Tag Archives: squatting

An unReal Estate Guide to Finding Your Own Gallery

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Here’s an article that was published back in 2004 in Photofile Magazine, issue 70. The issue is out of print, but you can download the pdf of the abridged article as it was published complete with images here [1mb].

Alternatively, the original, unabridged version of the article is here, without images.

The article describes some goings on in the world of art and real estate in the early 2000s: Sydney’s Broadway Squats, SHAC (Sydney Housing Action Collective), unReal Estate, Perth’s Hotel 6151, the Empty Show, and Public Liability, linking these recent activities to the 1970s work of Gordon Matta Clark.

Many of the links in the original article have since gone dead. I reproduce the text below as it was written in 2004, complete with broken links. You may have some luck finding the old websites on the wayback machine.

Interestingly, unReal Estate, the SquatSpace project described in the article below, has, I believe, some resemblance to the more recent project by Marcus Westbury called Renew Newcastle. Marcus was the director of the This Is Not Art festival in Newcastle in 2002 when SquatSpace launched the controversial unReal Estate (see a news article about it here).
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Ian Milliss

Ian Milliss has just uploaded his new website. True to character, it’s information rich, but lacking in images. I like this a lot.

Ian is a legendary Aussie conceptual artist and an inspiring activist, having been involved in the defence of Darlinghurst’s Victoria Street squats in the early 1970s. There are some terrific articles about all his activities at the site.

Here are a few of my faves:

  • New Artist. Around this time, Milliss stopped exhibiting art altogether. This document gives an idea why…(1973)
  • The Barricades. In which he takes an aesthetic approach to describing the construction of barricades at Victoria Street. (1974)
  • Don’t moan, organise! (with apologies to Joe Hill) by Ian Burn and Ian Milliss. In which Burn and Milliss call for the restructuring of the Sydney Biennale along artist-run lines. (1979)

There really is a lot of great stuff on Ian’s site. It will become essential reading for many of us involved in art and activism, and who are interested in finding new ways to be artists (rather than just content providers to an existing system).


In early February 2004 Jane and I attended the excellent Media City film and video festival in Windsor, (Ontario, Canada). Windsor is the city that Mike Moore features (briefly) in Bowling for Columbine, as a contrast to Detroit (which is just across the river in the USA). Canadians, he claims, leave their doors unlocked, and don't kill each other with guns, even though they still own a lot of them. Well, we don't know about the guns, but have yet to meet any Canadians who admit to leaving their front doors unlocked. So, Moore might have been taking a little cinematic licence on that one. In Detroit, however, there are plenty of open doors, windows, and rooftops just asking to be walked into. In a one hour walk from downtown up Woodward Street towards the Detroit Institute of Arts, (where we saw the amazing Diego Rivera Industry mural) we shot almost 60 empty buildings, including some stunning old skyscrapers – and, a short walk away, the sombre ex-Railway Station, apparently empty for more than 20 years. I have posted the pics up here.

Scooting around the web, it's obvious that I am by no means the first to document some of the abandoned sites of Detroit. The excellent Infiltration gang has a whole page o' links, and this local infiltrator at detroitblog has strong and sometimes convincing views about the city's empty spaces as a rich architectual heritage (not needing fixing), evidently a view not shared by the blightbusters group, who want to buy 'em up, fix 'em up (or knock 'em down). There is also an article about trees growing on the rooftops of long-forgotten downtown blocks, and a very thorough photographic tour, and spirited discussion forum about Abandoned Detroit. A very funny (though in the end quite sobering) weekly "un-real estate" listing is posted in the Detroit Metro Times newspaper. There's heaps more if you have time and are handy on google. It's obviously a big issue for many many locals.