Spaced is an organisation that operates out of Perth and provides platforms for residencies, exchanges and new work to be undertaken in remote areas of Western Australia; linking the very best artists with these communities. Acting Director, Hannah Mathews talks to Alex Bellemore about the spaced projects.
Alex Bellemore: Can you explain the origins of the spaced program?
Hannah Mathews: The spaced program evolved from our previous operations under the name of IASKA, formerly International Art Space Kellerberrin Australia. IASKA was formed in 1998 by farmers and art professionals interested in exploring cultural identity through art. Until 2008 IASKA’s activities were mainly carried out in and around the small town of Kellerberrin, 210 kilometres east of Perth.
In 2009 IASKA relocated to Perth, re-launching ourselves as spaced. We are a non-profit organisation that runs an international program of visual arts/new media projects that are based on an in-depth engagement with specific local social and environmental situations. Our activities comprise artist residencies, context-specific projects, solo exhibitions, touring group exhibitions, publications, educational and mentoring programs. spaced brings together international and Australian artists with communities throughout Western Australia to explore the relationship between globalisation and local identity.
AB: What have been some successful outcomes to come out of spaced projects so far?
HM: Our inaugural spaced program, spaced: art out of place took place throughout 2009-11 and involved 21 Australian and international artists and 16 regional Western Australian communities. Spaced 2: future recall throughout 2013-14 follows on from the success of this inaugural event. A highlight of spaced: art out of place included: Roebourne – Sohan Ariel Hayes & Michael Woodley . In late 2010 Perth-based artist, Sohan Ariel Hayes, spent two months in Roebourne working with Michael Woodley from the Juluwarlu Aboriginal Corporation .
Hayes and Woodley worked closely together to create Birndi Wirndi – Worlds Apart, a projection work that aims to assist in sustaining the cultural struggle being experienced by the local Yindjibarndi community. Birndi Wirndi – Worlds Apart depicts the hearts, minds and spirits of the Yindjibarndi people who, although challenged by the enormous forces of WA’s mining boom, still stand strong. Birndi Wirndi was originally projected across the facade of Roebourne’s old Victoria Hotel. Closed in 2003 at the request of the local aboriginal community, the hotel had been a site where the excesses of the 1960s mining boom played out with terrible impact on the Roebourne community.
Sohan found this a life-changing experience. He felt strongly that he was creating work in a life and death situation – as at the time the community was negotiating a deal with FMG and others, the outcome of which would affect their resources and future.
300 people attended the final event, including locals and non-Aboriginal people. The response was overwhelming, concluding with stunned silence as the old Victoria Hotel came alive again. People wanted to see it again.
At this time, Roebourne was in fraught negotiations over significant mining agreements. At the conclusion of the showing, a community elder spoke to those attending affirming that the community would stick together.
AB: Can you expand upon the idea of collective memory which guides spaced 2: future recall? How does this differ from spaced: art out of place?
HM: The first spaced program, spaced: art out of place curatorial line focused on encouraging artists to create works informed by a dialogue with local residents aimed at exploring the relationship between globalization and local identity.
In many of the spaced: art out of place projects the idea of local memory and history as informing the present, particularly how residents within regional Western Australia think of themselves and the place they live today, resonated strongly in many of the final works produced.
This observation informed the curatorial focus for spaced 2: future recall which asks artists to consider the idea of collective memory as the source of competing narratives through which we create new visions of our communal present and future. The spaced 2 artists are seeking to engage with the many narratives that comprise a town’s history and identity and look at ways these various stories compete and complement each other, how they come together or occupy their own space, what they say about how and where we live.
AB: What is one of the projects that you are particularly looking forward to observing unfold in 2013-14?
HM: Southeast Asian artist, Jay Koh’ s residency in Cervantes in October will be shaped by his interactions with a diverse cross-section of locals and residents groups. Art-led, his participatory process of engagement will explore and reveal the multiple narratives and embedded interests that the various communities share within their collective memory. Koh seeks to explore the possibilities for collaborative futures that may emerge from these diverse and competing narratives. His encounters in the everyday will seek to explore commonality, similarity and differences; to understand the anxieties, interests, needs and hidden transcripts of the residents and stakeholders of the communities of Cervantes.
Jay Koh (Singapore/Germany) is an artist and curator whose multifaceted practice seeks responsive, dialogical and critical engagement with others. He believes that current dominant knowledge systems need to incorporate practice (knowledge acquired through everyday experience and social actions) and be centred more on relational and reciprocal exchanges between subjects in the process of developing meanings and actions.
Find out more about spaced 2: future recall