Level 2/16 Milligan Street, Perth, 27 - 31 March 2006
It started in 2002 when Heather Webb, Christian de Vietri and Ben Riding, took over the soon to be demolished Rhodes Hotel in South Perth. Their project was bold, to say the least. They invited fifty Western Australian and internationally based artists to create '& the most inspirational installation and multimedia events in the history of Western Australian contemporary art practice'.
One of the distinguishing features of Perth's visual arts scene is the initiative shown by its affiliates. In the sure knowledge that if you don't do it yourself it won't happen, young artists and curators in Perth undertake major projects with a swashbuckling disdain for the obstacles they might encounter. They develop a project, find a venue, get a grant or raise the money, organise the publicity, create the work and then present an exhibition or stage an event with remarkable aplomb.
To everyone's surprise, including their own, the curators of HOTEL6151 pulled it off. On the opening evening 2,500 people trawled through the re-imagined rooms. The event received national and international press coverage and generated a palpable buzz in the arts community.
OFFICE6000 is the latest intervention planned by Riding through his project 'LaunchArt', which aims to initiate access to various spaces or sites for the purpose of artistic inquiry. Located in a vacant office space in central Perth he and his cohort of locally based artist collaborators transformed the entire floor of the soon to be renovated office building into a group exhibition exploring the visual codes and the modus operandi of the office.
OFFICE6000 was irreverent, witty and thought-provoking. Intrigued by the mysteries of office politics and its rites of passage the eighteen artists interrogated the office as a cultural site. On one wall Rodney Glick's slogans poke fun at the pithy injunctions to succeed and conform that pepper desk diaries and run as a codicil to departmental emails. 'I'm no bigot I hate everyone' and 'I have great plans for wasting today' concisely deflated the hyperbole of corporate hype.
Against another wall Bevan Honey drafted out an image in blue tape that ran across the wall and carpeted floor. What seemed like a decorative pattern of lines was fixed into a linear perspective projection of the lift shaft when viewed from the real lift opposite. Like office politics, it all depends on your point of view.
The religious aura of the office and its intricate rituals prompted Aidan Broderick and Joshua Web to created shrines within the exhibition space. In Broderick's case he linked images of the Virgin Mary and the crucifix with the sharp, crisp elegance of late modernist design while Webb's plaster cast double angel seemed to rise up from the rubble of corporate excess while it is simultaneously buried within it. Bennett Miller also introduced a kind of shrine into the office environment. His mini-golf course epitomised corporate competitiveness both inside and outside the office.
Tony Nathan succinctly captured the alien nature of the empty space in his photographs of the interior at night and during the day, which he installed as a companion pair within a glassed-in recess in the room, trapping them within the building itself. One of the most bizarre intrusions was Tom Müller's fake rubber plant, a ubiquitous part of many office environments. Whether it was playing a Duchampian game on the nature of art or was indeed a leftover from the last occupants it skewed readings and problematised viewing in intriguing ways.
Unlike the HOTEL6151 project there was less opportunity to intervene physically in the building on this occasion but the placement of works within the vacant space did allow the participating artists to extend the scope of their work and draw connections with their collaborators.
After the success of these two events it's intriguing to ponder where and when Riding and his team will pop up next.