From Space to Place

Participating artists

  • Izabela Pluta(NSW)

  • Sean Cordeiro & Claire Healy (NSW)

  • Anna Nazzari (WA)

  • Hayden Fowler (NSW)

  • James Lynch (VIC)

  • Nat & Ali (Australia)

  • Wilkins Hill (QLD)

  • Matthew Hunt (WA)

  • Tom Nicholson (VIC)

  • Bruce Slatter (WA)

  • Raquel Ormella (NSW)

From Space to Place

The relationship between space and place is a complex and ambiguous one. Space is a notion of the highest generality, but seen from the vantage point of concrete human experience, it connotes an abstract potentiality that has not yet been formed or determined. Place, on the other hand, represents a specific and concrete segment of the spatial continuum laden with meaning and history. Space becomes a place when its abstract and open-ended formlessness is seized upon by an agency - an individual, a community, a people - who gives it a form, a name and a history.

But the line separating space and place, determined and undetermined, actual and virtual, form and formlessness is often one based on exclusion. The identity of places – of homes, suburbs, towns, nations - is over and over again won by separating a familiar inside from an alien outside. Boundaries, borders and frontiers are created to preserve and perpetuate the original act of exclusion upon which the identity of place was gained, keeping at bay the constant threat of indeterminacy that presses from the outside. A sense of place is often a double-edged sword that entails both a positive affirmation of identity and a regressive closure to what lies beyond the divide between ‘us’ and ‘them’. Place is a historically relative human creation that defines itself against an alien exterior space: nature, foreign culture or the unknown.

The dialectics between space and place manifests itself with particular intensity in small and remote rural towns. For example, the relationship between the places of human settlement and the unbounded space of nature is deeply troubled by the effects of environmental degradation (salination is a case in point). Agriculture culturalises nature, gives it a human form, but it also triggers destructive processes that affect the zone in-between nature and culture, space and place. Analogous degenerative phenomena can be observed at community level: with diminishing population, reduced economic and demographic imbalance threatening the future viability of long established rural settlements. These are examples of environmental and social entropy in which the usual path that leads from the indeterminacy of space to the specificity of place is actually reversed. Amorphous space reclaims areas that were previously colonised by form, meaning and history: homes and farmed lands are returned to silence and indeterminacy, memories blurred and blunted, sense of identity weakened.

In rural Australia traditional ideas of belonging and locality are also increasingly challenged by the economic and social consequences of globalisation and spread of new information technologies. The strong sense of local identity that characterises small country towns is diminished by the realisation that remote and faceless global forces increasingly shape the way we live. This is a situation that creates real difficulties but that also provides communities and individuals with an opportunity to rethink creatively the relationship between the local and the global. New models of cultural identity are required to bridge the cognitive and emotional distance between the immediacy of local experience and the new horizons opened up by progressive integration of cultural, economic and social forces across nations. And in this context art can play a positive role by questioning boundaries and rigid notions of identity and by offering more fluid, open and innovative ways of reinterpreting the relationship between the virtuality of space and the actuality of place. …

From Space to Place concentrate on the ambiguities, paradoxes and contradictions that trouble the in-between zone separating space and place, determined and undetermined, actual and virtual, form and formlessness. The exhibition presents new works created by 11 early-career Australian artists during their residency at IASKA in 2004. Invited artists have resided for several weeks in the small town of Kellerberrin in the Western Australian Whealtbelt with a view to researching and developing works that engaged with the specificity of the place and community.

The participating artists share a similar interest in areas of practice situated at the crossroads of art, social intervention, new media and architecture. Their works are often centred on the linguistic, aesthetic and social processes that intervene in the transition from space to place. The exhibition approaches the curatorial theme from two main interpretative angles. The first one concerns the interaction between personal and social space/place; the second examines the interface between social space/place and the natural environment. These works investigate notions of actual and virtual space, place and displacement, belonging and estrangement.

The works in this exhibition result from an encounter between young artists and the people and place of contemporary rural Australia. This project has provided artists with a rare opportunity to work for extended periods of time outside an urban environment. The resulting works testify to the excitement that stems from the discovery of new realities and from a dialogue between individuals who represent sections of society that often don’t have the opportunity to engage with each other.

Marco Marcon, 2005