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Future Forum wrap-up and re-cap

Celebrating ACCAs 30th birthday looking to the future

Over the past six months we have been looking to the past, digging through the dusty boxes, and creating an online archive documenting every year of ACCA’s 30 Year history. Check it out here. We have also been looking ahead, with Future Forums, a series of panel discussions focussed on the future of the visual arts in Australia. Our friends and Sturt Street neighbours, ABC Radio National, came on board as Media Partner for the program and broadcast the conversations on their Books and Arts show to living rooms and car radios all around the country.

Our subjects included the future of curating, funding and audiences, as well as a session on the future of Melbourne’s gallery ecosystem. We heard from national and international speakers as well as prominent local commentators. There was so much to talk/argue/think/debate about, and be inspired by. Here’s a little snippet of some of the conversations that took place… make sure you download the full audio version for all the juicy bits that couldn’t fit into the blog post.

Future Curating

Image: Fulya Erdemci, Tara McDowell, Jeff Khan, Hannah Mathews and Michael Cathcart (Paul Penton, ABC)

The first forum in the series was on the future of curating. It saw super-star international guest and Artistic Director of the 2013 Istanbul Biennial Fulya Erdemci join ACCA’s own Hannah Mathews, along with Jeff Khan, Co-Director of Performance Space and Tara McDowell, Director of Curatorial Practice at Monash University, to discuss the multitude of individual approaches to curating and where the practice might be headed. Listen here.

Fulya Erdemci beautifully articulated her position as a curator at the interface between society and art. In Turkey there has been urban transformation forcing communities to relocate from their homes and work. Fulya described the situation as critical, where people care less about how to live than how to earn, and this has caused extreme social tension. She wanted to touch on these issues when curating the 13th Istanbul Biennial, which we had the immense pleasure of visiting in 2013, and blogged about here.

Her title was inspired by Turkish poet Lale Müldür’s, Mom, am I a barbarian? Fulya explained ‘barbarian’ is an ancient Greek word, referring to people who cannot speak language properly and subsequently are not considered citizens. It translates as foreigner or stranger and carries strong connotations of exclusion. Thinking about what it might mean to be a barbarian in the current social context informed Fulya’s conceptual framework for 13th Istanbul Biennial, which she then invited artists to respond to. Fulya continually opens herself to the ideas of artists and sees it as essential to learn and be inspired in this way.

Michael Cathcart asked the guests, “what is exciting you in the future of curatorial practice?” Hannah Mathews shared insights into her upcoming project FRAMED MOVEMENTS, exploring the on-going cross-pollination between visual arts and choreography. Jeff Khan was excited to see what kind of future institutions develop to support new kinds of artistic practice, “as artists are increasingly working outside of the constraints of the gallery space, curators and intuitions will need to catch up. When thinking about where we may evolve, in the next 10 years, we need to see how flexible and imaginative we can be when connecting audiences with art.”

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Image: Bernard Salt KPMG and Juliana Engberg ACCA

In the second forum, Melbourne Tomorrow, ACCA’s Artistic Director Juliana Engberg and Artistic Director of the 19th Biennale of Sydney, Max Delany, Senior Curator of Contemporary Art National Gallery of Victoria, Madé Spencer-Castle, practicing artist and co-director of DUDSPACE (an artist run space at the back of Kings ARI) and Bernard Salt, Partner KPMG and renowned commentator on community trends joined the ABC’s Suzanne Donisthorpe to discuss how Melbourne’s contemporary art ecosystem can keep thriving into the future. Listen here.

Max Delany attributed the success of Melbourne Now firstly to the interest and appetite for contemporary art in Melbourne but equally to the energy of the wider visual arts community and the vibrant and complex landscape that already exists here in Melbourne. Madé Spencer-Castle noted that Melbourne Now turned audiences attention to artists operating in Melbourne and that was its great success.

Juliana Engberg described the Melbourne Now phenomenon as fascinating in a number of ways. It built on what we already have in Melbourne, but did something more than that; it doubled or trippled audience for contemporary art in Melbourne. It achieved this with an interdisciplinary approach, involving architecture and design, but it was also a very successful marketing campaign.

Bernard Salt proposed that Melbourne Now tapped into a latent desire to explore our creativity in Melbourne. However, he expressed his concern around the ‘splinterfication’ we’re seeing in Melbourne, “there are arts and galleries absolutely everywhere! Splinterfication is great for patronage but can they all survive into the Melbourne of tomorrow? How can we fund a multiplication of different galleries?”

Bernard predicted that after a period of splinterfication there might be consolidation, so that in the 2020s and 2030s we might have a number of larger key institutions that are more viable in an economic world. He sees budget cuts forcing new and innovative ways of funding the arts, with individuals like David Walsh setting up their own institutions such as MONA. In between these larger galleries he believes we will see more opportunistic spaces like DUDSPACE.

But the future of funding was another whole topic. As was future audiences. Stay tuned to the ACCA Art Blog for part two of the Future Forum wrap up. Or listen ahead online.

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