Digital Heritage Transmedia Project

Atage One - Qld - Project Timeline: October, 2015 – November, 2016
Stage Two - NSW and ACT Project Timeline: November 2016 - December 2017

The Remix Project is a new collaborative and interactive eresource mapping the unmapped diversity of the 1980-2000 Queensland Artist-run initiative scene. Presenting the untold stories of the artists, co-creatives, peers and cohorts who together built upon, extended and broadened the foundations of the 1970’s experimental art scene.

Interoperation Cohort : http://daao.org.au

Keywords: Neglected Histories, Digital Communities, Analogue to Digital Heritage, Social and Cultural inclusion, Open Access, Open Source

Visit us here during 2015 -2016 as we grow the archive:

The Remix Project

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Artist Barbara Campbell- ARI Remix- The Ephemera INTERVIEWS - A ROOM ARI- Qld 1984

Born in Brisbane 1961. Barbara Campbell currently lives and works in Sydney, Australia.

Barbara Campbell has performed in Australia, Europe and the USA, in museums, galleries, public buildings, photographs, on film, video, radio, and the internet, in silence and with words, still and moving, since 1982.

Barbara has been actively engaged in the research and development of the Arts and Culture Sector during this time in a number of significant roles including as Gallery Co-ordinator of the Institute of Modern Art (1982-83) and as an office bearer of the Qld Artworker’s Union which became the Artworker’s Alliance. During the 1980’s, Barbara instigated and worked with the A ROOM collective an influential six month Artist-Run Space located on the first floor of 446 George Street, Brisbane from June 18- December 18, 1984. In 2015 Barbara is due to complete her PhD at Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney researching how migratory shorebirds direct human performance. Barbara chats here about her active role in Artist-run culture and infrastructural activism in Queensland during the 1980's.


January 23, 2015

PA: 1980’s Queensland/Brisbane Social History: By way of a detailed personal snapshot, the milieu you experienced during the early 1980s as a young artist living, working, collaborating in Brisbane?

BC: For me, Brisbane was my youth. I was very art focused. I worked with art, studied it, read about it, made it, formed friendships and working relationships within it. I can’t remember doing anything that was ‘outside’ of it.

PA: The Bjelke Peterson Regime, “The Police State”  political backdrop, what did this mean to you at the time?

BC:  My awareness of the Police State came vicariously through association with people who were more directly political – students at University of Qld or volunteer staff at 4ZZZ that broadcast from UQ campus. 4ZZZ did great journalism, exposing not just conditions in State-run institutions like Bogo Road Jail but national issues such as Australia-Indonesia relationships over Indonesian territories.

Really, I was very naïve. I was middle-class and straight. I’d grown up naturalized to a political reality ruled by Bjelke Petersen with a one-house parliament in a one newspaper town. I was unemployed but working as an artist; I’d received a free education; had access to birth control and other health benefits, most of these thanks to the Whitlam government.

PA: A brief biography?

BC: I grew up in the country (Lamington, SE Qld) but went to a private boarding school in Brisbane from age 12. Both my brothers also went to private boarding schools so we siblings did not see a lot of each other. My own conception of my parents’ lot is that my father was a farmer who should have been an engineer and my mother was a city girl who should have been living and working in the city as a lawyer.

I think of them both as emotionally displaced but also aspirational through their children. They both had imaginative lives through books. My parents actively supported me to go to art school although my mother worried from then on about how I was going to make a living. There was a professional artist on my paternal grandmother’s side – a cartoonist for the Bulletin. All of this meant that I met with no resistance from the family to being an artist. It also meant that because I hadn’t really lived at home since 12 my emotional life and main influences came from friends and my partner during this time, artist Ted Riggs.

PA: An early artistic influences?

BC: Well one particular visiting artist certainly left an impression on my first year at Morningside TAFE where I was studying art in 1979: Dragan Ilic from Sydney. Ilic had been invited onto campus by some of the painting staff who were themselves artists. It seemed just an amusing distraction during our lunchtime. Ilic and later a couple of students stripped off and became canvases for audience members to draw on their bodies using coloured pens fitted into electric drills.

The event had been videoed.

We all went back to our classrooms in the afternoon. But that night, I guess word spread from students to (presumably outraged) parents, to media, to police. Overnight Bjelke Petersen’s Vice Squad raided the homes of some of the lecturers who’d been present, looking for the video recordings of the “nude” performance.

The tabloid press had a field day. It would have been nasty for the staff and to make it worse, they were not supported by the head of school. In the wash-up to that event, all the professional painters resigned their positions en masse and the head of school refused any further outside visitors onto campus. But rather than agitate or leave, I moved from the painting to the printmaking department and found an alternative education outside that institution through the activities at the IMA.

PA: Pop Culture- Tell me about the popular culture that mattered to you during the eighties?

BC: I seemed to spend a lot of my life at the IMA or hanging out with other artists. I was doing a part-time art history degree at UQ during my final year at IMA (1983) and the year of A ROOM (1984). I spent some time at the Student Union’s Activities unit at UQ where Brian Doherty ran the screen-printing department. So the graphic arts aesthetic that ran through there was an important part of my cultural landscape. The “only gay in the village” I had significant contact with was Luke Roberts who was still running his vintage shop in the Brisbane Arcade. I wasn’t part of the live music scene.

PA: The Red Comb House Precinct: Tell me about the confluence of artist studios, exhibitions, performance art and events circa 1981-1984?

BC: My memory of the timelines is a bit shaky here. I don’t remember when Red Comb House started. Maybe it was the same year as A ROOM (1984). But in any case, although they were geographically close by in that Roma Street area of the CBD, I can’t remember showing work there (although the archival evidence suggests otherwise). I didn’t have a studio at Red Comb House because my studio was already set up in the A Room building.

PA: Earlier experiences or memories of ARIS, local, interstate or overseas?

BC: I was pretty aware of what artists were doing in Sydney, not just the work they made but the way they made it, the lives they led that created the circumstances for art practice.

My perception of it was that shared studio complexes led to artist collectives which led to the ARIs. All of these things share an ethos of collectivity which appealed to me hugely. I think in Brisbane, where it was hard to get critical mass for any kind of alternate action, the model of the collective was essential. The only artist-run project I remember prior to Janelle's One Flat Exhibit was John Nixon’s Art Projects run from his flat in Spring Hill. It wasn’t really an open space though. John invited whomever he liked to show there and visit.

PA: And the One Flat Exhibit in the early 1980’s?

BC: Prior to Red Comb House, I’d been involved in One Flat Exhibit - Jeanelle Hurst’s first ARI in her flat at Edmonstone St, South Brisbane. During my last year at art school (1981), she and I both lived in flats in that terrace house. I did one or two performances there. One Flat Exhibit became O’Flate when it moved into the shop front space in the city. I was probably working at the IMA at that time.

I did a couple of performances with Ted Riggs at One Flat Exhibit.

I’m not sure if I knew to call them performances. We called them actions. They were very simple. In one I made up my face using Ted’s highly reflective sunglasses as a mirror. We had to sit very close to each other. In another, I think we were in underwear facing the audience, each of us alternately reciting “I have slept with [say a common given name]” and because we just kept going, pretty much everyone in the audience got named. Yes, it seemed to be about sex at that time – another reflection of my youthful state (disarmingly heteronormative too). Gay culture, let alone queer culture, was yet to make a claim on the Brisbane art scene…AIDS likewise.

PA: The Institute of Modern Art: This year marks the 40th year anniversary of the IMA, tell me about the role the IMA played in your personal experience towards the development and promotion of what in turn became an ARI scene in Queensland?

BC: In 1981 I’d graduated from a conservative art school (Morningside TAFE) in 1981 without any sense while I was there that there was any correlation between going to art school and becoming an artist. That awakening—the idea of becoming an artist—only happened in the parallel education I sought out through my association with the Institute of Modern Art.

At the time, the IMA was run by an artist, John Nixon, who used his own personal contacts with other artists to build a program of (mostly) solo exhibitions by contemporary artists from elsewhere (with the exceptions of Robert MacPherson and Hilary Boscott-Riggs).

During John’s time, the IMA was a real precursor to the ARI model in the sense that it was artist-run. It was only in about 1984 that the Visual Arts Board changed the model for spaces like the IMA by insisting that boards professionalise the position of Director and become VAB-funded “flagship” spaces in their respective states.

It led to centralised homogenization and less scope for local responsiveness. But between one model and the next there was the hybrid model that (my partner) Ted Riggs proposed as IMA board member. It was a program of guest-curated exhibitions in 1982 and 1983 which I oversaw as part-time gallery co-ordinator.

By not having an in-house director-as-curator, my role was broadened to institute or guide an ancillary program that would boost the level of critical dialogue amongst artists in Brisbane and between those artists and visiting artists. That program included reading groups (using the IMA’s considerable art journal collection), film groups (initiated and run by Brian Doherty using the NLA’s film collection); artist lectures; performance and video workshops; Artworkers Union meetings, etc. I think about that program now, the amount of (mostly unpaid) hours I put into it, how casualised the labour was (both the IMA secretary, Joan Sherriff, and I had to go on the dole during the two months of exhibition down-time each year) and I realize that it utterly depended on youthful energy. When I left the IMA I transferred that same energy, local networking and economic precarity to being an artist and setting up A ROOM.

PA: A Room in 1984 (the year of the eponymous George Orwell novel) – Tell me about how A ROOM came about?

BC: The structure of it was pretty much my design. I wanted it to be as manageable which meant cutting down as much as possible on administrative tasks in order to have more time for art-making. This meant that it wasn’t the open model of most ARIs at the time or since in which an ever-widening circle of artists were included in the program.

A ROOM had a limited time frame of six months that matched the 6 month lease and during that time there would be one group show and one solo show for each of the seven members of the collective. We all shared the minding of the space but the gallery was only open two days/week because again, no one wants to spend all their time in a rarely visited gallery not being paid. We all shared in the rent and other associated costs and could even opt to pay those costs on a $5/wk basis.

These were the days when parts of the CBD were pretty shabby and untenanted, when the cost-of-living was low and the dole was not heavily policed. It was pretty fabulous.

PA: Infrastructural Support-Tell me about the measure of support, patronage and interest from established Brisbane/Qld galleries, networks or institutions you witnessed during the early to mid 1980’s?

BC: The networks that I’d brought with me from the IMA; from my time as a student in the Art History Dept at UQ and through friendship circles all helped to sustain A ROOM. There were some very good institutional people around who understood contemporary art culture. I’m thinking particularly of Jenny Harper at QAG, Cassie Doyle at SLQ, Nancy Underhill at UQ, Marguerite Bonin at Griffith Artworks and Nicholas Zurbrugg at Griffith Uni.

PA: Exodus: During the 1970’s and 1980’s many artists across many arts and culture platforms left Qld for interstate or overseas, tell me about your experiences around this mass exodus of Queensland arts workers?

BC: There were two main factors that led to Ted and my departure from Brisbane at the end of 1984. The first was that Ted was on a path to self-realisation. In a short period of about two years he’d gone from being on an invalid pension due to crippling dyslexia to being treated for that dyslexia and then receiving government assistance to enroll in an undergraduate degree at Sydney College of the Arts so Sydney was our trajectory. Coupled with that was a sense that we’d done all we could in Brisbane. We needed to be somewhere bigger.

PA: Tell me about your early photographic work, "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man", 1983

BC: That is funny, given what I said about the lack of gay/queer culture yet there was I queering myself back in 1983. That photograph was taken by a young photographer named Laura McLeod for an exhibition at the IMA called "No Names" in which none of the exhibiting artists, all local, would be credited by name either in the show or in the catalogue.

I called the image “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” so the impetus was literary rather than gender-politics, although I think I was somewhat aware of all the codifications of power including gender, whiteness, Europeaness, bourgeois entitlement, higher education and so on.

At around the same time as the show, I noticed the Offset Print place near the IMA had a special offer on where they’d print any colour for the same price as black. So I had a series of postcards made, printed in ‘sepia’ and just distributed them freely to friends.

That 1983 postcard would be the first in a series of 25 annual portrait cards, each taken by a different female friend, the series ending with a group portrait of me with all the photographers on my 50th birthday.

ABOVE: A ROOM Opening Poster, Artist Designer Brian Doherty in collaboration with artists Barbara Campbell and Ted Riggs, 1984 ( Courtesy QAGOMA, ARI Ephemera Collection)


Read the behind the scenes blog about R and D for The Remix Project here:

Follow the development of The Remix Project here during 2015-2018

And if you are an artist directly involved in Artist-run culture in Queensland during 1980-1990 please join our social media open group study and R and D pages here:

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Photomedia Art + ARI Remix + Flash Lit + The Remix Project - Paul William Andrew Artist

Thanks dear INTERVIEWS readers for following my blog over the past nine years I am truly grateful for your attention. 

This year I am currently working on my photomedia art - and slowly building my artist website.

I am also working on my autobiographical flash writing...

- and -

I am currently researching "The Queensland Remix- Queensland Artist-Run Culture 1980-1990- A public archive transmedia project. A selection of interviews from this project will be posted here for your reference.

You can read a few examples of my flash writing here:

You can see some samples of my art since 1984 here:

And if you are interested in Artist-Run Culture you can follow this public archive as we grow and build it. This project is funded by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland. You can visit the principle web site and its links to artists independent web sites here. This project is in development now from April 2015 - April 2018.

There is a blog about the behind the scenes work for the remix Project beginning in April 2015 here:

And if you were an active member and/or peer of the lively Queensland/Brisbane/Australia 1980-1990 Queensland Artist-run space scene and would like join in the research and shared archival journey please visit and join the Remix Collective here at our social media open group study research and reconnect pages, it is this social media group that has in turn produced a remix cohort since the group began in November 2012:

Have a great year. Thanks again for your attention :)


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Twelve + 3 - Northern Rivers Community Gallery Ballina - Curator Julie Barratt - INTERVIEWS

Curator and Co-coordinator at Accessible Arts NSW Julie Barratt chats to Paul Andrew about a new exhibition opening this week at Ballina's Northern River's Community Gallery, about artists living with disability and the politics of disclosure.

Julie I understand you began working on this exhibition almost two and a half years ago?

True, I work for Accessible Arts NSW, the peak body for arts and disability in NSW. Two and one half years ago AARTS received funding from Community Builders to establish the Creating Connections program working across the North and Mid North coast regions of NSW. As the manager of that project the aim of my role was to establish networks for artists with disability across the regions and assist them into mainstream opportunities wherever possible. It wasn’t long before I realized what a huge pool of talented artists there were out there and the idea for a regional exhibition was seeded very early on in the project.

And Twelve + 3 is also about supporting artists who rarely get an exhibition opportunity like this?

Yes, and initially it was really about supporting artists who hadn’t otherwise had the opportunity to exhibit at this level before because of all sorts of reasons, social isolation, distance, transport, lack of opportunities, the list goes on. Then there were artists who were working at a professional level and quite established in their careers but who hadn’t previously been supported or highlighted by Accessible Arts. The diversity of cultural practice only really became apparent when we started to put all of the works together!

And initial interest aside, how did Twelve + 3 get “legs”?

I wanted the exhibition to be big. I wanted to mentor all of the artists, get them all a website, foster their careers and so on. I always have a big vision. I approached Peter Wood (RADO Arts Northern Rivers) to see if he was interested in collaborating on the project. 

He said ‘yes’, we submitted a grant application but were unsuccessful so we continued on anyway with a slightly less ambitious version of the project. I was blessed to have Zoe Robinson-Kennedy (Communications Manager with Arts Northern Rivers) come on board as the co curator of the project.

The exhibition title is intriguing?

I work across eleven council regions so initially the idea came from the thought that I could have one exhibiting artist from each region but as time went on and the process unveiled a bit more with Zoe from Arts Northern Rivers coming on board we made the decision to select a body of work from artists who best represented that diversity that you speak of so ended up with twelve artists.

In my position I also work with supported studios across the region in diverse projects including facilitating workshops, helping with marketing, promotion and it was important to also showcase some of the more collaborative work coming out of the supported studio environment. So that’s where the three came from; three supported studios.

And the twelve artists, what were some of your guiding principles, motivations and selection criteria?

Essentially, that the artist had to have a lived experience of disability. There are so many fantastic artists working across this region that we really wanted to highlight some of those artists who Accessible Arts hadn’t previously supported or exhibited.

There was also a sense that we needed to show work across genres so that we now have glasswork, ceramics, painting, collage and works on paper in the exhibition.

We were very keen to mentor a few of the artists in the exhibition as well so these artists were very much supported through the process in terms of their materials supplied, several meetings with these artists to discuss the work and what we were actually looking for from the works themselves. Similarly with two of the supported studios we worked very closely with the two artists managing those studios, visited the studios, and discussed the work that we wanted for the exhibition so it was very much about a collaborative process.

Damien Conte is one of the younger artists in the exhibition?

Yes, that's right and I met Damien Conte very early on in the Creating Connections project. I was contacted by his mother Cheryl and clearly remember going into Damien’s home for the first time and seeing incredible, vibrant, quirky, contemporary paintings.

There were paintings on every wall, stacked against the wall, all throughout his garage studio and several in progress. Damien is autistic and has very little verbal language but his works had such a strong narrative going on. Damien uses text in his work and will often write around the edges of his canvasses and that intrigues me.

The other thing I love about his practice is that he often changes his signature with each new body of work so over the past 2 ½ years I have seen Damien’s work signed Damien, Damen, Planet, Lifeworks and at one point Jack Johnson. Damien’s repetitive patterning, his bold use of colour and personal narratives are common themes within his works.

And Brook Walker is another younger artist in the mix?

Young indigenous artist Brook Walker works out of the Jambama Indigenous art centre in Casino. The centre have a great commercial gallery space and it was here that I first saw Brook’s work exhibited on the day I went out to Casino to meet Brook for the first time.

While I was waiting for Brook to arrive I was looking through the gallery and there was a particular painting that caught my eye. Painted in blacks, yellows and ochres the painting possessed a similar aesthetic to Damien’s work in its patterning and elements of whimsy. Certain animal totems are repeated in Walker’s work such as the owl, that speak to us about the artist’s inner world and belief system that I find intriguing and naively beautiful.

Anyway I was looking at this painting (not knowing that it was one of Brook’s) and just knew that I had to buy it. So I did, and then Brook walked in and asked what I thought of his work. I like the artist as much as his work. Brook Walker, a Bundjalung man who lives with disability, is a self-taught artist who has been painting since childhood.

Damien is also a self taught artist and perhaps the fact that their work is unadulterated by academic instruction or traditional influence is what I find so refreshing and unique about these two artists work.

Twelve +3; the big vision you mention?

Accessible Arts vision - and it’s a vision I share - is a society in which people with disability can contribute to and fully experience the arts and cultural life. It’s about inclusive practice so touring this exhibition and basing it in a major regional gallery as a first exhibit was very important. It is about the artist first and foremost and about the work these artists are making.

And there are other artists like Brook working with indigenous subjects, themes and concepts?

Two of the Indigenous artists involved in the exhibition, Mabel Ritchie and Lewis John Knox, are represented by the Dunghutti Ngaku Aboriginal Art Gallery in Kempsey and both attend a local disability workshop known as ‘Life skills’ where they paint.

Mabel’s beautiful works are based on the local flora in her region and her attention to detail and pattern is extraordinary. Mabel has some difficulty with communication and struggles to make herself understood, however through her painting she speaks volumes.

Johny has been interested in painting since he was a small boy with cerebral palsy and polio. The church makes a regular appearance in Johny’s narrative works but he depicts the church not so much in the religious sense but as a regular gathering place. Johny and Mabel both grew up on missions. Johny paints stories – what he saw on the way to school, family gatherings, church going, they’re observational in character.

I am now trying to imagine an ordinary day for you Julie during this long development period?

An ordinary day would always involve driving. With the artists spread out over a 600 km region from Damien at Cabarita Beach in the north to Claire who is based in Taree, then west to Casino as well the artists’ studios are spread far and wide. Visiting an artist’s studio, talking on the phone about paperwork, writing submissions to galleries, writing grant submissions, curating work, there were so many tasks associated with this exhibition and then we decided to tour it which added a whole other dimension.

Zoe and I just recently spent a week in Port Macquarie installing the work for the first twelve + 3 exhibition and with almost seventy works I think it is the biggest exhibition I have ever hung in all my many years curating and hanging shows. Definitely one of the most exciting as well.

Clearly Accessible Arts NSW has played an important role in helping artists in the region build momentum with their professional practice?

I guess for this project in particular it has been about giving voice to the lived experience of disability by providing a forum for work produced for and by people with disability and about disability. 

Will there be a follow-up exhibition to help build this professional artist and skills development momentum?

Well from small beginnings big things grow. Is that how it goes? So we started with an exhibition at the Glasshouse gallery in Port Macquarie and the project has now grown to include exhibitions at the Regional Arts Australia conference in Kalgoorlie in October this year, an exhibition at the Artspace on the Concourse in Sydney as a part of our upcoming conference in October.

Your personal aspirations for the artists in Twelve +3 as the exhibition tours ?

Hopefully it will assist all of the artists involved to lift the profile of their artistic practice to a wider audience. Every artist involved in this project has a unique artistic practice and an amazing story. There is an authenticity and individuality in all of the artists work across many genres and hopefully these exhibitions will give the work the well deserved attention and recognition each of the compelling work deserves. 

It has been an absolute pleasure to work with the artists and to watch their process unfold.

And the politics of disclosure, revealing an artist's "back-story"?

It is interesting and thought provoking to think about this question and it reminds me of a forum that Accessible Arts conducted at the MCA in Sydney late last year where some of these issues were discussed.

One of the panel discussions at the Supported Studios network was themed Considering Perceptions and it highlighted the difficulties for commercial galleries to sell the work of self-taught artists without talking about ‘the back-story’. 

Evan Hughes from The Hughes Gallery said, "It is almost impossible for me to sell the work of self-taught artists without the back-story." Evan claims that he does not exhibit work with such narratives but the questions almost always comes-up from prospective buyers.

This raises the complex issue of disability disclosure to artists in general and in particular to the artists that I worked with on the Twelve + 3 project. 

I guess when we worked on the artist statements for the project I really wanted to first and foremost have the artists talk about their work and the reasons for making the work that they do. 

For some disclosure of their disability was important as it very much informed their artistic practice, for others art and art making has always and will always be a part of their life.

There is a lovely quote from Zoe in the exhibition catalogue which I think sums up perfectly how I feel about each and every one of these artists work: “There is a lyricism in these works which could easily be misunderstood as a form of naivety, but instead should be viewed as each of the artists gifted ability to work with an unbridled sense of freedom”

PHOTOS: Courtesy Zoe Robinson - Kennedy

More details of the exhibition can be found at the following links:

5 November– 30 November 2014
Launch Event: Thursday 6 November 2014 5.30pm - 7.30pm

Twelve + 3 showcases work by 12 individual artists from the North and Mid North coast of NSW, and is an initiative of the Accessible Arts North Coast Creating Connections project. A culmination of 2 1/2 years of discovery, mentoring, promoting and providing opportunities for artists with disability across the regions; this exhibition aims to showcase the diversity of contemporary art coming out of the North and Mid North coast.

Related Links:

Regional Arts Summit - Kalgoorlie 


And at the Ballina NRRG now is the vivid solo exhibition by Bundjalung Elder Digby Moran\;

What's on

8 October - 2 November 2014 Launch Event  Thursday 9 October 2014 5.30pm - 7.30pm

Solo Exhibition – Albert Digby Moran Local artist and Bundjalung Elder Digby Moran returns to the Northern Rivers Community Gallery (NRCG) with a major solo exhibition. Albert (Digby) Moran was born in Ballina and grew up on Cabbage Tree Island near Wardell. His father was Dungutti and his mother Bundjalung. Digby started painting later in life (having worked previously as a harvester and a professional boxer) and, apart from a TAFE course in 1991, is self-taught as an artist.

This very special exhibition presents a new series of paintings celebrating his identity as an indigenous man in a riot of colour and movement. Traditional motifs are married with the rolling landscape to form a singular vision and record of contemporary indigenous masculinity.

Useful Links:

Northern Rivers Regional Gallery - Digby Moran Solo Exhibtion until Nov 2 only 

Artist's Website- Artist Digby Moran at Ballina Gallery - Exhibition Last  Days

ABC North Coast - Profile on Digby Moran

INTERVIEWS readers your commentaries are most welcome: