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April 16, 2018 | by  | in Arts Performance Art |
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How to Stretch Space

MEANWHILE is an artist-run initiative on Willis Street, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, and is facilitated by Laura Duffy, Sean Burn, Dilohana Lekamge, Jordana Bragg, and Simon Gennard. Laura, Sean, and Dilohana generously talked to me about what MEANWHILE is and will become.

The ability to be constantly changing is how I best understand the philosophy of MEANWHILE.

MEANWHILE was conceived in the interim, in a period between leases in a space on Victoria Street. Then, MEANWHILE moved, to its current Willis Street premises. Parallel to this, MEANWHILE has an online gallery platform, hosting exhibitions that exist in a digital format, and archiving their past exhibitions. And now, a window gallery has been opened as well, an extension of their upstairs Willis location, reiterating how energising it is to be in a state of flux.

In the window at the moment there is a water cooler— the ultimate emblem of workplace banality. It is accompanied by an illuminated sign that reads “welcome to the real world”, and a possibly artificial pot plant. Here, the sarcastic, weary, and exhausting attitude embedded in that phrase, and in the concept of the workplace, has been given a physical form. This installment is part of Gwyn Easterbrook-Smith and Elisabeth Pointon’s show Human Resources, which interrogates unpaid but emotionally and physically demanding expectations of femmes in the workplace.

The window gallery disrupts its surrounding environment. It is neighboured by stagnant shop fronts, while the gallery is continuously reactivated through MEANWHILE’s changing programme.

However, the current Human Resources also cynically reflects what many people walking past the window space, during lunch breaks or on their way home, are simultaneously experiencing first-hand. In this way, the gallery space sprawls into the urban environment too— our interaction with it must always be from the street, so the MEANWHILE window gallery has a different audience than who would visit their upstairs space, as everyone that walks past and glances in the window involuntarily involves themselves.

MEANWHILE are really good at stretching the space they have been given. The soundtrack to a previous window exhibition fills the stairwell, expanding beyond the square metres that their rent pays for. The institution is always so solid and certain, and MEANWHILE is not.

There is a real emphasis on ensuring that it is a gallery that is safe and inclusive. This is not an abstract objective, but something that they explain includes a formalised process of contracts between artists, volunteers, and facilitators, so that everyone is really clear on what is expected of them, and what they can expect. A specific safe space policy and message of vision has also been mapped out, so that even as the group of facilitators, and people working with MEANWHILE varies, there is no inconsistency or miscommunication that arises because of this. It is a space that can be passed on and on and on, to different locations and people, but in these flows and surges is where places emerge for underrepresented works, discussions, and artists to do their freaky shit.

Human Resources in on at MEANWHILE until 21 April, and their online space is active all the time, http://meanwhile.gallery/  

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