Wednesday, October 31, 2012

MoreArt 2012 reflections

It was with a bit of sadness and a lot of pride that I closed the shutter on the 2012 MoreArt exhibition piece 'A Neighbourhood Holding Space', yesterday. Present in my life for two and a half months (a little more if you count it's idea birthing  near the beginning of this year) the artworks and the stories held and told, have become very precious to me and others involved.

MoreArt is an annual public art show, funded by my local city council of Moreland. Contemporary art pieces are exhibited along the Upfield train line and adjacent bike track. Personally I think it is a great event and look forward every year to looking out the window of the train, to see artworks travel in and out of view. For this MCC I thank you.

This year I was very fortunate to be approached by Sussex Neighbourhood House to put forward an artists proposal. With the support and assistance of Suzanne, the House manager, we formed the idea of what was to become 'A Neighbourhood Holding Space'. An exhibit created by 'our neighbourhood artists', using the knotted art form I call 'Holding Spaces' and inquiring into the question, "what does neigbourhood mean to you?" We were delighted to receive our acceptance letter. The former vendor window at Gowrie train station was our exhibition site.

Our first visit had us wondering where Gowrie train station was. Neglecting to check the map before we set-off northwards, assuming the other knew where we were going, Suzanne and I enlisted the help of the 527 Northland SC–Gowrie bus-stop signs, aware that it's end stop was the station - cleaver!

After the site visit, photos taken and with note that we would need to clean out the cob-webs and fly cemetery we set about calling for our artist collective. As I have previously experienced in community art-making inquires, our participants came forward through 'connection'. I believe this has something to do with 'trust'. It's often difficult to articulate a process which is rich in emergence - we can only explain so much, the rest we do not know, ourselves trusting a process and the personalities involved. Our artists collective included friends, friends of friends, neighbours and House regulars.

Over two community gatherings (and a couple of extra visit during installation time) we formed Holding Spaces and shared what we wanted to of the individual stories they held. During this time we witnessed the strength of the process and of the power of shared story. The flow-on effect / affect of artmaking and reflection, what we had come to now know and it's impact on our daily lives. There were connections between stories or the forming of connections by sharing our own story. 

The individuals then came together to form a whole. Our exhibit. Life stories to tell of a community story, of 'what neighbourhood means to us'. Positioning of the Holding Spaces and words which spoke of the essence of their stories were positioned with careful consideration within the space. This was important. I often say the exhibiting space informs the artwork, in turn enhances the story – it is a continuous cycle, if you are open to it. It was a difficult piece to photograph in it's entirety and we're ok with that. We like that the observers reflection is in view and the world outside is reflected in the window. All symbolic when describing 'neighbourhood'.

We do however invite you in for a closer look. To take your time, sit down, have a cuppa, read our stories, see our work at the Sussex Neighbourhood House website 

Even though the shutter has been drawn on 'A Neighbourhood Holding Space', it's not the end. We believe it is just the beginning. It is "more than MoreArt" - our emergent tagline, as it continues to have an impact on the artist's lives and perhaps our viewers..?

There is one piece missing from the above photo. It was taken down last week, carefully packed in bubble wrap and handed over by the artist to a community friend, before she left for Spain. This holding space is an offering to La Casa, in Seville. From her blog she describes La Casa as "...two things; an Asociacion of community members working together (voluntarily!) to provide a supportive social and economic environment in an area of the city that is being changed by gentrification and the GFC. It is also a historic building, in danger of being lost to decay or developers. It is the base for the Asociacion and the heart of the community."

We also experienced many opportunities to share what we had come to know with passing commuters and at the Squeaky Wheel artist's talk. When deinstalling I received lovely feedback from one lady who thanked us for the exhibit, she had enjoyed it each day. She told me she had been missing 'this sort of thing', having recently moving back to this area, from St Kilda. As her train pulled into the station we quickly chatted and I hope to see her at the neighbourhood house one day soon. 

My own personal stories of neighbourhood continue to grow, form and change – I hear this from others too. We will meet again in a few weeks for celebratory community gathering. Holding Spaces will be returned to their creators, there will be time to reflect and ultimately re-connect – food to share and no doubt many stories floating through the air.

Farewell Gowrie and MoreArt2012 – thank you, my neighbourhood is richer for it.
It has been grand!

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