Over at CLUBSproject, which I reckon is the most exciting gallery project in Australia right now, they're doing mcultipleMISCELLANEOUSalliances (mMa) – "a series of collaborative events, objects, actions, activities, documentation and information by and between people whose practices construct, explore, and enact multiple social relations." It's a mouthful, but basically we're talking artists who want to use the gallery as a "venue" rather than as a pristine display case.
CLUBS has a great deal going with the Builder's Arms Hotel in Fitzroy, where they get to use a few large, rough rooms above the pub for free – and rather than just renting them out for "static exhibitions" the committee consistently offers the space up for events which allow playful and dynamic interaction, often with an accessible and lo-fi approach. Damien, a veteran artist and activist who I met during mMa, commented that CLUBS was moving towards the kind of model a "Social Centre" aspires to [for more on social centres, see http://scan.cat.org.au] – and that it was exhilirating to see artists embracing this very progressive form of organising.
Damien and I got stuck into Splint, a kind of organic meccano set made by Jason Mailing and Torie Nimmervoll. At first we sniffed around it, not knowing what to do (like most projects at CLUBS, no explicit "instructions" are offered) – but soon enough we were diving into the metal cases for the hand-carved wooden stakes and beautifully-smelling sisal ropes, and attempting to make our own "billy-cart".
I can't speak highly enough about Splint – the playful, absorbing construction task kept us going for a few hours, and even when our makeshift vehicle ended up in the pits, with a tragically split-chassis, Mailing didn't chastise us – "I guess we'll retire that piece" he said with a shrug.
Cleverer than us were a duo of theatre designers who set about constructing a fully functional chair out of the versatile Splint kit, and even gave themselves the limitation of not using any knots! (Which famous architect said "It is harder to design a chair than a building"?)
One of the most intangible "products" of splint is the collaborative relationship which stealthily develops between the two or more "players" – and this was evident in the faces of the chair-makers as they tackled problem after problem with the utility of their ad-hoc furniture while not wanting to sacrifice their aesthetic decision to avoid knots.
Right next to Splint was CXXXXX's Breath piece – a fluxus-like task where friends were encouraged to step up to opposite sides of a piece of perspex projecting from the wall, and gently breathe condensation onto its surface. The sensation was intimate and confronting – the perspex allowing both participants to get very close to one another without quite touching – and some folks responded by utilising "distancing" strategies – laughing to break eye contact, or deliberately breathing onto the perspex away from the face of the other.
Also part of mMa:
-a vast repository of artists books, zines, articles and journals, set up in a comfy couchy carpeted space next to a ricketty photocopy machine.
-a re-creation of Azlan McClennan's censored artwork – complete with a planned forum to discuss the issues surrounding the work, on Sunday 4th July…
-an old Mac Classic set up so that visitors can log in their immediate responses and messages regarding the show (presumably these responses will be posted on the CLUBS website shortly)…
-documentation of The Laws Project by Damien and Kylie Wilkinson – this piece began with the distribution of hundreds of fridge magnets outlining the US government's INTERROGATION RULES OF ENGAGEMENT – rules which became apparent following the scandal surrounding the treatment of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers.
Wilkinson and … followed this up with a "re-enactment" (in Federation Square) of the famous photograph of the Iraqi prisoner balancing precariously with a black sack on his head.
-and there are DOZENS more projects coming up during the rest of the mMa…
The launch afternoon of mMa was jam-packed and chaotic. Soup was doled up as you walked in the door, and tea and coffee were constantly available for free. These humble, hospitable gestures may seem minor, but I don't doubt that they were as thoroughly discussed and orchestrated as any of the other elements of mMa.
[a tidied up version of this blog entry, focusing on the SPLINT project will appear in the upcoming SPINACH7 magazine…]
[ps – i have posted that article up online now. See here.]