Tag Archives: Platform

Happy 20th Birthday Platform

In 1990 Andrew Seward and Richard Holt established The Platform Artists Group Inc. 20 years on and it has become Melbourne’s longest running artists-run initiative and public art project in the CBD. It is open to the public every weekday and Saturday mornings all year. It is a non-profit public art organization supported by the City of Melbourne, Arts Victoria and the Australia Council.

Megan Clunes writes about the Platform’s 20 years in Broadsheet Melbourne. The photograph accompanying the article shows the original Platform in the curved underpass at the then Spencer Street Station (now Southern Cross Station). The vitrines in the Spencer Street underpass were curved streamlined modern cabinets that became redundant after failing to predict the future of advertising. I remember seeing some early exhibitions in the Platform cabinets and being under-whelmed by the experience.

The cabinets at Flinders Street Station originally were known as Platform 2 and were opened 5 years after the original Spencer Street space. It was known as Platform 2 when I exhibited there in 1995 with members of Dada tribe #373.

“Celebrating 20 years of Platform” is an anniversary exhibition at Platform. There are lots of familiar names in this exhibition; not just from Platform but from the whole artists run spaces of Melbourne. (Try entering their surnames in this blog’s search box – don’t bother with their first names, it is a simple search system and will return every entry with that word.) I reviewed Brad Haylock’s neon “them/us” when it was originally exhibited at Platform; this is also a review of an exhibition by Simon Pericich, who is also in the anniversary exhibition.

This time when I looked at Platform’s cabinets I was most impressed with the Christopher Scuito’s exhibition in the “Sample” cabinet (next to the coffee shop booth and the exit to Flinders Street). “Sample” presents the work of art school students. Scuito’s has collaged beefcake cigarette lighters onto reproductions of classic sword and sorcery fantasy images emphasizing the S&M and homoerotic quality of these illustrations. Patrice Sharkey has beautifully curated Scuito’s exhibition; the details are tremendous from the black backboard supported by stacks of comic books to the whip on top of the black-framed images.

There is a publication, What Art, Which Public: Platform Artists Group 1990-2010 edited by Angela Brophy. I haven’t been able to get hold of a copy of it (I did ask at Sticky Institute but they didn’t know anything). Platform has rarely made history; its internal chronology has not been tumultuous either. In 2008 the roof of the Campbell’s Arcade collapsed when road works on Flinders Street broke through but this only damaged the shops and not the exhibition spaces. Later that year Cecilia Fogelberg and Trevor Flinn’s exhibition at Platform, ‘The Puma, The Stranger and The Mountain’ was censored for nudity. But it was overshadowed, a week later, by the subsequent attack on Bill Henson.

Looking back over my blog entries I have reviewed so many of the exhibitions at Platform, not because of the quality of the exhibitions but because it is so accessible. I can easily see the exhibition a couple of times before writing about it.

Enjoyed or ignored by the public who pass through the pedestrian underpass each day on their way to or from Flinders Street Station. Platform’s exhibitions space presents a variety of works by mostly student and other new artists. 20 years is a remarkable achievement for any artists-run initiative, it is an institution for a whole generation of Melbourne artists. Platform will probably continue providing exhibition space to new artists until the subway is renovated which is unlikely to happen in the next 20 years.


Early January Exhibitions

Although most of Melbourne’s art galleries are closed for a holiday in January there are still a few exhibition of varying quality on in the CBD.

At Platform there is “Unrealised Architecture”, an exhibition of architectural models, plans, ideas and dreams that have not been realized for a variety of reasons from their own impossible nature to local council objections. Architects are very good at putting together displays, generally for presentations for clients, and this exhibition is no exception. And like all exhibitions of unrealised architecture it allows the viewer to imagine: what if they had been built.

Also at Platform, in Vitrine “Nutrimetrica II: 2008 Lukewarm” an evocatively lit installation featuring a wheelchair with gold details on a plinth of lime green videotapes with two bug lights. What this all means is anyone’s guess.

And in Sample, recent VCA graduate, Sam George is exhibiting “You brighten my day”. Five black desk lamps each on a plastic hemisphere plinth, in the glass cabinet are connected to a motion sensor. The motion sensor detects the movement of pedestrians in that corridor of Campbell’s Arcade switching the lights on. It is pretty simple fun switching lights on and off. The use of the desk lamp is probably inspired by the desk-lamp logo for Pixar animation.

At the City Library the “Periodic Table Project” by Marita Dyson and Stuart Flanagan is a good idea poorly realized. It is so poorly realized that their periodic table doesn’t fit on the wall and has two whole lines of elements presented on a different size on another part of the wall. At first I thought that it was an amateur group art project because of the variety of styles and techniques used in the illustrations that went with each element. The only consistent feature was the symbol for the element and its atomic weight somewhere in the lower left hand corner.

In one of the windows of Ross House is a small playful exhibit promoting latest issue of the youth arts magazine, Voiceworks. Amongst the exhibition is the work of Hayden Daniel; I recognized his birdman image from his exhibition last year in the Sample cabinet at Platform.

On the train there is the Moving Gallery with a photograph by Clare Rae from Kings Artist Run Initiative. Rae has staged a private domestic moment; it is has been carefully posed and lit like a penitent saint in a Spanish Baroque painting – St. Mary in the bathroom.


A few of Monash’s artists

I saw some exhibitions by artists with connections to Monash University this week.

In the Sample case in Campbell Arcade is Lucy Berglund sculpture Mother/Lover/Other. Lucy Berglund is currently completing a Bachelor of Fine Art at Monash. Found basalt block of stone, familiar to all inhabitants of Melbourne as ‘bluestone’, wrapped, tied and taped. The tradition of wrapped objects goes back to Man Ray and the Surrealists, through Christo, and Berglund has little nothing new with the idea. However, the stone blocks wrapped in blanket material, nylon stockings, or bound with rope do have a primitive minimalist sculptural quality.

There are former post-graduate Monash Art and Design students exhibiting in a group show at Shifted, a new gallery and studio space on Albert St. The artists are exhibiting work in a variety of media: sculpture, painting, drawing and video art. The theme of the exhibition deals with the body in space but, like the media, there is no uniform method or ideology evident amongst the artists.

One of the exhibiting artists is Michael Brennan, who was once a member of 69 Smith St. proving that in this case an artist-run space can be the step to commercial gallery representation. I instantly recognized Brennan’s vertiginous perspective and surface of wrinkly dried paint. His current painting is less realistic, more urban and more thought provoking than the earlier paintings that I have seen.

This is just a brief sample of Monash fine arts students currently exhibiting in Melbourne. This small entry is my little celebration of Monash University’s 50th anniversary. I am a Monash alumni but that hasn’t influenced my critical judgment, as I never studied Fine Arts or Design at Monash University and have no connection with that department. When I studied at Monash University there was only one campus, at Clayton, and no Fine Arts department.


Censorship is Offensive

Power will be asserted where it can be asserted. Censorship is an exercise in power. One person can’t change what is shown on TV, in public library books, at the NGV or Young and Jackson’s. But one person can get Melbourne City Council to censor an art exhibition because of nudity. The censorship of Cecilia Fogelberg and Trevor Flinn’s exhibition at Platform, ‘The Puma, The Stranger and The Mountain’ is an example of how easily Melbourne City Council caves in to pressure when it comes to art.

Melbourne City Council could have responded to the single complaint with the first point in the council’s Protocol on Artworks: “To encourage lively, critical debate and public conversation in an understanding atmosphere. This contributes to the perception of Melbourne as a city which manages its arts and related issues, however contentious, in an intelligent and informed manner.” (Protocol on Artworks, City of Melbourne 2005) But they did not; instead they joined in with the complaint. The perception now is Melbourne is a city which manages it art, when contentious, in an unintelligent, uninformed and knee-jerk manner.

We are, unfortunately, still in a culture war between religious zealots who believe that nudity is sinful and those who don’t hold this belief. The Melbourne City Council has showing which side of this war it is on, while pretending to “encourage lively, critical debate and public conversation in an understanding atmosphere”. Now some people maintain that Fogelberg and Flinn went too far, others that they didn’t. I think that this debate is a sidetrack; it is essentially a plea for tolerance of censorship. It is a way to avoid the real issue of why do we tolerate censorship? I find censorship offensive but Melbourne City Council would not do anything to appease my complaint because they do not believe that censorship is offensive – but they believe that some art is.

When I was looking at the ‘The Puma, The Stranger and The Mountain’ before it was censored a group of women passing commented on the nudity. But they weren’t really interested, not enough to look twice. Perhaps, Fogelberg and Flinn’s mistake was not putting up warning notices about the nudity, like everyone else does. Of course, these warning notices might have had the effect of drawing attention to the nudity and attracting hoards of school children to the art.

The Age 11th May 2008 has a report about the censorship of this art exhibition; http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2008/05/10/1210131335180.html And read my review of the exhibition in Platform & Counihan.


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