Alice Springs is the undisputed focal point of the Indigenous arts industry. This industry has grown rapidly over the last thirty-five years creating a concentrated and energetic visual arts community. A high number of non-Indigenous artists have joined the many Indigenous artists who call Alice and the central Australian region home. The interaction between these two artist groups has been a constant industry influence. Exchange and creative influence is ongoing and based on skills sharing and cultural respect.
WTS was seeded as a response to the lack of contemporary arts activity in Alice Springs/Mparntwe in 1991 by five artists: Pam Lofts, Anne Mosey, Jan Mackay, Angela Gee and Pip McManus. WTS was first established as an Artist Run Initiative in 1993. The first charter of WTS stated that it was essential that it be artist run so it could maintain its independence from commercial galleries.
The first charter included a number of objectives including:
Providing a forum for artists wanting critical dialogue on works in progress and resolved works.
It was for a venue for emerging and professional artists as it was a non-commercial Space with no pressure to sell.
It was to be an exchange between artists around Australia and internationally with 50% local and 50% visiting artists.
There was a strong emphasis on collaborations between artists and all media.
The name, Watch This Space, evolved from the potential for something to link with the Space in the desert. The first ‘Space’ matched the original vision as it had installation possibilities and hanging Space. It nurtured exposure to artists practicing cross-disciplinary art forms who came through Alice. During this time there was often a show a week. So many shows and potential exhibitors led to a curatorial committee being established in 1997. WTS has ebbed and flowed over the years in various locations, as all ARI’s by nature are ephemeral and struggle to exist. However in terms of ARI’s WTS has had a relatively long history, as the Alice Springs community has never completely let its existence peter out. In fact in 2004 when it was suggested by the co-ordinator at the time that the
annual program be cut down to five exhibitions a year, there was community outrage as this is one of the main places for local artists to exhibit their work.
Over the years WTS has secured funding from Arts NT and the Australia Council for operational costs and also for different projects such as artist camps, web galleries and offsite installations and exhibitions. All of these projects focussed on exchange, audience development and alternative Spaces to develop and exhibit work. Testament to the needs of Alice Springs artists and also to the power of the arts on a whole, WTS still exists and has a large following in Alice.
In 2007 WTS developed the contemporary site-specific program Shifting Ground. Attendance across Shifting Ground was over 4,000 and new audiences were reached as it took place in public spaces frequented by community members on a daily basis. Shifting Ground has been recognised nationally, on the strength of its artistic merit and has received media coverage in the Australian (May 8 2007), Real Time magazine (Aug- Sept 2007) and The Age (March 1 2008). Shifting Ground was a highlight year for WTS with its significant off site program of events, installations and exhibitions. Shifting Ground was successful in exciting, informing and challenging the local community. This was particularly evident with the occupation of the empty shop spaces in Reg Harris Lane. Featuring performance, video and visual work; these were stimulating and highly original events that not only attracted regular art attendees; but attracted tourists and the average person doing daily chores. Since the success of this event, a shop front in Reg Harris Lane has been leased as a commercial artist co-operative.
In 2008 engagement with the wider community through off site projects continued with the WTS / RedHOT Arts shop front project Alice in View. 22 business premises hosted works by 28 artists from the Alice Desert Festival in August through until the Masters Games in October. In 2009 WTS presented a Little Cube of Eco Art – a portable miniatures gallery as part of the Alice Desert Festival Hub Space, 30 artists exhibited over 100 artworks on ANZAC oval.
Banner image: Touch exhibition by Mel Robson & Suzi Lyon, 2014
Highlights From Our 24 Years
March & April
Watch This Space has conducted Strategic Planning to plot the trajectory of future artistic exertion for our organisation.
We explored our history and possible futures across two sessions with our Boards, members, interested parties and organisations – “Session #1: Deep Space Exploration” and “Session #2: Mission Control” facilitated by Penny Drysdale.
● Stimulate open dialogue around perspectives in arts and culture, its particular relevance in the constellation of Alice Springs, and how they shape and impact art/collectives/orgs and vice versa.
● Generate dialogue and stimulate ideas as we orbit around the planet of Watch This Space in the solar system of Arts and Culture of Alice Springs, in the Galaxy of Art & Creativity.
● Gather ideas towards a reshape our vision for Watch This Space that will help the organisation design a realistic and sustainable model to take us into the future.
PRESENTERS: Dan Murphy (WTS Chair/Banana Lounger, Artist) // Penny Drysdale (Moderator, sometime spoken-word poet) // Pip McManus (WTS Founding Member, Artist) // Kieran Finnane (Arts writer and critic, Alice Springs News Online) // Kieren Sanderson (ASTC Arts & Cultural Policy Officer, Creative Producer) // Alex Kelly (Artist, Filmmaker, Producer) // Jimmy Cocking (ALEC Director, environmental advocate, festival producer) // Alexandra Hullah (WTS Coord, Artist, Creative Director) WTS SUPPORT Beth Sometimes // Frankie Snowdon GUESTS WTS Board. Read more.
Blue Gum Boot Artist Camp (Golden Mile)
Watch This Space has had a rich history of successful art camps. Local, interstate and international artist came together to camp for 4 days and 4 nights in Central Australia to share skills, exchange and incubate ideas. Read more…
Paintings of Country
An independent exhibition by Mervyn Rubuntja and Family.
Celebrated watercolorist of the Namatjira tradition, Mervyn Rubuntja, curated his independent show, featuring traditional works by family members alongside his unique contemporary watercolours of their homelands. Read more…
Ewyenper Atwatye Mural, Alice Springs
A public artwork in collaboration with Watch This Space resident Artists, Province (Al Dadak and Laura Pike), Hidden Valley Artists (Tangentyere Artists), Watch This Space with support from Red Cross Australia, 8CCC Community Radio, Lhere Athepe, IGA Eastside & Eastside Shops.
A special performance by Craig San Roque and friends.
From San Roque: “Performed in ceremony at Eleusis, Greece, over a period of 2000 years as part of the Mystery Festivals, this precious story is a thread in Europe’s cultural heritage. On the surface it is a drama of a mother, her daughter’s death or disappearance and return. Its origin may be from 10,000 years ago at the time of ice age impact, climate changes and the beginning of settled cultivation in the Aegean and Black Sea regions. It deals with creation events, plant and human fertility cycles, profound loss and recovery. I have recomposed the story, setting it here, in a flickering sort of way, remaining faithful to tradition – and yet we might be inventing a new form of handling lore and cultural stories. Note; This is a work in progress. You are invited to enjoy it and the picnic.” Read More…
How to Draw Waterhole
A pop-up exhibition by Doni Maulistya
Doni Maulistya is a visiting artist from Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Both he and Karla Dickens, artists on exchange with Asialink Arts residency, joined us on the Blue Gumboot Artist Camp. Watch This Space worked with Doni on a presentation outcome for works he’d been ruminating on during his time in Central Australia. Read More…
For Seuth Sake! The Slate-Cleaners
A performance by Lofty Award Winner, Franca Barraclough at the 2014 Lofty Award Night.
The performance centres around a ritual that brings together improvised collective choreography around a ritual that ceremoniously ‘cleanses’ all the art our of the gallery to make way for the new art of the approaching year.
The Fertile Space Between Us
A special presentation Series by artist critic and writer, Kieran Finnane.
Alice Springs is often seen as a town beset by racial division and conflict, but its creative culture can tell a different story. Looking back over three decades I find an already rich history of intersection and collaboration, in work by visual artists, writers and thinkers, designers and producers. This history shows the potential of re-imagining the future in this community. Read More…
Free BBQ Cash Giveaway: The experimental arts festival of Alice Springs with added incentive
in partnership with WTS, Elephant Island & Creative Partnerships Australia.
From Elephant Island:
“It’s hot in the desert of Central Australia and the only thing breeding faster up here than flies and germs, is talent.
We moved to Alice Springs three years ago and it has never ceased to amaze us how this tiny little town manages to maintain such a dangerous ratio of gifted artists, musicians and creative folk. People in The Centre might not show up on time, or with shoes, but when they eventually arrive, they do so with a DIY, get-involved, whole hearted approach that is truly unique and deserves to be celebrated.
FREE BBQ CASH GIVEAWAY will be that celebrating champion.
The three week festival is being hosted and developed by us – Josh Davis + Alex Hullah (we are the creative team Elephant Island – and the Alice Springs ARI (Artist Run Initiative), Watch This Space. Together this super group looks to re-activate Watch This Space into an open studio collaboration between local and interstate artists all working together to produce and exhibit new work and get the community involved. A key area of focus for this collaboration will be the creation of a Sculpture Stage inside the gallery, which will happen within the first week of the festival. The Sculpture Stage will be an experimental product of art-making and interactions and the final creation will then be used to host seven days of curated events, performances, and temporary exhibitions."
View Program here.
Find out more about FBCG here.
WTS Digitisation Project
A glimpse into our early history
As part of our 21 year celebrations. WTS received a grant from The Community Benefit Fund to assist in creating a digital archive the first 7 years photographic slides from exhibitions at WTS.
Founding member, Pip McManus gave a special presentation with a selection of these slides.
Travelling Artist Program: 2013 - current
Residencies at Watch This Space for visiting artists
Watch This Space has been providing residencies for visiting artists since 2013. Artists are invited on application to participate in our onsite community for one-month periods to develop new work. Many artists respond to the unique geographical and cultural landscape and WTS has assisted in helping build engagement opportunities with the wider Alice Springs community.
Feature: Resident Artist, Afsenah Torabi on her residency at WTS and her immersive theatre performance, The Arc of Waking.
The Long Weekend in Alice Springs
Launch and exhibition for graphic novel by Craig San Roque and Joshua Santospirito
The Long Weekend in Alice Springs has become a cult classic and an exemplary work on intercultural complexities of Alice Springs. Read More...
The graphic novel s currently being adapted in to an animation. See below for published video works:
Artist Wants A Life
An artist camp and arts lab in Alice Springs
ARTIST WANTS A LIFE was a camp and arts lab run by and for artists. It was open to practicing contemporary artists of any form or discipline and took place in Central Australia in April 2012.
The purpose of the lab was to create a dialogue between regional/remote artists and urban artists, examine collaboration, and create opportunities for artistic relationships to be formed across the geographic divide.
Beth Sometimes and collaborators were interested in devising a developmental experience for artists around the theme of communication and cultural heat. The program was designed by the provocateurs as a flexible space for experimentation.
Participating artists: Claire Wieland, Mel Henderson, Sia Cox, Patricia Hay, Kelly Lee, Jesse Cox, Lizzy Sampson, Jodie Ahrens, Skye Loneragan, Tessa Zettel.
Provocateurs: Lynda Roberts, Bek Conroy, and mentoree provocateur: Beth Sometimes.
Watch This Space project team: Robyn Frances Higgins, Alice Buscombe and Dan Murphy.
Documentation: Sweatshop Creative, Alexandra Hullah, Josh Davis, Damon Logan.
AWAL was funded by Arts NT and the Australia Council for the Arts.
Thanks to: Doris Stuart (Sacred Sites Tour), MK Turner and the Turner family, Keith and Stella Castle from Honeymoon Gap.
An exhibition exploring the wilds of Central Australia via the imagery of keepsake
Is Central Australia just one giant souvenir? Are we all just unsuspecting characters in a surprisingly life-like theme park? Over the decades the outback has been presented as the last frontier, a place of high adventure with carefully measured risk. How have the depictions conveyed via mass manufacturing of souvenirs for the tourist market shaped the identity of the Centre since colonisation? Do these images reveal more of the psychology of White Australia than of the place itself? Are souvenirs just dated artefacts of a traveller’s journey or the glossing of more complex truths? What are we not remembering? Co-curated by Red Hot arts’ Franca Barraclough and Beth Sometimes from Watch This Space, Souvenir will be a Central Australian group show showcasing the work of over twenty local artists and one international artist.
Yeperenye Musical Caterpillar
Auspiced Project by Dan Murphy
“They come out in all different colours, they’ve all got a different pattern on them…but they all work together, just like [custodians] want the Arrernte people, and white people and everyone who lives in Alice Springs all to work together with respect and harmony,” says Artist Dan Murphy. the giant Yeperenye featured as part of Alice Springs Desert Festival, 2010. Artist, Mat Hill, worked with Centralian Senior School students to create a percussion ensemble to accompany the moving sculpture. Read More from Dave Nixon, ABC Open…
Pmere Arntarntareme / Watching This Place
20 November 2010 – 13 February 2011 Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs, NT
A Watch This Space exhibition at Araluen arts Centre.
From arts writer, Kieran Finane’s review: “The bilingual title of this exhibition points to its framework. The non-English language is Central Arrernte. The place then is the Central Arrernte homeland, Mparntwe, on which stands the town of Alice Springs. The English, however, is not merely translation but one tongue in a two-tongued project whose primary intention is further dialogue and exchange between artists and the Arrernte custodians of Mparntwe…” Read more…
Art in Public Places in Alice Springs
“21 days of Art and Performance across Alice Springs, 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.” Kieren Sanderson – Original Concept and Producer. Read More…
From Alice to Mparntwe
Sacred Sites Cultural Tours with Doris Stuart Kngwarreye (Apmereke – artwye for Mparntwe, Arrernte cultural custodian)
Many visitors to Central Australia are struck by the grandeur and majesty of the McDonnell Ranges and the gorges, waterholes and oases hidden amongst their folds. Over the past 150 years or so a small town has grown in the heart of the ranges, alongside Lhere Mparntwe, to accommodate the settlers and visitors to this spectacular landscape. Alice Springs has grown much in its short history but beneath the streets of this modern desert town lies a much longer story. We would like you to take another step on your journey and come with us From Alice to Mparntwe Doris Stuart Kngwarreye’s family have lived alongside the Todd River for countless generations. She is an Mparntwe-Arrernte woman. Apmereke atweye for Mparntwe. Allow her the opportunity to introduce you to her country and take you on a journey from Alice Springs to the heart of Mparntwe. Read More…