Emergency Display

by Alex Wisser

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artists” Alex Wisser, Coza Thomas, Gary Smith, Georgie Pollard, Goran Tomic, Jeff Hamilton, Kate Mackay, Ken Simpson, Kristine McCarroll, Kurt Sorensen, Lena Obergfell, Luke Nguyen, Melanie Foster, Michelle Cao, Patricia Mado, Peter Fyfe, Peter Mcguiness, Rachael Everitt, Rene Sinkjaer, Renee Falez, Sarah Breen Lovett, Sarah Nolan, Tom Loveday, Yang-En Hume, Zoe Johnson
AT THE VANISHING POINT — CONTEMPORARY ART
565 King st. Newtown
20 May to 30 May
Open­ing 6:00pm Thu 20 May

The emer­gent in art is usu­ally con­sid­ered in terms of indi­vid­ual tal­ent or intel­lec­tual and aes­thetic trends. Emer­gency Dis­play instead attempts to sur­vey and remark upon a region of our city that seems to be emerg­ing as an impor­tant locus for the pro­duc­tion and exhi­bi­tion of con­tem­po­rary art: The Inner West.  The con­di­tions for such an emer­gence are first eco­nomic.  Such a dis­trict must be afford­able for artists to live and work in.  Much else must hap­pen, but first the mate­r­ial fact of hav­ing a roof over one’s head must be seen to.  To per­vert Brecht inex­cus­ably, shel­ter first, then art.  This is what hap­pened in Sydney’s East­ern sub­urbs in the 80s and 90s, as it has hap­pened in var­i­ous neigh­bor­hoods in the major cities of the world.   Per­haps the scale of com­par­i­son is larger than I should like, for I am not inter­ested in com­par­ing Sydney’s Inner West to Soho or Mont­martre, but have in mind a far more hum­ble hypoth­e­sis:  That the mate­r­ial con­di­tions for the emer­gence of such a dis­trict, make pos­si­ble cer­tain poten­tials for devel­op­ment, inven­tion, and risk tak­ing in art.

The imme­di­ate advan­tages of such an envi­ron­ment are already well known.  The con­gre­ga­tion of a large and diverse com­mu­nity of artists liv­ing and work­ing in rel­a­tive prox­im­ity makes pos­si­ble oppor­tu­ni­ties for col­lec­tive action, dia­logue, and com­mon dis­cov­ery and devel­op­ment.  There is another advan­tage though, one which is less com­mented on.  The appear­ance of such a com­mu­nity pro­vides a con­text for art pro­duc­tion that acts as an alter­na­tive to the art world of com­mer­cial gal­leries, offi­cial acad­e­mies, and tra­di­tional, estab­lish­ment insti­tu­tions.  Within it, artists are free to make work that does not need to take into imme­di­ate con­sid­er­a­tion the social, cul­tural, or eco­nomic neces­si­ties that dom­i­nate the Art World.    Dis­card­ing the worldly con­sid­er­a­tions of mar­ket, career, and even art his­tory and the­ory, the artist is free to explore those val­ues con­sid­ered neg­a­tive to the exist­ing order.  In a sense it detaches itself from the given, from what’s already estab­lished and makes room for alter­na­tive aes­thetic and con­cep­tual orders.  The only impor­tant judge of the work is other artists, who prize hon­esty, courage, and inven­tion over sal­a­bil­ity or rel­e­vance. The artist is free to take risks that muse­ums and estab­lished com­mer­cial gal­leries could not con­done — mostly because of the mas­sive weight of eco­nomic, his­tor­i­cal, and cul­tural cap­i­tal invested in them.

This show is not meant to declare the emer­gence of the next great phase in mod­ern art, but only to cel­e­brate the par­tic­u­lar fecun­dity that we are expe­ri­enc­ing in Sydney’s Inner West — to note its sin­gu­lar­ity and if pos­si­ble to raise its pro­file, to remark upon it with the hope of mak­ing it that lit­tle bit more coher­ent to itself and to the rest of what we call the art world.  The per­cent­ages will remain the same.  A few artists will make it into the gal­leries and on to the museum.  Many will quit and work in adver­tis­ing or tele­vi­sion and oth­ers will per­sist qui­etly in their spare bed­rooms, in the garage or in the shed, occa­sion­ally show­ing here or there to an audi­ence of friends and fel­low trav­el­ers.  After all, we aren’t really talk­ing about a place, but a time.  And if all indi­ca­tors are cor­rect, soon even Mar­rickville and New­town will be too expen­sive for the artist to live in.  The com­mer­cial gal­leries and the estab­lish­ment insti­tu­tions are already here.  Soon, the artists will pick up and move West to Can­ter­bury per­haps or Bur­wood, or Strath­field.  Wher­ever the rents aren’t too expen­sive and the ware­house space is plen­ti­ful.  But that is the future.

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