A new phenomenon has become observable within Wellington as of late: the return of the artist-run space. Artist-run spaces take many shapes and forms, from windows to garages, to some of the starkest industrial bunkers you could find, all the way to the classic wooden floor, white walls loft. Artist-run spaces have been a pillar of the New Zealand art landscape for the past 20–30 years, but I had feared that in the last three or four years Wellington has been lacking these vital fledgling initiatives.
Artist-run spaces are often the culmination of a group of ambitious young artists testing ideas and models that challenge our everyday lives, and go outside of the worry-filled, future-centric thought that ‘University, Careers, and Society’ inflict upon us. Artist-run spaces are (hopefully) free thinking, radical, experimental places that young artists use to propose new ideas, new thinking, and new systems for us to cope—or not—with the world we currently reside in. They are the punk rock of a crispy clean art world.
Thats right, punk AF. Enjoy Gallery was originally conceived as an artist-run space; a small group of Ilam art school graduates from Christchurch moved up and took themselves seriously. Enjoy continues today, 16 years on, as a pillar of the Wellington art community supporting both emerging and established artists year in year out. Dilohanna Lekamge’s solo show—FOR ANY WHO COME TO TAKE FROM HERE—is currently being exhibited at Enjoy until the September 17, with an artist talk on Thursday, September 15, at 5.30pm. This is the work that got me thinking about writing for this issue of Salient, the body issue. Dilohanna uses the confrontation and beauty of the body and her practice explores notions of diaspora and the emotional distance from women’s issues in Sri Lanka where she was born. I have been exposed to Dilohanna’s work right through art school until now and it is uniquely conflicting, both serene and grating, and equally radical. I wanted desperately to write about her work and her current show, but I haven’t yet been able to see it. I promise to see it though, you should too!
Dilohanna’s show / work got me thinking about rad emerging artists in Wellington, which led me to these new spaces that are popping up. It is something I am particularly passionate about; I have been writing about and trying to set up numerous spaces and projects for the last two to three years. Now some other people are actually getting their shit together and nailing it!
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The most recently established is Meanwhile: a curious space that has been set up by Callum Devlin, Jesse Bowling, Jordana Bragg, with a bunch of other supporters. It is a pokey office-y looking space right next to the Police Station at 35 Victoria Street. What a place to be, smack bang in the centre of the CBD, near the Library, and right next to what could be the clearest manifestation of the state. I couldn’t think of anywhere better to be disrupting the corporate mass flooding by throughout the day, to be presenting alternative ideas to the embodiment of our contemporary neoliberal society. The most recent show was The Welcoming Party’s Free Time. The Welcoming Party are a performance collective made up of Elisabeth Pointon and Lucas Donnell; a formidable duo of zany random acts of kindness, surprise, and celebration, their actions disrupt the rigid normality of the every day. They cause curiosity and query in whatever public audience that might be party to their antics—my favourite so far BYOGA (bring-your-own-yoga, get it?). This is the sort of work that I am excited about being presented in emerging artist-run spaces. Wacky eccentric work that challenges the perceptions of Art’s (yes capital A) inaccessibility.
Another space named Playstation is about to open in the coming weeks on Egmont Street. They are booked up with shows for the rest of the year and I am stoked to see what will come out of our new mini Art-World. Exciting and challenging ideas is what I’m dreaming of. Keep your eye out on Facebook etc. and make the effort to get out and support these new spaces. These young artists are literally starving themselves to afford to operate these spaces, so get there and show them that you like people doing rad stuff (whether you are into it or not—and let them know what you think!).
The horror of nothing to see
Elijah Winter at Meanwhile (35 Victoria St)
September 7, 5.30pm
For any who come to take from here
Dilohanna Lekamge at Enjoy Gallery (Level 1/147 Cuba St)
August 25 to September 17