When we were in high school we really liked Christine because she was pretty and wore t-shirts with iron on transfers featuring horses and had hair just like Farrah Fawcett Majors. She rode to school along the sun baked footpaths of Dundas Valley with her two sisters on matching pink 1973 Malvern Star Dragsters. She always looked like she was having fun. Christine was so popular we were afraid to talk to her and for years so we kept our interest a sweaty secret.
One day, in Year 10, we were dozing during an Economics class – dreaming of life on other planets – when Mr. Walters advised us that we could get extra credit by joining up to an after school activity called Young Achievers. Local companies were hosting a project where school students formed their own mini-companies to sell products in the market place from which they would make money and pay dividends to the share holders (i.e. the kids who ran the companies). For students like us the whole thing sounded like a crappy waste of time, but all our friends said yeah, they’d do it, so we joined as well. Who knew, Maybe we’d make some money. The bonus was discovering that Christine was getting involved from the other more advanced Economics class and as we rode on the bus down Pennant Hills Road to a dusty industrial park next to the Parramatta River, we felt like the luckiest kids in the world. We were going to be general managers of our own company and Christine could be the secretary!
Unfortunately the reality of small business was something else. Our Young Achievers group was hosted by Café Bar, the company that made those plastic coffee dispensers that looked cool and 70s but dispensed coffee that tasted like drinking International Roast with fifteen sugars. The people who worked at Café Bar were old and fat and had moustaches and ran the place like a concentration camp. Our “product” was to be barbeque aprons and the name of the company had been chosen for us: Cool Barbeque Aprons Pty Ltd.
The only freedom we had at Café Bar was the choice between coffee, tea or chicken noodle soup. There was no escape from the premises before 6pm and as we sat in the board room sewing barbeque aprons and drinking instant coffee from sticky plastic cups, we vowed we would never willingly go 9 to 5 in our lives. Christine, it perhaps inevitably turned out, was not nearly as interesting in real life as she was in our imaginations. Although she had stunning flick backs, there was something missing and the light in her eyes was just a reflection of the outside world and not something going on in there. (When we discovered she also carried a scratched and dented plastic banana in her school bag that she referred to as “my dolphin” we wondered if she wasn’t also a little bit insane as well). Later, when we heard she had gone off to Macquarie University to study accounting with the other 90% of our year 12 class, it all seemed to make sense.
We thought of that painful memory as we gazed at a window display put together by Phatspace at the Australia Council offices on Elizabeth Street. The window display – a pisstaking mini exhibition of gallery people, artists and product – so accurately matched our memories of Young Achievers it was painful. There are three large colour individual portraits of Phatspace’s principals – Danielle Coonan (Executive Director and Conceptualizer of Strategic Growth), Iakovos Amperidis (Senior Director & Professional New Wave Controller) and Jen Duncan (Chief Managing Director, Spiel Specialist and Key Socializer) – and a lovely portrait of all three. Dressed in smart pant suits and scarves, sensible haircuts and makeup appropriate for the work place, the Phatspace trio look like the Howard Government’s dream management team for alternative art spaces.
The Phatspace window display offers some attractive products for your consideration: t-shirts ($50), caps ($25), key rings ($15) and mugs ($25) all designed by a professional team of artists. There’s nothing so mediocre as taking a work of art and putting it on a t-shirt and it’s pleasing to see that Phatspace artists can lower themselves to the challenge. Soda_Jerk has a very nice punk retro collection that’s sort of Donnas-meets-Studio 54 and we were very pleased to see that After Life Art Manifesto have done another parody of Australian Art Collector, this time an altered version of the portrait of Captain Cook holding his own head with the cover line DEAD END. It makes the heart glad, but the work that really grabbed our attention was the suite of pieces by Rachel Scott which features the artist (we’re assuming) in a pose that’s so retro it induces a brain hemorrhage – the hand on the breast, the flick backs, the vacant stare…