Sunday, October 11, 2015
Essay by Eugenia Lim for my upcoming show- WORK-LIFE Balance at The Other Side, opens October 16.
In my experience, artists and architects operate within a magnetic field. Attraction and repulsion – one representing unfettered freedoms and impracticality; the other the whip of ‘the client’, choosing functionality and form above creative expression. Yes, these are stereotypes, but yet, there’s truth within the generalisations. While the 21st Century is all about disciplinary breakdown: art, architecture, design, politics, philosophy, science, you name it, all in bed together in the race against time to save humanity from itself, this attraction/repulsion is important. It’s the tension that keeps you questioning, that keeps you scratching your head, reminding you that you will never have all the answers.
As Tai Snaith describes it, artist Jo Scicluna has ‘colonised’ her partner Paul Morgan’s office, carving out space for conceptual intervention within the architect’s workplace. I prefer the word co-opt – art insinuating itself into the constructed world of built environment specialists. I’ve seen this tussle play out first hand: in my own, never-complete home shared with an architect husband in which cascading books, clothes and memorabilia are never quite contained by form-ply shelves or hoop pine boxes; and in Tai’s home shared with her architect husband – her 520 hand-painted tiles adorning the kitchen splashback and her tactile, paint-spattered studio occupying the innards of the otherwise immaculate, architecturally renovated Californian bungalow. From a framed letter penned by Paul Virilio (whose sentiment has remained unknown – it was penned in ‘the French’) through to an altogether creepy test tube of a man’s pubes, the original objects Tai responds to in Work/Life are a motley assortment. Some hold profound meaning and metaphor for their owners, others rely on coincidence and sheer novelty. Through assemblage, drawing, watercolour, and handmade porcelain, Tai has given the domestic objects of Jo Scicluna, Paul Morgan and his staff a fierce sentimentality, introducing a human touch and artist’s curiosity to explore the relationship between people and objects, art and design.
There’s another magnetic field at play – one that is ever-present for the artist, particularly for the artist mother. The tension between art and life, domesticity and independence, capitalism and socialism, altruism and individualism, the biological and the intellectual. A recent study by progressive think tank The Australia Institute found that the balance between work and life is deteriorating for four in ten Australians – we are donating around $110 billion in free labour each year, giving more generously to our employers than we do to charity. Rather than working nine to five, we’re taking work home with us at night and on weekends. The information age has untethered us from the office, but it has made the demands of work omnipresent, always. For artists, who perhaps always sit uncomfortably in the context of a workplace, there has been a localised push towards professionalism, artist-as-entrepreneur, art as marketing, art as the mere proving ground for advertising campaigns. For artist mothers, the pressure from external and internal forces is to be both masculine and feminist, to keep active, public and present, to deny or keep hidden the unruliness of children in an almost thoroughly un-child-friendly art world remains, despite the first, second, third and now fourth waves of feminism.