Recently we’ve seen a lot of this kind of thing in art galleries: drag in some clothing, a few snapshots, maybe a home video, and call it art. ‘The everyday’ has become critical and theoretical currency, it’s been commodified (twice).^4This ‘twice’ seems to refer to Duchamp and the first instance of the everyday in a high art context. Nearly twenty years on, and the co-option of ‘mess’ and the everyday into critical practice is back with a vengeance — think Lou Hubbard, Alex Vivian and Centre for Style, among many others working locally and internationally at the moment. Whilst in 1997, McQualter seemed critical of Damp’s use of everyday materials, in retrospect it seems that these artists were ahead of their time. This approach to art-making, particularly in this case with the focus on ‘exchange’, does make currency out of non-financial means, presenting a welcome counterpoint to high-budget processes of production which demand pre-existing capital and therefore exclude the majority of early-career artists. This drive to make art more accessible, not only for the artists but also for the audience, is consistent with many projects from Damp’s back catalogue. Melbourne artist-run initiative Artmeet share this interest. Having formed in 2014 by students at MADA, with an often changing group of members and an interest in being transient, the parallels between Artmeet and Damp are quite striking. For this reason, Forde has invited Artmeet to collaborate with Damp and MAP during the second semester of Art holds a high place in my life. Artmeet will present a solo exhibition of Sanja Devic, a 2015 MADA graduate, at Gormenghast. The structure will also play host to a schedule of performance based pieces for the duration of the exhibition. At the same time, an exhibition of Damp’s video work will take place in MADA’s Faculty Gallery. Later in the program, a Damp study group, made up of current MADA students who have been working with Forde, will curate an exhibition around concepts of desire. In terms of the evolving nature of the project, both architecturally and in a curatorial sense, Art holds a high place in my life is less a retrospective and more a space for the consideration of collectivity in artistic practice at the present moment. Despite the spirit of change that Damp embraces, so much appears to have remained the same two decades on — not least, the need to form communities of practitioners in order to create networks of support in an industry that is unpredictable at the best of times. Damp is an apt focus for the context of MADA — not only in terms of its institutional beginnings and the still-relevant content of its body of work, but also in the sense that the collective serves as a model for life after art school, which offers an alternative to the convention of gallery representation.
Georgia Robenstone is an artist and writer based in Melbourne.
1. ‘MADA | Major new public artwork on show’, Monash Art Design and Architecture, https://www.monash.edu/MUMA/public-art/2016/damp.html (accessed 2 June 2016).
2. Rosemary Forde, in conversation with the author.[^3]: Andrew McQualter, ‘Art Holds a High Place in My Life, DAMP’, Like, Art Magazine, no. 4 (Spring 1997), pp. 30–33.