Should I post six months after my last post and not mention my hiatus? Maybe nobody is reading… Regardless – I made a commitment to tie those loose ends and adequately document the last few activities. After all isn’t - prompt completion - adhering to timelines and creating a manageable project within the boundary given privileging something archly conservative…blah blah blah or something. Did I mention the burning bridges or the river’s ecology - I am slowly building some pontoons. Lets see how we go…
So I have at last spell-checked the first feedback session
but have left whole lot of (not-so-right) syntax unchanged. This was the feedback for the queer identifiers
. I invited the Midsumma Visual Arts Committee, artists and writers. I haven’t gone through the normal clearing procedures so I won’t name them explicitly. (They did know the feedback was being recorded) Jeff (curator) facilitated the event. Jon (my partner) kindly transcribed the whole proceeding because I had some mini-disc recorder malfunction. So there are parts where he couldn’t hear what the participants were saying. Don’t worry the straight feedback
is recorded and being transcribed by professionals. Their words are like… What is that saying? (Bridges Spiros – remember the bridges.)Descriptive Feedback
John: This is really full on. Seems like there is a whole lot of platforms. Made of raw pine sort of screwed together varying heights. When I looked in the window weeks ago, all of these components were in one cube that was sort of closed off form from the outside. Now they’re sort of open and each component of that cube has a function in this space in different ways. Over here where Jon is typing on the apple Mac, it’s a low height which is quite a broad square area, black painted with wood panels on the surface and this is sort of like a messy number I can’t really say what its like. On top of this surface is a smattering of stuff, wine, paper, books whatever. But the interesting thing for me is the other things and how they’re all functioning. Here it’s like a display unit with this higher table, and on the unit are these geometric volumed shapes with shapes cut out and the holes filled with different coloured cellophane. The forms look like they’re cut and glued together with a glue gun. There’s a jumble of them that fills the whole surface. There’s a really nice a2 or a1 poster in brown paper with lettering in red saying 'groups do it better.' Over here there’s another display table it's like a little pop-eye village or something with all sorts of paper forms, some of them are volumed dimensional objects. There’s chimney shapes in burgundy paper, there’s Mattise shapes in (the leaf, I can't say the leave shapes) there’s spirals that are unfurling in the space the chimney continue in the lower rungs, the colours are gold and yellow and red and brown as well as the burgundy I mentioned. One thing I really like is the cube shaped forms that stand about 550 mm. high, they look like they have a solid plane on the base and the topside. The solid planes are painted black and the other legs are uncovered pine. There’s probably 10 dotted around the room and they look like they might function as a stool not sure I’m allowed to say that either but someone is sitting on one. There’s other seating arrangements too that look like the corner of a cube. Again it’s the black plane and the structural pine screwed together. Both have beanbags secured to them so its corner styled seating arrangement. Someone’s sitting on one. Over here there’s a box which is the same as the upright stools but its laying on its side and there’s 6 cones sitting regularly that look like they have been rolled into a cone. Above it are further cones but they're not pure cones like the ones underneath. To describe them…. they are party hats. (All laugh). - With lots of squiggly bits of paper that are stuck on them - a witch, black piece of paper that pierces one of the cones, they’re gathered together in a particular arrangement and the arrangements is strung up by a nail through the wall. But the mass of the 6 cones is much more playful than the cones underneath. The colour really has an impact in this ensemble. The cones are also pointing down which is sort of interesting. There’s one materials strung up against the window and coming out from the window on an orange nylon cord that leads up to the lighting rack and over here to one of the surface tables. Sheets have been pegged to these cords. This might be a valance. In the sheets and valances there are holes, numerable holes cut. Smaller in the brown larger in the red valance, and small hole in the yellow sheet. Over here there are more of these boxed stack in quite a different arrangement from anything else in the room into a little wall. It becomes over here a little tiled freestanding wall, When I look around it's empty from the back. The shelves go across on the 4 levels. Here there’s a big poster made of card with male and female paper doll cut outs repeated in 4 rows. I say there male and female but I'm not entirely sure that’s true. Some wearing boys clothes some girl smocks some international symbols. There are little ring party garlands or paper chains and I have a feeling that the paper of the paper chains comes form these midsumma programs. This looks like a work desk to me there's a slide knife notebook, stapler, guillotine, little staplers, empty film cartridge a few glasses, vinyl lettering saying without Spiros Panigirakis there's a tripod a camera. There are four paper garlands that have been strung up. Some of them just trail off and finish. Some trails off in to this pile of garlands spilling off the worktable. There’s a ladder next to storage - always difficult to know where to put the ironing board. We have more supplies of brown cardboard, some paint.
Edwina: Cut up bits of paper left over from the workplace. There's a big pile of Midsumma catalogues on a black box sitting at the workbench. There are also two containers on the grounds with amounts of alcohol. There’s a bag with photocopied texts from the 90 s about 30 pieces of papers. There’s a 'They shoot homos magazine' – I thought it was a Benetton catalogue. There’s a strip of negatives hanging over one of the corner alcove fittings with the beanbags. There’s the interior of the screens. From the inside of the space looking out we have a semi transparent view of the street whereas from outside our view is completely blocked.
Charlotte: From outside the screens remind me of shops that have been done up or changed ownership and have screens to block the view. Rather than just screening the inside they negate the idea that there is something inside to look at.
Jeff: Knowledge that you can’t see inside from outside changes the way you feel in the space. And creates a kind of cheekiness for me and the idea that you can see without being seen. Does that affect the way you feel meeting with this group knowing that it’s blocked.
Charlotte: There’s the mystery of whether there are people in the space but also of whether there’s something here. It does remind me of those transitional spaces that are in process.
Edwina: I think I associate those screens with rear screen projections. It makes you curious about what is going on.
Charlotte: With window text it almost looks like a guerilla marketing campaign because the white space reads easily as slick interior design.
Fiona: To me the material reads as very domestic. There’s a whole idea about suburban design and renovation rescue in the back garden. It appears to me to be like of a shade cloth material. To me it's significant and carries on into this sort of Ikea dismountable objects
Charlotte: Carries on into the kid’s craft feel of the object.
Jeff: I think that’s what I meant when I said it felt like a secure space, with the helmets with semi shoddy glue gun construction. Craft based work renders it a more comfortable space to exist in. Is interesting to contrast that to what you say that you saw a couple of weeks ago.
John: It’s much more profuse. It’s not just like the things open it’s that it’s exploded. The materiality is what enables that explosion
Fiona: It’s also the activity.
Charlotte: People came into the space and felt comfortable to take ownership.
Edwina: The pieces that are lying around have a routine or used feel like an artists studio.
Jeff: It definitely has that aura of informality and sense of messiness and something less formal.
Edwina: I think if the screens were up you’d have a different experience of occupying this space.
Michael: Part of the relaxedness of being in here is that it’s not about seeing or looking at stuff. My subjectivity is probably affected by having taken part in an activity. It is just about being it’s not really about looking at anything. It doesn’t have the intensity that I normally feel in a gallery even when its set up to be an experience. I don’t feel that distance. That might also be about my familiarity with Spiros.
John: What strikes me about outside and get a minimalist pleasure or minimalist fantasy. That’s the work or what’s presented to the world. In here its about artists work and when you put out to the world its this nice thing but in here its about the sweat and toil. This is really all about activity.
Charlotte: It seems like a very manicured activity. Each activity has been given its own workspace. Even the stuff on the floor is obviously generated from one activity rather than from activities layer on other activities. There’s also a kind of order that s generated through the quite limited palette. The Midsumma catalogues, different covers. There’s quite a lot of visual order. It’s a manicured and ordered work environment.
Edwina: When I first came in it was like there was chaos and then I noticed order and found comfort in that.
Fiona: The dismantling of the cube structure is like an infinite explosion. Is also quite reductive. Becomes more and more explosive. Here is Bauhaus, there children. Material paradigm... white cube routines. Seen as more reductive but in fact more expansive, the elaboration of the interior and what is contained and excluded in that.
Jeff: Interesting because each grouping on each bench is quite discrete from the other. So there’s like a condensation of time. Makes me wonder if what we see is a presentation of the outcome as well as evidence of the activities. Wonder if these things are happenings simultaneously or if they happened at different t moments.
Charlotte: The neat order with which things have been placed precludes you from picking them up and disrupting. Even though there’s chaos there's a lot of things telling you not to pick them up and play with them.
John: That’s particularly so with that display on the wall. Something about exuberance, and particular... I think you tend to do that in all sorts of situations.
Jeff: To me that configuration for the hats is the most traditional museum display and it makes me wonder about the museological display, if there’s an audience, why do that in this private space.
Michael: It’s to create a photo for the blog.
Fiona: I’ve been following the blog. It looks very different on the blog. That’s the function of the photographic medium. You don’t get the idea of the seepage that’s coming out of these objects. They seem much more presented and people are wearing the hats. I mean its very engaging and looks very beautiful. But it doesn’t have the same idea of the.... well the kind of... The chord that blocks access to that part of the room, and you need to look across that to the museological assemblage. And then you have to think about receptacles, and I don’t want to go there. You don’t get that feeling on the blog. Everything seems much more presented.
Jeff: What the blog self consciously does is it kind of 'narrative-ises' it. There’s much more of a sense of a presented narrative rather than this more oblique process.
John: Except for the text that raises all sorts of issues. Especially about queer art, identity whatever. And I thing that’s interesting. So there’s a visual thing which is happening her and on the blog, and there’s an argument which is happening.
Charlotte: This is the first time I’ve been into the space, but because I've followed the blog I came here with a lot of knowledge. That gave me some power coming into the space through those manicured shots that enabled me to assume some familiarity with it. Virtual experience of something is just a virtual experience; it gives you some ways into something.
Jeff: Did you disagree with John’s objective description because you came in with that knowledge?
Charlotte: No it was more things like interpretation of the cones as party hats – I came into the space and looked at them and it took me a few second before I’d seen them on the blog as party hats. So when Jon described them I remember that I identified them as party hats because the blog had told me.
Edwina: I didn’t have time to go the blog - to me they were geometric objects made of crafty materials. I didn’t see them as helmets. That you can put them on your head is fantastic. Puts one on head.
Michael: Something about reality TV and that’s what the show has been doing.
Jeff: Is that what you felt like when you were in here participating in the activities?
Michael: Yeah, you don’t feel observed but Spiros is going around taking photos of you that will later appear on the website. Another thing I’m aware of is you often come to Gertrude Street and you are aware of other things going on.
Jeff: Issues are being raised about blog and being in a reality TV show that people follow on line. One thing that really struck me on the blog was the voice of Spiros as the artist with neurosis and issues really persisted and linked the narrative thread.
John: Spiros used the term pussy and I thought wow, and there’s something very revealing.
Jeff: You got to know Spiros Panigirakis.
Charlotte: I participated in a lot of online community things – by and large the people whose blogs I read are people I know or have some other point of contact, so there’s quite different community base.
Michael: Seems to me because there is this kind of artificial set – talking about blog.
Jeff: It anchors in something material that exists
Michael: Seems like more of a performance, a performed identity.
Charlotte: I have read someone’s blog lately though myspace – send each other material artifacts. No real life meeting as in Canberra. He’s become part of my community. Those ideas of virtuality, performance, and online space relate to real life situations and materiality in compels ways as they often feed into each other.
Fiona: I would like to pick the up on the comment that in a way we don’t see the gist. This is always the condition of the Midsumma program. One thing I like that the blog is the way he addresses that – wanting to get away from the homo as window dresser. Something about... (not audible)
John: This is like Spiros in his bedroom Video he made of him singing in a private performance space. That’s what’s extraordinary about the web the way people put themselves out in a private participatory space. Even the hanging is like Spiro's private bedroom hanging. Is not window dressing in that sense.
Jeff: There is an element of connoisseurship in curating – about colour.
Charlotte: Another fag stereotype. There does seem to be that kind of 50s domestic performance where you prepare for the party, you make your cakes etc. I’ve been making layered cakes and they have the same sort of aesthetic order that people impose on quite domestic private occasions – when they want people to witness their wedding or come to their party. The kind of very neat presentation does seem like 50s sponge cakes. The same kind of temporary feeling that something has been neatly manicured to be taken apart once the event has happened. So rather than it being about curatorship which are about public …
Fiona: Does it links i to a public paradigm.
Jeff: Is interesting what you say about the domesticity of the space. Constantly there are being cookies backed, or coffee brewed. It really ties into what you’ve been saying about domestic preparation.
John: When I came in he was putting chain up – like preparing for the party.
Charlotte: Like notions of hospitality but not quite.
John: Is by invitation...
Jeff: What’s your experience?
Michael: One thing is that it all kind of made sense. Before I didn’t really understand even though Spiro had been talking to me about it for weeks. When I came in that night I really got it. Is sort of like a mix of public and domestic, friends and strangers or colleagues. It’s about this balance.
Edwina: Hosting a party is like that also – old friends and new blood.
Michael: And the question of whether they turn up.
Fiona: I found interesting on the blog the aspect of in what way, or what level people are prepared to participated. Chronicle the disappointment, and does it look good. Even the number of comments on the blog – I thought there would be a lot more. It’s raising really interesting discussions – particularly the last few days. The whole hand job thing was great. How do you exhibit as a gay artist, and how do you exhibit queer work and how its located. That’s the role of this space and how it’s being worked with and…works totally celebratory and also critical.
Charlotte: Takes on the normal exclusionary door policy of art galleries and bends. Quite often-exclusionary spaces on class and educational basis. Way in which to have an exclusionary policy.
Edwina: Does say by appointment.
Charlotte: Reinforces exclusionary…similar to the lairds door policy or something.
Michael: Like idea of the serious buyer – do you want to buy into this – to make the phone call, to subscribe to this, are you going to read enough of the blog to work out what’s going one. The text outside is not exactly encouraging people to read...
Fiona: And also wants to read another blog…take it or leave it
Charlotte: Comments on blog – people who comment are other bloggers... as a performance
Jeff: Different levels of engagement.
Charlotte: Because in midsumma program brings in an audience that isn’t normally part of art community.
Jeff: Also random access and people from other blogs.
Michael: Was pretty mixed crowd at opening…spiro's friends…was aware I went to a Midsumma event and spent most of my time talking to straight men.
Jeff: I thought it was a really 'Midsumma' crowd.
Fiona: re Michael – The work set that up. Drove past the cube sitting in the window and thought oh god its Gertrude St boys show. And then when I found out what it was that was sort of great. And in terms of an objective is great. I thought I just don’t want to know whose work it is. And that was great about the launch was about the whole dismantling of that paradigm and scenario. I’m not surprised that there were a lot.
Michael: The activity I came to –there were 3 lesbians and 3 gay men but none of us where volunteers. Want to know the gender breakup.
Spiros: For the reading group I was trying to be quite balanced, but people always drop out. 4:3 boys: girls
Volunteers: 3 females
Rainbow network: 1 female worker and all male participants
Activists: 2 female one male
jerk off – no one.
Jeff: Obviously the process of exclusion, but there’s also the inclusion of the invited groups. Do people feel that it’s a representation of queer culture, or is it weighted in terms of gender, sexuality?
Charlotte: Midsumma bills itself as being gay and lesbian. Definitely excludes people and a lot of people I know.
John: What excludes you?
Charlotte: I don’t identify as gay or lesbian, Have been to a lot of midsumma spaces in the past, but I often feel that I don’t fit into those spaces. That’s what I liked about the idea of the arts scene and the gay scene and they way they operate as exclusionary spaces.
Fiona:(inaudible) – something about happiness...
Jess: (inaudible)....Assimilation and something gets co-opted rather than included necessarily.
Jeff: Did you think the space operated as a kind of critique?
Charlotte: First though was that it didn’t – to make that phone call or being invited in you needed to feel some kind of connection. I think reading the blog and seeing Gertrude Street space does work critically.
Edwina: Obviously limited no included into physical space but also connection through the virtual. Not sure how inviting that is. Obviously a gender and class difference about who feels comfortable.
Charlotte: Strength is not that it breaks down those barriers, but says that they are here and you can use them in different ways. Use them to create a safe space for a bunch of queers. The way you have the exclusionary door policy to allow things to happen inside that can’t happen in other spaces.
Spiros: Is that a question – I think I can only respond to questions.
John: I’ve got a question – is that a question – what’s the question.
Charlotte: Do you think your door policy is exclusionary?
Spiros: Yes, I have been exclusionary with door policy but it hasn’t worked. I’ve set this space up in the tradition of a university queer room. Women’s room s has probably been around for the last 20 years. I was going to use those to create a kind of barrier for the staff and I kind of dropped it, and I’ve got friends who are studio artists here. So staff and visitors saw the show. So it was always compromised to begin with.
Michael: You don’t see it unless you take part in it.
Spiros: What gave me a good impression about Ulanda was that she’s been walking past for the whole duration of the show but she still asked permission to ‘have a look.
Fiona: That’s a different idea of looking – you should put that on the blog.
Spiros: There was another scenario where a friend of mine had no idea about the show, saw the window and rang a studio artist and kind of worked her way in. I heard about it – then one of the studio artist said I was discussing it with _________and we really think you should bring up the blinds.
Fiona: You also ask people to identify themselves as heterosexual, which is confronting because normally they’d just assume.
Jeff: Identifies homosexual as the ones who’d come and look at the space without the knowledge. If you came to see the show as midsummer viewers would have came and there would have been nothing to it.
Edwina: Shows that have a specific focus – if people stumble across it they ask is it ok for me to have a look around.
Charlotte: Isn’t necessarily about identity, you can queer everybody who comes into the space. Also about opening heterosexual people to the possibility of identifying as queer. I always find when you’re in a straight space that it is a straight space because it’s not safe to come onto people or to act in way that in a queer space are permitted.
John: question…The material impetus of the activities that you have don't in the space the chains, thee hats… I get a sense of how the whole space is working in terms of what we’ve been talking about but id love to you to talk about the objects themselves and how they are operating in terms of the whole.
Spiros: I guess each activity is different in a way. So my attitude to the objects in each piece is different. Each pedestal designated to an activity. Midsumma volunteers things was like a thank you for them participating so I was celebrating.
Michael: Was like a conceptual thank you not a real thank you.
Spiros: There was work involved in the party –
Jon: Fun kids know how to squeeze a bit of enjoyment...
Jeff: Sort of idea of communal labour
Spiros: Conversations about what do you do, and how many things you volunteered for...
Jeff: Making things that weren’t for us – different view of process of labour.
Spiros: Two of the volunteers hadn’t volunteered for anything else – so some volunteers volunteered for this...
Michael: To be thanked.
Spiros: Gemma had volunteered for 3 or 4 things – she is a professional volunteer and had been there for 12 hours at the Midsumma launch and other hadn’t rocked up. The hats were almost like portraits. Wanted them to style them in an individual fashion.
John: There is a relationship between the objects and other things that you’ve done.
Sprios: I’ d done that formula with a group of friends and acquaintances. Show at clubs was 3 couples, and everyone had shape they… can’t be bothered writing…I’ve used that formula in high school.
Fiona: In the way you wrote about it on the blog it seemed like that.
Spiros: In terms of doing it with a gay and lesbian youth group I took it different.
Michael: It is important this teacher identity aspect. We need to align you with teacher art not just gay art.
Spiros: With this the difference being that at year 7 or 8 level, trying to communicate at forms and 3d forms. With the adolescent kids – age range 16-19 – when I’d say form they didn’t get it – I wasn’t trying to be pedagogical, so I’d just get them to draw a shape.
Jeff: What were your hopes for that group?
Spiros: I wanted it to be a fun activity for them to think about the construction of something. Some of the participants didn’t quite know how to make a form, didn’t bother about pestering them – asked permission to interpret that. When they came together my attitude to answer there questions – and this came from Michael and when they ask questions you’d say yes – and I found that confronting because as a teacher curriculum to fit into etc – and I took your model of just saying yes to anything. So my attitude was yes.
Michael: So you were sort of getting away from the control of the show.
John: The primacy of the outcome yes.
Spiros: So I set up this theme that I was first going to do this archway…16 year olds arch is not interesting – grand boulevard, but not interesting. So I was thinking of an older play area for older people – your space.
Fiona: You’ve always done that in your work. The idea of ceding control.
Spiros: There’s a lot of control at the start.
Fiona: And then you just work out a mechanism.
Michael: Probably have to ask Jon that question.
Spiros: This is not a result – talking re helmets. Went into detail asking them in an email but not many people responded. They gave me broad parameters and I tried to fulfill that. When I gave them the reading material before Christmas I asked them about what they wanted for the helmets and something about their presumptions. XX works like Russian constructivists.
Fiona: That’s all very referent to that.
Spiros: Was confident about hers because...
Fiona: Did they read the reading material?
Jeff: Was like back to uni – a lot of people who hadn’t read enough but then quite fruitful discussions came out of that...
Spiros: The first discussion was awkward.
Jeff: Reminded me of that first day at uni where people are trying to sort out their positions. Suss out expectation of the group and where people are coming form .
Spiros: There was too much reading at the start, it was too ambitious.
John: Do you feel that the whole project is so big – do you feel like people have moved along with you or have you sort of had to drag people along. There’s a level of altruism.
Jeff: Post after post on the blog in this personal confessional mode on the blog. In a way, not as a criticism, quite neurotically.
Spiros: A lot of people can’t be bothered – I mean the blog is too much. There are a lot of things stopping access. Revisiting number is much smaller than the people who visit.
Fiona: I really enjoy the intensity - it’s the most enjoyable idea that you can put something out and people will follow it. I mean it’s going to end tomorrow, but it’s actually not, because it’s set up so many things that will actually track.
Jeff: Hopefully blog will stay alive.
Spiros: Haven’t finished.
Fiona: Seems really clear that you’ve placed the project in that way. In terms of the reading group that you’ve revisited queer writing and shows form the 90s and how that’s situated now. Something about art toys that I went and had a look at them from Monash. So that’s really great to locate that – in a way a dialogue/critique of the space and the whole broader context.
Spiros: In the blog I’m always aware of precedents and things that have happened in the space or in my thinking. I’ve been conscious that I want to write about the teahouse in the front room. Talk about Bianca Hester having dinner with a lot of people e for a show called fame. Something Serepentine. All these shows that I want to talk about.
Jeff: Something about tangential - other directions.
Spiros: Want to continue that for the next month or so.
Jeff: Maybe we should wrap up. Drinks or dinner?
Postscript: Reading through this transcript I realise there are few comments that have not been recorded. The lovely Jon was typing furiously but sometimes there would be competing and overlapping voices. Charlotte commented at some stage that the colours and the abstract nature of the work could be representative of other political positions...replacing the Midsumma catalogue for one relating to black empowerment...Something about the curtain whiting things out... The pendulum swinging the other way... Fiona and Charlotte also discussed the threshold of the space and its bodily connotations. I guess the detail of these comments have been lost. Will discuss with Fiona when she comes back from overseas.