Short ride in a fast machine

Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces
200 Gertrude Street Fitzroy Melbourne, August 2005
A Short Ride in a Fast Machine was designed to celebrate Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces’ 20 year anniversary. A way to recognise the activity that has happened in the past and is still happening. There was a proposition of a history for the art space. Pure celebration and commemoration might have been better perspectives for understanding the show. With the publication that accompanied the exhibition, the simple question of who is visible and who is not was another central, though deferred, topic. Talk of vested interests and people left out stalked this exhibition.
Rob McKenzie


Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey was this show sponsored by Anna Schwartz or what? Not only is it full of unjustifiable Schwartz artists (in that they have no particular association with GSAS and the work shown is below par) but artists from the other leading commercial galleries are conspicuous in their absence. You'd expect more from a space that's supposed to support alternatives to the mainstream and most commercial

2:56 AM  
Anonymous Always Already said...

Dear Anonymous,
What do you mean "that they have no particular association with GSAS"? I thought all these artists had held a g-street studio at some stage. And what is a “particular association” that makes no sense, please explain. As for the rest of your comment I think you are being a little utopic if you think that g-street supports alternatives, look at what has happened there in the past ten years, it has created and supported the next mainstream, not supported alternatives. Give me one example of an alternative mode of anything that you have seen there since 1990? It all looks conspicuously familiar to me. The Anna Schwartz argument is obvious and acts as a smokescreen for what is really happening…nothing!
Kind regards
Always Already

3:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What the hell did Tony Clark ever have to do with G-street? What an atrocious example of his work anyway. While Jan Nelson, Robert Hunter, Emily Floyd etc have had studios there, I still think that the show is over-representative of artists from Schwartz and not particularly representative of the quality of the Melbourne art scene and the people who have participated in the various G-street programs.

Sure I take your point about G-street supporting the next mainstream and I don't really even have an issue with that but they are not ACCA and shouldn't be behaving like they are - ie. Showing so many Schwartz artists.

2:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why dont they cut out the middle person and make schwartz the new director. it would make artists transition from gstreet to acca simpler.

2:36 AM  
Anonymous Schulzendorf said...

Whine whine whine whine…Anna gets everything…whine whine whine. Love to the Melbourne art world.

4:54 AM  
Anonymous Geoff Lowe said...

we're not sure where we want to go with this anonymous thing.
there's aleady so many masks, blind turns, dummy moves and unfocussed cruelty in the artworld, we're not looking to create more.
We are looking to make a platform to get things said that are submerged or rendered useless
Is it really so hard to put your names on these aggressive comments? Disowned insults are generally the way we police each other. ( Like 'it's not me speaking' but...).They can be libidinous but is it really so dangerous that you can't speak from where you are?
Like maybe you won't get a show at Gertude or AS or something?

5:40 AM  
Anonymous Harry de Wheels said...

This is getting a lot like The Art Life and very very quickly too.

5:42 AM  
Anonymous Rob McKenzie said...

Everyone has a right to say what they think. As a sign of respect though, I would like people to use their name. First name is fine.

Things come across as particularly malicious and petty when ‘anonymous’.

6:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can totally understand why people want to keep things anonymous.
It is a fact of life that in the Australian art scene a few people have an enormous amount of power, pre-mentioned ACCA and Anna Schwartz being amongst them. For artists, writers and others working in the industry, commenting anonymously is the only way to have a say without risking your career. We, art workers, artists and writers are frequently made to feel 'grateful' for any opportunity we have and I feel it is extremely naive to suggest that there is nothing to be lost by speaking your mind, with your name attached.

Go for it you various anonymies!

Back to the conversation, that show at Gerty IS awfully heavy with artists from Anna Schwartz. While other artists are represented upstairs and in the studios, (which are only open some Saturdays and were organised by the artists in the studios currently) I also feel the over-represens artists from Anna's and I can not see how it can be justified.

P.S, I quite like that Tony Clark work but I know he never had a studio there and also feel his inclusion in particular, proves the point. Did Anna Schwartz sponsor this show? Very valid point from the other anonymous - where are the artists from Tolarno, Sutton, Karen Woodbury etc etc That really makes me feel that there is something up.

6:39 AM  
Anonymous Rob McKenzie said...

Owning an opinion is dangerous when you are the only one to speak. You can be singled out. But someone needs to have the confidence to be the first to speak. I think it is important that I acknowledge what I say and what I think and it is important for others to do the same. Its like that Anthony Mundine quote - “I wasn’t outspoken and that back then. I didn’t have the confidence I have now.” Why do artists feel so disenfranchised that they feel they can’t speak openly? Why do so many artists lack confidence to say how they feel about the structures of the art world?

I believe that people can be structurally excluded from something, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have a voice. When a platform such as this is made available, why neuter that voice by hiding it under a veil of anonymity? The text of ‘anonymous’ feels to me like someone is scared of their opinion. That’s a serious issue.

I feel very strongly that we should stand up for our subjectivity. We should not deny what we think and feel. I try and practice that as much as possible but I know it is hard. I still believe though that it is ineffectual to speak subjectivity behind anonymity. It comes across as weak and afraid, and that is a dreadful platform from which to voice opinion.

10:02 AM  
Anonymous mightymousemichelle said...

Nick Selenitsch once said to me "I wish you could have a conversation about someones art or exhibition and tell them it's crap and then say..wanna go get a beer?" This was 6 years ago. We made a pact that we would always do this with each other, in fact I seem to be able to do this with all my friends now. It's much more interesting than talking about how crap someones art is when they can't defend themselves, you don't learn anything either, you're just creating bad energy around yourself.
I say - dont be afraid! own your words! challenge others!

The show? hmm there are good bits and there are problems..(good bit) noonans owls are a jewel on the ceiling. ACW soundtrack motivates me to run up those stairs and go forth in the world and be positive. (problem) lack of "event" on opening, like a band/performance or something that made it more significant than all other gerty shows. An attempt to represent every artist ever involved in gerty is a difficult task, but I would have liked to see this, or know the number of them, or possibilities of how it could be achieved...rather than an "exhibition of highlights". I think it's not the worst show I have ever seen, besides the artists involved are all good artists - no argument about that, just that how does this show make reference and comment on those 20 years? Thats a really long time. Thats your life time Rob!! haha..who would you choose or what would you do if you had to represent that?

12:28 PM  
Anonymous Geoff Lowe said...

For the art world to be exclusive, people have been excluded.
If you really feel that your art career is put in danger then this is a good place to talk about it and how that is structured.
If it's naive to speak with your name can you show us some uses for speaking anonymously?

PS I think Tony Clark was included because he had been in shows there, it is a question of the surrounding culture, not just the studios I guess.
But I agree I would have liked to have seen a lot more dirt in the show and the catalogue.
Foucault says somethings like
authorship is the cultural figure we use to represent our fear of proliferation.
Community and ease were covered up (Jon Campbell the master of ease was hardly in it)

2:15 PM  
Anonymous Bianca Hester said...

....Why do artists feel so disenfranchised that they feel they can’t speak openly? Why do so many artists lack confidence to say how they feel about the structures of the art world?....

maybe it’s because artists are masochists....? Thinking of ourselves as disenfranchised plays into a master-slave game. If you adopt the role of a victim you reinforce the notion of a master!….you produce the master! Robert Smithson thought that artists should do away with all notions of value. Delueze wrote a book about Nietzsche in which he says:

“inferior forces do not, by obeying, cease to be forces distinct from those which command. Obeying is a quality of force as such and relates to power just as much as commanding does”. (Deleuze p. 40 from Nietzsche and Philosophy)

“individual power is by no means surrendered. In the same way, there is in commanding an admission that the absolute power of the opponent has not been vanquished, incorporated, disintegrated. ‘Obedience’ and ‘commanding’ are forms of struggle” (Nietzsche)

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Bianca Hester said...

PS> I dont think there should be 'rules' about people posting anonymously or not. I think that asking people to use their names is a form of policing. I aggree that it's annoying to not know the context of the anoymous bloggers (and to get more of a sense of what they are saying through that context)....but if requesting that they use their names means that they'll stop posting, then I think this is a problem. I reckon the dialogue (not the identity), is the energy of this blog?

4:14 PM  
Anonymous Rob McKenzie said...

I like that Deleuze quote. It says something very important about choice, and how we can choose to be disenfranchised by giving the person in command our obedience. All very relevant.

Yeah, i guess I don't mind 'anonymous' that much. Especially when it develops into a persona, rather than a disguise. I still believe people should own their opinions and that society is bad when people are afraid to say what they think. So anonymous should keep posting, but I still feel that from where i sit it appears weak.

As for Michelle's questions of who I would choose. Probably no one. How do you represent something which is so many things and has been and will be an infinite number of things? probably free beer and a bit of a party. Friends and stuff. I dunno. Gertrude gave it a go and good on em. brave move. As you can see!

5:09 PM  
Blogger lyndal said...

I think it's great that this issue of putting your identity to your opinion has come up. Recent comments have implied that it's only artists who are concerned about their careers etc. At least one of those anonymous comments speaks of other members of the art world having the same problem. I would have thought it was at least as bad for anyone seeking employment at any sort of gallery.

I also think there is a radical difference between commenting on someone's show - an artist or a curator, and commenting on institutional structures. I absolutely agree that you should be able to be honest about shows and go and have a drink afterwards. This is my own policy and something I very much appreciate from others. But, I think it is very hard as an artist or art worker to question insititutional and commercial frameworks and policies.

2:45 AM  
Blogger matthew griffin said...

I thought clubs helium balloons were a great idea, i wish i had thought of that! Bianca we voted, youre out of the union.

6:56 AM  
Anonymous Bianca Hester said...

what a relief....a united front gives me the creeps! i'm all in for the reality of dischord...

hey ps> someone else from clubs though of those balloons....and they asked me to let you know that: "it's a-okay if matt g. wants to use balloons at some stage, too".....not that you need permission or anything.

7:12 AM  
Blogger matthew griffin said...

we voted again..clubs is out of the union.

9:19 AM  
Blogger jeremy the said...

doesn't it feel a bit hollow posting stuff without even putting up a false identity ?

i read somewhere once that multiple-personality disorder was once considered a rare psychological condition, whereas today it has become the common mental state of all of us...

putting your name to what your say is naive, risky, but it is also about individual authorship, accountability, ego, and power.

anonymity is about stealth, disguise, unnaccountability - all useful, desirable strategies too. but it has also been used so far on this blog as a means of filing cheap one-liners and nasty jabs at local artworld heavyweights. a bit like graffiti, only graf artists sign their work, presumably because they actually believe in the potency of what they're saying.

i guess each is a valid position like any other, everyone is free to assess their own position, try things out, throw stones from a distance, etc.. it is the earnest democracy of the blog that ensures that all words are rendered equal. in any case there is no way to police it, and if things dissolve into the interest levels of an internet chat room then so be it. but i doubt it.

for me it's the idea of naivety that wins out. i think it is a fantastic, invaluable thing to have. in a world caked with cynicism, naivety is to be guarded. naivety is a powerful strategy, but if you don't have it you can't fake it, because you're probably in a place maligned with self-consciousness and fear, imagining a world full of false facades and limited opportunities ... all too often each day ends up being what we make of it ourselves to begin with.

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

"How do you represent something which is so many things and has been and will be an infinite number of things? probably free beer and a bit of a party. Friends and stuff."
This is a festival!!! It isn't that you would invite no one Rob, you would invite everyone. I like this idea! The studios are interesting in that current studio artists have to work/live/think around a past studio users artwork for a month. I hadn't thought of this until I went into Stuart Ringholts studio and there was Julia Gormans massive cat head sticker staring at me in pink and green. Good if you like the work. Reminded me of moving into a sharehouse once and having to live with the other girls velour pink couch.

12:17 PM  
Anonymous gwynneth porter said...

I was thinking about uses for anonymity, and how it can serve a kind of suicide; a good one, like career suicide.

Atomisation of the ego at the service of the whole. Being like mist, all incoherent and filling available spaces.

In this sense, rather than in flaming (own it and work it as Miss Tyra says), I think bearing no name plays an important role in self-organising. “Collective responsibility not personal authority” etc.

Normally when I get asked to choose my first thought is “both”.

I was wondering if anyone out there has an opinion about cake-having and cake-eating?

[PS. Just after I wrote this I went to bed where I was reading Janet Frame’s biography. It told of her asking, in the early 70s, “When people individually are nice, which I think most New Zealanders are, what makes them so frightful collectively?” Later, as if trying to answer her own question, she observed that “We are a selfish people…” yet “here it’s so easy to fall asleep.”]

8:45 AM  
Blogger geoff lowe said...

" individually nice, which I think most New Zealanders are, what makes them so frightful collectively?”

I think its an interesting thought to speak up and be individually frightful then collectively nice?
saying-what-you-want is in that sense a gift to the community, hardly the trangression it's easy to feel it is

The thing about the Gertude, like many of our insitutions is that
they currently represent the system to the artists effectively
The artists tend to learn quickly what will and wont get noticed or taken seriously
I'd like to see G Street represent the position of the artists to the system more often

1:12 PM  
Blogger Helen said...

It seems that a significant portion of what artists perceive as 'the system' being represented to them/us by Gertrude (et al) exists firstly in the minds of the artists. Sometimes it is career-striving which generates the concept of system as impermeable enemy. If the system troubles an artist, they should work without it. If gertrude's perceived position as some sort of permeable membrane between artists and system troubles an artist, they should work without it.
This is not to imply that art institutions are benign and never do artists over, but that an artist should not feel that they have to define themselves by such institutions. If the opportinity to engage with one comes along, take it or leave it. Then maybe avoid feeling sheepish about pissing and moaning about a place up until the point when you are accepted into it.

6:42 PM  
Anonymous Brendan said...

When I was a student in the 90s, I looked up to 1st Floor as the mainstay of cutting edge art. The kind that took risks and ultimately, what was reflecting a certain generation of artists. Gertrude St was always a mild version of the mainstream. (by mild I mean the emerging artists who already had the refined flare that the commercial galleries are after). With the closure of 1st Floor, artists tended to turn to Gertrude St as the next best thing, and under Max's directorship he did help foster and nurture artists during those years. As always its studios are what are truly holding G Street together (and at the moment it drastically needs holding together). All of the commercial works being shown in gallery is just part of a safety blanket being held tight in the climate of an over reliance on funding we live in. It will be interesting to see what Alexie brings to the table, now that her ACMI shackles are off. She's had a few years of pented up creativity from down in the well.

Go G-Street...

6:33 AM  
Anonymous geoff lowe said...

When the history of a place that includes the activities of hundreds of people over a twenty year period is written and presented in such a monovocal way I think it's natural and useful for individuals to feel critical discontent. SPEECH like Artfan before it attempts to represent what people feel and think in a wider more ranging way as a history. This page here has explored how opinions can be expressed in public and private and through anonymity. The wide assumption seems to be a lot of people felt miffed at how the history was written yet when individuals have used their names to be critical of this one history of Gertrude they have been called too young to know and sheepish pissing moaning careerist.
As histories are written they tell the story of 'all of us' unless individuals and groups say otherwise. I see this as a process where dissent from the mainstream gives us something palpable and useful. It's not that an institution is the impermeable enemy at all, I think we need every one of them badly to breathe. The whole story is never tellable or even knowable thats why an institution that allows its constituents to speak offers a lot.
It's not so much 'them and us' but beginning to develop a multivocal way of speaking that both includes more and brings any existing written history into question.
From what I see of your blog Helen http://triangularsun.blogspot.com this impulsive responsiveness is what you value too? There's no last word because there's always another one.
I'd like to hear a hundred more histories of Gertrude especially by those who feel left out.

11:04 AM  
Blogger Helen said...

I completely agree with you Geoff about the value of diverse histories, that there can be no single true history and that the version of Gertrude's history presented as A Short Ride in a Fast Machine was indeed a limited one.
In my previous comment I was not rejecting the value of critical evaluation in such a situation. What I was speaking about as a problem is when people approach 'the institution', whatever that might be in a given context, looking for something to criticise as a means of appeasing a sense of exclusion. It contributes constructively to neither party. Whether someone chooses to use a name or anonymity on this blog doesn't have much bearing on whether or not they are a pissing moaning careerist. Which term was not directed at contributors to this discussion either way; what I was pointing out is that there are quite a lot of people in 'the art world' who deride, criticise and complain about places like Gertrude Street, ACCA, Anna Schwartz, whatever, because they feel that those places represent a sphere which they as artists cannot penetrate. I believe that this is an ego-driven attitude and is not a constructive basis for criticism or formulating opinion. It is a stance which perpetuates the 'them and us'.

9:32 PM  
Blogger geoff lowe said...

them and us
sorry Ive been out of touch
well I'm finding it hard to know whats wrong with expressing an opinion to appease exclusion?
the institutions are writing the history and holding the microphone, whats wrong with feeling what is important to you isnt being accounted for?
what exactly is wrong with wanting to be in the position of those who can speak?
You seem to say to avoid being a victim you can
yet we need institutions as shared contested space
to be a teacher without a school or an artist without a gallery can be very gruelling

well to avoid being the vcitim its easy to identify with the opppressor too

to me it seems much more libidinous to talk about what you want
rather than what "should" happen

the idea of SPEECH is to say and write things that are said in everyday life but are often excluded in the institutional voice
things you hear in galleries, loungerooms and on the street
I havent heard people say that 'everything is great' in those places
so this is an opportunity to say another history, and Im not about to judge whether its constructive or not when, in fact, still so little has been said on this subject here.
What we seem to be arguing about here is whether we are allowed to speak or not?

12:37 PM  
Blogger Helen said...

Well I'm finding it hard to know whats wrong with expressing an opinion to appease exclusion?
The expression of an opinion is not wrong, of course not. What I am saying is, the sense of exclusion is something which can be grounded in a position of defeat, which position itself articulates that the [hypothetical] artist has perceived this power structure and placed themselves at the bottom of it, as a default. That is what my argument is with. I am speaking in this context about this idea that it is necessary to show in ‘big’ galleries to be a successful artist, and feeling resentment towards such places as a result.
The institutions are writing the history and holding the microphone
The institutions are writing their own versions of the history, not the history. They are not holding the only microphone either. I have more faith in the individual than that. A good artist, a successful artist, does not by definition require institutional affiliation, not by a long stretch. It depends how each individual defines ‘good’ or ‘successful’. An artist can affect positive change or present an important vision with or without an institution. There are plenty more versions of histories out there which can be accessed and contributed to.
Whats wrong with feeling what is important to you isnt being accounted for?
If you feel that what is important to you isn’t being accounted for, then why not account for it? Why defer to the institution to decide what should/should not be accounted for?
What exactly is wrong with wanting to be in the position of those who can speak?
It is the belief that the position of those who can speak is equated with ‘the institution’ that is wrong. Very wrong! Anyone can speak! There are other ways of going about it. Why the sense of disempowerment?
To be a teacher without a school or an artist without a gallery can be very gruelling
For one, to bring the educational institution into this discussion would require putting several more kettles of fish on the boil. To be an artist without a gallery can be very gruelling, yes, which is why it is great that there are so many artist-run spaces, in Melbourne at least, where artists can afford to exhibit off their own backs.
I should elucidate the point I was trying to make in the first place, being this;
If criticism is to be leveled at an institution, or at institutions in general, it ought to be valid and considered criticism. I think this a valid point to make, in a discussion of the way in which Gertrude’s anniversary show was received by the artistic community, that there are many different motivations for taking a critical stance, and sometimes it is just for the sake of putting something down. In saying this, I am not implying criticism towards specific people, and I am not saying ‘don’t criticize these places’ either.
If institutions are to be held answerable to the role which they are to play in a balanced and functional artistic community, which of course they should, then they should be criticized and held accountable in a fair and judicious way themselves, just as artists, galleries and writers et al. should be. Not all criticism is constructive. You seem to have chosen to receive this comment in a reactionary way, as though it were aimed at ‘speech’ specifically, which it was not.
What we seem to be arguing about here is whether we are allowed to speak or not?
From my point of view it is more about how much thought should go into the things we say, and whether we care who hears it.

3:06 PM  
Blogger geoff lowe said...

Paranoia can be a useful impulse. We are living in the most conservative times ever. There are catastrophes. For myself I think its time to show some drives and funky, sexy, hybrid, alarmed ways-of-saying whether they should be said or not.
Some protestant thing is going on here, every time an insitution is criticised a whole lot of artists jump to its defense!
I want to explore what 'can' be said about Gertrude, Ricky, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Lizzie Newman, Jan Van Schaik, Chelsea, Robert Storr, your arm pits, Slippin space whatever... I don't see such a need to explore what 'should' or 'ought' to be said its pretty well covered already.
We are talking about freedom here, its important to me to be able to say-what-you-want. So you can begin to know what you want .
I'm learning a lot here too. You can say all you want, please do. It's been a stimulus so far. I'm seeing that we spend a lot of time like lawyers debating what is acceptable to be said. I'm yearning for a freer space.

8:35 AM  
Blogger Helen said...

Funky, sexy, hybrid, alarmed ways-of-saying all have good energy about them. Conservative populism understands this too, and they have all been effectively put to use as key strategies in its rampant proliferation.
This way and that. Vehicles for thoughts.
Perhaps you are including me as one of these ‘protestant’ artists who jumps to the defense of the institution? I am not sure. If so, to what I have communicated as to my attitude towards criticism of institutions I see it as too simple a response, which seems motivated by an agenda of controversy rather than clarity. To me clarity is important here.
What should, ought to, can be said. All can be based in personal opinion. All can be well or ill considered, and all are valid. I am glad that you yearn for a freer space. I do too.

12:04 PM  

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