Tag Archives: ruark lewis

SHELVE – notes from the archive

shelve at cross arts

In April 2006, SHELVE (a sculpture I made back in 1997) was included in an exhibition at the Cross Art Projects called “Art Language – Every Publishable Place”. The page about that show is here: http://www.crossart.com.au/art_lang.html.

A few more pictures of the work are here. Ruark Lewis who curated the 2006 show at Cross Art, asked me to answer some questions about the work.

So here are my thoughts. Rough and unedited for the sake of the archive- Continue reading


3. Arbitration makes great sense

9. Mending the parts of holes that leave nothing till the end

10. To send the food to friends

11. A van unbeknown

13. And enter in the swim of things

16. The nature of the rock

19. Film is shot at angles

20. And speaking all the time

21. United let us fly

22. The key is in the trees where books are concerned

25. Dissolves her lips against the glass

27. Nothing higher nothing lower

29. Forms four times exactly what they are

31. They bathe and leave the trees undressed

32. The animal is criminal

35. A broken zodiac

37. To mediate to mediate

39. In time the memory of a child returns

40. The egyptian is a bird

43. The book is nong

46. The sting is kunt

48. Because of greed the worker is condemned

49. Flick flack swings song tools the cause of motion

50. Deep ends of oil smooths out phenomena

51. In comfort and distress


1. Arbitration makes slim pickings

2. The best parts are mostly left to last

3. Stodge belittles starchy foods

4. A van below the motorway wears you down

5. To swim around

6. One, two, three, four, five, six are convincing cracks between the rocks

7. Angular sightings deliver films

8. A female of the species

9. Your letter to bananas

10a. Trees conceal small books

10b. Her extended lips against the glass

11. A pedant nut is formed by fourths

12. Well dressed and bathed he leaves the house

13. Excited like an animal

14a. The wicked smashing of the trees

14b. To mediate against philosophers

14c. Is the source of stories

15a. Nong

15b. Kunt

15c. Without the tools of negotiation the workers are condemned

16. The nature of the swing has caused the motion

17. A phenomena is massaged by oil

18. Is a comfort in distress

19. The principle of universities is formed with money

20. The left hand and the dumb

21. He has nous for rooms

22. She had nous for knitting

23. United in the union of the students

24. A crossing of the floor is no longer possible

BANALITIES for Babel (by Ruark Lewis)


1. a still road is littered with the bodies of a hundred

2. was burdened with the weight of down

3. his drunken joy was volatile

4. the winds sift through the grasses on the dunes

5. a foul air penetrates the soul

6. he steers his punt against the lyric poets

7. it sped and jumped the tracks to cross the distance very fast

8. fancy-free he disappeared in thin air

9. across the city's frozen water he could hear the voices

10. where the folded ribbons remain a warning

11. a snake is mostly mis-understood

12. in their music the sound of water is almost audible

13. he was stationed in the army of the senses

14. why gather momentum?

15. the rat has solved the problem of the hole

16. to find a dollar it is sometimes harder than we think

17. perfume is a sense of place

18. S-shaped for an hour from one place to another

19. the brown bird built a temple in the nest

20. a sport of water

21. the waxy substances that form a soap make bubbles

22. the meeting of the battled unions generates more than noise

23. orchestras are not cricket teams

24. when the corpse speaks from his bed the grave is empty

…for more Ruark Lewis please visit

BANALITIES for the East Cape (by Ruark Lewis)

BANALITIES for the East Cape

1. she flies over the molten lava and looks out to sea

2. the bird is accustomed to headaches, yet no one acts naturally. when the car rounds the corner expecting collision. heartaches, clenching teeth, shortness of breath or far-off something that sounds like a skidding snake

3. when the fire burns it follows orders. it makes no mistake by diverting attention or lowering its heat

4. where food is beside sleep nothing is resolved, nothing except a fart

5. movements open the door to the face without translation. kiss my teeth to whisper . . . . . I say nothing then I ask, would you leave and you don't

6. the soup is customary, like tidal lagoons it has something to say to the sun

7. the trees disappear, they simply leave a gap of broken teeth

8. this surface makes a trace, a space between rivers, between land plates for grazing cattle and tracks for explorers. it is about proximity, about length and breadth, over time and space hillock and mound are turned to acres then to shires their measure of weight and height we sell abstractly full of weeds

9. in the course of the day, eros and desire, urgency and gaze pushes me ‘til I sleep

10. nothing follows, things follow things where a thing seems to move round and round and is followed around then turns and having followed it again when they have followed all day long looking for a voice that persists – in time these things come and go and then they turn. their beauty has no order. their being has no movement outside where a bird is literally caught in flight – and squeezed to death

11. sound. my ears are made of deafness in the roar of reckless care

12. beside this measure where else is the edge or morsel beside taste and food?

13. the application in itself goes against the tide, and that line yawns absentmindedly, that's how conversations circle one another, in time and after, a beautiful intelligence with nothing to say, that things end sometimes before the next phase of time exists at all, or perhaps way after it should – given time I think I would settle for charming you

14. but trees are like that – they rarely risk attack

15. the uneasy condition sore and broken has fallen from a mighty height

16. to get it on. to lose the plot. to never reach the end. to drown here where it is shallow

17. size sets elements to organise old Greeks and Egyptians, but now in the age of everything things are elementary, they are full of principles and coordinates

18. around and around sent off spare the wool drawn up against your hair

19. in crime as in freedom honesty is pretty universal

20. in sea myths storms are synonymous


…for more Ruark Lewis please visit:

Artist Run Galleries Dialogue

[the following exchange was published as a pamphlet to be handed out to guests at the ArtPort Artist-Run-Galleries Fundraising Auction, in June 2003, at NewSpace Gallery, in Sydney. For further examination of the nature of artist-run-galleries in Sydney, see Simon Barney and Marg Roberts writing in Artspective ps, since Barney/Roberts dialogue is no longer published at Artspective, I have taken the liberty to republish it here on Bilateral Blog.]

Dear Lucas,

the preoccupation that artist-run-galleries have with documenting unremarkable utilitarian matters (such as basic housekeeping), is far from a revolutionary vision synthesised as “manifesto”.

Certainly these mundane issues have continued to dominate discussions through the seminars and catalogue essays introducing the various surveys of artist-run-spaces. The fact is, we generally think of a “fixed and rented space” as the only possible mode of operation. This lack of imagination limits our ability to recognise innovative, radical models.

what do you reckon?



You know, Ruark,

I reckon a big problem comes about with the use of the word “art”. It’s prickly, because there are so many of us who simultaneously embrace and reject what that word has come to stand for.

If you contrast “art” with some other “major genres”, like “theatre”, the distinction becomes clearer. “Theatre”, at least in Australia, has a very specific meaning, and anything that pushes at the edges of the conventional theatre experience (whether that means its “proscenium arch” architectural setting, or the narrative format of its script-writing) ends up outside of “theatre”, such as what is these days often called “performance”. This leaves two somewhat distinct fields, one which repeats and perfects set forms, and one which plays with new ways of communicating.

The term “art”, on the other hand, has always been very catholic in its ability to embrace different definitions of itself. Hence it becomes ever fatter and increasingly inclusive, and this insatiable desire to “include” has extended to the programmes of the contemporary museum itself – the more “non-art-looking”, the better, even if the work is supposed to be a “critique” of the art institution or exhibition space itself.

Of course, in many ways this is a wonderful development, because it means that the pillars of art funding and display have not shrivelled away into backward-looking, genre-specific definitions of what art is. (They are, to a certain extent, simply being pragmatic. If they didn’t embrace the changing “look” of art, they would become extinct.) It’s great that the computer game “Escape from Woomera” could be financed by an arm of the same government that set up the refugee camps themselves.

On the other hand, what this inclusiveness HAS meant, is that the one constant, unwavering characteristic of contemporary art, in all its unrecognisable polymorphy, is the space that, one way or another, it eventually finds itself inside – i.e., a whitewashed, “neutral”, modernist museum/gallery room.

And most “artist-run-galleries/organisations/initiatives”, for some reason, slavishly follow this model. The main practical problem with this is not the flawed concept of “neutrality” (although in a land still resonating from the catastrophes of the “terra nullius” concept, this is actually a major moral issue). No, the main problem with the “mini-museum” model is that it’s too expensive, at least in a city like Sydney, to sustain anything vaguely interesting on a regular basis.

The reason for this is simple – the artist-run galleries have to pay their rent, and they charge out the space to artists for as much as $400 a week. Because this is a significant slug to any artist (on top of their own ongoing accommodation / studio costs, and the fact that they often will have to take a week off paid employment to set up the show), spaces that operate on this model don’t exactly have interesting artists breaking down the doors to get a show. Let’s face it, the galleries take what they can get. Which means that the proportion of shows of any substance are very low indeed. What they do get, very often, are artists who are prepared to make a financial investment in their own careers, by paying for a slot in what is essentially an expensive photographic studio. Hopefully the slides they shoot will get them a grant, and they can shuffle up the rungs a little, inching towards the museum or commercial gallery gig they so crave.

Which is fine. There are always different worlds to participate in, especially in a city as diverse as Sydney. Worlds which offer other models of collectivity, exchange and communication. Projects like Simon Barney’s Briefcase Gallery (where the “exhibition” takes place, one night only, in a pub) recognise that “getting together to chat” is what its all about, and that can be done for free. Or the budding ArtRadio collective, which is working towards an artist run audio “space” on a local community radio station’s airwaves. Similarly, the new Sydney Moving Image Coalition takes the traditional “co-operative” model, the emphasis being on the meetings and collaborations between the members of the group, with screenings taking place in various locations. And in the early 1990s, a group called Art Hotline held weekly events in different places around Sydney, linked by a freecall phone number.

Each of the models offered by these artist-organisations (and there are plenty more) requires “real-estate” of some sort to achieve their aims. However, they use space as a resource, something which helps them, rather than clinging to it, and constantly feeding it like some kind of ravenous resource-gobbling monster.

What do you think?



Well Lucas

I have friends who don’t believe in voting. Bill Lucas the Utopian didn’t believe in art, and said the best architecture is no architecture(maybe he meant Noh!). Some years ago I gave an artists talk at the University of Western Sydney, in a wonderfully theatrical lecture theatre. I grew bored out there so far from the audience. I wanted to leave the lecturn, even for just a minute say and wonder around, not saying anything. Then I began talking about our group called Artists Against Art. I was sure the audience had grown bored with me, and me with them. So my rave about AAA came as no surprise. In fact we started AAA one warm afternoon in Adelaide, on the cafe terrace on top of the State Library. The anthropologist Phillip Jones and I were lamenting how ridiculous the Aaar group was. How flawed good sentiment could be, that the artists against racism had to identify nationalistically, rather than accepting there being a world resonance that went far beyong traditional boundaries that issue race and colour. Actually, that isn’t entirely true.

The painter Margaret Olley use to make her way up to Oxford Street to do a spot of shopping. Very courageous was Margaret with walking frame inching along, and we’d say hello – two wounded souls on the same road. One day she boasted that she’d got an AA. Oh! I was very happy for her, an AA I chimed in again, and she repeated it proudly. So I said I heard she was once a very heavy drinker and I was glad she was strong enough to kick the habit. She looked at me curiously, realising her mistake. When she got a honorary Doctorate, she again charmed me with the news, another day same path – I asked, “Do you feel confident enough to start treating me?” We laughed, and she said we don’t really know what we’re talking about. Talking at crossed purposes is what it was.

So… do Artist-Run-Initiatives know what they’re talking about, yuk yuk yuk! They are too often entrepreneurial exercises. At least here in Sydney that’s what they are. In places like Wagga and Alice Springs, or up at Tiwi for instance, the independence is innovative and adaptable – could be said they are custom built to deal with local problems of decimation. So groups in regional areas are actually critical, whereas in places like Sydney and Melbourne, as enterprises, “spaces” (don’t you hate that word?) are critical only in a “virtual” way – and that is the state of play at present.

I welcome the notion of ArtRadio as you have put it. That alternative surface for publishing on, which renders the structure open for renegotiation, and that, perhaps is where a hybrid model such as Simon’s Briefcase emerges. I like to think that www.haikureview.net has that capacity to “voice free voice”.

Off for now