Advertisement

Keg de Souza’s Sense of Community

The Australian artist’s first institutional show at Artspace Sydney includes a library, a meeting place and workshops on ‘mindful eating’

‘Common Knowledge and Learning Curves’ – Keg de Souza’s first institutional solo show in Australia – strips back many of the elements familiar to the artist’s practice to reveal something innate about her underlying methodology: the idea of common knowledge, held by communities and maintained across generations. It bears many of the hallmarks of the work for which the Sydney artist has become renowned: temporary architectural structures sutured together from readymade materials and site-specific events that draw on the knowledge pools of local residents. (De Souza often pays particular attention to the oldest and newest arrivals, such as those from Indigenous and migrant communities.) However, for this exhibition, the topics that usually preoccupy her work (the politics of food or gentrification, for instance) were ushered into the background and the methodology of knowledge production foregrounded.

web_artspacekdsselects-0004.jpg

Keg de Souza, ‘Common Knowledge and Learning Curves’, installation view, Artspace, Sydney, 2018. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: Zan Wimberley

To make the show, de Souza re-purposed readymade objects associated with formal education systems. These include blackboards and chalk in ‘Chalkboard Studies’ (all works 2018), a series of diagrams emphasizing non-hierarchical teaching and learning models.  Ribbons awarded to the kids who arrive first, second and third in a schoolyard race are inscribed with ‘feminism’, ‘lived experience’, ‘spirituality’, ‘diaspora’, ‘inclusive’, ‘resistance’ and ‘collaborative’ in Circular Questioning. Overhead projectors scattered with wooden and coloured perspex building blocks beam abstract images onto the white venetian-blind walls of the temporary architectural space Marginal. In a nod to de Souza’s training as an architect, she used everyday materials to divide the two galleries into a series of intimate zones. The yellow ribbons of Circular Questioning are pinned to a curved purple curtain enveloping a room with a spinning blackboard and seats. Columns of blue netball skirts sewn together produced the two Reading Rooms, which are intended for solo readers and each contain a single lamp and stool. Meanwhile, a longer curtain wall made from blue gingham – a generic fabric used for school uniforms in Australia – titled Uniformity, produced another alternative classroom. Throughout the run of the exhibition events are taking place inside these spaces, all of which can be modified according to the demands of the occasion: local primary school students will host tours of the show, Bigambul Elder Uncle Wes Marne will conduct a deep listening exercise attuned to Country and the artist herself will run workshops including a ‘guided mindful eating exercise’.

web-artspacekdsselects-0001.jpg

Keg de Souza, ‘Common Knowledge and Learning Curves’, installation view, Artspace, Sydney, 2018. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: Zan Wimberley



But perhaps the most striking work in the show is the small library of books offered under the title Fundamental. Though the presence of curated libraries has become an increasingly familiar trope under the aegis of contemporary art’s ‘educational turn’ (Emily Floyd’s radical pedagogical libraries is a local example), de Souza’s library is characterized by lack: it comprises a single shelf that runs around several walls of the gallery like a horizon line, punctuated here and there by a dip in which a single book is placed. Titles include The Undercommons (2013) by Stefano Harney and Fred Moten, and Yearning (1990) by bell hooks, alongside a handful of books by critical educational theorists such as Paulo Freire and Laura I. Rendón.

Emptiness is also iterated across the scaled-up blank notebook pages traced onto whiteboards that form a perforated partition through one of the spaces (Learning Barrier), and across the six white walls of Marginal, which are receptacles for the overhead projections. In each case, this emptiness can be read as being redolent with potential and futurity – perhaps not unlike like the figure of a school child conjured by the materials of the show. This returns us to the emptying out of ‘content’ that ‘Common Knowledge and Learning Curves’ enacts, in a way, on the artist’s own practice. De Souza has a background as a squatter activist – she was a co-founder of the art collective and Squatspace in the early 2000s. Squatters don’t ask not what a space is, but what it could be used for. What some might see as an empty shell for de Souza is full of prospects.

 Keg de Souza, ‘Common Knowledge and Learning Curves’ runs at Artspace, Sydney until 12 August.

Main image: Keg de Souza, ‘Common Knowledge and Learning Curves’, installation view, Artspace, Sydney, 2018. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: Zan Wimberley

Helen Hughes is a lecturer in art history and curatorial practice in the department of Art, Design & Architecture at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.

Advertisement

Most Read

Why does the ‘men’s rights’ guru to the alt-right surround himself with Soviet-era memorabilia, which he doesn’t even...
Alongside a centuries-old collection of Old Masters, Delftware and Chinoiserie, the Devonshires continue to commission...
In a Victorian-era baths in Glasgow, the artist stages her largest performance project to date, featuring a 24-woman...
In further news: UK class gap impacting young people’s engagement with the arts; Uffizi goes digital; British Museum...
Italian politicians want to censor the artist’s poster for a sailing event, which reads ‘We’re all in the same boat’
A newly-published collection of the artist’s journals allows silenced voices to speak
The arrest of the photojournalist for ‘provocative comments’ over Dhaka protests makes clear that personal liberty...
The auction house insists that there is a broad scholarly consensus that the record-breaking artwork be attributed to...
‘We need more advocates across gender lines and emphatic leaders in museums and galleries to create inclusive,...
In further news: artists rally behind detained photographer Shahidul Alam; crisis talks at London museums following...
Criticism of the show at the Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest comes alongside a nationalist reshaping of the...
A retrospective at Munich’s Museum Brandhorst charts the artist’s career from the 1980s to the present, from ‘fem-trash...
At the National Theatre of Wales, a performance alive with wild, tactile descriptions compels comparison between the...
There are perils in deploying bigotry to score political points, but meanings also shift from West to East
‘It’s ridiculous. It’s Picasso’: social media platform to review nudity policy after blocking Montreal Museum of Fine...
The first public exhibition of a 15th-century altar-hanging prompts the question: who made it?
Poland’s feminist ‘Bison Ladies’ storm the Japanese artist’s Warsaw exhibition in solidarity with longtime model Kaori’...
An art historian and leading Leonardo expert has cast doubt on the painting’s attribution
How will the Black Panther writer, known for his landmark critical assessments of race, take on the quintessential...
The dissident artist has posted a series of videos on Instagram documenting diggers demolishing his studio in the...
In further news: artists for Planned Parenthood; US court rules on Nazi-looted Cranachs; Munich’s Haus der Kunst...
A mother’s death, a father’s disinterest: Jean Frémon’s semi-factual biography of the artist captures a life beyond...
Jostling with its loud festival neighbours, the UK’s best attended annual visual art festival conducts a polyphonic...
It’s not clear who destroyed the project – part of the Liverpool Biennial – which names those who have died trying to...
Dating from 1949 to the early 1960s, the works which grace the stately home feel comfortable in the ostentatious pomp...
Nods to the game in World Cup celebrations show how dance has gone viral – but unwittingly instrumentalized for...

On View

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018

frieze magazine

June - August 2018