Friday, October 27, 2006

“The wife likes that sort of thing”

“The arts” or ‘Art’? What’s the difference?

‘Art’ as distinct to ‘the arts’ has had a specificity since the 19th Century. The term is associated with an idea that the artist’s creative life offers unique insight or potentially transforming revelation (see E.B. Browning and Daily Telegraph article in ‘Goering’ post, 25-10-06).

‘The arts’, and/or crafts, which includes painting, pottery, quilting, sculpture, carpentry, shoe making etc. on the other hand has a continuity of material practice through time, and still today produces valid and valued forms for aesthetic contemplation and enjoyment. We could say that ‘Art’ is a possible, but not essential attribute of ‘the arts’, and that ‘Art’ can exist independently of the material forms that are its customary vehicles i.e. ‘the arts’.

Why does this matter?

That depends on your point of view. For one thing most observers, certainly critics, contemporary theorists and others of their ilk, privilege contemporary ‘Art’ as worthy of greater regard, and, most importantly consider it significant for its contentiousness. That is, an art that contains ‘Art’, and as such is marked by modern (or post-modern) radicality, so making it dangerous to some.

What is this thing called ‘Art’?

This is not a question that is simply answered.
It could be described as a method, an attitude, a way of knowing and being, a cerebral and emotional ‘technology’, a process of coming to awareness, a critical engagement with the cognitive and perceptual frameworks that constitute assumed reality, a quest of psychological and philosophical inquiry. In short it is a form of inquiry and reflection about contemporary culture that communicates in a way that is critically conceptual and challenging. That is why it matters. That is why controlling regimes like it shut (shot) down.

‘Art’ occupies an important niche in the social environment and functions as a crucial element in democratic, civic and intellectual life. This is particularly so in the current circumstances of saturation government and corporate spin and the narrowing of the channels of media information. Through its language of sign, symbol and metaphor, it can, with some impunity, question the prevailing values that ruling elites manipulate to maintain power – patriotism, religion, ‘the market’, identity (racial, cultural) etc.

One of the effects of the semantic dissolve of culture, the arts and ‘Art’, (Goering post 25-10-06) is to “decommission” ‘Art’ while keeping “the arts” – to eliminate those culturally and politically uncomfortable, antisocial aspects of ‘Art’.
Perhaps it was ‘Art’ that got Goering’s goat; culture was not the target.

At the local level it is convenient for culture activists to base support for culture on instrumental grounds, not on ‘Art’s’ intrinsic value and its freedom to express, criticise, contest and interrogate. However the danger is that is easier to close cultural programmes (the arts and ‘Art’) on grounds of cost effectiveness, than to directly argue for the closure of critical debate about our politics and values, which is possible when there is no articulation of the differences.

Or you can foreclose: “Council is concerned that the Culture that develops in Gosford reflects our values and is never in conflict with them.” (Gosford City Cultural Plan – Action Plan.)

Or if you prefer Counter Culture: “In collaboration with Space Furniture, CounterArt is offering artists an opportunity to exhibit their work within its new gallery space in Sydney.” The cultural revolution meets retail values at a store near you in time for Christmas.

Another parting shot from the Browning: Robert this time.

“Tis you speak, that’s your error. Song’s our art:
Whereas you please to speak these naked thoughts
Instead of draping them in sights and sounds.
– True thoughts, good thoughts, thoughts fit to treasure up!
But why such long prolusion and display
Such turning and adjustment of the harp,
And taking it upon your breast, at length,
Only to speak dry words across its strings?
Stark-naked thought is in request enough:……”
From Transcendentalism, a poem in twelve books.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Goering got it Wrong

Goering got it Wrong

Goering is said to have been fond of saying, When I hear the word 'culture' I reach for my gun. The original line, "When I hear "culture" I release the safety catch on my Browning!", comes from Hanns Johst’s play Schlageter performed in 1933 for Hitler’s birthday.
What was it that worried the second-in-command of yet another of histories book-burning repressive regimes? What was the threat from culture?

We tend these days to semantically dissolve Culture, the Arts and Art into an expedient mess from which no useful conceptual or strategic model can be constructed. Add to this mix, recreation, and sport (NSW Dept. of the Arts Recreation and Sport, Rod Kemp Minister for the Arts and Sport, in the UK, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, etc.) and it is no wonder that it is difficult to make a public case for specific planning measures, and difficult to see what was spooking Goering.

“By ‘culture’, Goering probably meant the old literary civilisation typified by Goethe and Schiller rather than opera houses and galleries, but it's difficult to be sure because the semantics of "culture" are even more complex than those of "the arts". Nowadays the word has pretty much lost its original sense of "a process of nurtured development" and operates under several levels of meaning, all of them vague.

The sloppiest modern usage makes "culture" synonymous with "the arts"… several efforts have been made to find a new vocabulary that dissolves the entailed misconceptions. The result is that the use of the words "the arts" and "culture" is fading: instead, we've come up with the peculiar bastardised notion of "multiculturalism" and more neutral terms such as "recreation" or "leisure activity" (a phrase that comes close to self-contradiction).
The latest Blair-approved wheezes are "creative industry" and "creative partnership" - Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell recently prophesied, in an unfortunate image, "an avalanche of creativity". Scratch at the agenda there, and you find an implication that 'the Arts' need to get off their backside, stop relying on public money and engage with commercial imperatives.

And that, inexorably, is the way that things are going. The arts can only be justified if they feed into some great pumping-station of urban regeneration. Culture is no longer a matter of a lifetime of slow, meditative looking, reading and listening - it's gone ‘fast-food’.” Extract from the UK Daily Telegraph.

Nasi Goering - Pop Culture, Pop Art.

The following ‘mission statement' is a good example of the institutionalisation of this confusion between culture and the arts, and most significantly, of the complete omission of Art, as a distinct conceptual entity.

Making the Case for Culture.
"Culture or 'the arts' takes on many forms: painting, writing, quilting, pottery, museums, landmarks, sculptures, landscapes, streetscapes, memorials, sport. It is a way for individuals and communities to express and engage themselves with family, friends, and their neighbourhoods, their communities. Culture can be used to renew or revitalize municipalities, regions, even a country. It can build community identity and pride, strengthen bonds, improve quality of life on all socioeconomic levels, and engage children and youth in education and their environment. Culture can be the catalyst for positive change, engaging all ages and communities. Diversity can be embraced through culture, building trust and understanding. And culture can act as the economic engine that drives municipalities toward growth and prosperity."

I reach for my Browning….

"Revolving pistols are ingenious things,
But prudent men (Academicians are)
Scarce keep them in the cupboard next the prunes"

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who also wrote in the same poem Aurora Leigh:

"While Art
Sets action on top of suffering:
The artist’s part is both to be and do,
Transfixing with a special, central power
The flat experience of the common man,
And turning outward, with a sudden wrench,
Half agony, half ecstasy, the thing
He feels the inmost, - never felt the less
Because he sings it."

As artists we need to be able to articulate what it is that distinguishes Art from “the arts”, what makes it a unique aspect of culture (And why it worried Goering).

More in a later post…"the wife likes that sort of thing".

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Elizabeth Wright

Another young emerging artist to watch, not just as an artist, but as an individual determined to contribute to the development of contemporary art on the Central Coast.

Elizabeth’s work is currently to be seen at Watt Space, Newcastle, in Fractured Beat II, an exhibition with Suzanne Robertson, until the 29th of October. She is an active member of the Reading Room Project in Gosford, as well as completing the 3rd year of a Fine Arts Degree at the University of Newcastle, Ourimbah.

Someone once said of athletics that to achieve your best you
had to push yourself beyond your limits -– and continue to hold your form. This, if applied to art, would sound like the subjective experience of the creative process as described by many artists. Perhaps art and sport are not as far apart as is sometimes supposed.

Elizabeth competed in the Paralympic Games at Atlanta in 1996, where she won bronze in the 50m Butterfly, and in Sydney in 2000 where she won a Silver and a Bronze medal. Silver for the 400m freestyle and Bronze for the 4X50m freestyle relay. She had a large program, competing in 7 events, making 5 finals and breaking 5 national records.
She has held the100m Butterfly world record (classification s6) and the
national 50m Butterfly, 100m Butterfly, 100m Backstroke, 200m Backstroke records.
On top of her impressive sporting achievement she took on civic duties as an Australia Day Ambassador in 2000, and has been an Australia Day Ambassador for the towns/cities of Gosford, Ryde, and Narromine.

After ‘Ourimbah’, Elizabeth intends to undertake postgraduate study in Australia and overseas. Fortunately for us, one of her goals is “to create an Artists Run Gallery on the Central Coast to enable contemporary artists to exhibit within a space that encourages experimental art practices.” If past achievements are any guide, we can confidently await our invitations to the opening.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Fest or Famine: Gosford Art Culture

It is perhaps not surprising to find in the Central Coast Regional Strategy document that art and culture are treated as minor considerations. Inevitably this reflects the planning process as well as the underlying ideology and imbedded values of the planners.

The process inevitably privileges the voices of the influential and powerful (particular, in these Howard years, the business lobby). To the extent that local government had input, it would have reflected Vision 20/25 where art and culture are ranked as low priority.

No news so far.

Artists are, always have been and always will be, a very small percentage of the population, in spite of which their presence and products are taken as defining elements of cultural identity and pride, be that at a local or national level.

Consider than a paradigm shift; a recognition that provision of cultural services is not only a basic service, but also one of central significance to the community. It has taken yet another drought to begin to shift ecology to the centre of economic planning – what will it take to change the paradigm in social planning to position art and culture at the centre, as the touchstone for other planning strategies.

If we don’t have water the economy shrivels. If we don’t have art, the mind and soul are dry and stunted. You cannot live without water – but life unenriched by art and culture is only partly lived. Or as Socrates said, a life unexamined is not worth living.

The Road Ahead

In the fields of social and economic planning, in relation to arts and culture, there are two prevailing and overlapping “instrumental” views.

The first is identified with Richard Florida (The Rise of the Creative Class) who argues, largely from an economic perspective, that when Regional Cities provide the necessary cultural resources (art, music, youth culture, theatre and performance, libraries, museums and multicultural life) and environmental circumstances (clean and green recreation spaces) to attract the Creative Class, they benefit from increased economic development beyond that delivered by tax incentives, subsidised real-estate, and the other usual business “incentives”. Members of the “creative class” are those whom Andrew West (Lifestyles of the Rich and Tasteful) would categorise as young “Culturists” in the Australian context.

The second comes from the creative industries and art-for-well-being lobby. ‘Creative Industries” (creative nation, creative hubs, creative…., etc.) takes an industry approach with all the standard language that assumes integration and meshing with business, law and government agencies. It is an approach taken by NAVA (with great benefit to art workers) and, with irony one must say, by the Howard government whose promised increased funding to Ozco is intended to advance the relationship between artists and the commercial sector and also to move funding responsibility from government to corporate players through art/business partnerships at the big end of art town.

What has been outlined so far, albeit in simplified terms, is the instrumental view of culture as opposed to a view that regards art and culture as having intrinsic value. The instrumental conception is one that appeals to the managerial types, bureaucrats and politicians, who can use economic rationale to justify expenditure on the arts, which is helpful, or to justify little or no expenditure on the grounds that the economic benefits claimed cannot be statistically demonstrated. Art commentators like Andrew Brighton and John Carey (What Good are the Arts) support this critique of the instrumental value of art and culture.

Both these writers contest the instrumental “social well being” justification for improved support for the arts, such as that made recently by Regional Arts NSW in its submission to the Draft NSW State Plan, Plan Ahead. Their submission is a good one and should be endorsed.

One can understand why art and culture advocates employ the language of community development, i.e. enhancement of tourism, local identity and education, building of self esteem in youth, indigenous, disadvantaged and multicultural groups, and creating social well-being (what ever that means). This is the language that allows elected representatives and their minions to articulate the benefits they have delivered to the people. (Such as a music fest, a garden fest, a poetry fest, a writer’s fest, a coast fest, an art fest – I am reminded of that imaginary island where everyone made a living by taking in each others washing.)

Perhaps we should get serious about spending on infrastructure for the rest of the year. Investing in sustainable primary cultural production.

Town centre - hotel, council chambers, court house, police station, funeral parlour and School of Arts.

“The Culture Wars”
This term comes from a debate in the US a few years ago about how, why and to what effect, art and culture function in community and national affairs. Similar processes of re-evaluation have been taking place in a number of countries. The discussion paper for the National Review of Visual Education in Australia collates some of these ideas, and they are examined by a number of writers in Double Dialogue’s Culture Wars: Art and Industry.
as well as in papers given at the Speculation and Innovation (SPIN) conference hosted by the Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology.
In the US, the Center for Arts and Culture produced a useful paper: Creativity Culture and the Workforce and the Rand Corporation produced the rigorous and encompassing Gifts of the Muse: Reframing the Debate About the benefits of the Arts.

We live in an increasingly global (art) culture, and these debates, conferences and papers provide the background for decisions that need to made about the future of contemporary art and culture on the Central Coast, and as such are vital to Regional Strategic Planning.

Ann Daly, in Beyond Richard Florida: A Cultural Sector of Our Own, points to important shifts in the way artists’ organizations are structuring themselves, and an emerging trend away from the arts-in-the-service-of …., philosophy, towards a practice where art is regarded as an unfolding of understanding, insight and vision, centred on the artists themselves. Grant Kester (check brown’s Cows website for references), more than ten years ago, was talking about the link in the US between the rise of socially engaged art and a shifting of government and corporate funding away from the National Endowment for the Arts and toward social welfare programs. Perhaps the lure of lucre was illusory and artists are returning to a wish to control their own creative agendas.

Perhaps this return could be seen as a reclaiming of the intrinsic values of art and culture as detailed in the Gift of the Muse report; a celebration of the individual, poetic, dissident and imaginative dimensions, and a recognition of the limitations of the economic rationalist model as applied to the humanities.

This position understands art as one of the last domains of freedom, and therefore one that must set its own objectives if it is to remain so.
In fact it is that freedom that most defines art in a world increasingly in thrall to spin and the corporate control of media. It is the power not to speak in the language of conventional paradigms, to posit sometimes bizarre, confronting and absurd alternatives, that give art its power to enlighten, inspire or critique.

There are lessons to be learned from many societies facing the future in similar ways to us. From Finland, Marketta Seppälä writes in New Value for Creativity. “Right now, when there is an urgent need for investment in creativity and culture, the preconditions for the creation of anything new – experimental thought and action that transcend boundaries – should be especially safeguarded. There should be resources to support things that do not yet exist. The making of art also has to be allowed to be unsystematic and unprofitable in order to be able to punch holes in the doctrines that surround us, and to investigate divergent paths of thought in order to see where they lead. The importance of creativity ultimately reveals itself specifically in the important questions that art asks about the foundations of the ideology and the collective moral foundations of our age.” Full text at:

“Resources to support things that do not yet exist.”
The challenge then is to plan for the unknown; to plan with vision and faith in what the arts and culture bring to human experience.

Early Contemporary Interdisciplinary Art Space

B&W picture references: Old Gosford and District in Pictures, Gwen Dundon.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Urban Infestation

At a time when planning strategies for Gosford and the region are being developed, involving different levels of government, theories and practices from a variety of disciplines can perhaps offer useful perspectives on the process.

The following extracts will be familiar to Reading Room Project artists, and might provoke some ideas more generally. They have served to define the starting point for an art event in development.

Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of smooth and striated space, as outlined below, has application to living in the result of past regional planning strategies, which resulted in a meandering, horizontal and dispersed geography. They have also produced commercial and retail real-estate outcomes in the CBD akin to that of the Israeli military in Lebanon.

The first extract is by Eyal Weizman, an architect, writer and Director of Goldsmith's College Centre for Research Architecture. In this article he looks at the use of Deleuze and Guattari by military planners.

“The reading lists of contemporary military institutions include works from around 1968 (with a special emphasis on the writings of Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari and Guy Debord), as well as more contemporary writings on urbanism, psychology, cybernetics, post-colonial and post-Structuralist theory. If, as some writers claim, the space for criticality has withered away in late 20th-century capitalist culture, it seems now to have found a place to flourish in the military.

(Naveh, Israeli commander, in conversation with Weizman) ‘This is why that we opted for the methodology of moving through walls. . . . Like a worm that eats its way forward, emerging at points and then disappearing. I said to my troops, "Friends! If until now you were used to move along roads and sidewalks, forget it! From now on we all walk through walls!’

This form of movement, described by the military as 'infestation', seeks to redefine inside as outside, and domestic interiors as thoroughfares. The IDF's strategy of 'walking through walls' involves a conception of the city as not just the site but also the very medium of warfare a flexible, almost liquid medium that is forever contingent and in flux.

I asked Naveh why Deleuze and Guattari were so popular with the Israeli military. He replied that, 'several of the concepts in A Thousand Plateaux became instrumental for us allowing us to explain contemporary situations in a way that we could not have otherwise. It problematized our own paradigms. Most important was the distinction they have pointed out between the concepts of "smooth" and "striated" space [which accordingly reflect] the organizational
concepts of the "war machine" and the "state apparatus". In the IDF we now often use the term "to smooth out space" when we want to refer to operation in a space as if it had no borders.

In addition to these theoretical positions, Naveh references such canonical elements of urban theory as the Situationist practices of dérive (a method of drifting through a city based on what the Situationists referred to as 'psycho-geography') and détournement (the adaptation of abandoned buildings for purposes other than those they were designed to perform). These ideas were, of course, conceived by Guy Debord and other members of the Situationist International to challenge the built hierarchy of the capitalist city and break down distinctions between private and public, inside and outside, use and function, replacing private space with a 'borderless' public surface.”

Full text at:

The next extract explains Debord’s idea of the dérive and draws attention to the psychological dimension of geography as it is lived.
Theory of the Dérive - Guy Debord, Les Lèvres Nues #9 (November 1956)

“One of the basic situationist practices is the dérive [literally: “drifting”], a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.
In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones.
But the dérive includes both this letting-go and its necessary contradiction: the domination of psychogeographical variations by the knowledge and calculation of their possibilities. In this latter regard, ecological science — despite the narrow social space to which it limits itself — provides psychogeography with abundant data.
The ecological analysis of the absolute or relative character of fissures in the urban network, of the role of microclimates, of distinct neighborhoods with no relation to administrative boundaries, and above all of the dominating action of centers of attraction, must be utilized and completed by psychogeographical methods. The objective passional terrain of the dérive must be defined in accordance both with its own logic and with its relations with social morphology.”

Full text at:

The final extract is from Nomad Art by Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaux.

“Several notions, both practical and theoretical, are suitable for defining nomad art and its successors (barbarian, gothic and modern). In the first place, "close-range" vision as distinguished from long-range vision; second, "tactile", or rather "haptic" space as distinguished from optical space. "Haptic" is a better word than "tactile", since it does not establish an opposition between two sense organs, but invites the assumption that the eye itself may fulfil this non-optical function. It was Alois Riegl who, in some marvellous pages, gave fundamental aesthetic status to the couple close vision-haptic space. For the moment, however, we should set aside the criteria proposed by Riegl, Wilhelm Worringer and more recently Henri Maldiney, and take some risks ourselves, making free use of these notions. It seems to us that smooth space (a) is both the object of a close vision par excellence and the element of a haptic space (which may be visual or auditory as much as tactile). Striated space, on the contrary, relates to a more distant vision and a more optical space, even though the eye is not the only organ to have this capacity. Once again, as always, this analysis must be corrected by a coefficient of transformation according to which movements between striated and smooth are at once necessary and uncertain, hence all the more disruptive.

The opposition between striated and smooth space is not simply that between the global and the local. For in the one case the global is still relative, whereas in the other the local is already absolute. Where there is close vision, space is not visual, or rather the eye itself has a haptic, non-optical function: no line separates earth from sky, which are of the same substance; neither is there any horizon, background, perspective, limit, outline or form, or centre; there is no intermediary distance, or all distance is intermediary.


a. Smooth space is "an open space throughout which thing-flows are distributed, rather than (...) a closed space for linear and solid things. II is a vectorial projective or topological space" as opposed to a "metric space: in the first case 'space is occupied without being counted'. while in the second case ‘space is counted in order to he occupied ( ...) Sedentary space is striated, by walls, enclosures and roads between enclosures, while nomad space is smooth, marked only by 'traits' that are effaced and displaced with the trajectory (...) Every point is a relay and exists only as a relay (...), the in-between has taken on all the consistency ." (Mille plateaux, Ch. 12, pp. 447 and 471)

b. "The nomad, nomad space, is localised and not delimited. What is both limited and limiting is striated space, the relative global: it is limited in its parts, which are assigned constant directions, oriented in relation to one another, divisible by boundaries, and can be interconnected. What is limiting (...) is this totality in relation to the smooth spaces it 'contains“, the growth of which it slows or prevents, and which it restricts or places outside. Even when the nomad suffers its effects, he does not assume this relatively global character, where one passes from one point to another, from one region to another. Rather, he is in a local absolute', an absolute that is manifested locally, and engendered in a series of local operations of varying orientation." (p. 474)

c. "The nomad distributes himself in a smooth space, he occupies, inhabits, holds that space. This is his territorial principle. It is therefore false lo define the nomad by movement. Toynbee is profoundly right to suggest that the nomad is on the contrary he who does not move. Whereas the migrant leaves behind a milieu that has become amorphous or hostile, the nomad is one who clings to the smooth space left behind by the receding forest, where the steppe or desert advance." (p. 472)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Welcome David Barton.

Back Page welcomes David Barton.

Although he has been based in Australia on the Central Coast for some time, we welcome his contribution to local dialogue in the form of a recent comment to our posted invitation to review the Gosford Art Prize.

Your Place or Mine. Sitings exhibition. Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada.

David is originally from England and has lived and worked as an artist in a number of countries before coming to Australia to work on a new project. Although an interdisciplinary artist, he is best known for performance, text-based work and book art.

Homage to Cornelia Lumsden (Detail) Surrey Art Gallery, Canada.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

eO inc.

Ed. -Posting received from eO inc.

Elizabeth Wright. col-aberration exhibition Gosford, May 2006.

eO inc. is a Central Coast Contemporary Arts Initiative which strives to promote and profile Central Coast Artists by providing regular exhibition opportunities.

Betty Saez. col-aberration exhibition Gosford, May 2006.

New members welcome.

Sharyn Walker. Watt Space exhibition, Newcastle.

Announcing: Exciting Exhibition Opportunity

We are seeking current, returning and new members for our March 2007 exhibition at the
New View Gallery, Newtown.

Fiona Doyle (painting) and Peter Morris (sculpture)
f3Xit exhibition NSW Parliament House, November 2005.

For further details, please contact Sharyn Walker at:

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Sculpture in the Vineyards

From the North West Frontier of the Central Coast: Wollombi.

Sculpture in the Vineyards

7th October to 7th December, 2006.

Title: Drop
Materials: Beeswax, pond, water plants, water, trees.

Juliet Fowler-Smith puts finishing touches to part of her installation.

"I have made many visits to Cedar Creek over the past months while also working on a model of a small, cupped, human hand cast in beeswax. This is a development on from work made in South Korea for the Nine Dragon Heads International Art symposium in 2005. Ideas to do with vulnerability and needs arose when thinking about responses to the natural environment in this earlier installation.
From these beginnings the work has developed site specifically at Cedar Creek. Scarce water resources, creek plant life (and invasive weeds), the never-ending sensitivity to the weather and rain or no rain, are ideas that I have played with for this work. My particular sensitivity to this site is linked to a lifelong relationship with the Hunter region, and in particular the Williams river valley, Dungog, the site of a proposed dam."

Juliet Fowler Smith

Juliet has been involved with a number of Central Coast art events.She was a Co-director of the Dawn Light Symposium, 2005, worked with Sculpture by the Bay (Gosford Regional Gallery), participated in Eco-poetics, 1998, and Dog Trap Road Biennale, 2000, (Somersby) and “Duck”, 1997, (Mangrove Mountain and Wyong) as a member of Synapse Art Initiatives, and is currently a participant in the Reading Room Project: 0, centred in gosford.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Never Mind the Art, Look at the Catalogue.

The exhibition is over. The artists have gone. We have some memories and reflections.
But if we want to remind ourselves about the work, revisit the artist’s commentary about their way of working, consider again the concepts, ideas and issues in their work, read about the curatorial intention, consider including the artist in another exhibition, we look to the catalogue. Also the catalogue is an important resource for the viewing public attending an exhibition, to give them greater insight into the meaning of works exhibited.
NAVA stresses the importance to the artist of the exhibition catalogue as a way of promoting their professional profile. Artists rely on receiving a professionally produced catalogue from their exhibition as supporting material in applying for grants, employment, further exhibitions etc.
It is now over a year since the end of the Dawn Light Symposium at the Gosford Regional Gallery, and a year since the catalogue was due to be available to the public, and participating artists.
We are still waiting, and the artists are not at all pleased.
For all the artists, particularly those who came from Japan, Korea, New Zealand and China, participating in Gosford cost them considerable amounts of money.
Artists subsidise public events like Dawn Light from their own resources. Ephemeral site-specific installations are not part of the retail system, they are to a large extent a gift to the community.
The least we can do is make sure that they receive a catalogue that they can use in the development of their practice.

Oh where, Oh where, has my catalogue gone.

Review the Gosford Art Prize

Any motivated or aspiring exhibition reviewers out there?

Give the artists some feedback, or tell us why you should have won.
Post your review in ‘comments’ to this posting or email to Back Page editor.

Gosford Art Prize: The Game is the Winner

Gosford Art Prize: The game is the winner.

Depending of course which game you are on.

Art Prize Exhibitions.
They are a strange and proliferating phenomenon. They put bums on seats and give the appearance of giving the public what it wants – always a politically savvy manoeuvre. They are cheap to run – artists pay to enter, they are not paid artists fees, and often the cash for prizes comes from sponsorship, private foundations and trusts.

But what do they have to do with exhibiting best practice in art? Is this an objective?

The GAP (The Gosford Art Prize) this year has no video, installation, performance, IT or time based work, non-gallery practice, sound etc.. This is not to say that it should, but that it should perhaps indicate clearly that GAP is for art in traditional media, and in traditional media specific categories.

It encourages a perception of what the main game is, cash for craft. This is not helpful to young artists or to local decision makers who need to recognise that it is through encouraging innovative, strange and sometimes socially abrasive new forms, that we enliven local creative culture. If you make work of this kind, don’t bother running for the gravy train. Mind the GAP.

With the demise of the Australian Sculpture Prize there has been some discussion of the appropriateness of a “winners and losers” model for generating excellence in the arts. Witness the Oscars; and we know from the recent League Grand Final that the referee decides the results. The game must be the winner.
No one doubts the success of “The Prize” as popular entertainment.

Ron Radford’s decision to end the Sculpture Prize was supported by last years winner, who in an a recent ABC interview, said that despite his pleasure with the cash in winning, he thought the greatest attraction for him in entering was to have his work seen by more people. We might ask, which people, and whether the prize money might not have been better spent in presenting more exhibitions and therefore more exposure for more artists.

There is an interesting nexus, a comfortable collusion, between the big “block-buster” competition and the big end of town.

But they are popular, they bring in the punters, attract a huge number of entries, and engage a great deal of community support. The extra sponsorship of GAP this year by Sharpe Brothers was terrific – including the Roadworkers Prize. They set a great example for other businesses.

I do congratulate those artists, including the prize-winners, whose many works were very professionally executed. There was only time for a quick survey at the opening so we will return.

The comments here are about the role of art competition prize exhibitions in the field of art practice and not meant to disregard the undoubted passion, commitment and skill of the artists shown.

Maybe there is something in the water locally. Councillor Holstein commented at the opening that the region had so much creativity and talent because of our beautiful environment. Don’t know how they manage to do so well in New York.

Alternatively, perhaps it is the seduction of the environment, or the absence of anything else, which we need to contend with in developing an art that is conceptually rigorous in the context of emergent contemporary art issues. Anyway the water is almost gone.

Some extracts from Art Life follow – see the link for the full version.

“The prize giving season is the art world's eqivalent to a family Xmas. First the presents, then the booze, then the drunken recriminations then a long silence until next year. Part of this annual art world ritual is to celebrate the winners before turning on them like a pack of savages. Perhaps it's the knowledge that they are the ones that get to leave Australia - a country where any minute now we'll be forced to sign loyalty oaths, where everything will be owned by just one or two companies, where everything that was once ours has been sold back to us and we're expected to say thank you sir, may we have another... The artists get to leave, see how they do it overseas and maybe not ever come back.

Art World FAQs # 2 – Bad Art

What is ‘bad art’?

Bad art is literally art that is bad. Easy, you say, I know what bad is – but do you? There are eight identifiable types of bad art and it pays to know what’s what.

1. Competition Art. The most easily defined type of bad art, Competition Art is found in many different areas of the art world from humble shows in your local church hall right up to and including media saturated events such as the Archibald Portrait prize. Competition Art is easily spotted due to the artist’s complete lack of traditional skills like the ability to draw hands, master perspective or apply the paint. Typical examples of lower end Comp Art feature trad still-lifes, landscapes and horribly misjudged portraits. At the other end of the scale bad art is often veiled by the artist’s own celebrity, early career or better work, but even the so-called professionals turn out some horrible crap.”