Installation of performance traces at the Silver Spoon Gallery (under the Cat and Fiddle Hotel), Balmain (21/08/07).



(Performance 15/08/07, "Performance Night", SPI studio, Sydney College of the Arts)

The Theatre of Apathy

(This piece originally appeared in SCAR (the Sydney College of the Arts Review) produced by the Student Association of Sydney College of the Arts (SASCA))

I must begin by alerting our readership to the fact that I am a guest to the SCAR editorial and have not gone through the rigorous training of our normal editorial team. Thus my content may be unconventional.
The importance of performance art in contemporary artistic practice seems to be all too often forgotten by, at least the undergrad, students of SCA. At this point I should admit a degree of bias being myself a performance artist. The annual Performance Night in the SPI (sculpture) studio, which occurred last Wednesday, is the only event showcasing and promoting performance art on campus. In the previous two years which I have attended the event the involvement of students has been somewhat disappointing. This is not to do with the quality of the performances (which has always been excellent), but more the number of students actively taking part. The apparent consensus has been that performance is somewhat intimidating. The 2006 Performance Night was particularly disappointing. Students were reluctant to perform or even attend the event as spectators. The typical excuses were “well I don’t do performance” or “it’s not my thing”. What they exhibited was a seeming apathy towards performance.
This years Performance Night broke the trend, however - a resounding success. Almost double the number of performances and spectators as last year. It was particularly inspirational to see many of the first years putting on pieces, something which has rarely happened in previous years. Whilst the party atmosphere is not ideal for more traditional performance work, the occasion’s informality makes it a unique opportunity for the aforementioned apathetics - for whom it’s “not their thing” – to take part. In true Australian spirit one should just “have a go” (as Adam Varnhead did).
But let’s not get too self-congratulatory just yet. The disinterest I am noting extends beyond performances art and Night. A great number of SCA students seem apathetic towards art itself! I walk through the studios outside of scheduled class times and find them empty. SCA students, outside of a devoted minority, are rarely present at openings. The Silver Spoon gallery, run by SASCA, has received five proposals in the almost four months it has been operational and thus has spent 75% of its time empty. We run the risk of losing our only off campus gallery…but, nobody seems to care. Personally, I find this acutely depressing.
SCA students are regularly heard complaining about the paucity of Australian art and the apathy toward it; how bad it is, how few exhibition opportunities are available, how little public interest it attracts. It seems paradoxical to complain so and then ignore the easy opportunities to get involved in the scene and change these things. However, maybe no one wants to be part of it anyway. Looking at and making art is much harder for them than complaining about the obstacles in the way of these tasks. They’d much rather move up the ranks at Gloria Jean’s to advance their careers. (“No,” I hear you say. “Really?” I ask.) Well take this as a call to arms. We need a change in Australian art this is where it has to start.

Now please excuse me while I pick the vitriol from between my teeth.

Sach Catts.

The views presented in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of the SASCA committee.