Interview :: ‘Larrikins’ curator Kate Britton
March 27th 2014
That cheeky Aussie grin and our tendency to take the piss are but a few materialisations of our larrikin spirit.
Larrikins, curated by true cobber Kate Britton, has Buckley’s chance of being a flop. I’d go as far to call it a ripper concept. The Flog’s Alex Eugene had a bit of a yabber with Kate in the lead up to the opening. Take a Captain Cook at 107 Projects before this Sunday, it’ll charm your pants off.
Bernie :: How were the participating artists chosen?
Kate :: The concept is something I’ve been toying with for a while. Once that crystallised, I started looking for artists that I felt embodied the particular spirit I’m trying to capture in the show. All of them are really different, but share a humour and a straight-forwardness. Some I knew already, some I just tracked down and contacted out of the blue. I’m really happy with how they all sit together now the show is installed, which is always nice!
How did you decide upon the word ‘larrikin’ to embody the concept of this show?The term larrikin has a particular history and political element that I don’t think anything else does. It’s not just a general marker of nationalism, as ‘Aussies’ is, nor as flippant as something like ‘flaming galah’, though I love that expression- maybe a sequel exhibition?
The larrikin has been a figure of Australian society since colonial days. Historically they were black, white, indigenous, women, often marginalized groups that had to find alternate ways to be heard, to show up the dominant cultures of the time. The persona of the ‘larrikin’ was a way of addressing serious issues without necessarily being serious in your approach.
It’s also got an art-historical background. A group of artists calling themselves the Larrikin Squad used to get around and disrupt events in the 70s.
There’s an image of Bob Hawke in your promo image. Is it just coincidental? Is the exhibition meant to be impartial?
I think Bob Hawke really embodies larrikinism, and for me provided a kind of visual shorthand for people to engage with the show. You can see that image and immediately you think of someone who was leader of this country, and responsible for some very serious things, but who also would skull a beer at the cricket. Someone who was unashamedly himself, and unafraid to speak his mind to any and all that would listen. Someone willing to step up and take a leadership role when he saw things he didn’t like. Certainly not someone who is complicit through inaction.
And, yes, hopefully to remind people that there are better alternatives out there than our present government. I don’t think art is ever impartial, unless perhaps it’s of frangipanis. I think we can look to art to show us alternatives, and I think that right now that’s important.
I also think that there are certain issues we are facing as a society at the moment that are beyond ‘left’ and ‘right’ politics, and that call for a less binary way of seeing politics to begin with. Art is inherently political, though in a far more complex way than actual politics. Perhaps politicians (and hopefully voters) can learn a little from artists there. I can only speak for myself of course, not all the artists in the show.
This show is very timely considering the March in March protest staged last week. Do the values of the show tie in with this, despite being unplanned?
The show is not about specific political issues, though of course they inform it. It’s more about how we resist as Australians. The work in the show is about presenting different artists’ modes of expression – of identity, of cultures, of engagement with their worlds. People shouldn’t expect to see a didactically political show. It’s much more abstractly related than that, much more aesthetic. I hope people engage with it affectively and emotionally rather than looking for another person telling them how they should be. It’s about the freedom to be whoever you want.
I was at the march last Sunday, and it was wonderful to see so many people (far more than was reported in fact) out to express their dissatisfaction. I still think, however – and this was the initial impetus for the show – that protests like that are only one way of resisting, and that many Australians who might not engage with that might engage with a different approach. Larrikinism for me is a proposition for such a mode of resistance. A calling of bullshit.
What styles of artwork are in the show?
A bit of everything, which I love! There’s painting, sculpture, video work, there was a performance at the opening, ceramics – it’s a mixed bag. I’m excited by the diversity of mediums and how they interact in the space.
Will the show raise more questions than answers for viewers?
I hope so! In many ways that’s the whole point- not telling someone something, but encouraging them to ask it for themselves, and not accept someone else’s answer.