Q&A with WTS Coordinators: Beth Sometimes

 

Beth is a current WTS studio artist, Board member, general arts babe, and recent Masters graduate in Community Cultural Development from VCA.

So what's her practice? 

"Well I like to have a go at nearly every medium sooner or later. I guess I’m driven by ideas rather than materials but I also love materials and form and I specially love working with colours. I also mostly am interested in working socially – with people, both other artists and ppl from other fields and experiences. This seems to me to be the most effective way to work with what we learn as artists about seeing the world in order to ‘rearrange desire’ (as Gayatri Spivak puts it)."

 

Period as WTS Coordinator: 2011

 

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Why did you apply for the Coordinator position originally? Was it what you expected? 

At the time I had just kind of broken as a result of caring too much about a project with Pitjantjatjara people that didn’t work out. I realised that I cared more than my collaborators did about that particular thing which was trying to bring the first female fronted band to bush bands bash which had always been male dominated. It wasn’t a big thing itself but was the final straw after a long period of being very invested and maybe not having adequate frameworks in place to think through our place here. And so when I broke I realised I needed a break from working so intensely inter-culturally. But I didn’t want to leave Alice and art was all I really knew about. I remember I was crying on my bed and I saw on facebook that the job was being advertised and it felt like fate was calling.

 

How did you find working at WTS? Was it different from arts organisations you had/have since worked for? 

Working at WTS was pretty lonely back then. I felt like I spent all year trying to create alluring things that would bring more people to events and exhibitions and into collaboration and it sometimes worked but then the inbetween times were very isolating. Although Dan and Lucy and Kevin and some other people were great support as much as they could be then. WTS is much smaller than other orgs I’ve worked for but this offers a kind of freedom and dexterity which is exciting.

 

What were some of your fondest memories at WTS? 

Well my memories of the space stretch well beyond just when I worked there. So many parties and shows and encounters from before that time and since. Getting people to hump some soft sculptures I made in a tent as part of Free BBQ cash giveaway springs to mind. It was really special getting to work with Pam Lofts on her last show there when I worked there in 2011. Making one of those science experiment baking soda cakes with Jennifer Mills on the floor in maybe 2008 but I can’t remember why? Hoaxing ppl with my ‘Sorry Souvenir Phenomenon’ work. Sorry not sorry. Ummmm soo many peoples creative work over the years. Zine fairs. 

 

Tell us about your greatest achievements during your time as the Coordinator.  

Hmmm it definitely wasn’t reconciling MYOB accounts. I’m thinking about the sock puppet night and blindfolded dinner, and the Souvenir group show I co-curated with Franca and also Font Love with Jeff, and maybe planting the seeds for Artist Wants a Life which was difficult in some ways as it turned out but still fostered lots of collaborations and relationships which are enduring. Most things that bring artists together are usually rich in this way, the way that we are in places together consciously. I think I coordinated the biggest visual art program that Wide Open Space has ever had that year – might be wrong about that but we had more funding than usual from elsewhere that we decided to channel that way. 

 

In your eyes, what makes WTS an important organisation? 

Well, every year I renew my vows to art as the greatest way of knowing that we have within modernity, although like any great love it’s not without its flaws. So Watch This Space given its smaller scale/DIY approach to facilitating and producing aesthetic experiences and collaborations allows much more experimentation, discussion of failure, gentle moments of beauty, humble approaches to being together in art. WTS is a critical constituent in people’s introduction to Central Australia, hosting what they might find. We should remember that more.

 

Where are you now: geographically, work-wise, life-wise? 

Full-on question. Well I’m back here in Mparntwe Alice Springs still stitched into the textile of the place maybe permanently on some level, as much as we can b. Still making art and supporting exchanges, still feeling like maybe it doesn’t suit me and I should pursue something with more inherent stability but aware of the illusion of that. On track to crazy aunty status but got no nephs or nieces so kind of still get to sit at the kids table. At the moment I’m trying to work out somewhere in the world to go to get a little perspective and thinking about the wild possibility of this mobility and how to construct meaning in modernity.

 

Has WTS contributed to where you are now? 

Let me count the ways. One Two Seventy Five measureless. There are many artist run spaces around in different places. This one responds to being in this place and all the layered complexity of that which unfolds over time. As it unfolds over me in time, Watch This Space remains a venue for people to intersect and make exchanges around that. Art is the body or focus point around which those exchanges are constructed.

 

Watch This Space as an acrostic poem...

Why

Are

There

C**ts

Hoo

Think

Hell

Is

Somewhere

Shouldn’t

Party

At?

Crazy

Eh?

 

 

This interview is part of WTS's 2018 program Still Alive After 25 celebrating its 25th Anniversary. Read more interviews with past and current WTS coordinators here

Q&A with WTS Coordinators: Kieren Sanderson

 

Kieren works across a broad spectrum of roles and capacities including creative producer, community cultural practitioner, strategist and curator to create interdisciplinary projects inspired by history, language, human ecology, storytelling and cultural knowledges.  

When asked to tell us about her practice, Kieren responded: "Oh gosh, I’m at my most inspired when I can work in response to a place, site, context and community." She loves working with diverse communities and perspectives to create projects and programs that explore human connection, identity, storytelling and place. Kieren often finds herself contemplating the beauty of the project and whether the call to care or be inspired is "enough to move people to ‘act’."

 

Period as WTS Coordinator: 2004 - 2007

 

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4.     Why did you apply for the Coordinator position originally? Was it what you expected? 

I don’t think I actually applied. I moved to Alice to help Ochre Lawson who is a Sydney based painter, to install an exhibition and after 2 weeks, I decided to stay. I got a job at the Alice Springs Correctional Centre and I went onto the WTS Committee. From there I somehow made it to being the Coordinator and I loved it.

 

5.     How did you find working at WTS? Was it different from arts organisations you had/have since worked for? 

I loved working at WTS. It shaped me in ways that will forever make me a better person!! WTS was for me like discovering I had a family who loved and thought and worked and made art and everything in my life roll in ways I cannot describe. I felt supported to discover at WTS that I never felt in any other organisation.

 

6.     What were some of your fondest memories at WTS? 

Some of my fondest memories – wow, where do I start!

  • Sharing space with Sue Mcleod who was painting in the studio every day and the flow on from that – meeting and knowing Sue’s incredible family.

  • Sitting out the back under the grapevine and hatching ideas with a brew (or two!)

  • Seeing Dan’s car pull up outside and thinking – “Cool, I need to ask him….or “I wonder if he can help me move…”

  • Listening and learning from Dan Murphy.

  • Probably one of the funniest memories was when we (the committee) decided to render the inside and outside of the building. Two days of being covered in concrete dust, lime and dirt later, my feet, my eyelids, my hands and even my ears peeled!!

  • Painting the shed RED!!

  • Hosting an exhibition from Elliat Rich which was my introduction to Elliat’s work. I was instantly in love with her brain.

  • Discovering and sharing an office space with the infamous Alex Kelly strategist and change agent who made me realise that I had skills!

  • Seeing Jbirds’ writing on the wall out the back each day, reminded me every day about who had come before and who I was working for…

 

7.     Tell us about your greatest achievements during your time as the Coordinator. 

I was super proud of taking WTS from $25k pa to $50k pa and then we received Strategic Funding for Shifting Ground and none of us had even heard of that funding.. I am most proud of the Incubator and Shifting Ground projects. Both projects were in 2007.

For those unfamiliar with these projects:

The Ideas Incubator launched an ideas space and network where professionals from a range of disciplines could collaboratively investigate how the arts can be used to re-imagine people’s lived relationships with ‘place’, ‘community’ ‘culture’ and ‘the environment’.

Participants had the opportunity to imagine, design and plan projects that gave expression to multiple local knowledge and new energy to the way public space was thought about, used and developed in Alice Springs.

Shifting Ground – 21 days of Art and Performance across Alice Springs was a large-scale arts program that presented 58 local, interstate and international artists in Alice Springs. The program included visual arts, public art interventions, design, sound installations, music, spoken word, literature, performance and dance. All artworks were ‘embedded’ in and around Alice Springs across 13 venues, including empty shops, an abandoned quarry site, claypans, the Olive Pink Botanical Gardens, the Alice Springs Library book shelves, suburban laneways and the Airport baggage claim. A public program which ran concurrently that included 9 workshops and artist talks and 5 performance events, as well as 4 exhibitions in offsite spaces. Artist Talks and workshops facilitated discussions where audiences were able to engage critically with artists from varied disciplines. Their common aim was to link people to art, land and culture, responding to the arid lands on a physical, social and cultural level, telling stories of people and place and exploring sustainability and ecology.

 

8.     In your eyes, what makes WTS an important organisation?

The people in it. WTS supports artists to explore and experiment whilst holding space for them. WTS provides a supportive environment so that artists can expose themselves and be vulnerable. This is increasingly important.

 

9.     Where are you now: geographically, work-wise, life-wise? 

I am still in the NT and somehow I ended up in Darwin. I went back to Alice a few years to do the Arts and Cultural Policy for the Alice Springs Town Council. Alice is a place that I am forever committed too so I think I will forever try to get back every now and again.

 

10.  Has WTS contributed to where you are now? 

There is no doubt!

 

11.  An acrostic poem out of Watch This Space...

We

Are

Together

Conveying

Heart

Towards

Hot

Ideals

Slow

Supine

Places

Across

Central

Enclaves

 

 

This interview is part of WTS's 2018 program Still Alive After 25 celebrating its 25th Anniversary. Read more interviews with past and current WTS coordinators here

Q&A with WTS Coordinators: Jacquie Chlanda

 

Jacquie is a feminist PhD student in Art History, English Literature and Philosophy. Her research centres on ideas of subjectivity through the lens of the maternal.

 

Period as WTS Coordinator: "6 short months in 2007"

 

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Why did you apply for the Coordinator position originally? Was it what you expected?

It was the year after I’d finished high school and I’d been attending Watch This Space exhibitions since I was a little kid. After working at Warlukurlangu, the art centre in Yuendumu, I’d decided on an arts career – I was going to study Art History/ Curatorship at ANU the following year. I was 18 or 19 and I think that being the coordinator at WTS appealed to me as interesting and glamorous. Looking back I don’t know really if I understood quite what the role meant, or required. I was, and still am, grateful for that opportunity.

 

How did you find working at WTS? Was it different from arts organisations you had/have since worked for?

I didn’t have much to compare it with, and it was a long time ago. I think I loved it, but was overwhelmed at times. The committee were supportive and I remember cups of tea with Drew Moynihan being a calming influence.  Since I have worked at a small commercial gallery, the National Gallery of Australia and now in the university system. None are similar to WTS, and none are better either.

 

What were some of your fondest memories at WTS?

As a child, being amongst it all. Kids were always welcome, and in part I grew up with WTS. And the year after I left when Jade Bitar was co-ordinator. I volunteered with her that first winter I was back from uni, we had so much fun.

 

Tell us about your greatest achievements during your time as the Coordinator.

Honestly I can’t think of any. I wasn’t in the role that long. Being so young and not screwing it up terribly felt like an achievement at the time.

 

In your eyes, what makes WTS an important organisation?

That it takes the cultural and intellectual life of Central Australia seriously. And its longevity is important too – there’s a genealogy of thinking and making that can be traced through Watch This Space, which I think is important to any community interested in its own specificity and self definition.

 

Where are you now: geographically, work-wise, life-wise?

Right now I’m a PhD student in the final stages of writing my thesis in Art History, English Literature and Philosophy at the University of Queensland. I live here in Brisbane and I teach in Art History at UQ and the Queensland College of Art (Griffith University). I don’t know what’s going to happen next.

 

Has WTS contributed to where you are now?

In so many ways. I grew up seeing challenging art there and now I’m an Art Historian (almost). Maybe more importantly though I think it helped found my feminism. It was a gallery established by women artists and in many ways my mother’s practice as an arts writer was honed on the work that Watch This Space did.

 

Can you create an acrostic poem?

Will you forgive me if I don’t?

 

 

This interview is part of WTS's 2018 program Still Alive After 25 celebrating its 25th Anniversary. Read more interviews with past and current WTS coordinators here

Q&A with WTS Coordinators: Harriet Gaffney

 

Harriet is a writer that found her voice, she suspects, through working with visual art and artists. "Through turning my critical lens to the work of others I learnt - I hope! - to overcome my own narcissistic tendencies and focus only on what was in front of me".  She writes fiction and non-fiction, and is currently working on a children’s novel.

 

Period as WTS Coordinator: "I think I was the WTS Coordinator from 2000 - 2002, although its a bloody long time ago so I may be wrong… either way I was preceded by Catriona Stanton and followed by Isabel Kirkbride."

 

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Why did you apply for the Coordinator position originally? 

WTS has always been an incredibly active, invigorating space that provokes exploration, engagement and critical questioning.  I applied for the role because it gave me the opportunity to work with artists of all disciplines and cultural backgrounds, and in this way help foster the extraordinary creativity that exists -and is unique to, I would argue - Alice Springs. I’d been living in Anne Mosey’s house prior to applying, and had worked with Christine Lennard, so in this way had come to know the incredible group of women that had founded the Space, including Pam Lofts, Pip McManus, and Marg Bowman.  Their passionate commitment to their creative practice, coupled with their open critique of the status quo, helped teach me of the extraordinary importance of visual art as a medium for community and cultural development, and I’m forever grateful to each and every one of them for their integrity. 

 

Was it what you expected? 

I think I prefer to answer this by stating what I didn’t expect: what I didn’t expect was the incredible dedication and sheer physical support of the men who stood behind the Space and these women (and not because they were in relationship with them, because generally they weren’t, but because they believed): Kev Banbury painting the space late at night before the next show, fixing walls, light fittings, and holes in the roof; Dan Murphy and Kev (again) working tirelessly behind the scenes to help create some of the best events I’ve ever had the privilege to be a part of (and thats a lot of events - yet WTS remains, more than 15 years later, the benchmark yet to be surpassed), Ben Ward, Ben Wall, Russell Goldflam et al, all of those that put their hands up, showed up, and pitched in.  

 

How did you find working at WTS? Was it different from arts organisations you had/have since worked for? 

The thing I admire most about WTS is probably its ability to remain independent, despite its reliance, like all arts orgs,  on government funding of one form or another.  There is a fierce vitality to the organisation that I have never seen since, and a down-to-earth attitude that never compromises the freedom of artistic expression at its heart.  For those of us who had the privilege of working with Pam, she was formidable - and, as a young woman whose creative practice was not in the visual arts, this could be challenging - however this fierce passion and dedication to artistic excellence remains a hallmark that every person who has been involved with the organisation should be proud of.

 

What were some of your fondest memories at WTS? 

The fun- the comradeship and the hands-on attitude: and definitely the Christmas parties :)

 

Tell us about your greatest achievements during your time as the Coordinator.  

This question is difficult as in practice, I believed my job was about facilitating the work of others, so I truly didn’t see it in terms of my own achievements.  Thus: did their experience with WTS facilitate deeper engagement with their own creative practice? Did they achieve things they would otherwise not have had the opportunity to achieve? Did WTS give them a platform to express ideas, and, importantly, receive feedback on those ideas enabling new growth? I hope so… in terms of key events, however, and rather than foregrounding one artist over another, I feel fortunate to have been able to bring Outsite Site Specific Sculpture Symposium from fledgling idea through to reality at the Desert Park… interestingly, I got to spend time with one of the artists that WTS showcased at that first Outsite a few months ago, the Belgian artist Martijn Bessemans, now based in Barcelona, and it was fabulous to hear how important WTS was to him in terms of being given the space to learn about his own identity as a human being and artist.  That for me is the greatest achievement any arts facilitator can have.  

 

In your eyes, what makes WTS an important organisation? Its unique commitment to experimentation and individual artistic integrity - something that is even more important., I feel, 25 years after its inception.

 

Where are you now: geographically, work-wise, life-wise? 

Geographically I am in Victoria, after leaving Alice Springs to live in Bali for five years with my small daughters, before being called to Vic for family reasons.  My girls are both (just) in high school now, so I will stay here whilst they do that, but my heart remains in the Territory and FNQ, so it's just a waiting game.  I’m working on a PhD and as a project manager for Writers Victoria, and my fingers are toes are cold…

 

Has WTS contributed to where you are now? 

Totes.  I remain passionate about the need for artistic expression, for creating spaces in which people can showcase their ideas, and grow as practitioners.  The world needs more artists in all disciplines, and more organisations that inspire communities to come together around ideas.  I miss you WTS!

 

 

This interview is part of WTS's 2018 program Still Alive After 25 celebrating its 25th Anniversary. Read more interviews with past and current WTS coordinators here

Q&A with WTS Coordinators: Jade Bitar

 

Jade has completed two Masters in Arts Curatorship at the University of Melbourne and Graphic Communication at RMIT in Melbourne. She is based in Melbourne and has worked in the arts for ten years in a range of festivals, galleries and Museums.

 

Period as WTS Coordinator:  2008-2009

 

Jade Bitar_2018.jpeg

 

Why did you apply for the Coordinator position originally? Was it what you expected?

I am originally from Alice Springs and was visiting my family over my university holidays. I heard about the role though a past WTS staff member and dropped in to Red Hot Arts to pick up an application form if only to read what kind of work the role would entail. I met some members of the board and they (without knowing) made me feel brave enough to apply. I was 22 and moved back to Alice Springs within a week and had no expectations and very little experience. It was wonderful that the Board took a chance on me!

 

How did you find working at WTS? Was it different from arts organisations you had/have since worked for?

It was very different than anything I have done since and I still think very fondly of that time.  People had a strong work ethic but also saw each other socially so there was a sense of working with your family.  I felt empowered to have and execute my own ideas because there was a sense of openness and most of all, people were not precious; this is an invaluable trait in the Arts.

 

What were some of your fondest memories at WTS?

Within my first few weeks beginning in the role, we opened the outdoor entertainment space and had a fabulous and crazy Christmas party. My Mum sewed tutu’s for everyone and it was a joint effort by all to make it a success. I smoked my first (and only) cigarette with Dan Murphy and had the best time. In general, I am very proud of the exhibitions we had over that year; the opening of Andrew Moynihan’s Lava Lava was a particular highlight. The show was executed flawlessly and the artwork was simple, yet accomplished. The show sold out and was one of the openings where everything was perfect. Lastly, meeting and working with Pam Lofts was very special.

 

Tell us about your greatest achievements during your time as the Coordinator.

I cleaned out and painted the studio spaces and offices, a very big job which I felt it made a difference to the space. I curated a series of events entitled Four Spaces: A series of art, dialogue, music and film happenings which were well attended and created some interesting conversations around different artforms. I also made sure every artist was paid for every project we did that year. The year 2008 was when the Regional Arts Australia Conference came to Alice Springs; it was fantastic to be a delegate for the conference and am ambassador for Watch This Space.

 

In your eyes, what makes WTS an important organisation?

It is so important to have ARI’s like Watch This Space in regional Australia that have that quality and calibre of artists and arts workers supporting them. Specifically in Alice Springs, it is vital part of the Arts Industry because it bridges the gap between exhibiting in a commercial gallery or Araluen Arts Centre; it is the best middle ground. Watch This Space is also a fantastic place for interstate and overseas artists to connect into. Alice Springs is such a special space; all artist and arts workers would gain something invaluable in coming to meet the community behind Watch This Space and spend some time in Centre of Australia.

 

Where are you now: geographically, work-wise, life-wise?

I live in Melbourne and am the Exhibitions Coordinator for a city council, in this role I co-curate the local Museum and curate three gallery spaces within multi-disciplinary art centres. I also do regular freelance project work; an example of this was last year I was the Exhibitions Curator for the Gertrude Projection Festival and curated a solo show at Craft Victoria.

 

Has WTS contributed to where you are now?

 I learnt invaluable things in that role, I come to Alice Springs regularly to see family and still follow all the artist’s and their work that I met over that time. I learnt quickly how much energy it takes to keep an ARI alive and thriving. There didn’t seem to be political or bureaucratic rhetoric which in retrospective is refreshing. People are genuinely inclusive and understand it makes for better programs and exhibitions. I believe I have taken these traits with me in my current roles; I hope that I am honest, hard-working and authentically communicative.

 

Watch This Space as an acrostic poem...

 

Wild

Astounding

Talent

Courageous

Heart

Tenacious

History

Intelligent

Spry

Special

Protected

Absolute

Creative

Energetic

 

 

 

This interview is part of WTS's 2018 program Still Alive After 25 celebrating its 25th Anniversary. Read more interviews with past and current WTS coordinators here

See full presentation of Practicing the social

Presenters: Beth Sometimes (Watch This Space); Kate Just (Victorian College of the Arts); Danny Butt (Victorian College of the Arts). 

More info on the session here

Big thanks to George from the VCA mob who came up for the presentation for filming this for us. A great panel discussion about a rising art form.