Axis art projects

Does New York exist?
Brisbane/New York/Brisbane
1988-1989

In early 1987 a small exhibition of works by half a dozen or so Brisbane based artists was sent south for exhibition at the Bitumen River Gallery in Canberra (the work was also exhibited locally at Michael Milburn Gallery). Titled Anywhere, the exhibition initiated a creative enquiry into the nature of regionalist art practice. The position taken at the time was set in opposition to claims which suggested that a Queensland regional style could be identified, as well as for a growing tendency for works to be taken to task for their failure to somehow reflect the essential qualities of their place of production. The critical approach generated by Anywhere was quickly taken up by Canberra artists, who responded with Nowhere Utopia at That Space (see eyeline No.1 and Unreal City No.2).

With the intention of generating further projects, discussion around the twin issues of regionalist practice and marginalization continued amongst some of the artists involved in Anywhere. From these talks, a joint application for the Peter Brown Memorial Travelling Fellowship was made by Paul Andrew, Lehan Ramsay and Jay Younger. This $20,600.00 fellowship is awarded annually by the Visual Arts/Crafts Board of the Australia Council, to allow emerging artists to undertake a period of study or professional development overseas.

The success of Andrew's, Ramsay's and Younger's application will permit the three to continue their work in this area 'with multi-faceted international projects, entitled "Does New York Exist?". Operating under the corporate identity of Axis Art Projects, the artists will "undertake a collaborative investigation of centre/periphery relations ... between Brisbane and New York". While this project will draw extensively on the trio's involvement in local artist-run activities, the focus of they work will be a two month stay in New York during May and June of this year.

For most artists' practising in Australia, the centrality of the New York art world is primarily a product of internationally circulated art magazines, and other related "mass media mythologies". It is through these materials that many of the dominant contemporary approaches to art and artists are generated, and it is against these mythic constructions that many artists assess their own work (and worth). By critically re-presenting the "New York" they encounter, the Axis artists will hopefully begin formulating models for art production that are more closely related to the specific framework of "local conditions".

Their work in New York will operate on a number of fronts simultaneously. In addition to their individual creative interactions with the ‘centre’ the Axis artists will engage in a collective process of "documentation·, rearticulating the activities of the New York art world through a certain critical grid. They will also initiate a direct dialogue with artists and administrators currently working at the cutting edge of "international art production". Upon their return to Brisbane, these materials will form the basis of a number of specific "reports from the front"; exhibitions, slide lectures, film screenings, magazine articles and a radio programme.

However, the information flow will not be all one way. Prior to their departure, Axis initiated the mounting of an exhibition of artworks by some 30 Brisbane artists. This exhibition AXIS-FILE, consists of a single work by each artist, with each piece conforming to an A3 format to ensure economic handling and display. AXIS-FILE is accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue, and will be shown at various locations in both New York and Australia.

In addition to the works included in AXIS-FILE the three have also taken with them slides and other information provided by local and interstate artists and institutions. While there is clearly a limit to the amount of material that can be covered by a project of this nature, the exchange of information and creative perspectives should prove a valuable counterbalance to the prevailing myths that construct both New York and Australia.