Artists at Work: Connie Anthes and Rebecca Gallo occupy the gallery

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What a time to be making art about the market value placed on artistic labour! Two Sydney-based artists, Connie Anthes and Rebecca Gallo present Make or Break, a live art project exploring this theme using social exchange, alchemy and public engagement.

Anthes and Gallo ask the public to donate materials, any materials, be it a bottle cap that they found on the street, a cup of coffee or a once-cherished, now disused, record player. The first iteration, in 2015 at Firstdraft in Sydney, saw the artists use their creativity to come up with work on the spot, tag-teaming to create works that could be built upon, destroyed or sold.

The artists were responding to artistic labour and its value in the art market, and also in the wider economy.

Having had their studios taken away, Gallo states that they wanted to “be more honest about the conditions we were working under, to be more explicit. Last year Connie lost her studio space due to gentrification and the space got turned into ‘creative industries’ and I was working out of my garage because that was the most affordable option.” There’s no doubt about the impact that the Sydney (and Australian) housing market has had on, not only artists, but, well, I’d quote the Occupy movement here but we all know the implications. The title of the exhibition itself carries the metaphor.

This second iteration, showing at BUS Projects will re-enact this process, allowing audience members, friends, artists and, if word gets around, the local industry around Collingwood and beyond to bring objects into the gallery and watch the two artists reconstruct value using both the object itself, and the process of making: their artistic labour. The only objects they start off with are a chair, a table, two saws and a basic toolkit.

Anthes and Gallo are looking at reinvigorating the typical white box space, which of course, Daniel Buren and Co. bought to attention in the first waves of institutional critique in the 1960s and 1970s, but the performativity and collaboration in the project brings a social element that was missing then. As Anthes says, they “wanted to acknowledge that this whole cult of the genius individual artist working in isolation is such a falsehood.” To bring attention to artistic labour, art should exist in the social space, where people are welcome to bring objects and spark conversations around the material and immaterial value of those objects, communally.

The continuous work in the space also denies the spectacle of opening nights. Rather, the artists disperse that energy throughout the whole exhibition, creating a more gradual, but perhaps, more meaningful dialogue with the art and their visitors, and through that, a conversation over the value that is placed on the work that artists do. Take them something you can part with.

Materials can be brought to the gallery from 6pm on opening night, 29 June, until 16 July during gallery opening hours.

Connie Anthes & Rebecca Gallo: Make or Break
Bus Projects
29 June – 16 July

Sarah Werkmeister