One Way or Another | Artist self-organisation in New South Wales

One Way or Another | Artist self-organisation in New South Wales
| Friday 13 November, 11am – 5pm
Location | Artspace, Ground Floor


In April 2009, Artspace convened Spaces of Art, an international conference dedicated to exploring institutional and post-institutional curatorial and related practices in contemporary art. Although many conference participants came from academic and curatorial backgrounds, discussions consistently highlighted the vitality of artist-initiated projects and models of organisation, and their potential to offer embodied critique of more established institutions, both artistic and social.


Advancing these provocative discussions further, Artspace presents One Way or Another, a one-day symposium specifically focused on artist self-organisation in New South Wales, drawing its speakers exclusively from this sector. Through a series of open discussion sessions, One Way or Another will seek to elaborate a series of questions intended to critically frame discussion of historical and contemporary artist-driven organisational practices in the geographic, cultural and social context in which Artspace operates.


Three of the questions considered by Spaces of Art might function as useful points of departure. How relevant are current institutional models to artists? Does the assimilation of artist-initiated organisational practices by established institutions under the banner of ‘the new institutionalism’ represent a form of collusion with market forces and bureaucratic imperatives? And is it realistic to expect artistic institutions to function as the locus for a transformative practice, or is such activity better undertaken elsewhere?


From here a number of issues pertaining directly to artist-initiated activity might be further elaborated. Do artist organised projects offer possibilities to frame artistic practices differently to those offered by established institutions? Do artist-organised exhibitions and other projects necessarily conform to the administrative and functional category of curatorship, or are they more closely related to an expanded model of artistic practice? What benefits do the professionalisation and commercialisation of the artist-run initiative sector offer artists, and what are their pitfalls? If, as Nina Möntmann has proposed, the prerequisites for an institution are that it is collective and that it abides by an agreed set of rules, where does this leave artist-initiated activity, considered in both its ephemeral as well as long-term forms? Is there a relationship between forms of organisation and forms of practice? That is to say, do organisational structures affect the type of work they produce, or is there a more active and at times unstable relationship between the two? In a broader sense, what social relationships does self-organisation produce? What are its social implications? What are the challenges it has faced and currently faces?


Participants: Zanny Begg + Keg de Souza (artists; writers; co-curators, There Goes The Neighbourhood exhibition, residency and publishing project); Penelope Benton (artist; partner, The Red Rattler; resident artist Slit magazine and Gurlesque; manager, student association, COFA); Rebecca Conroy (artist; co-founder, Bill and George; associate director, Performance Space); Michael Dagostino (artist; curator; coordinator, Parramatta Artists Studios); Michaela Gleave (artist; board member, Runway; member, The Free Association; resident, Workshop Showroom); Billy Gruner (artist; curator; writer; founding member, SNO); Jaki Middleton (artist, collaborative practice with David Lawrey; managing editor, Runway); Mathew Poll (artist; assistant curator, Indigenous Museum Collections and the Repatriation Program, University of Sydney); Agatha Gothe-Snape (artist; co-founder, The Cosmic Battle For Your Heart); Lara Thoms (artist, one half of spat+loogie; curator; co-founder, Quarterbred); Alex White (artist; curator; co- director, Serial Space); Oliver Watts (artist; curator; director, Chalkhorse); Holly Williams (artist; assistant curator, UTS Gallery, UTS).

Convenors: Reuben Keehan, Kylie Johnson and Blair French