From Sharne Wolff…
Q. For those who may not be familiar with your practice, can you tell us what and who is Brown Council?
Brown Council: Brown Council is a platform for performative and collaborative practice led by four artists – Diana Smith, Frances Barrett, Kate Blackmore and Kelly Doley. We have been working together for 10 years, creating projects that take the form of artistic, curatorial, publishing and educational projects. Increasingly Brown Council has also become the convergence of our independent practices – as researchers, writers, curators, solo artists and film makers.
Q. Brown Council is one of several artist collectives among the 83 artists selected to participate in the 20th Biennale of Sydney (BOS). What can we expect to see?
BC: For the 20th Biennale of Sydney, we have developed a project titled Making History in one of the ‘Inbetween Spaces’ located in Redfern. Informed by queer and feminist methodologies, Making History consists of a suite of events – participatory performances, re-enactments, lectures – and accumulating documentation of these events to examine how alternative historiographical approaches can be used to reshape the present. Taking as a starting point the practice, life and legacy of feminist artist Barbara Cleveland (1945-1981), Making History is a platform for remembrance, speculation, and refutation. In turn, Making History reveals how history itself is constructed: through story, rumour and myth. The artists and academics who are responding to the provocation of Cleveland and of the notion ‘making history’ are Amy Ireland, Anne Marsh, Eugene Choi, Francesca da Rimini, Mike Parr, Richard Bell, Salote Tawale with Get to Work, Sunday School, and Virginia Barratt.
Q. Much of your past work has referenced the history of performance art and/or the performance of gender. Does the new work continue in that vein?
BC: Making History actively opens up our practice to involve lots of different people in building the content of the project and in shaping the audience experience. Making History is about introducing a multiplicity of perspectives, approaching history and the histories of performance art practice through queer and feminist methodologies.
Q. Do you think your inclusion in the BOS will benefit the group’s practice? How?
BC: Incredibly! Making History marks a significant time for us, after 10 years we are now approaching a new and exciting phase of our practice. Making History is a platform for us to begin to redefine our working method. After the Biennale, Brown Council will transition in to BC Institute, which is a more inclusive and diverse mode of working – embracing our collaborative and independent projects, and opening out our process to include other contributors and participants. BC Institute honours the work of Barbara Cleveland; BCI is the axis that her truth and fiction circulate. BC Institute is still a work in progress, it is still defining itself, still in a process of becoming, but Making History will be the final project that we undertake as Brown Council and at it’s conclusion will propel us towards our new identity and modus operandi.
Q. The recently published Countess Report (released on International Women’s Day) reveals a continuing unequal gender representation and bias toward men in the Australian art world. Are there any simple solutions to redress the balance?
BC: There is no simple solution but reports like the CoUNTess’ are central to affecting change, the facts tell the story. Awareness is the first step, then action. Actively involving the practices, voices, skills and passions of artists across a scope of experience and backgrounds – Indigenous, queer, culturally diverse, transgender, people with disabilities, regional, intergenerational – in all exhibitions, collections, panels and boards.
Q. During March 2016, the National Museum of Women in the Arts launched a social media campaign with the question – ‘can you name #5womenartists?’ Which five women artists would Brown Council members nominate as important in your practice?
BC: Let’s also refine this a little and begin with #5Australianwomenartists: Barbara Cleveland, Bonita Ely, Justene Williams, Pat Larter and Philippa Cullen.
Q. What’s another question I could have asked?
BC: Where to from now?
See Brown Council at the Biennale of Sydney:
Saturdays between March 18 and June 5.
Venue: 86 George Street, Redfern
20th Biennale of Sydney
Pic: Brown Council, Making History.