When you mention alternative spaces in Melbourne people generally think of bars, cafés, restaurants that have art for sale on their walls, for example the Kaleidoscope Café. There is more than that. All kinds of other spaces used for temporary exhibitions. Besides these obvious alternatives there are also exhibitions spaces in people’s house, for example Dudespace or Albert’s Basement.
I went to Dudespace in 2006 to see an exhibition of Juan Ford’s paintings. Dudespace is an irregular gallery in an empty room in a shared house in Brunswick.
Dudespace is a real alterative to the traditional art gallery, an informal place with the stereo on and people having a beer out the back. It is the perfect venue for Juan Ford to quickly and easily show his recent works for one day before the paintings go to a gallery in Brisbane. Juan Ford normally shows at commercial galleries like Diana Tanzer Gallery.
According to the dude, Geoff who lives there he has been hosting exhibitions and other art events for the last three years. Dudespace is an ordinary private suburban house in Brunswick with a t-shirt bearing the name “Dudespace” hung out the front. The exhibition room has the same old light fittings as my own living room; the lino squares in the corridor and carpet are also familiar.
It was a little after 12 noon on Sunday in 2007 when I visited a run down terrace house in East Brunswick. The house is home to six people living but I was there to see the exhibition in their corridor and living-room. There was a cardboard sign on the door: “Alberts Basement – Ring My Bell”. I rang the bell and Kurt answered the door. Kurt explained that he was standing in for Mitch, the curator who was still asleep. Kurt went to turn on the exhibition as I took a look at the art in the hall. There were works by HaHa, Braddock, HaHa vs Braddock, Tom Hall and Cecilia Fogelberg.
The exhibition occupied the hallway, the stairwell, the upstairs hallway and the upstairs living room with a DVD on. The art was densely hung but the walls of shared houses are normally a dense clutter of images, with interesting items stacked up on the mantelpiece along with Sean’s shoe with teeth in the toe, so it felt different from a densely hung gallery. It reminded me of so many artistic shared houses that I have visited. There was no catalogue, the names of the artists were written on the wall in pencil, and I didn’t ask if the works were for sale.
I was making lots of notes, because there was no catalogue, and Kurt, feeling a little paranoid, asked if this was a house inspection. I assured him that I was an art critic and he replied that some of the artists need a lot of criticism. Kurt was right; much of it was the kind of work that you find in a student exhibition, derivative, angst and theory. There was a great variety of art from aerosol stencils, paintings, drawings, etchings, photographs, photocopies, sculpture, collage, video art and textile art.
There were two other visitors to see the exhibition when I was there and it was worth a visit. It was a friendly and intimate experience, unlike the anaesthetic white space gallery. And this kind of exhibition is also less expensive for young artists than a rental gallery space. Melbourne would have an exciting art scene if there were more exhibitions like this one.
Having an exhibition in a shared house is not unique. These exhibitions happen on an informal basis all the time in artistic shared households. In mine, we had installations in vacant rooms and the “R. Mutt Memorial Gallery” in the toilet.
(This blog entry is an edited version of two entries published in my old blog, Culture Critic @ Melbourne. My old blog has since been taken down for reasons beyond my control but I thought that this entry was worth republishing.)