How might one better address the turbulence of our community’s circumstance and weather this frustration in a productive (or pleasurable) way?
I find it difficult to describe what it’s like being an emerging artist in Perth, more so recently. We are currently facing a tangible shortage of funding and space to exhibit. After the closure of Moana Project Space last month there seems to be a lingering sense of loss and frustration in the air. The difficulty for me lies in putting words to this frustration without falling into stifling discourses about this city, its economy and what it means to be an artist here.Things begin to get sweaty. The literal lack of institutional and financial support mixes with bigger narratives around the mining boom, creativity in isolation and the promise of an arts utopia (always) elsewhere. Potential change and new ways of knowing this place get caught within this mess of elements. The turbulence in our arts ecology flows-on into the bodies of artists.
How might one better address the turbulence of our community’s circumstance and weather this frustration in a productive (or pleasurable) way? Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s notion of paranoid reading could be useful here for introducing different approaches. In “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading” EKS unpacks the paranoiac tendency of contemporary critical theory and offers an in-depth discussion of the ways knowledge can be performative. She launches from a conversation with fellow scholar Cindy Patton about the plethora of hypothetical origins of the HIV epidemic of the 1980’s, where in Patton comments that ‘if we were ever so sure [of the virus’ malicious origins] – what would we know then that we don’t already know?’ For Sedgwick, this comment suggests that having ‘an un-mystified, angry view of a large and genuinely systemic oppression does not intrinsically or necessarily enjoin that person to any specific train of epistemological or narrative consequences.’ That is to say, the act of tracing and exposing the origins of a situation, doesn’t necessarily give an individual access to what happens next. If the paranoid impulse described by Sedgwick isn’t a guaranteed path to answers, how might one better invest their energies?
Perhaps, for the time being, it’s worthwhile investing our frustrated energy into things that aren’t oriented around explaining, clarifying or exposing? In my art practice, untangling complicated social, psychological and affective situations often begins with listening to music. I typically come across one or two songs that resonate emotionally with an idea I’m working on. I become infatuated with these songs, listening to them on repeat. Each time I listen, it momentarily opens an emotional space and allows me to reflect on the connecting idea or experience.
I’ve recently started making playlists as an extension of this personal practice. Collecting and organizing songs is like casting a loose net; some big ideas may get tangled within the net whilst other smaller guileful ones might only catch briefly. It’s less about trying to describe an experience and more about feeling out the parameters of an experience. For some listeners this playlist will offer a loose insight into my experience of Perth’s arts ecology in its current form. For others, who sense a similar frustration within their community, I hope listening might allow you to set language aside for a moment and just be sweaty.
There’s No Sweat Like Exhibition Sweat
Liam Colgan is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Perth. Colgan’s work broadly investigates the fields of sexuality and queer theory in relation to art practice. Their work often draws from personal experiences of queerness in order to address broader social norms. Through their practice, Colgan considers how individuals might challenge normative social power structures and navigate complex emotional and psychological states.
MOANA Project Space operated from the MOANA Chambers heritage ballroom in Perth’s CBD between 2012 and 2017.
 Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, Or, You’re So Paranoid You Probably Think This Essay is About You,” in Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002), 123 – 151. https://sydney.edu.au/arts/slam/downloads/documents/novel_studies/3_Sedgwick.pdf
 ibid. 123
 ibid. 124
 The title of this playlist came from a conversation I had with one of Moana ARI’s directors Grace Connors. I really like this idea of Exhibition Sweat – a specific secretion that flows through the institution and out of our bodies. It’s an uncomfortable and addictive sweat.