Maybe audiences of artist-run spaces have plenty in common with backpackers? We seek adventures by walking into galleries to encounter the unknown, the unheard, the untried, the rough or the ruffled. We absorb ourselves in a gallery’s life and culture, and get as close as possible to the bone as we start to unpack stories, put our fingers on the pulses, get touched, then ready ourselves for the next adventure. We tune into communities of thinking and making, becoming carriers of parcels of possibility, generated by the artist and then revealed in their capacity to change our experience of the world.
Like a backpacker, while we look for the possibility and rush of newness, we might also be reassured by the shared histories we encounter. Who would imagine a backpacker arriving in Melbourne to experience total cultural confusion? Likewise, what was the last exhibition you had no capacity to read, to read into, to read through? Disbelief, yes, but surely not disorientation? There is only one thing worse for the artist: disinterested prodding by the audience. Everything was, therefore, designed to counter this possibility, and so we sought to ensure a West Spaceian confidence of delivery that left no doubt as to the worthiness of each artists’ proposition for consideration. I’m all for artists, you know, but why had there been no thought given to ensuring the same respect for those program managing West Space inc, those writing applications at midnights on Saturdays? Why was the architects’ brief so aesthetically brutal (or the budget so borderline), that there could be no possible consideration of a set of blinds that would shield the staff from the bored backpackers peering disinterestedly into the Anthony St offices? Don’t you know that, artist or administrator, there is nothing worse than being the subject of someone else’s ennui?