In August, as part of our year-long Inside Out program, we welcomed the launch of Performing Textiles – a student-led exhibition that highlighted interdisciplinary perspectives and investigated the interwoven roles of fabric, fashion and the body – as both material force and form.
Presented in collaboration with the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), the exhibition featured new work by students from the VCA’s Honours in Fine Arts (Visual Art) program who responded to a curatorial theme that explored the interconnection between textiles and performance in contemporary art.
According to exhibition co-curator Cate Consandine, Senior Lecturer / Coordinator BFA (Honours) (Visual Art) at VCA Art, the exhibition – which ran over two weekends in August and included live performances and an artists in conversation session – provided the student artists with a unique insight into the role of a professional artist, and the challenges that come with exhibiting in a museum space.
“The project allowed a group of Honours students to take the foundations of their practice and research, and directly apply that to a museum environment, which is a vastly different context to what they’re used to, with distinct processes and conditions to be negotiated,” Cate explains. She adds that the scale of the exhibition space and the gravitas attributed to exhibiting at the Potter motivated the students to push their boundaries and be much more ambitious in their work.
“The standard of work for this project has been extraordinary,” Cate explains. “The Honours year is very intensive and often a very sharp trajectory. The students bring a lot of motivation with them and this project allowed them to harness that energy and produce some incredible work.”
Cate – who worked alongside co-curators Dr Kyla McFarlane, Curator Academic Programs at the Potter; Brad Rusbridge, Assistant Curator at the Potter; and Lecturer in Honours at VCA Art, artist Katie Lee – says the students went through a formal proposal process to develop their ideas and respond to the curatorial theme and worked collaboratively with the team at the Potter to ensure that their vision could respond to the scale of the space and to its placement within the broader context of the other artists’ work.
“To see the project come together and make sense as a whole was a revelation for the students – and it was exciting for us to witness,” Cate explains.
Brad Rusbridge explains that although the students were required to meet the high professional standards demanded of seasoned artists, they rose to the task. “It’s a big deal for students to exhibit in an institution like the Potter, so this was a rich opportunity for them,” he explains. “Expectations were high – but these students met the challenge; they worked hard and produced some really high-quality work. It certainly didn’t come across as a student show.”
According to Brad, for a group of student artists on the cusp of turning pro the timing of this artistic baptism of fire couldn’t be better. “We did stretch them, but that experience will be invaluable to them as they enter their careers as professional artists,” he explains. “Knowing what institutions expect of you and understanding the realities of exhibiting… it can take some artists years to get that chance. These students really understood the significance of the opportunity.
And for audiences, the exhibition was yet another opportunity to see a different side of the Potter. “The Inside Out program is giving people the chance to see work that they wouldn’t typically expect to see at the Potter,” says Brad. “We’re getting a lot of feedback from people to say how much they’re enjoying the diversity of the program – and that was certainly the case with this show.”
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