Words Chloe Mandryk chloemandryk.com / Image Natalya Hughes
The Garage in Canberra asks if art can thrive in an unfixed location that skirts commercial spaces and institutions. Curator and art historian Sara d’Alessandro runs The Garage with artist and curator Sabrina Baker.
Sara studied and worked in Turin, Italy at GAM, the Civic Gallery of Modern Art before arriving in Australia in September 2015. Sabrina is active in the ACT’s art scene and manages Canberra Contemporary Art Space (CCAS) following her role at Everything and Nothing Projects with director David Sequeira.
I spoke with Sara during a quiet period as they mount their show for June that will take place in ‘an empty shop’ and feature the work of Peter Alwast. Alwast explores representation by encouraging an ecology of painting, video, drawing and memory that together warp our perception of time and space. The artist has said he is interested in ‘combining systems of representation that never reconcile’ – a perfect fit for ARI – The Garage.
Chloe Mandryk: Who are you?
Sara d’Alessandro: A group of artists and curators working on pop up shows in uncommon places. We accept proposals, or we speak with artists we are interested in, and we develop the project together. No money is involved.
Why did you create an artist run initiative (ARI)?
Because Canberra is full of artists and full of empty spaces.
Does your social circle impact your programming?
This is something you cannot really avoid.
How does the gallery reflect your personal philosophy?
We want to show art in non-art spaces; until now we had two shows in two private garages and we are opening the third in an empty shop. Our idea is to question the importance of the art space, trying to challenge both the artists involved and the public with new contexts.
Why did you select the location and what is unique about your town?
We always change locations, we don’t want people get used to it!
In multidisciplinary contexts are curators necessary, and more broadly what do you think of their role?
Sabrina is an artist, but I’m a curator, so yes I think I’m necessary! Seriously, I think that the role of the curator could be a little but blurry, especially in contemporary art, where it could be mostly based on developing personal relationships with institutions and other curators. Relationships are important, but curatorship should be mostly based on a high historical and philosophical preparation, even when this doesn’t seem necessary for the emerging artists for example. Only with this background it is possible to help the artists in developing their projects and communicate their aesthetics.
Financially, how do you make it work?
We have other paid jobs; the garage is self-funded.
You have a unique perspective, how can state or national funding assist artist run spaces?
That is a large issue, even larger now that the Australian Council denied the funding for important art centres as the CCAS here in Canberra. Art spaces have a cultural function: if they are not able to carry it, the city loses a cultural reference. Without cultural references a city is not a city and a nation is not a nation.
If there are times when you feel like quitting, what keeps you going?
I thought of quitting art, but after some months I was so sad. It’s a passion, you cannot quit a passion. //