un Projects is based on the unceded sovereign land and waters of the Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation; we pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging.
un Projects

Collective Memory: a conversation between


MEREDITH Always be recording.

LULU Yeah, every time. But yeah, they’re all super different. And some of them are guided by one person. It’s super significant that Torika would do Community Reading Room on her own. I feel this is a very community view, almost an aunty role.

MEREDITH This is a sort of a caretaking activity, isn’t it?

Community Reading Room, 2013–ongoing, communityreadingroom.com.

LULU Yes, that’s what it is. So I went to the Arts House and
I also went to Colour Box Studio. And going to that was amazing because all these conversations that are now being had about knowledges other than the Western canon were not a big thing, were just beginning to be had here. And because I guess we’re kind of the same age. And to go in there and see all these books that I had beloved relationships with as a kid, seeing them in the library, as a young arts student. But then she had the whole place full of them; more than one. More than two, three, four – like she’s just been collecting. And so then she was sharing. There’s also Bodies of Knowledge. And I know Torika’s project was influential to many of us, a similar project that comes to mind is Léuli Eshrāghi’s project Pōuliuli at West Space (2017).

Agatha Goethe-Snape, Every Artist Remembered, 2011.

MEREDITH I think it’d be good to talk about Every Artist Remembered as a counterpoint. Because in a way, I feel like it’s a very different sensibility. What I appreciate about the way she talks about it, is that she says, ‘I can’t spell or I might have got
it wrong.’ Or that it’s definitely a fallible exercise, that it’s not perfect and in terms of an annotated bibliography, it’s very organic.

LULU Yes it’s an annotated bibliography – based on memory. Yeah, I always think about that work and that idea that every artist’s work is because of another artist’s work. We don’t live in a vacuum. I guess despite the pressure that we may have to make work that’s different. But actually it’s just building up.

MEREDITH You’re building on, building up, definitely.

LULU Building on, that’s it. Building on from something that you once saw in art school. Woah, what a task.

MEREDITH Maybe in different disciplines it’s slightly easier. Like in the Western tradition, if you’re talking about philosophy, it’s definitely studying in a chronological order. Whereas I feel like in art potentially, especially studying in the Western canon, this constant fascination with the new. And not only is it unrealistic, but it’s also a bit of a lie, too, isn’t it? Because, as you say, we’re not making in a vacuum. We’re making in response. So much of visual art or cultural production is iterative. Which is the point, in a way, of the annotated bibliography, isn’t it? I guess at that research level, to learn more, expand, reflect on.

LULU It’s a pedagogical process. It’s pedagogical towards the audience, it’s an exchange of knowledge.

MEREDITH I guess you saying that reminds me of something artist Brian Martin was talking about recently, that practice is research.

LULU It’s about relationships. Yeah, but I was a big fan of that exhibition, Power to the People: Contemporary Conceptualism
and the Object in Art
(2011)because that’s the time that Brian Fuata did that amazing performance – a teaching performance of cruising. So you went in and then he made you do all these exercises – it was like yoga, but you were walking along each other and then you were looking at each other. And you had to look at each other and just perceive the space between the two of you. And I was like, wow, hot. I need to do it again.

MEREDITH We all need to do a workshop, how to emerge from the pandemic’. Do Brian Fuata’s cruising workshop. One thing we haven’t mentioned was how talking about Agatha’s work reminded us both of Nat Thomas’ artwork The Sex Tree (2015) which was a structural and humorous take on the artworld and its intimate connections.

LULU I saw this work on an easel in progress in Natty’s studio, and made sure to keep quiet about myself.

If People Powered Radio: 40 Years of 3CR, 2016, Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne.

Meredith Okay, let’s talk about If People Powered Radio?

LULU So 3CR wanted to do something that celebrated this
40 year old project, you know, this big institution. They approached Gertrude Contemporary as a place where this could happen via an exhibition. I was doing the sound system thing at the time. So it was quite amazing as the process involved a series of brainstorming meetings with 3CR staff members in their meeting room. We never met outside of 3CR, we met in their building around the corner from Gertrude Contemporary (Fitzroy). And it was interesting, because 3CR owns their own building. They are self-sufficient and autonomous. 3CR were creating this incredible rotation of shows about different current political issues. They ran these large community meetings. I had the privilege of being able to look through their ASIO files, on the presenters and the contributors. ASIO had infiltrated – obviously because back then, it was the Cold War. So there was this big threat of communism or whatever. But anyway, I got to read about a young Gary Foley in 1977, and the descriptions of these activists who were doing things, and who are now obviously incredible Elders who have had so much influence on people’s lives, political lives. Obviously it was strange to be reading about this from a surveillance context.

MEREDITH So what about the show itself? What happened in the show?

LULU The show was really good, it received some criticism, because it was misread as a social practice exhibition.

MEREDITH And what did you think it was?

LULU It was a presentation of our findings from this close relationship that we developed over a couple of months, but a couple of months with 3CR and the people from 3CR was not long enough. So we were led into this place. We learnt all this stuff. We were given access to all these different types of archives.

MEREDITH So they didn’t tell you what their expectation was in terms of a response? You were just invited to make a response to this archive?

LULU Yes and we had three months to do it. We went in and just worked with that, as much as possible. So my idea was to make a work that addressed these ASIO files that had been released to the public – because there was so much infiltration, apparently the breakfast show at 3CR for a while was run solely by undercover ASIO members! I was really interested in flipping that listening in.

MEREDITH I think that project in and of itself, to create – to highlight a point of history is interesting, because there would be many people, and especially a lot of young people, who wouldn’t even know what 3CR was.

LULU And there were lots of – like, there were a couple of younger people in the show. So it was interesting to see their take. But Spiros Panigirakis, his work was really impressive, he recreated the whole – like, the loose structure of the meeting room in the gallery.

MEREDITH Do you think as well as it being a creative response or curated response, that it functioned in the same way as an educative, didactic, pedagogical panel might do? Not in a pejorative sense but in an instructional, educational way.

LULU That’s what it was, it was didactic. But in a very sensitive and creative way, done through each of the artist’s subjectivities. Because we’re dealing with people’s really valuable stuff. And unless that person was involved in the work, you can’t get the proper bits and pieces for it to be poetic, you know?

They trusted us and just gave us everything.

I invited Léuli to read one of the files as a script in front of an audience. And then, you know where the poetry happened? When I got asked to record a reading into a radio show. Like a way to celebrate the radio station. So in that instance my friend Amit Charan stepped in and we recorded a piece for the Radia Network.

Writing & Concepts, 2016–ongoing, writingandconcepts.com.au.

MEREDITH Let’s talk about Writing & Concepts, which is usually a deep dive into one person’s practice, influences, theoretical, philosophical concerns. We’ve both done one. I remember at the time there was a sense of exclusivity. But now that’s flipped on its head and it’s by expression of interest.

LULU It became more open to different ways of understanding what art could be with the application process. It became more based on whatever the artist wanted to bring. I went to Peter Waples-Crowe’s. It was really beautiful. So it was Peter’s trajectory – his life trajectory and his work developing out of that. It is very memorable to me. And it made me realise that you could be so generous with yourself and have a really strong boundary at the same time. It felt familial: “I’m sharing something with you here and you may be able to take some of these things with you’ – kind of space.

Departed Acts, 2016.

MEREDITH There’s quite a few things we still haven’t talked about on our list. But I was thinking particularly as a counterpoint to Writing & Concepts is Departed Acts, which was very much about being there. Even though it was recorded. The experience of being there related to its sense of sharing kinds of tacit knowledges, experiential knowledges and research through practice. Like a critical, playfulness towards the lecture format. It really addressed the tangential nature of recollection and how the factual and fictitious intertwine. But I loved that it was about – it really was also about celebrating or remembering significant influences on an artist’s practice.

LULU [inaudible]

MEREDITH Yeah, it was really beautiful.

LULU Diane Butterworth’s performance. I was just like, you did that through movement? It was electric.

MEREDITH It was electric. Through non-verbal communication she told and taught us so much.

LULU Diane was like, ‘this is how I know what I know, but this is how I know it.’ And it’s like her body moving around. Which was so impactful and I am glad I got to experience that.

MEREDITH Not having any formal training in dance or having industry access to that, I felt like it communicated a lot. Similarly, yours, which was this beautiful sequence of playing music that was influential to you. Almost functioning like a memoir.

LULU You know what my favourite bit about that was? I didn’t know that in the audience was a friend of mine now, who’s much younger, she would have been in her early 20s. A Latin friend who’s a DJ and puts on events now, and was probably starting to then, we have done things together a few times over the years. And then maybe a couple of weeks ago, she told me that she was there and that means a lot to me. I think it’s rare to get those opportunities as an artist, to participate in something like Departed Acts. There genuinely seemed to be an openness in the format. To be trusted to talk about whatever. It really felt quite moisturising for the soul.

Artist Reader, 2020, coultercoulter.com/artist-reader On the Beach, 2013–ongoing.

MEREDITH We’ve got a few artist readers. Maybe we can talk about them in concert, whether they’re indexical or more of a collection. Ross Coulter’s Artist Reader came from a sense of wanting to expand his thinking about photography and contemporary art by asking for the generosity of artist participants. He contacted people and asked them to share a text that was significant or foundational. And it’s an incredible list featuring over sixty artists including Brook Andrew, Eugenia Lim, Atong Atem, among others. Whereas something like On The Beach, a reading group that Kelly Fliedner established in 2013 and then Dell Stewart took over in 2015, is very different. It’s tied to a moment, it's a monthly exercise, a feminist reading group that has had some outcomes on organisational platforms, but it’s reading fiction, it’s reading narrative non-fiction, speculative fiction.

LULU Have there been some highlights for you? Do you still continue to go to it?

AAARG, c. early 2000s.

MEREDITH Yes, reading Octavia Butler was a highlight and doing a deep dive into a book, feeling that we can all suggest something, and then Dell takes those suggestions and curates a really interesting list.

MEREDITH Do you remember when AAARG happened? Shaun Dockray started this accessible online repository for texts. It functioned via membership and you could upload and download PDFs of educational texts. It’s got more than 100,000 users. It’s interesting to read about the legal issues that he faced.

LULU Shall we talk about Reading Oceania and Blakademy? They’re incredibly prolific, and it’s a really important group that is talking about a breadth of texts – and it’s also a convivial space. I was really lucky to be invited to it on Facebook. And I don’t live in Sydney, but it’s really invigorating to know that this is happening. And that the conversations, the diasporic conversations from a particular community about a particular community, are happening. But there’s something that happens in terms of diaspora’s where the conversations are often quite – the type, the tone, the voice of the conversation is transcultural. So I’m really always interested in reading. And I know that it’s a really big part of Brian Fuata’s research. Outside of all these things, we all have these people that we discuss art with, or art making with, or these different influences. Or sending YouTube videos. Like ridiculous ones, but also really nerdy ones about particular things. So it’s something that we talk about quite a bit. And I’ve started, now that my PhD is over, I’m looking at Reading Oceania more.

But this stuff is – there’s something that – like these things may start with a group of people that have a lot in common. Like diasporic groups, or race, or interests or whatever. Or medium. But what ends up happening is that you have – you find these points of connection. That’s the important bit to me. Like these bits where you’re just like, ‘I’m not a dancer’ or ‘I am not from a particular place.’ But you do end up trying to find these things, these traits that you have in common, and you have these conversations.

MEREDITH This prompted me to remember a really early example of transversal research interests and methodologies that you participated in and were integral to the publication, which was Mapping South, of course.

LULU I have copies of that book if anybody wants one.
I translated from English to Spanish and Spanish to English in some of the sections. Yeah. So anyway, I learnt a lot. But it was transcultural, transversal. And a lot of the themes, especially ideas around – there was a really amazing collaborative group, I’m not sure if they’re still in existence, in South Africa. I guess it’s all well and good to talk about the global South but then within the global South there’s Australia and what are those dynamics here and how do they then translate elsewhere.

Blakademy, blakademy.com BE.Collective, becollectiveculture.com.

MEREDITH Oh also we’ve got Blakademy and Be.Collective. So Blak Dot wanted to start a space for academic research in one of the adjacent buildings.

LULU And so they started collecting books around First Nations knowledges. There’s a Latin Amierican feminist reading group – in Spanish – called Abya Yala that was started by my friend Sarita Galvez which also happens at Blak Dot. And so they all started reading and then offered their services to help to do the cataloguing work for Blakademy.
BE.Collective is the one that really seems to be cross-media. It practises and it advocates. So it’s artistic based for sure, but also it’s like a propping-up environment. It’s the project of Grace Dlabik. So much like Torika – we always go back to Torika – Grace provides a structure of support. Again, going also back to Spiros, because that’s what Spiros does, right? Creates architectural support structures to sit in and engage.

MEREDITH Providing space for the relationships that come out of that or can be supported within that structure.

LULU Yeah. But with Grace, what she does is recognise the fact that there’s money to be made. Because it is one thing to talk about and understand these things and to create support structures for a community of very talented Black and Brown women, but the other thing is to know that they’re talented and to realise that part of this exclusion includes economically sustainable practices.

Richard Bell, Embassy, 2013–ongoing.

MEREDITH Talking about support structures, we didn’t talk about Richard’s work. What a fundamentally fascinating human and artist and provocateur.

LULU Absolutely. I mean, he’s not scared to piss people off. He’s not scared to say all the things. And in so many ways – I find it really hard to talk about his practice as an arts practice, because it’s actually a practice that comes out of a necessity for certain conversations to be had. It’s a cultural shift that needs to be happening.

What Richard Bell does is cultural activism – I’m
thinking specifically about the role of the Embassy in the Venice Biennale. I went to his presentation about the work and it struck me how supportive of younger artists’ work he is, thinking for example of FEMPRESS, which is Hannah Bronte’s project. Richard is seeing that.

MEREDITH Making space for it.

LULU And raising it up.

Lucreccia Quintanilla is a Narrm based artist, writer, DJ and educator.

Meredith Turnbull is a Narrm based artist, writer, curator and educator.