Q&A :: Tom Polo and Kenny Pittock
August 1st 2012
When receiving the instructions to go the basement of a car park in Kings Cross, The Flog’s Jayne Cheeseman was slightly nervous. Sitting amongst cars, oil stains and a forgotten mechanic’s office is Alaska Projects: An artist run initiative to exhibit contemporary visual art in unused or disused places. The current exhibition is called Anything, Everything and One Other Thing.
Jayne was lucky enough to chat with Tom Polo, the curator of the show, to find out what exactly that ‘One Other Thing’ is. She also spoke to Kenny Pittock, an artist who took a picture of his local petrol station every day for a year (that’s one of them, above), even if that meant leaving hot dates early and having a fear of not getting a photo while in hospital with possible appendicitis.
Jayne: Hi Tom, really nice to meet you.
Tom: You too, Jayne. Have you had a look around? I’ll show you.
What kind of brings the exhibition together is that idea of the multiple pieces, the multiple paths, the way that they come together forms this one thing. So that means projects made of many components.
Kenny Pittock is an artist from Melbourne who photographed his local petrol station everyday for a year during 2011. And while that’s probably not the most interesting element about it, the best part is he really paid attention to the way it affected his life. In kind of mostly constrained ways, he documents the way that he’d have to leave dates or that he could never travel or that he had appendicitis and was stuck in hospital with that worry that he had to get his shot – because he did take it every day for a year, regardless of what time it was taken. It could have been before university, before his travels, (it takes him an hour or two to get to uni), or at 11:59pm, it’s still kind of that achievement.
Did he actually get to go on holidays at all?
He managed to get to Tasmania! Oh this is him, here.
Kenny: Hi, nice to meet you! Sorry my hands are wet from this drink.
That’s ok! It’s such a cool idea.
K: I don’t know, is it? It’s very different to what I usually do.
Were you aiming to get a car in every shot?
K: Yeah. It takes a lot of guts; people don’t like it. Well you know I wouldn’t like it, having a camera pointed in my face.
T: Kenny was saying to me the other day that towards the end of the project he found that confidence to actually point the camera in someone’s face and that the first two months of the project were more boring, even though it was kind of a fresh thing, which is funny.
Did you get anyone chasing after you or anything?
K: Yeah I did actually.
T: He had someone wanting to fight as well!
K: People were really aggressive sometimes. It’s all part of the fun.
It’s such a big commitment as well.
K: Yeah, I didn’t realise what I was getting myself into. You have to keep coming back. It’s an hour away from my uni as well, so I couldn’t just leave. It was hard.
T: This work here – points to wall – is by Dan Bell from Melbourne. He creates jewellery and I suppose in this work, which has 365 pieces, sort of creates a web of things. What’s beautiful about them is the idea that they have this mystical quality to them, but if you look up closely, some of them are made up of broken up rubbish bins that he found that were melted. See that one in the corner? It’s a piece of rubbish bin that some local kids had burnt and he snapped it off, painted it with a bit of glitter and it’s this beautiful object or wanted thing.
How did you get all the artists to come together to do this? Did you seek them out yourself?
Most of them are people that I’ve known for a little bit of time, but some are kind of new friends. I was approaching them with ideas but also seeing what it was that they wanted to do. I’ve got Kate Smith who’s a painter who has two works in the show and it’s sort of the relationship, in that there’s two years between them but it’s nice to see the stylistic changes of painting as well. It’s interesting to see how she works with the idea of painting and how you can push painting in a way of talking about beauty I think, and what is beautiful and it’s function too.
Have you ever curated a show before or has it mainly been just your own work?
I’ve kind of put together shows. I don’t really think of it as curating because I think of it from my own point of view in a way that I’m surrounding myself with artists who kind of pick up on things that I talk about in my work anyway. In this case, it’s the multiple paths. It’s the excessive aesthetic as well. For me it’s my way of surrounding myself with artists rather than saying that I’m a curator. I’m not. I’m not a curator.
Well, you are of this show!
Well in the title of the exhibition it refers to this ‘One Other Thing’, and it goes between putting in the idea of that one extra thing or object, but also my input into this idea is this ‘One Other Thing’.
That’s a cool concept. I also read that you spent time in the Acme Project Space in London. Has that influenced what you’ve been doing?
I was in London last year and spent almost four months there. I had a residency there and that was really great, picking up on how works were responded to in different environments has been really interesting. Seeing how someone responds to something in Sydney vs. Melbourne maybe vs. somewhere in Europe has been great.
It’s a very different culture in the arts over there.
Yeah definitely! I’ve enjoyed that reference point as what’s familiar and what’s been familiar for a long time vs. putting yourself where you’re not struggling, but forced to justify every move and action in a way.
Also, the final work is the video outside by George Egerton-Warburton and he’s made this work with a trained actor, an older man who’s never been in a film or a stage production or anything before. He presents in seven minutes these seven different characters or scenes, so he jumps in and out of these different characters. The setting of the film changes as well, black and white comes in and out of it and subtitles. It’s really lovely to see it projected quite large too.
At this point, Kenny comes back over, and says, “Hey Tom, this is your present.” And proceeds to takes off his jumper, revealing a white polo shirt with the word ‘Tom’ written in black texta. We all laugh hysterically.
Kenny: “I’m Tom Polo”.
Tom: I don’t know whether to laugh or to hug you.
Kenny: I’ll wear it for the next hour and then give it to you.
What: Anything, Everything and One Other Thing
Who: Artists: Dan Bell, George Egerton-Warburton, Kate Smith, Kenny Pittock, Leahlani Johnson. Curator: Tom Polo
Where: Alaska Projects – Level 2, Kings Cross Car Park, 9A Elizabeth Bay Road
When: 25 July – 5 August (Open Thurday–Sunday) How Much: FREE