Satellites of Love/Regions of Alienation is a visual arts collaboration between local artists and community groups that champions the importance of community engagement. The exhibition recently opened at the Gold Coast City Gallery and is produced by the collaborative content studio, Funhauser.
Over a period of ten months, five local emerging artists: Warrick Coady, Kel Edso, Lucy Fosberg, Lily Halton and Tyler Jackson, were mentored by project producers and artists, Suzanne Howard and David M Thomas. Their resultant works reveal a vital connection between group participation, happiness and social cohesion in the community and showcase the depth and breadth of talent in North Gold Coast communities.
Suzanne Thomas spoke to Blank GC and provided insight into the inspiration behind the project and its outcomes.
This exhibition is called Satellites of Love/ Regions of Alienation. What is the reasoning behind this title?
The title describes the two sides of a person’s experience living in the suburbs. The same person could at one time feel alienated in a suburban space – physically, socially, professionally – however through engagement with any number of different types of social groups they can experience love.
On a broader note, the project celebrates the notion that communities create culture. Participation in community, community groups and culture is an essential part of avoiding and overcoming social isolation. It reveals the diversity of cultural pursuit and the ease of access to it in the North Gold Coast region.
This project connects local emerging artists and community groups. How did you find them?
Funhauser hadn’t worked with the artists or groups before. To find them we sought advice from the cultural team at the Gold Coast Council and places like Helensvale Library and Cultural Centre, which was one of our partners. We especially sought the advice of Rebecca Ross, who runs the Walls and also teaches at Griffith University. Acting on Rebecca’s recommendations, we chose a diverse group of artists with different skills and interests. What followed was a lengthy ten-month-long process of workshops and mentoring in relation to ways of working with groups.
We largely researched the groups in consultation with the artists during this process. Actually we discovered so many fantastic and interesting groups, most of which we sadly could not include.
Did you control which artist worked with which community group or did the artists?
The artists chose whom they wanted to work with. It was vitally important that the artists had to have an interest in and connection to the group for the project and the art works to succeed. Some of the artists also found they were already involved with groups and had pre-existing relationships. Others stepped out and discovered groups.
We also did not dictate what sort of groups we should include; the mix of groups emerged naturally.
Why was the focus on North Gold Coast community groups and not Gold Coast-wide?
This is a region that is often forgotten as part of the Gold Coast. As one of the fastest growing areas in the State, the sheer influx of people adds pressure to the issues of isolation and disengagement that we all experience in everyday life. Social isolation among newcomers is a key issue and community groups play a vital role.
We also discovered how diverse the northern Gold Coast is. It is an incredibly interesting region to explore. Ultimately this project enhances and expands the potential of what the Gold Coast might mean.
What was the experience like for the participants? Has this project created lasting connections?
The experience has been rewarding, challenging and scary. As emerging artists they are still formulating ways of seeing, working in and responding to the world. We know they have enjoyed the process of connecting with other artists, as sometimes making art can be a lonely business.
What has been important is that everybody involved in the exhibition – including Funhauser – learnt something about themselves and the nature of collaborative relationships. Some relationships with the groups will continue, while others will be shorter. There is no way of knowing at this stage. However, Funhauser also produced works for the show and is currently planning further projects with the Pacific Pines Residents Group and the Hula Hut.
The project has also extended the artists’ professional realm, giving them the opportunity to exhibit at a nationally regarded regional gallery and connecting them with artists, curators and institutions beyond the Gold Coast.
What’s next for Funhauser?
The project initiated our desire to work and create on the Gold Coast and we are currently developing and planning other initiatives to follow. We want to further develop the model that we established in this project.
Our immediate focus is the public program we are running in collaboration with the Gold Coast City Gallery. It’s a dynamic program that includes a talk by Anne Loxley, Senior Curator at cWest, the Museum of Contemporary Art’s highly successful program that connects artists with community in Western Sydney. We also have Magistrate Christine Roney, academic and visual anthropologist, Dr Suzanne Goopy and the Hula Hut’s Dion Taumata in conversation about the links between art, group activity and social well-being.
There is a fun “how to make a mascot” workshop with artist David Spooner, and the launch of our exhibition newspaper, which we thought would be more playful and community friendly than a traditional exhibition catalogue.
Satellites of Love/Regions of Alienation is on display at the Gold Coast City Gallery until 24 July 2016. Further details can be found on the Gallery’s website.