Occupy the Future: Sarah Goffman, Mini Graff, Deborah Kelly and Fiona MacDonald — 4 February to 10 March 2012


4 February to 10 March 2012

Opening talks by the artists and Occupy Sydney on Saturday 11 February at 3pm

Let’s play with the conceit that the Occupy actions emanating from Occupy Wall Street are a continuum of conceptual and activist art and critical practice. This is an approach sometimes taken by art historians reviewing responses to May 1968: sit-ins for Peace; the civil rights, women’s rights and environment movements.

We are borrowing here from Noam Chomsky’s title 'Occupy the Future' to describe the success of the open-ended 'occupy' concept — simultaneously anarchy and utopia, command and exhortation, success and failure. The concept could describe the presentation and attitude of art project spaces as they build on/respond to each other with fluid networks, themes or art platforms. Like the occupy movement project spaces can be ironic, formal or even ideological. Our common cause is using limitations (funding/space/resources) as a conceptual framework and the awareness that art spaces are a privileged platform for critique. This is an important counter-voice to the institutional impulse to efface unofficial historical vectors — at a cost to threads of continuity and correspondence.

This exhibition looks to how the Occupy actions are shaping the future. Some say ours is an age of disillusion and withdrawal. They point out we marched in our hundreds of thousands to stop Australia’s part in invading Iraq and failed. They cite the micromanagement of our public life and our shrinking public spaces — occupy but don’t camp, at least not for free. Others, including the artists in this exhibition, work to highlight precisely this conceptual and activist history in visual art, overwriting, re-enacting and reanimating texts and messages from various archives: in folios, newsprint, watercolour and in digital fluorescent colours. But there is definitely an art moment on the horizon.


Artists and project spaces are hyper aware that art can be a tool of 'gentrification' and of its impacts — privatisation and corporatised government. They acknowledge the unequal contest for resources in Western cities: the genius within the 'we are the 99%' rally cry. They over-write and return.



Deborah Kelly, My Sydney Summer, participant at Campbelltown Arts Centre, December 2011 Deborah Kelly, My Sydney Summer, participant at Campbelltown Arts Centre, December 2011

Deborah Kelly is a founder of www.boatpeople.org and researches and applies anti-fascist montage traditions to her contemporary art auctions, exhibitions and events. The banner My Sydney Summer began during a residency at Gallery Nova in Zagreb during the time of Occupy Flower Square. However, other components in the montage include Occupy Sydney, Mardi Gras, the artist's friends and a homage (also in the title) to Marie McMahon's print Keep Warm this Winter (1978) of St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney.


Sarah Goffman was inspired by the Wall Street occupation to make a response and organised a small group of Sydney artists to join the occupy movement in Martin Place. She decided to remake a selection of placards, unifying them into a poetic document. Her intention in reproducing them is 'to honour the 99%'. The artist's Pro-Test and copying of slogans began in Martin Place on 15 November 2011.


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Sarah Goffman, Occupy Sydney, Installation detail, 2011 Sarah Goffman, 'Pro-test' Martin Place, Sydney, 15 November 2011. Photo Jo Holder

Mini Graff is a singular and serial occupier of public spaces with her stickers and hand-drawn posters repeat pasted on hoardings, laneways and remnant public spaces.


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Mini Graff, Suburban Roadhouse #13 (detail), 2011. Acrylic screenprint on 245 gsm Stonehenge paper. Mini Graff, Suburban Roadhouse #15, 2011. Acrylic screenprint on litho paper. Street installation view, Melbourne


Fiona MacDonald is known for her installations that take the form of ‘conversations’ about undercurrents in social processes of inclusion and exclusion. She has been documenting post-Berlin Wall public manifestations since 2007.


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Fiona MacDonald, Occupy Sydney (Ned Kelly /Occupony), w/c, 54 x 73 cm, 2011 Fiona MacDonald, Surface Tension 7 (New Delhi), watercolour on paper, 74 x 109 cm, 2007

Artist Blog Call Out

The Occupy movement wasn't just in capital cities. People in Newcastle, for example, had their own occupation to save Laman Street fig trees (outside Newcastle Art Gallery) with campaign props ranging from shelters to shelters and chairs, from holiday postcards and do-it-yourself manuals and documentation from photos to performance videos published on line.


See https://occupysydney.org.au/

Please send your links or any commentary on art and the 99% and its impacts.

Jagath Dheerasekara: documentary photographer weblog with link to Meltdown: The men who crashed the world — 4 part series at http://jagathdeerasekera.blogspot.com/2011/12/meltdown-men-who-crashed-world-4-part.html

Mini Graff: https://www.wendymurray.com.au/ 


Sarah Goffman: http://peanutbutterandchocolatecups.blogspot.com/ http://gurugoffman.blogspot.com/; http://gurugoffman.blogspot.com/2010/09/can-art-save-world.html; http://goffers.wordpress.com/


Deborah Kelly: Beware of the God, commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney is a cross-media artwork considering the rise of religiosity in political life. https://www.wagnercontemporary.com.au/artists/deborah-kelly 


Fiona MacDonald: http://www.fiona-macdonald.net/; 40 Years of Union and Community Green Bans at https://www.greenbans.net.au/


Bernadette Smith: photographer, Occupy Sydney and Laman Street Newcastle at http://australiandocumentaryphotos.blogspot.com/; http://radicalfilmphoto.blogspot.com/


Jacqueline Drinkall: artist from Occupy Sydney, Open Studio at the Artspace Studios, Sydney: https://www.artspace.org.au/program/studios/ and Virtual Occupy Wall Street at http://vimeo.com/31069509

Glenn Lockitch: photographer for Occupy Sydney movement http://glennlockitchphotography.net/occupy-sydney/




Storefront for Art and Architecture, NYC — Strategies for Public Occupation: an exhibition and seven-day marathon of talks and workshops at http://storefrontnews.org/


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Deborah Kelly, My Sydney Summer, participant at Campbelltown Arts Centre, December 2011. Installation view.
Sarah Goffman, Occupy Sydney, Installation view, 2011
Deborah Kelly, My Sydney Summer, participant at Campbelltown Arts Centre, December 2011. Installation view.  
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Fiona MacDonald, Installation view, 2011 Mini Graff, Installation view, 2011