After Open House
The Open House 2011 exhibition, where the Swig & Swill project was exhibited, is now complete, and it was quite an eventful night! Thank you to everyone who came, I hope you all had a great time, and loved that amazing Jameson/Apple Juice combo.
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Open House 2011, an event which aimed to make a mark on our city, achieved, despite its complications, exactly that.
From the very beginning, when we were first briefed on exactly what the situation was, and what we were expected to, I was exited amongst brief moments of apprehension. I knew that the even was an opportunity to make a public statement about our city and about Darlinghurst, and yet I also knew how important it was that whatever we chose to say would need to be perfect. We needed to understand and experience the area to the extent that we could express something about it with no doubt or uncertainty at all.
It was important to my group, from the start, that we found something to say with meaning and purpose. We didn’t want our project to be something that solely sought out good marks, or a fun experience. We wanted it to be something that would hold true for the locals of the area, and that would be remembered for the point that it made.
In spite of our good intentions and aspirational aims when we first began brainstorming, our early ideas all seemed to be extravagant in execution yet trivial in subject matter. We discussed installing a large door at Foley Street’s end, or constructing a typical suburban scene in all white, ready to be live-painted by attendees. I think that the problem with these ideas was that whilst they were impressive, they had no definitive connection to Darlinghurst, they could have just as easily been placed in situ in any city area in and country and hold just the same meaning. This was far from what we wanted t o achieve, and from what the subject asked us to do.
As a group, we made a number of trips to Foley Street in the first few weeks of the semester. These helped us to immerse ourselves in the area, and explore its many laneways and alleys. It was on one of these trips that our idea was really formed. At that point, we had already began to consider exploring the drinking and cafe cultures of the area, but until then we hadn’t realised that these cultures could be used as a tool to map the people of Darlinghurst, their individuality, their diversity, and their society. On our 10am walk through Darlinghurst, and less than a minute away from Foley Street, we saw an old man with a wine bottle (complete with brown bag concealment), struggling to break the seal. He leaned over to a young boy sitting nearby, and held out his bottle. The boy opened it for him, handed it back, and the old man smiled. Seeing the sense of community in their actions, we decided to focus in on this, and find a way, with our bottles, to express the diversity, uniqueness, and closeness of the area.
Swig & Swill
The Swig & Swill concept was straightforward whilst still encouraging pensive thought, questioning, and consideration. By using bottles, a defined and physical object, to sociologically map the people of Darlinghurst, we were able to give a literal visualisation to a much more abstract concept. As a group, we each sought out bottles of different shapes and sizes, which we then painted in a palette of five colours that we had found to be prevalent in the area. Each of the bottles, in their respective hues, were representative of a sector of the community. Then, when displayed, they were mixed amongst each other; tall bottles with short, pink bottles with grey, wine bottles with juice, and it was via these pairings and groupings that the work became truly representational. If the work had been composed of only wine bottles, or if we had chosen a palette of only one or two colours, the work would not have had the same visual intensity that we were able to achieve. This is also true of Darlinghurst, if different sociological groups were extracted, it would cease to be Darlinghurst as we know it. The vibrancy and excitement of the area is purely a result of the people.
I have often found that university group-work can pose a slew of unwanted challenges, with incompatible timetables and working hours usually the culprit. However I think that our group worked well to allocate tasks and coordinate meeting-times throughout the semester. Each of us worked consistently, always collecting, scrubbing, and painting our bottles. And in addition to this, we took on individual responsibilities; I looked after the photography of the bottles prior to the exhibition, as well as the design of the posters at our Fraser Street showing, and the plinth informational card at the Foley Street show.
On the day of the exhibition, everything went, for the most-part, to plan. Our bottles were all ready in good time, along with our additional elements of lighting, documentation, and support. However we could not control the rain. I think that this is one of the points of differentiation for Swig & Swill. When it began to rain, we moved the bottles indoors, one by one with little consequence. When the rain stopped, we moved many back outside. Whilst many of the other Open House projects were challenged dramatically by the rain, we were able to deal with it both quickly and efficiently. The night was a success. I think that our project had a message to it that was clear and powerful, so that no matter what the conditions, we were able to get our message across. I made note of large numbers of people crowded around our plinth and reading about the bottles, and I overhead many people comment on the lit-installations. The project was very much a personal one, not only for us, but for all the people of Darlinghurst by whom it was informed. Those at the exhibition could look at the bottles, and quite easily spot which one they connected with. Our work was very much an art-piece, another intrinsic link to the area, which helped it to engage.
The Fraser Street exhibition, as with Foley Street, was extremely important to us. As we had been given the opportunity to share our message again, we wanted to make good use of this, and demonstrate the feel and intent of Open House once more. By reconstructing some of our primary areas of installation, as well as designing posters that showed the bottles in their Foley Street situ, we were able to recreate Open House on a smaller scale. The Fraser Street showing, as with all exhibition, had its setbacks and time-restrictions, but I think that we dealt with these well and took them in our stride.
There aren’t many things, in reflection, that we should have done differently. It would have been good, for example, to have planned out a specific wet weather plan, and how exactly it should be executed. Small elements of our setup, such as mounting our plaque and attaching our lighting, could have been done even earlier. But, despite these small changes, I think that we worked well as a team to deal with each issue as it arose. We had a clear idea and vision of our project, and thus had no difficulty in changing our plans to achieve it. We knew what we needed to say, and I think, when looking back, that we, along with all the other Open House participants, said it well.