Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My article for NGA's Artonline publication

During March this year I was invited by the National Gallery of Australia to spend a period of 10 days inhabiting and customising the A-Z homestead unit by Andrea Zittel. My brief was to change the unit to suit my needs during the stay and to continue my work as an artist. Obviously, carrying out daily tasks in front of an active audience was, at times, challenging. My first action was to put up a fence around the work as a way of setting my limits.

Within this fence-line I slept, washed, cooked, received a haircut, went on field trips, created actions, took photographs, made notes and blogged. I also had countless conversations with people from the public, some of whom came and sought out the unit directly. They shared stories of homelessness, their political concerns with housing and the distribution of wealth, personal stories of living in makeshift homes and aspirations for independent living (off the grid and sustainably). I also encountered criticism of the work of art, and of the National Gallery itself. I felt at times as if my position was to deal directly with these concerns, to somehow address them in my actions. This proved to be the most difficult task.

In observing my own daily patterns in an intense period of scrutiny, I gained certain strengths. My work as an artist has been to look to the more minor aspects of lived experience. In that way I could really appreciate the simplicity of watching the sunrise through the windows of the A-Z homestead unit or waiting for a pot of coffee to boil. For me these small things constitute big freedoms (and pleasures).

I hope in some small way, during my time in Canberra, that I've shared these pleasures too. I’m grateful to all the public, friends and staff at the National Gallery who generously shared their time and gave gifts or supplies for my inhabitation. For me, this support made what was a challenging experience also a gift.

Charlie Sofo.