I recently visited Redfern for the first time in several months and clocked the sharp gentrification evidenced by a quick influx of small bars and delicious coffee. Now a place just slightly cheaper to live than Surry Hills, it would be fair to say that perhaps the artistic community are partly the perpetrators of such gentrification, and as the rent rises, may soon to be of victims of it. Nevertheless, HOUSE WORK – a curatorial project by Diana Smith, confirmed Redfern is currently crawling with artists.
For the project artist and curator Diana Smith invited her peers that live within walking distance of each other to open up their homes for one afternoon to the public. I left home expecting to visit several loungeroom cum- galleries, perhaps with sculptures on dining tables and some video art on the television. I was pleasantly surprised to encounter something more integrated with the daily workings of domestic life.
I began at Nick Coyle, Alice Gage and James Harneys sharehouse, greeted by the hungover flatmates who encouraged us to play 1970s boardgames. Naturally witty, Nick powered us through wheel of fortune while Jimmy made guacamole in the kitchen. We could have easily stayed for the afternoon, competing against whoever walked in the door, but were determined to visit every abode before sundown.
At first I thought Dara Gill had hired performers to undertake ‘tasks’ around his place, but quickly realised the situation when we were offered rubber gloves. Strangely compelled, I became focused on cleaning the windows while others scrubbed mould on their hands and knees. Surprisingly the house was filled with satisfied grins, leaving Dara with a whole vegetable garden and his DVD collection both alphabetised and genre-specific by the end of the day.
Perhaps less welcoming were Julia Holderness and Henry Kember who had skyped into their lounge room from a bed in a symmetrical flat down the hall. As they sipped tea and read Sunday Life we desperately tried to gain their attention, firstly by poking around their kitchen , and finally by grabbing watermelon from the fridge, and enjoying a slice. This left the invigilator a little on edge, who had clearly been briefed to allow participatory activity until things got stolen. He let us have one slice before wrapping the tropical fruit in glad wrap and asking us to think about how we would feel if strangers simply grabbed things out of our fridge. On later enquiry it was confirmed the artists were happy to see their almost slimy melon get eaten.
Keg De Souza offered us a couple of things from her fridge – home brewed beers and freshly baked cakes. Her boyfriend wasn’t around but he had recreated his sound installation which used cassettes tapes attached to balloons to make noise. This made it the most gallery-esque home and I think I would have preferred some of Lucas Abelas eccentric stories over a beer.
Our last stop was an appropriate finale. Shane Haseman, Ella Barclay and Rosealee Pearson had stayed up all night – the evidence was on the kitchen table. Upstairs we witnessed all flatmates in deep subconscious after popping sleeping pills, and in between spying their book collections, we eerily watched them breathing deeply. A sound recording of them drunk the night before confimed they weren’t acting, the snores were real, and after taking a couple of photos, we left feeling like creeps.
HOUSE WORK cleverly played with the intersection between routine, art and daily life, generating a sense of play without any frightening theatrical participation or a plonking of works made for gallery contexts. It was localised tourism on the most micro scale – made for those who take pleasure in checking out other peoples shopping trolleys and in investigating bathroom cabinets. With it also came a great sense of neighbourliness, a coming together of like-minded strangers walking around the street nodding at each other, eating, scrubbing and chatting, making for a satisfying way to spend a sunny afternoon. HOUSE WORK also showcased one element of a suburb at a time of flux, making me wonder if those share-houses will still be inhabited by artists in a few years time.
HOUSE WORK curated by Diana Smith for Perfromance Spaces WALK program Sat 10 December 2011. Photos by Alex Wisser.