“We have no need of other worlds. We need mirrors. We don’t know what to do with other worlds. A single world, our own, suffices us; but we can’t accept it for what it is.”
― Stanisław Lem, Solaris
We are part of a system in distress. Our relationship with our planet is toxic and our geopolitical position is unsustainable, even indefensible. Point the telescope closer to home and the ecology of our art world also is threatened – with organisations being slowly starved of resources while artists continue to produce for a neoliberal machine that does not serve their interests. If people didn’t feel it before, it is now overt and recognisable. This is the context in which we attempt to examine the interface where systems and subjects meet and interact in this 30th issue of Runway (in collaboration with SafARI), through the theme of Ecologies.
SafARI has adapted in recent years from a simple mirror of emerging practice to become a fully-fledged speculative examination of the state of being an artist in Australia. So it is unfortunate, in a way, that SafARI has chosen to plant itself in the airless spaces between Art Month Sydney and the Biennale, because it is robust enough to have earned its own place in the landscape. One senses, though, that SafARI artists don’t mind being swallowed up; consumed by the buzz and frivolity of the activity happening around it. They are happy to be left alone; burrowing into spaces that are inhabited and not, very much grounded in an examination of the here and now.
Runway, as the official online venue for SafARI 2016, has become host to two new artworks as part of the festival, one a digital immersive environment by Canberra collaborators Danny Wilde and Grace Blake and the other a fast-refresh experience of the gaps in language by Melbourne artist Jesse Dyer. In addition, we present a critical stance on several works from the SafARI program, including Peter Nelson’s ur-gallery project Grottspace and Angela Garrick’s Weather Vent.
While the issue includes a series of online environments, these are not an escape from the now; they are instead embedding the experience of the everyday in new formats. There is a gentle awareness of time passing with the ephemeral botanical works of Leahlani Johnson and the quiet, domestic repetitions of Z.O’Mahoney’s new video work. There is time mourned in an obituary to the recently closed ARCHIVE_ by Luke Letourneau & Rebecca Gallo and Justin Balmain’s To Lose Focus, which like Julian Day’s reflections on collaboration in his project Super Critical Mass, also traverse the complex terrain of building and sustaining an artistic community. There is a mapping of waste and irrelevance with Tessa Rex’s Deep Web Inter-Trash and the trash-talk examination of the role of the live art laboratory with Mish Grigor & Malcolm Whittaker. Other essays in this issue offer examinations of worlds in collapse or in need of new foundations, with new writing by Natasha Matila-Smith, Tessa Zettel and Sumugan Sivanesan, defying the accepted logic of the systems we’ve engineered for ourselves. Finally, a new blog series published over the coming weeks will extend a dialogue on our own ecology – the ever-precarious world of the artist-run initiative – from the perspective of correspondents around the country.
So before we go searching for other worlds, it is worth examining the richness and rottenness of our relationships with our own. We thank Louise Dibben and Sophie Kitson, co-curators of SafARI, for their conversation and enthusiasm, and for creating such a fertile ground for this issue.
Connie Anthes & Eleanor Zeichner
Connie Anthes is a multi-disciplinary artist currently based in Sydney. She makes paintings, objects and installations that investigate the mechanics of vision and spatial experience,...
Eleanor Zeichner is a writer interested in the intersections of performance, fiction and visual arts practice. She is currently Assistant Curator of UTS Gallery. From 2013-14...