Draw on me #2 (At Crown St Mall)

With all of our equipment still in my car from the last time we set up our project, the morning was a lot more relaxed and settled. Once again I headed over to Campus East to pick Daniel up and then headed into the centre of town. At first, Daniel was going to catch the bus into town and meet me at the mall, but with so much stuff needing to be transported for our project, I needed someone to watch the supplies whilst I found a park.

So far the morning had run quite smooth and with Daniel and I utilising our class time to do our second iteration, we thought we were smashing it. Once I had found a park, we picked up the supplies and headed for the middle of the plaza. We decided that setting up in a nice open area between the two buildings would be a great spot. With the weather looking like it was going to rain, we decided to set the project up underneath an overhead walkway, this meant that even if it did rain it would keep the canvas and table dry.

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By the time we had finished setting up the table, easel, art supplies and hung up the “Draw on me” signs it was bang on 10am. Once again, we decided that two hours would be more than enough time for people to make their mark on the canvas.

At this point in time, if I were a member of the public and saw this project, I would have walked straight past it. It wasn’t that is was unnoticeable, it was because it was 10am on a Thursday (during work hours), it was freezing cold and it was raining, if that doesn’t deter people from drawing on a canvas I don’t know what does.

Daniel and I both agreed that today wasn’t going to be anywhere near as successful as the time we were at the beach. It was actually quite funny that the weather we experienced at the beach was pretty much the complete opposite to what we were faced with today. The weather in this situation was kind of like a metaphor. On weekends when people have time off work they are happy and get presented with the sunshine, but throughout the week on work days, you are in a cold and depressed state and deserve to have rain.

After about 20 minutes of waiting, Dan and I were getting a little worried that no one was going to draw on our canvas, but just as were started to think this a father and his three young children approached the canvas. We expected them to be there for about two minutes and then continue on with the rest of their day, but even after 15 minutes, they were still there having a grand old time.

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By the time they had left, they had touched every single art supplies we had on the table and created this colourful artwork.

With the canvas being filled right to the edges, I assumed that no one else would add to the picture, but I was definitely wrong.

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With the Dad and his three kids drawing on the canvas for such a long time, Dan and I wanted to check out the masterpiece. After we had taken a photo and started to walk away a lady approached the canvas and begun to do some things that I have never seen before.

With Dan and I watching on from a distance it was quite hard to make out what she was doing, but it looked like she was painting over the artwork that the children had made. This in itself was very interesting, I just assumed that because the canvas was quite full that no one would add to it, but it seems that instead of adding to it, this lady was drawing over what was already there and making it her own.

As more time went on her activities were engaging my attention more and more. After she had painted over the previous artwork, she then proceeded to grab the glitter containers and sprinkle the glitter around the table and easel. Her actions reminded me of a tribal dance where you throw things in the fire to scare away bad spirits.

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It was amazing to see that our artwork had now been taken beyond the canvas; never in my wildest dreams did I think that this form of engagement would occur.

Although I had no objection against her artistic creativity, I had to intervene with this woman due to the fact she was starting to steal our art supplies. Both Dan and I had clearly seen this woman put our supplies into her bag, so when I approached the woman she didn’t deny taking any of the items. I asked her kindly to put the items back on the table once she had finished.

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Whilst engaging in conversation with the woman and seeing her up close, signs of drug abuse were very prevalent. I am not one to accuse, prejudge or jump to conclusions, but from my knowledge, it seemed very evident.

In the end, she returned some of the supplies she had put into her bag. If we started with 100 items I would say that she took around 30 items, including all seven of our glitter containers. I was not mad that she had taken the supplies, I found it quite sad.  If this woman has to result to stealing glitter, I can only assume what else she would have to steal to get by on a daily basis.

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With so much activity occurring within the first hour of the project, the next 40 minutes seem to go for an eternity. It had got to the stage where the weather was so miserable that people were no long walking outside. As a result of the low traffic, we decided that packing up the equipment 20 minutes early could be justified.

Drawer Time
Start: 10am Thursday 26th May 2016, Crown Street Mall Plaza
#1 10:26
Took photo of canvas 10:40
#2 10:41
Took photo of canvas 11
Took photo of canvas and packed up project 11:40

Although the number of artists wasn’t as high as our previous iteration, we were still able to capture the expressions of different people in a particular place, even if only one expression can be seen in end result.

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Draw on me #1 (At North Wollongong beach)

Although I had done a little bit of preparation last night, I still needed to load everything into my car. Packing the art supplies was going to be easy; however the painting easel and table were more of a concern. With all my time be occupied on the art supplies, I forgot to make sure that the table and easel would fit in my tiny Holden Astra. Thankfully, everything fit into my car with just enough room for two people to squeeze in.

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Once I was all packed, I headed to Campus East to pick up Daniel. With Dan not having his license, getting to different locations was going to be a little difficult for him. I know he could have caught the bus if need be, but I was more than happy to pick him up.

Once I had picked him up, we headed down to North Wollongong beach. Being a Saturday morning we were expecting quite a lot of people to be around, or at least we were hoping a lot of people would be around. After we found a car-park, we decided to first scout out an area where lots of people would see our project. At first, we thought we should put it next to the little coffee and food kiosk, but with this being too much of a high traffic area, people may feel judged and deterred from approaching the canvas. In the end, we decided to set up our project about 100m away from the kiosk right next to the footpath. By setting up here, we would get lots of people looking at it whilst on their walks. As well as being in a noticeable area, people can approach the canvas without feeling intimidated by 100 people drinking coffee and watching them.

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After we had finally set up our project at 10:10am, we went and sat down by the bank of the beach about 30m away. Whilst sitting there we both decided that by giving the public two hours to draw on the canvas we would be able to get plenty of authentic expressions.

Seeing though it was a Saturday morning and the weather was pretty warm, I was pretty confident that we would get about 10 people to draw on the canvas. If we had set up the canvas on a day that had crappy weather I would have put that number around 5, but seeing though it was a nice day I was assuming that people would be eager to have some fun and put something on the canvas.

It didn’t take long before someone approached the canvas and started to draw, it was about seven minutes in that we had our first artist. Although we couldn’t actually see what they were drawing, we were very excited that someone had actually approached it. Within the first 20 minutes several people had drawn on it and that is when Daniel and I decided to write down what time everyone drew on it. On top of this, we thought it would be a good idea to take progressive photos of the canvas.

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Drawer Time
Start: 10:10am Saturday 21st May 2016, North Wollongong Beach
#1 10:17
#2 10:24
#3 10:30
#4 10:33
#5 10:37
Took photo of canvas 10:50
#6 10:53
#7 11:01
#8 11:02
#9 11:03
#10 11:12
Took photo of canvas 11:15
#11 11:18
#12 11:23
#13 11:24
#14 11:25
#15 11:29
#16 11:39
Took photo of canvas 11:40
#17 11:52
#18 11:55
#19 12:01
Took photo of canvas and packed up project 12:10

Although it was quite easy to tell if an individual was drawing on the canvas, the same can’t be said for a group. In the event that a group of people would approach the canvas, we just counted this as one interaction. Sometimes a group would be there for a long time and other times they would be gone before you could blink, so that is why we decided to tally the interactions this way.

We also thought that it would have been a little creepy have two people staring at you from a distance just to see if you would draw on a canvas.

In the end, we had 19 interactions where an individual or a group would add something to the artwork. To be honest I am very surprised that there were so many people willing to take time out of their day just to draw on a random canvas.

With today being such a success, I hope that our Crown Street and University canvases are much the same.

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Introduction

Although we had been inspired by many different ideas from our trip to Redfern, Daniel and I decided that our social intersections project will involve leaving a canvas and art supplies in different locations around Wollongong and hoping people will draw on it.

Over three different days, a blank canvas will be left at North Wollongong beach, Crown Street Plaza and The University of Wollongong. Once we have set up the easel and table with art supplies on it, Daniel and I will watch from a distance and document how many and how frequently people are drawing on the canvas.

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The idea behind this artwork is to capture people’s raw and authentic thoughts in a particular place at a particular time. We did consider standing next to the canvas and asking people to draw on it, but we believe that this intrusive and demanding tactic would cause people to panic. By leaving the canvas unattended, we hope it will draw out originality and raw emotion through artistic expression.

The main focus and underlying theme of this project is to capture authentic expression. We want to be able to see people’s thoughts visually displayed on a canvas.

I think it will be very interesting to see what people will draw on each of the canvases. I believe that each location and their surroundings will play a big role in dictating what gets added to the artwork. When we set ourselves up at the beach, I am expecting to see stereotypical beach items e.g. sun, waves, surfboards and sand. Although I am unsure what will be added onto the Crown Street and University canvases, I believe that the environment in which it is placed will be represented in the artwork people create.

Although this particular project doesn’t really use either of our skills, we are both looking forward to the challenge of doing something a bit different. With craft and drawing being at the bottom of our leisure activities, we realised that neither of us had any items needed to carry out the project. At first, we thought it would be a fun challenge to see if we could source all of our material without spending any money, but with the deadline looming, we decided that buying the materials would be a lot easier and stress-free.

After coming to this realisation, we started to write down all the things we needed. With the list tallying around 25 items, we agreed that we were willing to spend $50 each in order to carry out this project. Although some of our items didn’t need to be bought (e.g. I had a table at home and we could borrow an easel from the art department), most of the items we needed should only cost a few dollars each.

Later that afternoon I went to Spotlight in Wollongong to pick up all the necessary equipment (pens, pencils, textas, paint, paint brushes, craft supplies, glue, sticky tape, 3 canvases, glitter, big sheets of cardboard). Although there were a lot of things to choose from, I decided to get a little bit of everything without going overboard. In the end, I spent just over $60 for everything that we needed, meaning that we were well under our $100 limit.

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After discussing in class that we should go on site on Saturday morning, I did a little preparation on Friday night. In order to entice people to draw on our canvas, we thought it would be a good idea to have two big sheets of cardboard that say “Draw on me”. By reading the words “Draw on me” and seeing a canvas with art supplies, we are hoping that people will be able to join the dots and proceed to draw/paint/create.

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Assessment 3 – Final Summary

Daniel and I have finished presenting our project to the public and the class and have had time to reflect. Creating the zine has given us opportunity to research what music distribution means in the space of Wollongong, and a wider realm, thanks to the online aspect. It really was a physical amalgamation of all our contorted thoughts on the project. It allowed us to focus in on how the theorists, artists, and research all came together.

After visiting the library, we looked into articles that discussed a form of music distribution that we implemented – busking – at our site location – Crown Street Mall. Destination Wollongong controls this in the mall, and have been regulating how people can present music. In 2013 they added a “screening system” (Thompson 2013), and in 2016 they became even stricter, defining a requirement for buskers that are  ““authentic, diverse and engaging”. They would also need to be “attractive and high quality” and have “sound management practices such as timeliness, reliability and professionalism””(McIlwain 2016). These stipulations irked us a little, as busking is the most accessible and tangible form of music distribution, having it so regulated was kind of indicative of the institutions we were trying to critique – it is so hard to get your music out there, and this proved it further.

Luckily we weren’t screened for our busking examples, but how would it feel to be denied a spot? You can’t even perform for people who aren’t there to listen to you.

Also in our research of music distribution in Wollongong, we found a few people who thought the scene was lacking. An artist complains to the Illawarra Mercury “Wollongong isn’t the most live music-oriented place, so anything that would create a culture change towards appreciating live music would be great” (Thompson 2016). Daniel and I disagreed however, our knowledge of venues such as Rad Bar, Jane’s, Helter Skelter, Dicey Riley’s, Red Square, and The Three Chimneys – who regularly book upcoming artists – acoustics, solos, bands, open mic nights – being the antithesis to these points. The likes of Unibar host acts such as The Drones who have played at the Sydney Opera House – we also have a 3 day festival in Wollongong that draws such popular acts as The Smith Street Band, The Jezabels, Cloud Control, and more.

Our performances further illuminated these points.

THE ARTIST AS:

Ethnographer

“studies people, ethnic groups and other ethnic formations, their ethnogenesis, composition, resettlement, social welfare characteristics, as well as their material and spiritual culture.” (Hester 2016)

Within this mode, the artist studies and is aware of ethnic groups and formations. To investigate our role as the artist in this mode, we performed while drawing pictures of those who made contact with the performer. We did this by performing in the Food Court of Crown Street Mall, courtesy of the GPT group. We didn’t have too many interactions in the hour and a half we performed for, however we made sure to take note of who responded, who didn’t, what visually we could determine of these people. We noticed that people who seemed polished or better off were more likely to ignore us. School students stared and were quite generous with what little money they had. Those who we could only guess were not as well off as others were also more likely to give us a smile or a coin. We were surprised by the fact that those with less to give gave more.

Foster says “there is the assumption that if the invoked artist is not perceived as socially and/or culturally other, he or she has but limited access to this transformative alterity, and, more, that if he or she is perceived as other, he or she has automatic access to it” (Foster 1995, 392), which was true for our situation. Being on a stage was an added formality, and as ethnographers, surveying and performing, we placed ourselves literally (we were up high!) and aurally (we were loud!) above the other people in the food court. It’s interesting to look at the relationship between those performing the everyday to us, quite far removed from the everyday in a sort of ephemeral moment of artistic expression.

Similarly in the online version of this mode, we could look more in depth to who had liked our song. Daniel had composed a piece that was informed by our relationship and our relationship to space. Presenting this piece caused linkages between all of those and other countless people’s and their own experiences. Friends and some friends of friends listened to the piece, getting 51 listens in a week. Most importantly, our Mums shared it, which is the best.

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Social Critic

“the artist is unsatisfied with being a content provider within a given system (the art world, his/her local community, society in general, etc), and would prefer to critique the system itself. The artwork produced by this mode of artist attempts to change the status quo” (Hester 2016)

Via challenging the institutions of music distribution in our crashing of a curated venue and guerrilla marketing, we analysed the mode of the social critic (see previous posts). On researching this, comments by Kaprow who writes about the “un-artist”(Kaprow et al. 1993, 98-99) further complicated our conclusion. Kaprow says of the social critic “sooner or later most of them and their colleagues throughout the world have seen their work absorbed into the cultural institutions against which they initially measured their liberation” (Kaprow et al. 1993, 98-99). While artists Maria Anwander, Banksy, and Mierle Laderman Ukeles inspired this notion of the Social Critic, and our own practise, we haven’t seen any absorption back into their points of liberation. We did experience this in our short rebellion of music curated venues however, and were immediately re-introduced as proponents of the music industry by the acceptance of the venue. If the event co-ordinators had rejected us instead of welcoming us, we would have the same social comment as our inspiration.

Loner

““The artist” sees him/herself as a special category separate from mainstream society, and superior to it. The artist toils in private, or within a small community of similar outsiders” (Hester 2016)

For this mode, we posted a piece without advertisement.

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Listen to it here

And to our surprise, it went off. Daniel gets perhaps 50 listens with advertising/telling people/posting it on Facebook, and it got 64 with nothing! I think partly because its a unique and enjoyable song, but the fact that we tried to a loner,

We wrote the piece collaboratively, Daniel writing music, playing all the instruments, and producing the whole piece, with me writing and singing the vocals. I wrote it about our relationship and changes in relationship, letting this be shared to form more relations and relations and relations in thought and experience. Everything is intersecting! Even when the artist strives to be a loner.

For the public version of this mode, we performed in a parking lot at the top level of Crown Street Mall (which is usually very desolate). We played for about 25 minutes or so, and saw one guy who parked his car, and awkwardly ignored us as the only other presence. It was quite zen playing to the open space, and though we weren’t really alone as we had each other, we definitely surmised what it was like to intersect with no one else – though this meant we still had a relational aesthetic, even if it was only a practical point of departure from social context, not theoretical. The notion of a “ritual escape from Culture” (Kaprow et al. 1993, 102) as a tortured artist who sees themselves away from society was kind of underwhelming. We want to distribute our music, and we want to perform – perhaps the nature of a musician as a loner is in the compositional process; we write songs as secrets with secret codes and metaphors, and it is at this point we toil in private. Music, as it is ephemeral and anachronic, cannot be seen all at once, or (with the exception of a recording) be grasped once the vibrations have ceased. It is therefore a performative art in the way that it’s distribution is dictated by a timed event.

Using busking for our distribution examples, it is a medium where listeners are there by chance, not there to explicitly listen to you. A gig or a concert at a venue is advertised, and listeners may come for your unique music or for your fame. Busking is an art reserved for those seeking the community, and are ‘outsiders’ to an extent. Then again, the appeal to the everyday is also present; you are playing to cultural codes and the mainstream who may not be clued into music – you have to play covers, or songs with vocal gymnastics, or loud songs, to inspire people to listen, and to pay you for what they could get for free.

In more reflection, another quote from Kaprow’s essays is quite profound: “Artists of the world, drop out! You have nothing to lose but your professions” (Kaprow et al. 1993, 109). This idea of the artist as a loner, or even as a social critic, follows an investigation, but also a rejection of the field. It is innovation but exclusion.

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Considering these findings and our lived performances (online and public), we constructed the zine. Zines often go hand in hand with music distribution, a form of advertisement, social comment, and artistic/idea presentation. This form of documentation is very indicative of our subject matter. We used this to concrete all our findings and experiences in a creative way, letting our documentation again become art. By making this collaboratively, I think it became a physical representation of how Daniel and I interrelated – for example, most poignantly in our handwriting styles and ideas of what was visually appealing. I think we collaborated really well, did an even amount of work, and brainstormed our ideas a lot. I think the only detriment of our project was committing to so many elements: separate performances, composing, producing, recording and mixing our three songs, sharing online, a forty page zine. We thought a lot about the what and that made us skimp a little on the why. But all in all I think we managed it well, and we made a project we are both really proud of.

That leads me to think about our project in relation (is that a pun? Kind of?) to Relational Aesthetics. Relational Aesthetics is defined by Bourriad as “A set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space” (Bourriaud 2002, 12), and I think this is central to our project. We can have a song that exists in our bedroom, but what meaning does this give to the song? Is everything changed once we sacrifice secrecy and independent space? Through these methods of investigation we have viewed how the public and social context define what we are making. In this way, Social Intersections are observed. We view how us as the artist intersects not only the audience but also the music industry.

In summary of the course, I can definitely say my creative practice has been informed by ideas I never even dreamed of. Working successfully in a collaborative setting, and learning about more than what is consonant or pretty, and finding a new frame of mind in the creative world – the finished work is not just the art, the journey and documentation are as important in presenting ideas the project quests for. The relationship between the person making and receiving the art is the art. Me talking to Daniel is art. Me writing this blog post is art. Art is everything and nothing. Which is super cool.

References

Bourriaud, N 2002, Relational aesthetics, Les Presses du réel, Dijon

Foster, H 1995, The Artist as Ethnographer, Routledge, London

Hester, B 2016, CAOS201 Lecture: Week 3, University of Wollongong, March 16 2016

Kaprow, A & Kelley, J 1993, Essays on the blurring of art and life, University of California Press, Berkeley

McIllwain, K 2016 “Buskers, Beggers and Boarders to be caught it council mall crackdown” Illawarra Mercury. 1/4, Viewed on 30/5/16, accessed at <http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/story/3824577/buskers-to-be-caught-in-council-crackdown/>

Thompson, A 2013 ‘Talent filter aims to find gong’s best buskers’, Illawarra Mercury, 23/5, viewed 30/5/16, accessed at < http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/story/1520668/talent-filter-aims-to-find-gongs-best-buskers/>

Brainstorming

With the third and final assessment task requiring a small group, Daniel Martins and I agreed that we would make a pretty good team. We had sat next to each other almost every class and had become pretty good friends, so it made sense for us to go together.

Although we initially had no idea what we wanted to do or achieve, we started to write down a few ideas.

To help get some ideas flowing, we wrote down a skills list to see what each of us could bring to the table.

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With Daniel studying theatre, we established that he had skills in music, theatre and video production.

With my degree being a Bachelor of Journalism, my skills involve writing, socialising and being able to engage others.

By establishing the wide range of skills we have, we started to think about how we could incorporate them into our project. Although hindsight can be a great tool, I believe that Daniel and I were getting too ahead of ourselves. Instead of brainstorming concepts and ideas, we found ourselves searching for the perfect idea right off the bat.

The four ideas that we originally came up with were;

  1. Setting up a game where one of us is player 1 and player 2 would be someone from the public
  2. Focus on the concept of a signature, what does it mean and what is its value, then go out and collect as many signatures as possible
  3. Set up an object and a yarn of wool, start wrapping the wool around the object and get people from the public to take turns wrapping the wool
  4. Set up a canvas and art supplies in different locations around Wollongong and leave it for a few hours and then come back and see what has been created

Right from the start, both of us agreed that we wanted to engage others in our social intersections project; however, we were unsure what means of communication would draw in the most people.

To help further understand how artists engage concepts, ideas and other people, it was fantastic to be able to travel to Redfern and get some inspiration. Throughout the whole day, whether we were at ‘The Block’, looking at street murals or visiting Keg de Souza’s project as part of Sydney’s Biennale, it was great to see how artists are able to represent their own social beliefs through their artwork.

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