Grace McQuilten, Amy Spiers Joining my future: Art/Work, Inequality and CrisisOpening: 19 January 2021 Dates: 19 Jan - 27 Feb 2021
The exhibition, “Joining my future”: Art/Work, Inequality and Crisis, curated by Grace McQuilten and Amy Spiers, will present the textile, multimedia and performance work of 12 diverse, young emerging artists that have been supported through alternative forms of creative, community based education. Aged 18 to 25, many of the artists have overcome barriers to traditional schooling and the broader art world. They have forged pathways into professional arts practice through training and work experience in performance, fashion design and filmmaking offered by the art organisations Outer Urban Projects, The Social Studio and Youthworx.
Working in the arts, however, is hard. The report, “Making Art Work” (Throsby and Peteskaya 2017), highlights that Australian arts workers’ wages are on the decline, the majority of arts professionals are underemployed, with many artists earning income from secondary, non-creative jobs alongside their inconsistent, underpaid creative work. The artists showcased in this exhibition live this predicament, often negotiating casual work, study and family commitments, as well as structural inequality that affects mental health and the social supports required to forge successful creative careers. The artists distinctly grapple with the realities of a neoliberal, entrepreneurial work ethic, that requires creatives to shoulder precarity and risk, that is normalised in the project-based, freelance-driven arts market.
The exhibition will present works by young artists that reflect on the future of work, and consider what social status, cultural capital and support it takes to invest in futures in the creative industries. An accompanying public program will develop these themes through a film screening, panel discussion, live performances and workshops.
Dr Grace McQuilten is an art historian, curator and writer. Grace completed her Ph.D. in art history at the University of Melbourne in 2008. In 2016, she published the book Art as Enterprise: Social & Economic Engagement in Contemporary Art (co-authored with Dr Anthony White, IB Tauris,2016) and in 2011 Art in Consumer Culture (Ashgate Publishing, 2011). Grace has worked extensively in social enterprise and community development alongside her academic career. She currently leads the Contemporary Art and Social Transformation Research Group at RMIT University, and is a Chief Investigator on the Australian Research Council funded project, ‘The underworld: Outsider artists and the reformulation of Australian Art’ (2018–21).
Dr Amy Spiers is an artist, writer and researcher living on the unceded lands of the Kulin nation in so-called Melbourne, Australia. Her socially-engaged, critical art practice focuses on the creation of live performances, participatory situations and multi-artform installations for both site-specific and gallery contexts. Spiers has presented art projects across Australia and internationally, including at Monash University Museum of Art (Melbourne), the Museum für Neue Kunst (Freiburg), MONA FOMA festival (Hobart) and the 2015 Vienna Biennale. As a writer and researcher, Amy has published texts widely, including for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Auckland Art Gallery and Journal of Arts and Communities. Spiers completed a Master of Fine Art in 2011 and a PhD in 2018 at the Victorian College of the Arts. She is currently a research fellow at RMIT University working on the Australian Research Council funded project, ‘Art-based Social Enterprise and Marginalised Young People’s Transitions’ (2017-2020).