When encouraged to consider an editorial direction for un 4.2, it seemed premature to impose any stricture or criterion upon the magazine’s content. Given that open access is fundamental to the organisation’s ethos, and that this rests upon sourcing contributions through an open-call for submissions, it seemed more appropriate to wait and allow the selected material to, for most part, guide the direction of the issue. What emerged from this decision was distinct clusters and sites of critical engagement — particularly with regard to alternative economic, social and educational ideals.
This selection of content ran alongside what was arguably the most dramatic period in Australia’s political history since the Whitlam dismissal. Faced with a hung parliament in August 2010, three independent members were given the responsibility of determining the outcome of the Australian Federal Election. Fed by the relentless 24-hour media cycle, the public received blow-by-blow accounts of every act and thought expressed by the three. What resulted was a fascinating exposé on the processes by which decision making occurs. We were given insights into the independents’ existential angst and the divergent concerns that they had to reconcile: ethical versus logical, emotional versus rational, and the individual versus the collective.
In the midst of this political impasse and in scrutinising the complexity of decision making, we invited to DAMP to provide the pages of un with an ‘open address’ on group decision making and the precarious mediation of individual interest through collective action. The result is a suitably absurdist set of actions that documents the members’ combined negotiation of an oversized and, at times, unwieldy implement. Another set of artist pages, Andrew McQualter’s ongoing project the Double Coincidence, similarly documents the artist’s attempt to map complex and abstract economic schematics with the assistance of financially literate collaborators.
In a similar vein, reviews of Free Store (Andrea Bell) and SUPER MARKET (Pip Wallis) interrogate the utopian alternatives to the capitalist free market proposed by these recent projects. Two interviews also operate as comparative studies of alternative pedagogical activities, namely Melbourne’s relatively nascent FreeSchool (Zara Stanhope) and the Los Angeles ‘chapter’ of The Public School (Vivian Ziherl).
It is hoped that through our editorial decision making we have managed to privilege the reader to navigate their own course through the diverse critical conversations presented in this issue. We also hope that the magazine continues to seek alternative approaches to the support of contemporary art practice and towards addressing the void in Australian art criticism.
In this issue, the various tensions suspended between realities — those happened upon (existing) and those conceived (theatrical) — have been flagged, tested and evaluated. Tape Projects’ Lazy Slum, an upstart ecology of human life and its attendant bureaucracy, demanded that viewers adhere to, and role-play within, the artists’ own fabricated model of a society. Documentation of Andrew McQualter’s drawing project, on the other hand, maps with a very real gravitas the condition of our economy and certain individuals’ relationships to and understandings of it.
Yet, spatial concerns are also considered in more abstract terms than those demarcated by institutional frameworks such as education, economy or governance. Kate Newby’s ‘Open’ is explored rigorously with reference to the architectural theory of Le Corbusier, while the playful sound performances of Lionel Marchetti and Yoko Higashi are considered in relation to the sensory notion of ‘acousmatics’.
Interspersed are projects that determinately blur the distinction between an existing and a staged reality, such as Charlie Sofo’s B.E.D. or even, to an extent, Nicholas Mangan’s Notes From a Cretaceous World. The result: the emergence of a liminal and layered interzone, where the different strata of a reality imagined, a reality lived and a reality feared can be clearly and critically contrasted, to what I hope is a stimulating effect.