New model disrupts programming at Carriageworks

Carriageworks hands over authorship of its public space to ARIs via the project NO SHOW, designed to rethink partnerships and value in a post-pandemic arts ecosystem.
New model disrupts programming at Carriageworks Youssofzay + Hart, NO SHOW architectural render, Carriageworks 2021. Image supplied.
No image supplied

Gina Fairley

Friday 12 February, 2021

NO SHOW, is more than a new exhibition; it is a new model for partnership, for presentation, and for sustainability.

Presented over three-week at Carriageworks (12 February – 7 March), bespoke architecturally designed spaces will fill the venue’s large public space.

In this pop-up environment, 11 artist-led initiatives (ARIs) from across NSW, will be featured, each showcasing the work of largely early-career Australian artists and writers.

ArtsHub caught up with curator of the project, Aarna Hanley, who said: ‘It’s an exhibition of organisations, and a bit like a Babushka doll – it has many layers.’

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NO SHOW highlights the activities of artist-run spaces, cooperatives, digital platforms, online publications and studio, and was a way of offering support to artists emerging from a difficult year.

While it may riff off the idea of an art fair or expo, NO SHOW is not intended to be a commercial venture. It is an interesting model, when thinking of placing value on the whole arts ecosystem, and the ‘feeders’ that emerge into the content makers for larger organisations, such as Carriageworks.

Carriageworks CEO Blair French told ArtsHub: ‘Carriageworks has always been very conscious of the way in which we operate within a broader ecosystem. Much of our work in supporting the development – not only of emerging artists but emergent ideas and practices – has been through our in-development programs, offering space and resources for artists to experiment towards new work.

‘As much of this critical work takes place behind closed doors it is less apparent to a broad public, at least until it finds final form … through NO SHOW we recognise the persistent importance of independent initiatives to our arts community. Nimble and resourceful, artist-led organisations run largely on the volunteered time and support of their community but operate at the heart of experimental and critical practice in NSW,’ he continued.

French told ArtsHub that over the coming couple of years, Carriagworks will, ‘be shifting our focus away from monumental projects pitched at spectacular experiences and concentrating on more intimate, immediate points of engagement between artists and communities.’

Big fish // small fish

Hanley said it was important for Carriageworks to hand over the authorship of this project to the ARIs, so that they conceived the shows. ‘We wanted to show we supported them 100%.’

‘After a year of no shows in our industry, we wanted to do something. We are showing the infrastructure that supports our arts industry – all the layers are there – experimentation, thinking, ideas and practice is highlighted in this project,’ explained Hanley.

‘The show is about handing over space; we are not on show – these orgs are on show,’ said Hanley.

It directly responds to our environment now, rather than try to remodel the art fair, and was conceived of in December when the sector went into lockdowns.

'So many of our programming initiatives are developed in partnerships with other organisations, independent artists and companies. The circumstances we and the sector overall faced in 2020 has simply served to highlight how such partnerships are critical now more than ever to our sustainability,' French said.

‘In order to ensure we can make the very best of constrained resources as a whole sector, in order to create the widest set of opportunities for artists and the richest set of experiences for audiences, we need to collaborate, share and work together. And do so perhaps with partners we haven’t worked with before,’ he continued.

It’s an exhibition of organisations, and a bit like a Babushka doll – it has many layers.

Curator, Aarna Hanley

NO SHOW will feature:  Alexandria based ANKLES; Aboriginal Artists Co-operative Boomalli; Australia’s longest-running artist-led organisation Firstdraft; Camperdown artist-run initiative KNULP; Parramatta Road studio and gallery project Our Neon Foe; Parramatta artist-run space Pari; the digital moving image platform Prototype; online arts publication Running Dog Digital platform Runway Journal;  social enterprise Studio A, and the new regional initiative the WAYOUT Artspace, an offshoot of the acclaimed Cementa Festival based in Kandos.

Firstdraft, Leo Tsao, Strategic Choreographies, 2020, photo credit Jacquie Manning.

More than a design – it’s a metaphor for community

Hanley said that part of the architect’s brief was that the structure was sustainable.

‘They have created a fully demountable, recyclable structure, where all materials can be reused – we are talking off-the shelf Bunnings materials.’

Standing within the structure you can see through it – from front to back – metaphorically embodying that message of community.

‘We are always competing in the arts. We wanted the architecture to allow orgs to come together, so it has porous site lines, which resists that art fair model.'

‘You can sit and see 20-30 artworks at one time, or focus just on what is in front of you,’ explained Hanley.

‘After a year of too much separation, NO SHOW looks to connect artists, art practices and publics,’ added French.

What to expect

The space is not static; there will be constant activity in the space. For example, Running Dog has engaged three writers to do micro residencies, with the outcomes published later, and Studio A also have three artists making in the space.

Performances are an ephemeral aspect of the show, which take the form of activity in the space, but also as digital elements that ‘float outside of the space’, says Hanley. ‘For example, you can see something or engage with a writer, and then read long form texts at home.’

‘It’s classic Carriageworks – free, free, free, and very much in a public space,’ Hanley concluded.

Catch NO SHOW at Carriageworks from 12 February until 7 March.

About the author

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW.

Twitter: @ginafairley
Instagram: fairleygina