Since opening in 2014, AirSpace Projects has developed a program of exciting and challenging contemporary art. Now, beginning its fifth year, the gallery has incorporated as a not-for-profit Artist-Run Initiative (ARI) and a committee is taking up the reins with former co-directors Sally Clarke and Brenda Factor. At this point of transition, Clarke reflected back on what was the initial impetus to start AirSpace Projects, now AIRspace Projects.
“It came out of a desire to run an arts and cultural space. It can be difficult for artists to break into the art world and we liked the idea of being able to offer opportunities to a diverse range of people and to cross cultural, age and disciplinary barriers. This includes long practising artists with no representation or younger artists who are looking for a break in a supportive environment.”
Located inside a multi-level warehouse space on Junction Street in Marrickville, AIRspace Projects has four distinct spaces that allow for a diversity of exhibitions within the monthly show schedule. More recently a fifth space has been created for AIRseum, a non-conventional museum, curated by Catherine Polcz, and a sixth for Sarah Newall’s AIRsupplies, a shop that will sell sustainable artist-made products.
“It's a space that offers opportunities,” said Clarke. “You can present a commercial show, you can be experimental. Although unfortunate in many ways, the fact that artists have to pay for the space – we couldn’t afford to run it otherwise - liberates them to own the space for a period of time and to realise their ideas without compromise.”
While ARIs often work through a collaborative process, AirSpace Projects under Clarke’s direction actively sought to build connections between artists who might not have had the chance to interact otherwise.
“To sit the work of an artist who's been practising for forty years alongside that of an artist who's been practising for one year, allows the work of both artists to be exposed to each other and new audiences. We’ve seen a lot of new friendships and future collaborations form as a result of these new juxtapositions and exposures.”
For artist Uri Auerbach, who has had various roles at AirSpace Projects and is now a member of the inaugural committee, this style of collaboration and conversation reflects where contemporary art is headed.
“I don't think contemporary art is really about expressing what's deep inside you anymore … I think all artists want to have a conversation with their audience and it needs to be a two way, or in a perfect world it needs to be a totally rhizomatic way of conversation.” Commenting on the dialogue between the different works on show at AIRspace Projects, Auerbach said, “each piece in here speaks to the other pieces in here. It speaks to every person who comes through the door and speaks to every member of the committee and then those people take that in their own way and process it through their own brain and have conversations with other people.”
Reformatting as a committee could be a way for AIRspace Projects to increase the range of conversations occurring around the art. Previously, the fourth weekend of each month at AirSpace was set aside for de- and reinstalling exhibitions. Now, commencing February 24/25 is the Fly In Fly Out (FIFO) video program curated by Sarah Newall and Jane Polkinghorne and the In Between Performance (IBP) program curated by Stella Chen. These events have developed out of the broader network of connections that expanding to a committee has facilitated.
Said Clarke, “it adds more energy to the regular three-week schedule because now it will be followed by a really happening, buzzy move-in weekend. More people, more events and ideas. It fills up the spaces in exciting ways.”
Ultimately, however, the transition to a committee structure is about continuing the ongoing process of change and transformation, which is what keeps Artist-Run Initiatives at the forefront of contemporary discourse on art.
As Auerbach noted, “the nature of artist-run spaces is change and opening and closing and moving and shifting and I think that is fantastic and AIRspace Projects is a really good example of that.”
Maintaining the vitality of the space is a priority for the new committee, and as Clarke identified, a bricks and mortar location creates an important space to experience art and to meet people as communication becomes increasingly tied to online networks.
“Artists do need physical spaces as well as the internet. Development is pushing spaces out of this area and they're becoming few and far between. This is a gorgeous space; it's a labyrinth and physically it's a wonderful place to experience. I just don't think that can be replaced by the internet. Fortunately for the space’s future, the landlord wants long-term tenants.”
The value of a physical space such as AIRspace Projects will also be realised through a proposed residency program in what is now Sarah Newall’s Girl Shed in the back courtyard. Once it has been weather and mosquito proofed, it is to become the tiniest residency in the world. The committee will focus on being open to new ideas that make it a dynamic space.
“I love the word ‘yes’, which makes me a very busy person, but all too often the word ‘no’ resounds through the art world. Art shouldn’t be about ceilings, it should be about amazing ideas and opportunities to develop them. We've got the space, we make the time, so if people come with ideas I've always done my best to enable things to happen somehow. It’s great to be part of that process.”
The works of most committee members is on show now at AIRspace Projects until February 17. AIRspace Projects will host artist talks on February 17 from 3-5 pm. Find out more here https://airspaceprojects.com/2018/01/24/exhibition-goings-and-comings