This month we were very pleased to host Melbourne artist Emily Floyd in our workshop.
Emily is an artist whose diverse projects intersect strongly with our interests at the Big Fag. Namely: utopian collectivism, information graphics and typography.
Working with Diego and Louise from Big Fag Press, Emily produced a remake of a leftist conference programme from Sydney in the 1980s. You can see more images of the print here.
About the project, Emily writes:
The Broad Left Conference was held in 1986 at the then New South Wales Institute of Technology. The event emerged from the regroupment projects of the Australian Left during the 1980s, with organizers aiming to bring together different political struggles under the umbrella of a single movement.
The conference addressed issues of the environment, the labor movement, feminism, peace and disarmament, indigenous politics and the cultural sector, using a combination of tightly structured workshops and informal cultural gatherings, “pressing issues of current concern strongly suggest that broad left forces should meet in an open atmosphere to discuss perspectives for the left in Australia.”
In terms of spatial practice in Australia, I think this conference is really interesting because it marks a distinct shift from the free flowing tactics of the 60s and 70s to a highly formalised set of frameworks incorporating language such as “nuts and bolts,” “building the base and setting the agenda,” and “what do we learn, how do we contribute?”
I was at the conference because I was a member of Young People for Nuclear Disarmament (Y.P.N.D) and because my mum was involved involved in the Community Child Care Movement.
I have an archive of ephemera relating to the Community Movement in Australia and I’m interested in the spatial structures they invented to facilitate social education and open ended play and think these ideas can be applied public programs for contemporary art.
The Australian Left at this time was also at the forefront of considering ideas of freedom of information and intellectual property. They wanted their work to be read and interpreted into the future and much of the printed material produced come with the directive that it may be reproduced and distributed as long as the acknowledgements are maintained.
It’s a kind of early form of open source info – by reprinting and distributing the pamphlet I hope to allow the material to find a new audience and continue to create possibilities.
Emily’s exhibition “New Graphic Sculpture” presents two new text-based works at Anna Schwartz Gallery, Sydney: an ephemera project printed in Sydney at The Big Fag Press and a steel sculpture entitled WORKSHOP, this large-scale work spells out its title through the configuration of coloured open-form steel blocks.
The exhibition continues a long term project creating abstract spatial structures and three dimensional graphic forms utilising literary, political and theoretical writing as a point of departure.
Text and elemental objects are combined using a material vocabulary that finds its lineage in alternative pedagogy such as Free-School Education, The Bauhaus and The Community Movement.
This current work takes inspiration from two seemingly disparate educational forms, a coloured micro-architectural wooden block set designed during the 1920s by Bauhaus toymaker Alma Seidhoff-Buscher and a political pamphlet outlining a series workshops for The Broad Left Conference distributed in Australia during the 1980s.
These two forms of learning share in common, an autobiographic association for the artist and a design that fosters experimentation within defined structural parameters. Whether in the new arrangement colour, shape and form or building frameworks for a different society, both seek new knowledge and speak to modes of invention inherent in experimental contemporary practices today.