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Art outside the academy

03 Sep 2019

Art outside the academy Image

By Rhonda Dredge

People love being critical and the latest show at Deakin’s downtown gallery in Collins St encourages viewers to question the value of art as we know it.

Why should an old-fashioned painting of the royal family by Velasquez be given more credit than a pin board?

What if copies of pamphlets full of questions are available for the taking?

Lynda Roberts is an arts administrator and she’s interested in the dissemination of ideas. So, she’s pinned questions to a board in the gallery and invited visitors to engage.

Where would you take this question: what are the shifts in production that artists and local authorities need to negotiate within the contemporary public sphere?

The process of art in the 21st century seeks to wake up the viewer and get him or her moving. Forget about blind admiration. Art is a conversation. Get out there and ask a punter!

Public art in Docklands has become a tourist attraction, according to locals, because it does just that – gets people thinking.

Heather Khoury, who works at Off with the Ferries, doesn’t particularly like the sculpture of a cow that hovers in the tree over their café but concedes that it’s good for business.

“It’s so strange,” she said. “We get tourists taking pictures. I don’t get it. It’s a drawcard for the tourists. People wonder why. What’s the meaning of it?”

This is the kind of response that Lynda Roberts, who works at Melbourne Town Hall, seeks. When she leaves the office and drives around in her little campervan to talk one-on-one to people about art, she documents the responses.

For her research project into the ideas that drive the art world, she parked her van all over the place – mostly at important cultural events – to goad people into thinking about such issues.

Ever since the 1960s art has been slowly slipping out of galleries and into public spaces.

The Deakin exhibition Everyday Research foregrounds this shift. Some postgraduate students were lucky enough to get site-specific gigs at this year’s Venice Biennale.

A video of two researchers trying to play ping pong in a narrow street in Venice with a net not quite long enough is amusing but also provokes envy.

Watching two academics hoon about in Venice with locals disappearing into nearby historic homes is a far cry from the dutiful demeanours of workers in Tower Two of Collins Square, where the gallery is situated.

Does art belong outside the academy? The answer for these researchers is a definite yes.

 

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