On Friday 6 March at 6pm Julie Ewington opens an exhibition by Alison Alder and Mini Graff, 'Some Posters / Local Positions' for Future Feminist Archive presented by Contemporary Art and Feminism for the 40th Anniversary of International Women’s Year.
Talks by Mini Graff and Charles Pickett, curator and historian, Saturday 21 March.
Exhibition dates: 6 March to Saturday 18 April 2015.
The exhibition Some Posters / Local Positions aims to blur the line between studio, street and social/political art practice. A modus operandi of artists Alison Alder and Mini Graff is to use a fluid community residency to engage with social justice issues; their print and poster works or stencils often pose puzzling, persuading or provoking questions. Both artists are also renowned high-end printmakers and teachers.
Some Posters / Local Positions contributes to Future Feminist Archive, an expanded project for the 40th Anniversary of International Women’s Year (1975) comprising exhibitions, symposia and artist talks. The Cross Art Projects is making a yearlong contribution to the anniversary and will help investigate some of the many forms that a Future Feminist Archive might take — real and virtual, activist action! Some Posters / Local Positions pays homage to the feminist artists who worked with community groups pre-empting what is now called socially engaged art practice and is working with the group Women in Public Housing.
The artists have created new works about the struggle by a small public housing community in Millers Point and The Rocks to save their homes. A former maritime community’s battle against a cruel upheaval and state social cleansing has created a national scandal and is emblematic of the real-life impacts of the housing affordability crisis and its disproportionate impact on the aged, single women (estimated at over 60%) and single parent families as smaller inner-city housing estates are now high land value areas.
Mini Graff, Pipped at the post (Dominos), 2015. Acrylic screen print on 100gsm litho.
Pipped at the post (Dominos) responds to the public housing sell-off in Millers Point and The Rocks and the greater issue of public housing and housing affordability in Sydney and NSW, especially for the elderly, women and children.
At Millers Point and in The Rocks, developers are likely to be given access to a fire sale of historic properties and it seems they may even be able to purchase consolidated lots of housing. Meanwhile, in adjacent former docklands, the vision of a gambling billionaire and Lend Lease corporation’s $6 billion Barangaroo South high-density housing project is openly facilitated by government as an ‘engine of growth’.
Some Posters / Local Positions is an intergenerational project: Alison Alder was a major force in political poster making in the 1980s and beyond in remote Aboriginal communities. Therefore, classic works, such as Alder’s ‘Even a man can do it’ (1981) and Mini Graff’s response two decades later, are included. The artists have undertaken several prior dialogical projects at Megalo in Canberra and have both worked independently on housing issues: Alison in Wollongong with Redback Graphix and Mini around the Green Bans that saved several historic Australian inner cities.
Alison Alder worked in the traditional screen-printing workshops of Megalo Print Studio (Canberra 1980–1982 and 2008–2014) and Redback Graphix (Wollongong and Sydney from 1985 to 1993) known for high visibility full colour blasts on bleak streets. Pink power heralded their 1985 International Women's Day poster (Alison Alder with Leonie Lane.) Later Alison worked within Indigenous organisations in the Northern Territory, primarily for Julalikari Council in Tennant Creek.
As street posters and protests waned and gentrification picked up speed, printmaking moved to low-tech stencils with Mini Graff's whimsical or satirical posters and stencils appearing as fleeting messages — sometimes about the satirical corporations Grab and U-Spend — and occasionally in projects such as the ‘Green Bans Art Walk’ (2011). Mini’s style owes much to the power of the dot-screen and mass media images. Mini's art work extends to touring with the Mays Lane project and regional workshops (Lake Macquarie City Gallery and Megalo Print Studio) and, recently, 'Behind this smile', a project about racism and cultural stereotypes (Hobson’s Bay area in Victoria).
What is saved is not always safe. Post-Green Ban Sydney has been shaped by three decades of anti-union political rhetoric and a move away from public housing to more aesthetic-sounding and more selective corporate management as signaled by the rising towers of Barangaroo with its generic arts precinct. In a battle for survival, inner city arts institutions are played off against each other — the MCA against the nearby Powerhouse (Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences). Meanwhile Sydney’s streets and habitats are rendered contraband for art (political posters, stencils) other than the facade of polite and conforming streetscapes and public sculpture.
|Mini Graff, Pipped at the post (Dominos), 2015. Set of 6 posters.||Mini Graff, Pipped at the post (Dominos), 2015. Set of 6 posters. Pipped at the post (Dominos) responds to the public housing sell-off in Millers Point and The Rocks and the greater issue of public housing in Sydney and NSW.|
|Mini Graff, Pipped at the post (Dominos), 2015. Set of 6 posters.||Mini Graff, Pipped at the post (Dominos), 2015. Set of 6 posters.|
|Alison Alder, Real Estate, 2015.||Alison Alder, Get Out Quick, 2015.||Alison Alder, Goodbye from Sirius, 2015.|
|Alison Alder, Anyone Can Do It, screen print on multiple paper bags, 2013.|
‘No Surrender’: Background to a Public Housing Fire-Sale
In a media blitz on 19 March 2014, the Minister for Family and Community Services, trumpeted that the New South Wales state government will auction off 293 high-value public housing properties in Millers Point, Gloucester Street and the Sirius building in The Rocks. They would relocate the 590 evicted residents.
Residents immediately received a letter titled 'Moving To A New Home' promising a 'comprehensive relocation strategy’ and housing preference in the closest social housing allocation zones. The people who built the city were being evicted from it to make way for the new upper middle class.
When Mike Baird became NSW Premier in April 2014 he said: 'I have a deep respect for every single person in this state. And I will serve every single one of them with every ounce of my being'. (Sean Nicholls, News Review, Sydney Morning Herald, 26-27 April 2014, p 35. http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/mike-baird-the-new-man-at-the-top-20140425-379jy.html#ixzz301lOkrTA)
Yet, a year into the government’s 2-year 'relocation' plan and the building of the massive towers of the Barangaroo development encroach on this national heritage-listed precinct as residents are still stalked by ‘relocation officers’ and assaulted by the noise and dust of often around-the-clock construction. On 4 August 2014 the government’s inhumanity was brought to the United Nations' Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing (5th session), by Kim Boettcher, solicitor for The Aged-care Rights Service (TARS) who drew attention to the plight of tenants of social housing at Millers Point and The Rocks, and of other older persons, and a Women in Public Housing steering committee was formed to highlight the particular need to house women, the aged and single families.
There are over 55,000 people on the waiting list for public housing. Since coming to office, the NSW State Government has sold more public housing properties than it has built, using proceeds from asset sales to pay for maintenance on existing properties rather than funding the construction of new dwellings. Sydney Council, meanwhile, downgraded its ‘affordable housing’ target from 10% to 7.5% of new dwellings. The 2014 NSW State Budget forecasts a net increase in the number of people supported in social housing of zero.
On 20 August 2014 the Barangaroo Authority lost its Supreme Court appeal over $1 billion in developer contributions by the developer Lend Lease for the site. On the same day Millers Point residents were holding a vigil outside a Sydney real estate office that was reportedly selling off state-owned Millers Point properties. Lend Lease has been in talks with non-government housing managers about meeting their affordable housing targets for the Barangaroo development off-site. Millers Point is seen as a potential site, presumably with the more high-value Georgian and Victorian terrace houses being saved and the early twentieth century model workers housing demolished.
The sell-off of public housing assets speeds the divide in Australia’s cities — between young and old, rich and poor, the outer suburbs and the inner city. If unchecked these sales have real consequences for our future.
Reg Mombassa created the ‘No Surrender’ logo of a beret-wearing firebrand for the tenants and many visual artists and photographers are quietly participating in the struggle.
|Future Feminist Archive, artists, activists, curators and locals for 40th Anniversary of International Women's Day. Lineup at XAP: Women in Public Housing members Allana Walton, Wendy Ford and Eddie Lloyd (ALP candidate for Sydney) with opening speaker Julie Ewington and artist Alison Alder.||Future Feminist Archive, artists, activists, curators and locals for 40th Anniversary of International Women's Day at XAP.|
|Alison Alder, 'Get Out Quick', 2015.
Alison Alder, 'Goodbye from Sirius', 2015.
Alison Alder, 'Real Estate', 2015.
|Alison Alder, Even a Man can do it, 1981. Silkscreen on paper bag. Courtesy CCAS Collection.|
|Installation view, Mini Graff, Pipped at the post (Dominos), 2015. Set of 6 Acrylic screen prints.
||Installation detail: Mini Graff, Sorry, 2015. Set of 5 Acrylic screen prints.|
History and Background: Millers Point A community under the hammer
SMH Interactive Millers Point Community History Site at http://www.smh.com.au/interactive/2014/millers-point/place.html
Tenant News, Tenants Union, November 2014 > Download pdf
The Official Millers Point, Dawes Point and the Rocks Tenants is https://www.facebook.com/millerspointsaveourhomes
The Brown Couch at http://tunswblog.blogspot.com.au/
Tenants Union Clearing House Page - http://clearinghousetunsw.blogspot.com.au/
Edwina Lloyd - https://www.facebook.com/Eddie4Sydney
Barangaroo a plague on all their houses, SMH, August 25, 2013 at http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/barangaroo-a-plague-on-all-their-houses-20130824-2sied.html