When I think about my experiences at West Space, these are some of the things I think of: Emily Ferretti covered head-to-toe in plaster dust from sanding the walls of ‘new’ West Space. Alex Vivian smearing Melbourne Central with Vaseline. Constanze Zikos and Juan Davila creating a spectacular six-metre collaborative painting depicting a speculative and ethereal universe. Greatest Hits (almost not) building a fantastic rainbow out of wax bricks. Johann Rashid making an incredible film featuring hedge mazes, greyhounds, Serbians and Philip Brophy. Taree MacKenzie’s charming and idiosyncratic ‘special effects’ machines. Dancing to Nick Selenitsch’s ‘90s rave music at the Christmas party. Stuart Geddes and Brad Haylock flipping the ‘e’ in the old West Space logo back to its usual orientation in the new (and less ‘90s) design. Hotham Street Ladies creating a ‘cake’ in the image of Jeff Koons’ ‘Puppy’ to celebrate the opening of the new space (which I could not bear to throw out even after its arse went mouldly and stank). Michael Ciavarella, Alex Ippoliti and Ross Coulter working feverishly to build their elegant concrete boat and then smashing it to smithereens. Endless grants, acquittals and reports. Endless staring at Excel spreadsheets. Hundreds of artists contributing artworks to fundraisers to help us keep the doors open. Scores of people working across the board and program committee to keep the whole thing happening. The best and most fun office I have ever worked in with the best and most fun – and most terrific and clever and inspiring – people. And then, in my last hour as director, dancer Luke George covering me with a bed sheet as part of his performance and turning me into a ghost-of-a-sort, a strange but strangely appropriate transformative rite. What else? Ladies and tigers, sound projects on Das Boat, Kelly as a vampire for the House of Horror party, telepathy projects, a smoking rock, a meth lab, a T-shirt with a photo of Dan Moynihan and Freddie Kruger, and a thousand other things. West Space was exhilarating, exhausting, exciting, ambitious, frustrating, experimental, conventional, risky, emotionally draining, emotionally fulfilling, professionally exciting, financially limiting, an institution, always-about-to-fall-over but, in the end, always inspiring, inspiring and inspiring. It was, for me, a formative professional and personal experience for which I will be forever grateful. While there was plenty of hard graft, there was also the chance to work closely with talented and generous peers and to make up the rules to our own universe as we went along. There was also the chance to work closely with hundreds of artists and to witness, on an almost daily basis, the coming-into-being of many beautiful, strange, unlikely, noble new possibilities in the world—including, but not limited to, the projects notated above. So, happy birthday West Space and here’s to a bold history and a bright future. Love, Phip.
(PS: Kelly, I am writing this text in my studio space which is located in ‘old’ West Space in Anthony Street. Right now, I’m (sort of) sitting in what was gallery three, although the floorplan and fit-out are now entirely changed. If I look up, I might be able to see a Dyna-bolt put in by you, me or Mark Feary. Isn’t that spooky?)