Review :: 1.85M Peripheries

August 31st 2011

It’s not often that I travel to the end of a train line. This dawned on me shortly after the rush of adventure I felt at the prospect of taking the one and a half hour trip out to Campbelltown Arts Centre for Joseph Allen Shea’s latest group show, 1.85 Million: Art Peripheries. Since its opening in 2005 this $15 million contemporary powerhouse on the edge of town has boasted some of the most dynamic exhibitions Sydney’s had to offer, but still I’d never been there because, well… it’s…in Campbelltown.

Good point? Nu-uh. A word from the converted: if you haven’t yet seen a show at this shiny new venue, 1.85M is the one to start with.

You couldn’t marry this show with a more apt venue location if you tried. Just the train-ride from the city is a delightfully simple (and highly recommended) introduction to this accumulative experience of living on the urban outskirts. Even the exhibition itself seems sprawled, the installation drawing on a suburban spaciousness that made me want to take my time, take it all in slowly, and maybe have a picnic afterwards.

Don’t get me wrong; this is not a display of village pleasantries. Shea’s assemblage of Australian and international works is a bold cross-section of the social realities and creative outcomes of a city’s peripheries. It covers concepts of phsychogeography, group mentality, and otherness, drawing comparisons between urban and marginal experiences. Howard Arkely’s technicolour paintings are among the more recognisable icons of the suburban dream/nightmare, though a personal favourite would have to be Amanda Maxwell’s written pieces of a comically awkward and heart-aching suburban adolescence.

It’s a well-conceived concept from one of our most active contemporary curators, and the whole thing is made twice as interesting by its surroundings. Perhaps I’m showing my inner-city upbringing here, but I still find it slightly odd to be in a shiny chrome gallery that is framed by highways, and that didn’t start off as a shipping dock, a wool factory, or a psychiatric hospital. It’s an entirely different experience, and despite the fact that the information lady at Macarthur train station “didn’t even know we had a gallery here”, this place is finding its feet and picking up speed with exhibitions like this one.

What: 1.85 Million: Art Peripheries

Where: Campbelltown Arts Centre

When: Until 23rd October

How much: Free


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