Every couple months, the KSCA gang come together for a sleepover at Ian Milliss’ house. Because we live across the state and communicate most often via electronic media, these sleepovers are a precious time for us to get together in veritable reality and remind each other that we are all still embodied beings and that for the most part we like each other. It also gives us an opportunity to look into the bellybuttons we all have on those bodies.
It was another great sleepover event with a lot of really rich conversation and discussion and some pretty tasty pizza and a couple drops of not bad wine to boot.
Gilbert Grace presented on The Sydney Green Ring, his long term ambitious proposal to connect 34 kilometers of green space and bicycle paths to create a single continuous, safe and beautiful bicycle path describing a circle through 13 council areas across Sydney.
If that sounds impossible, the good news is that 95% of the infrastructure is already in place and the work necessary would need to be in getting councils to cooperate in connecting and signposting the infrastructure already in place. This promotes the project into the realm of almost impossible, which is where KSCA seems to find itself at home.
We discussed a number of strategies about how we might begin the mammoth task of raising awareness and initiating momentum that might eventually build into something of the scale necessary to achieve such an ambitious undertaking. There were a number of suggestions that all held to the theme of ‘start small stupid’ – events and projects that might be achievable at strategic points along the green ring, in cooperation with one or two of the more ‘friendly’ councils and then use these to accrue support and generate discussion with councils and other levels of government etc.
There was also some discussion around how we might be able to gain access to certain movers and decision makers that are working toward a more unified approach to Sydney’s sprawling and disconnected infrastructure.
Behind or even in front of this discussion was another quite exciting conversation around KSCA adopting an infrastructure policy and advocating for placing an ‘artist’s’ perspective into infrastructure policy production. And you thought The Green Ring was ambitious. Its an exciting idea for a bunch of artists trying to escape the white cube and one that was much encouraged by the thorough and concise policy document that Gilbert had produced in preparation for our meeting. If you haven’t read the document yet, I’ve attached it for your policy document delectation.
Infrastructure Proposition brief
After that was some sleeping in preparation for the next day.
First on the agenda for the 2nd day was a mission statement for KSCA discussed over breakfast. We came up with a lot of words that seemed to apply but had less success in putting them together. There seemed to be two main concerns.
The first was the role or place that land held in relation to the overall scope of KSCA. To date, all of our activity has been land-centric and yet there is nothing inherently land dependent about the idea of cultural adaptation. KSCA’s relationship to land, I believe, arises from the praxis lead nature of the school – that we start with doing stuff and the thinking and learning evolves from there. For a number of reasons, this praxis has been tied exclusively to land and thus land has dominated our concern.
This is not a practical problem, if you consider that KSCA is determined by the context or circumstances in which it operates. It has no abstract essential identity, but morphs according to circumstances and in part at least can be said to be whatever it practices. You can see why this is an issue for a thing like devising a mission statement that is meant to encapsulate the total describable activity of an organisation. How do we hold onto the centrality that land has played in the material history of the group’s formation without reducing the scope of our future activity to the terms of this history? Cultural adaptation, according to our definition, should be capable of including any activity in which culture is changed.
The second problematic revolves around that word ‘Art’, and to a lesser degree the word ‘artist’. KSCA was established as a vehicle for exploring the idea of art as cultural change and challenging the conventional notion that this is an activity that is somehow exclusive to the rarified preserves of high culture. On the contrary, it is our view that cultural change takes place outside of these arenas, in the world or worlds in which culture is practiced. It is our endeavour to discover modes and practices through which we might participate and contribute to those points of every day cultural change. It is the challenge to the conventional definition of Art through a non-art conception of practice that has in part drawn us together.
How then do we treat Art in our mission statement? Do we enshrine it in the very heart of the project or do we exile it? The question is whether, in this mode, are we still making art, or are we just making life? At stake, amongst other things, is the capacity for our work to eventually be co-opted back into the art world we are attempting to leave behind. On the other side, we risk loosing the specific conception of our activity, and deny the material fact that it has emerged and is emerging out of art in a gesture that would dissolve the tension this very problematic describes. It seems to me that what is compelling about KSCA relies on the distortion of the Art concept to include a content that has hitherto been alien or other to it. The dream, I suppose, is that our action might draw the former out of its white walled cul de sac into the world. The risk is that it might withdraw our activity back into the cul de sac without significant result.
I will not argue for a decision on either of these two points here, but only want to note that it is the point of decision that resolved an existing differential tension into an irreconcilable polarity. Again, there is nothing in practice that insists we resolve these contradictions and in fact, they seem to define if not compel what we do. It is only when we come to the point of decision that these differences resolve themselves into polarities and we enter the either/or of binary thinking.
If I reflect on the broader ‘soft structure’ that KSCA has taken on, I believe I could argue that making such decisions has been something we have assiduously avoided throughout. I also acknowledge that there are obvious consequences to our agnostic approach that have yet to unfold – and that the failure to make decisions can be as dire a decision as making bad decisions. But no need to decide on that now.
It was also acknowledged that KSCA is a school and that at the heart of what we are doing is learning. It was also acknowledged that as a whole, we were all more interested in being students than teachers or professors (some of us already suffering this fate).
For our final foray, we gathered in the hunting lodge for a brisk 2 hours of brainstorming and consultation led by Sarah Breen Lovett and David Kroll from Sydney University School of Architecture. The subject is another pipe dream project – a purpose built facility to house artist residencies and facilitate community engaged creativity in Kandos. To make things more difficult, we decided to make the building project artist-led.
To my surprise, the architects were actually excited by the prospect of working with artists to design and build the facility. I tried to explain how artists pride themselves on their capacity to generate unreasonable objects but this didn’t seem to discourage them.