I am a Melbourne-based artist and writer who makes participatory, socially-engaged and public art. In my art practice I employ a cross-disciplinary approach that includes photography, video, installation, text, performance and public intervention for both site-specific and gallery contexts.
I have presented numerous art projects in arts venues and festivals across Australia, including Kings ARI, The Substation, Performance Space, Platform, Salamanca Art Centre, SASA Gallery, Next Wave, Tiny Stadiums and Underbelly. In 2012, I undertook an internship with the public art commissioning agency Situations in Bristol, UK and a residency at the Zentrum für Kunst und Urbanistik in Berlin, Germany. I presented work in Yogyakarta, Indonesia as part of The South Project Gathering in 2009.
I often collaborate with others on projects. Since 2012, I have worked with writer and artist Catherine Ryan. The work we have made together deals with questions of what is visible, and invisible, in public space. We are interested in how certain political events and ruptures are denied, silenced and excluded. We employ aesthetics and strategies that are disruptive and estranging.
From 2007 to 2010 I worked with writer and anthropologist Victoria Stead as Agents of Proximity, which ran a localised travel service in Brunswick for the 2008 Next Wave Festival and presented Destiny Exchange/Pertukaran Nasib in Yogyakarta, Indonesia as part of The South Project Gathering in 2009.
I completed a Master of Fine Art at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2011. During my studies I explored strategies for engaging participation in contemporary art and completed a thesis entitled The limits of sociability: An exploration of the possibilities and pitfalls of participatory art.
My MFA thesis discussed my evolving understanding of participatory practice through a critical reflection of a number of my own, and others, artworks. I described how theorists Rosalyn Deutsche, Miwon Kwon and Claire Bishop, have looked to theories of radical and plural democracy, particularly Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau’s concept of antagonism, to reveal the political shortcomings of much socially-engaged art.
Following my Masters research I have espoused a more destabilising approach to socially-engaged and participatory art and explored how these theoretical underpinnings have impacted my art practice.
I am currently a PhD candidate at Centre for Cultural Partnerships, Victorian College of the Arts. My present research investigates public and participatory art’s ability to contest prescribed notions of community and place and offer new, destabilising insights. Informed by philosopher Jacques Rancière’s idea of dissensus (a concept that challenges the established roles assigned to people and places, with the aim of disrupting the status quo) my study aims to rethink what a valuable artistic social engagement could constitute.
Arts Writing and Curating
As an arts writer, I have written for a number of art publications and blogs including Open Engagement, Das Superpaper, Live Art List Australia, Next Wave, un magazine, Artlink, Gertrude Contemporary and RMIT gallery.
As a curator and producer, I have presented the symposiums Touchy Feely – Is socially engaged and relational art too sentimental? at Inflight ARI, Hobart in 2012 and Art & Encounter 2014 – Beyond Audience Developement: Why do artists engage publics in participation? at Footscray Community Art Centre in 2014. I also co-curated the FlashNight exhibition Nothing Happening with Anusha Kenny at Kings ARI, Melbourne in 2013.
You can hear me talk about my research with Jacinta Parsons on the I Wanna Be A Doctor segment, Detour program, Triple R, 4 December 2013. In 2013 I was also interviewed by Caroline Picard for the Chicago-based blog, Bad at Sports: Episode 418: Amy Spiers-Open Engagement 2013.