Exhibition News

ARI’s – Emerging Artists break out! (2007)

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Published Wednesday, May 9, 2007

ARIs or Artist Run Initiatives present art without restraint - but they're not always easy to find. This month they've done something about it, combining more than 80 exhibitions into 21 spaces for six weeks.

Every time I walk through Degraves Street and Centre Place I feel like I’m close to Melbourne’s 'G' spot. But, this time, I’m not searching for a coffee but an ARI space named Citylights - where the hell is it? There is street art everywhere but there is no sign of Citylights. Back to studying the ARI map, leaning against the heavily graffitied wall I look once again at the adverts mounted in light boxes on the walls – bingo, they’re not ads, but the works. OK, now for a coffee – no, not yet, I’m close to another ARI gallery called Blindside. The map shows it at 37 Swanston Street, Level 7. Well, the people in the shop at 37 Swanston Street have never heard of it – but point to an arcade entrance a few doors down.

Into an elevator that wouldn’t be out of place in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, and up to the 7th floor. Doors open wide onto a corridor with more wooden doors and a myriad of enterprises that may or may not be businesses. Follow the signs politely indicating Blindside this way. I’m close, there are reviews pasted to the adjacent wall – everything is... well everything is slightly shabby.

Timothy Edser - Tension

Reading the reviews and blogs will have to do, because, being a Tuesday, the gallery is shut – yep, ARIs can’t keep regular days and hours because they don’t have the resources of commercial spaces.

So, what is an ARI and what is this event all about? Well, for those interested there is a new publication Making Space published by Arts Victoria and the Australia Council which documents the history and current activities of 21 Artist Run Initiatives. The art on display in an ARI is not shaped by commercial demands of collectors and curators, but follows the naturally forming contours of the artist’s emerging body of work. The apparent lack of quality can be more than compensated by the freshness and inventiveness of the artist.

ARIs don’t just occupy a basement or loft in the inner city – they can and do arrange for billboard space like CityLights and the Trocadero in Footscray. With the support of fellow artists and students, ARIs have taken root and survived in an environment that is essentially hostile to ventures that are poorly funded, poorly recognised and scantily attended. We don’t quite know why we need ARIs, but perhaps they balance the weird extreme of current art at auction houses. This is art where the currency traded is energy and excitement, sometimes titillation and perhaps even shock, but the ARIs vent ideas shaped and formed by art practice and the intellectual strength of the artists. Exciting emerging artists such as Sam Jinks (currently on show at West Space are the product of this environment.

Visit the Victorian Artist Initiative web site at www.via-n.org for details.

Martin Shub May 2007.

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