“Isn’t It Ironic…?”

Art Life , Reviews Apr 21, 2004 No Comments

Relationships are somewhat strained in Paddington. The University Of NSW College Of Fine Arts (motto “The Biggest Little Campus In The World!”) has been battling local residents to develop part of its Selwyn Street campus into what activists are describing as the “third largest art gallery in the state after the AGNSW and the MCA”.

Every one is against it. Clover Moore (Member for Bligh and now Lord Mayor of Sydney) is against it. Michael Lee, would-be Lord Mayoral candidate, is against it. Greens candidate Chris Harris is against it. Everyone is against it. Especially so are the residents, who have put up permanent banners such as COFA=BAD NEIGHBOUR, STOP THE COFA VANDALS, WHAT ABOUT DISABLED ACCESS?

At stake is the very comfortable life style the residents have, what with the secluded streets, village like atmosphere and handsome land prices. What aggrieves the Urban Villagers the most is possibility of 75,000 extra visitors to the area (according to an “independent estimate”) and the destruction of their isolated Shangri-La. So we have a grass roots campaign headed up by doctors, barristers and non executive directors who like bohemia, but not too much of it, creating a nasty eyesore with their banners and their Land Rovers parked in protest on the pavement.

In an apparent effort to get the local community on side, the art school does letter box drops of its 20 page, full colour publication cofa all over the streets of lower Paddington. On one recent field trip, The Art Life observed copies spilling out of letter boxes as far away as Five Ways down Glenmore Road and thoughtlessly discarded editions in Taylor Square, down Bourke Street and even one floating in the pond in Hyde Park.

It’s a handsome publication, letting people know what the staff and students at COFA are up to, with articles by students such as Master of Art Administration student Kate Gardiner having a spew over the thoughtless and careless use of the word “environmental” in connection to art exhibitions, to wit:

“Education can provide a scaffold so that people can better their relationship with society and the natural environment. It is superfluous to tag an exhibition with the term “environmental” when the subject matter presented with the artworks and the exhibition does not inform the viewer beyond the surface of isolated issues like desertification, regional wars, or salinity.”

Consider yourself warned! The publication also lets you know what’s coming up, exhibitions, forums, short courses and so on. The ironic thing (and the reason we quote so freely from Alanis Morissette’s Ironic ), is that COFA’s exhibition space The Ivan Dougherty Gallery is currently running a show called Architypes , an exhibition that looks at how “artists of varying cultural backgrounds perceive and define the impact of architecture on our private and public spaces.” Do you suppose curators Greg Bellerby, Felicity Fenner and Makiko Hara had the situation outside the gallery in mind when they decided on what art to put on the inside? Wouldn’t that have been great? Wouldn’t that have been ironic?

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Andrew Frost

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