Words: Jasmine Uitermark-Thaung
It’s that time of year again where Fringe World Festival makes its descent on Perth. Transforming the Perth Cultural Centre and its surrounds into a whimsical, weird and whacky wonderland full of thought provoking concepts-turned-masterpieces. One of those masterpieces is a new exhibition titled Drug Aware presents: Illuminations organised as part of SJ Finch’s series Grr Nights, running from January 22 to February 20, 2016.
Curated by Bridget Bathgate, a talented member of the Paper Mountain family the exhibition is a visionary look into sustainability through art.
Under the mentorship of well-known industry curator, Sarah Rowbottam, Bathgate found some aspects of the transition from artist to curator challenging. Speaking about her experience, the bright spark sat down with us to chat about the admirable qualities of Illuminations and the nitty gritty things that come with every exhibition.
“In the past I’ve studied primarily as an artist not a curator, so every time I had an idea for the curatorial premise I just wanted to create it myself! It took me a while to figure out how to switch into the ‘curating brain’ and separate it from the artist in me,” said Bathgate.
Speaking about how the lightbulb of an idea (no pun intended) came about, Bathgate told us about the idea floating around between herself and SJ Finch. Wanting there to be a “visual art response” alongside Finch’s series hosted in a yurt - which focuses on ecological issues, in particular extinction and climate change – the concept of a sustainable exhibition not only in its showing but also art making process seemed to be the best way to round off what appears to be a luminary highlight to the Fringe World Festival (pun intended that time).
What I find special about Illuminations is how the team behind it have discovered the power of audience involvement when it comes to understanding.
“Audience involvement is really important to me. It feels like a more democratic expression of art, where each patron is not only a viewer but a participant. SJ Finch suggested using a bike to power electrical artworks off-grid and I jumped on the idea. I feel like it positions people to see themselves as part of a wider creative ecology, and that a sense of playfulness and personal investment is vital when making work about ecological collapse,” said Bathgate
Illuminations main source of power will be the “off-grid” type that relies on kinetic energy and a helpful dose of audience participation.
Drug Aware presents: Illuminations have given Perth an even greater call to participate in the form of their crowdfunding campaign via Pozible. The goal is to raise $2,200 with the bulk of funds raised going towards material costs and an electricity generating bicycle. To Illuminations every dollar counts as they address and question ecology and sustainability, both vitally important things.
“Often being in the arts means that you not only have to work long hours without pay, but also that you have to invest your own money into your projects. This campaign enables us to publicly support artists and recognise their time and the arts in general as valuable and worthwhile. And the arts are worthwhile. They delight and move us. They provide us with unique experiences, and encourage our development of thought and feeling,” said Bathgate passionately.
“We are building our own electrical generators for the exhibition. We hope to use these for future exhibitions so that any funds directed towards the bike is an investment is the wider ecology of Perth's creative community. Ultimately, we are questioning the role of art as it currently exists, and exploring the role of art to come. Art-making processes will need to become more sustainable if we want to continue to refer to art as something that betters the world.”
Drug Aware presents: Illuminations allows for a much needed exploration and innovation within the arts scene. One of the most appealing parts of the forthcoming exhibition is the varying body of works that will be presented by the six artists involved in the eco-project, embodying their own ideas of Illumination through sustainability. Artists featured in the exhibition include Alex Tate, Bonnie Boogaard, Emma Buswell, Kieron Broadhurst, Loren Kronemyer and Lyndon Blue.
Given the ability to interpret the theme freely as long as the work was sustainable throughout conception to creation, there were some worries, however, each artist connected with the concept of Illuminations in a way that was specific to their type of practice.
“Alex Tate's work plays with the boundaries between technology and the “natural world”, showing each to have elements of the other. Bonnie Boogaard continues her work in un-earthing items that are classified as rubbish, and through handcraft showing how such things can be made precious, illuminated. Lyndon Blue explores the relationship between plant growth and human care, and how dependent we are on the other for existence,” explains Bathgate, giving us an insight into just what we can expect.
“The current mass extinction, ocean acidification, and climate change cannot be ignored. We can no longer pretend that the process of making artworks does not have an environmental impact. So we are asking for the Perth community to support us in the exploration of these vitally important questions.”