Essays about arting: ARI as studio

Butterflies are Thoughts

Melbourne is particularly well served by artist-run-initatives (ARIs). Sydney too. On a per capita basis Australia as a whole holds it own. ARIs are a network that performs a structural role between the universities, the commercial galleries, and public institutions. Most of the time they are like ladders, playgrounds, stages and classrooms. ARIs give a leg-up to artists straight out of school, they allow for (and generally encourage) experimentation, and they also offer artists a form of public studio.

Art is often taught with a heavy focus on history. A teleological trajectory is insinuated. You discover it is biased, and that it’s written by the winners. But the march of time, and what comes to be seen as a sputtering expansion of the very definition of art, reveals that the only real constant is change. Art rewards new developments. Cubists fracturing planes and revealing plateaus, Georges Serat delivering pixellation and Ben-Day dots way before they were invented. Dematerialising artwork in a whisper, shitting into a can and selling it for the price of gold. Pointing at a toilet, revering a small black square in the corner of the room.

These expansions have come from experimentation. We conduct experiments in the lab and in the studio. ARIs too are a place for experimenting. They are another field in the world in which to play, test and scrutinise. ARIs as studio.

This is not the case for everybody, by any means. It’s a characteristic of a whole network, not a stereotype of that network’s parts. ARIs are a network of spaces and people fulfilling a need by satisfying a niche in the industry. This niche can sometimes be used by artists to experiment with their art-making. It is a public studio in which to make something that can be presented and tested. To think of an ARI gallery as a studio implicates the importance of process and amplifies the significance of ideas. Material refinery and pristine physical execution are not expected, and although not as sought-after as in other fields of art presentation, they are still very well-regarded. Sometimes all the more so for their application in a condition of experimentation.

Bond St

Most ARIs provide their spaces to those able to satisfy two conditions: approval from a gallery director or board of peers based on submitted applications; and the finances to rent the space for the duration of the show. Fortunately, rent is often subsidised but it does technically remain a barrier to entry on the whole.

The galleries and spaces of ARIs (real, local, disparate and virtual) provide a platform upon which to present ideas and see whether they can hold their own. To test whether they have some impact or effect. Or, of course, affect. You could pitch an idea to an ARI that you haven’t made before, even in a medium you haven’t yet learned or tried, and based on your previous work you might get offered a space and a time to present it to the public. For a small fee, and occasionally even without a fee. A field in which to play out the physical manifestation of an idea or the ideation of a physical manifestation.

In other words, a studio.


[Artwork included above:]

Butterflies are thoughts (2010) in ‘Commodity/Fetishism’, BUS @ West Wing; Kat Clarke, Maggie Brown, Chantal Fraser & Ann Fuata, Andrew Goodman, Kirsten McIver, Drew Pettifer, Kent Wilson.

Bond St, Melbourne (2012)  ‘Viewers Digest’, Platform Artists Group.

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