Christine Willcocks is one of the founders of the Byron School of Art (BS’A), an independent educational program run by artists. Set at the foot of Mount Chincogan, the school was started by a close group of friends that called themselves The Industrialists.
Modelled on the legendary Black Mountain College (1933-1957) in rural North Carolina, The BS’A has attracted to the small rural community of Mullumbimby some of Australia’s leading arts practitioners. Willcocks explains, “When we started, we knew that there were a lot of people in the area that wanted to study art, but due to the funding cuts, their choices were limited. We knew people out there would come. You can’t stop creativity. If the Government were smart and they really wanted to make this country a 'clever country', they would base everything on the arts. You start people off thinking differently about the world - creatively - and you can channel that anywhere. It’s a way of thinking”.
Profound contemplation and intuition are evident in Utako Shindo’s installations, which have guided her creative practice over the last ten years. Born in the Western suburbs of Tokyo, Utako Shindo’s path to becoming an artist began when more than half-way through her university law degree majoring in politics, she decided to move to Melbourne to study art, and look for a 'different kind of life experience'. To convince her parents that she needed to leave Japan, she acrobatically tumbled down two flights of stairs. As she describes, “I could not explain in a logical way that I needed to change my environment. It wasn’t planned, it was spontaneous. Especially when you are young, you can go crazy as you don't know yet how to comprehend your own feelings. I think that was the same thing. I could mystify this story and say that it was a great sign or say it was destiny, but it was just a moment when I went ‘crazy’ and I could only express it in a crazy way”.
Pretoria-born artist Abrie Fourie has spent the last twenty-five years teaching, publishing, curating and exhibiting alongside some of South Africa’s most esteemed artists. His curatorial practice has seen him develop exhibition spaces outside the traditional white box, while his arts practice has seen his work produced and exhibited in Dubai, Santiago, New York, Brussels, Antwerp, Venice, Berlin, Johannesburg, Savannah, Cape Town, Tokyo and Rome.
After relocating back to her native Detroit four years ago, LaFleur witnessed the effect of this gentrification and the visible lack of the inclusion of black culture and the black population in the future of this majority black city, made famous for the rise and fall of its automotive industry and the Motown Sound.
In response, LaFleur established the creative project Afrotopia, which uses the broadening cultural aesthetic and philosophy of Afrofuturism as its departure point. Encompassing exhibitions, film screenings, workshops and teachings, LaFleur has been utilising these different platforms as a way of inspiring, cultivating and curating the black voice into the future of the city.
In 1995 after finishing art school in Liverpool, British-born artist Lucy Powell moved to Berlin. In 2011, as an extension of her practice and as a way of facilitating conversations between the disciplines of art and science, Lucy created Salon Satellite with Andrea Roe and Sara Barnes. Now, working with the flux of artists and scholars passing through Berlin, Salon Satellite facilitates international relationships and collaborative research between artists, scientist, writers, historians and curators.
Abbra Kotlarczyk grew up in a small log cabin that her father built in a forest. Living completely off the grid, her childhood and teenage experiences were punctuated with periods of no hot water and bucket showers. In her early twenties, Kotlarczyk moved to Melbourne and began working as a studio assistant for feminist pioneer Sue Ford, one of Australia’s most important photographers, film-makers and visual artists. Whether subconsciously or not, it was her conversations with Ford that would influence her writing and arts practice, and later inspire her article, Re-Sweeping Exchanges: Notes on the Feminist Body Politic.
The work of American born artist and photographer Ayana V. Jackson examines the complexities of photographic representation and the role of the camera in constructing identity. Using reportage, performance and studio-based portraiture, Jackson’s practice can be seen as a map of the ethical considerations and relationships involved between the photographer, subject and the viewer.
In her recent series, Archival Impulse and Poverty Pornography, Jackson re-stages images from Africa’s photographic archives from the late 19th and early 20th Century and places her own body within the narrative to subvert colonial representations of the black body. As author, subject and editor, Jackson uses the deconstruction of these historic images as scenes of remembrance and activism to examine the ongoing racial preferences that persist in contemporary society and photography.
For eighteen months Australian artist Lucy Griggs lived in Kazakhstan, a landlocked country known for its topographical diversity, extreme climates and mineral rich soils. As an outsider in a foreign culture, Griggs documented the daily existence of people in Almaty. Her observations, filled with hope, despair and romance, were then rendered into watercolour paintings on old Soviet Union notebooks, drawing together the complicated history and changing urbanity of the city.
Many of Berlin-based Ellla Ziegler’s astute interventions operate outside the confines of an institutional context, commenting on the use and ownership of public space. The city is her studio and collaborating with strangers, whether knowingly or not, forms the basis of her conceptual and transdisciplinary approach. Her gestures challenge the audience to interact with the city in new ways, posing the question of how urban spaces might function differently and making clear the importance of this re-evaluation.
Ziegler has placed and actioned her work in various cities across Europe and South Africa, publishing her book, Alles in Ordung A-Z, a documentation of these works. Her work was included as part of dOCUMENTA (13) and currently she works as a Professor at the Kassel Art Academy.
Originally hailing from the small university town of Dunedin in New Zealand, Tom Young lives in Kreuzberg, Berlin. His crude ‘studio with mattress’ is filled with craft materials, stencils, guitars, clay puppets and a roughly made tour schedule pinned to the wall with locations such as Buffalo, Philly and Budapest drawn in.
Sitting in a friend’s apartment, Young talks about his adventures on the road, his new album and making last minute merchandise in car parks behind venues.
A conversation with Australian artist Christopher Koller is like roaming through strange and wondrous terrains. His travels through foreign latitudes from the late 1960s through to the mid 1980s reflect in his practice, which is viscerally textual and loaded with obscure literary references.
For sixteen years Koller was the Head of Photography at the Victorian College of the Arts [Melbourne] and is responsible for influencing clusters of younger artists. He freely admits that ideas are more important than focus or lighting, and his professional motto is, “If you don’t ask, the answer is already no”.