Capture Podcast surveys the creative, sociocultural, and political concerns of local and international artists and designers. Drawing from the National Gallery of Victoria and RMIT University’s extensive exhibition and lecture programs, this series aims to expand over time tapping into current contemporary art, design and theoretical practices.
The following is an interview from Episode 6. Caretakers featuring Millie Cattlin.
Joe and I have a practice called These Are The Projects We Do Together. That was very much a name that came about because our practice together was founded on one thing and that was that we were working together. What we did, how we did it – all those things were unknown. But we knew that when we talked about things, when we spent time together doing, making, thinking. It was a very creative and fruitful time. This practice and this life kind of came out of that. So the name just speaks to that very initial start to the whole thing.
So Joe and I often talk about our approach to these projects – getting behind them and pushing them along as opposed to getting ahead of them and pulling them along. So I guess that’s a metaphor that really talks about us getting out of the way a lot of the time and allowing things to happen.
At both these sites – Testing Grounds and Siteworks – we see our job as clearing a space for things to happen and getting out of the way and maintaining that as a safe space for people in whichever way it needs to be. We try as much as possible to keep a lot of systems and processes as minimal as possible so we’re not asking people to go through complex procedural stuff in order to do something. We really see ourselves as being there for when things go wrong, and in terms of the curatorial or the sort of message of the work, we don’t want to dictate that. We don’t want to curate that in any way. We want to get out of the way for people and I think this coming back to my background in architecture; I feel like one of the most political things we are doing on these sites is actually temporarily stopping development of these sites, temporarily just holding the forces at bay. Both these sites have big question marks over them in terms of their future and in many ways that’s why we’ve been occupying them. So for the short time that we have on these sites, to just almost hold back those political and social forces and allow things to happen that generally happen on the periphery to happen at Testing Grounds in the middle of the arts precinct and at this school in the middle of Brunswick.
So these things that often get pushed to the fringe – or that happen out of the public context – can actually take centre stage in a very public and meaningful way. To have new audiences and ask questions in ways that maybe doesn’t normally happen.
I guess how we came to Testing Grounds and Siteworks was a really interesting coming together of a few different things that we were doing. One of them was programming. One of them was design and architecture, and one was the on-the-ground operations of a site: so managing the infrastructure I guess. So it’s quite unusual for those three things to be done by one group of people: so we’re not an arts organisation in that sort of way. We’re managing the operations of sites. In many ways we call ourselves the caretakers, and we do that quite thoughtfully. We see our presence in these buildings as one of being host, one of taking care, one of welcoming the public. There’s a very generous attitude towards opening the doors to these sites and allowing people to use them.
So it’s very much an idea that our experience with these buildings – almost our intimate understanding of these buildings and the site and its complexities and its nuances over five years – has a way of then informing the future. What we’re taking into consideration here is time – and we have lots of time – on the ground and on the site; and talking to people, and really embracing the building for all its brutal ugliness; and all its faults and all its issues. Then coming to understand how it operates in detailed ways; how the wind travels through the corridor on particular days; and how the sun moves across the site. These sorts of things that you can only come to understand through time.