Marysia Lewandowska, Unlimited (2016)
Comment Is Free, an online archive intervention and Unlimited, a print edition, have resulted from a collaboration with the IMA team over a period of one year. Both projects, in different ways, examine the history of the institution and stress the relevance of the agency of the artist involved in the process of commemoration. Drawing upon the work of Giorgio Agamben, the project evolves around a close investigation of ‘the apparatus’: a specific set of relations between discourses, institutions, buildings and aesthetic propositions. To understand the history of any institution is to understand the networks of power relations between those elements. How does one approach a memory which is not one’s own? Such memory spanning forty years has been embedded in the archival knowledge but perhaps more importantly, if not more accurately, it resides in people who themselves contributed to the making of an institution.
The founding of IMA has been marked by the strong desire of a group of artists, gallerists, curators and enthusiasts to create an independent and conceptually coherent agenda of exhibitions, talks, screenings and social events. My attempt has been to acknowledge those efforts by extending the original spirit of their initiative, establishing a platform adjacent to the existing online archive launched by the IMA in 2015. By way of engaging in conversation with important figures of the Brisbane cultural scene, the project alerts us to the process of writing and legitimation of histories. Comment Is Free intervenes within the authorised IMA archive by establishing a link to an alternative set of voices, in order to help create a more nuanced ‘portrait’ and position the importance of the institution within a wider cultural history of Brisbane. What emerges from the four conversations—expressed by way of omissions, overlaps, and tensions—is an indication of how emotionally charged experiences, slips of tongue, lists of names, alliances and friendships, have ensured the vibrancy and longevity of their mission. Documents come alive in the narratives shared by individuals who still feel loyal to the commitment they made to the Institute, which in turn supported their artistic and intellectual aspirations. In an open and at times explicitly contentious way, a different history has been written, one informed by a desire of recollection as well as recognition. In order to emphasise the contemporary nature of the project, and in continuing the effort to make multiple accounts accessible, an open call function has been added. Add Your Voice is a place for anyone who would like to contribute their comments, documents, photographs, sound or video to be able to do so for the forthcoming forty days. All of the gathered material will become a vital part of the project and will be publicly available after the forty-day submission period is over, on 14 June 2016. In this instance, the archival means the ongoing revision of how the institution, by reflecting on its legacy, sustains a critical connection with a collective imaginary.
Unlimited, a special silkscreen print, has been developed by artist Marysia Lewandowska as a limited edition of 100, as well as a free downloadable image for a duration of forty days, beginning on 5 May and ending on 14 June 2016. Commemorating the forty-year anniversary of IMA, the artist traces its institutional history by looking at the relationships between the provision of spaces designated for exhibition and those for administration. They are represented across the four buildings (from left to right: Market St, Edward St, Ann St and Brunswick St), through their respective floor plans. One can clearly discern how the original location consisted almost exclusively of the gallery space, and how over the four decades since 1975 the changes in how art is produced, exhibited and distributed are spatially articulated by an institution. The liquidity of the golden spill running across the print suggests the unlimited potential of connecting the past with the future, binding the two without determining the exact shape of the outcome.
Thank you to Aileen Burns and Johan Lundh for the invitation and ongoing conversation, to Tess Maunder for editorial input and her singular commitment to the project, to Madeleine King for skills of negotiation, to Sarah D’Ardenne for immaculate organisation of visits, and to all IMA staff for upholding the highest standards of the project’s production. Luke Gould collaborated on the design of the print edition and Yufan Zhang generated the new floor plans. Patricia Reed for collaboration on the online archive intervention, which beautifully engages the intellectual complexity of the material without overwhelming our senses. Last but not least, special thanks to Malcolm Enright, Lyndall Milani, Josh Milani, Judy Watson and others who agreed to speak to me during the residency; Michelle Helmrich, Richard Stringer, Brian Doherty, Paul Andrews. This acknowledges the pleasure of a collaborative effort.