ephemeral traces: Brisbane’s artist-run scene in the 1980s

Hollie Silos presents 1987A new exhibition at The University of Queensland Art Museum offers an insight into Brisbane’s energetic artist-run scene of the 1980s, a time of immense transformation.

Drawing on artworks, documentation and ephemera, ephemeral traces: Brisbane’s artist-run scene in the 1980s examines five spaces central to Brisbane’s artist-run scene from 1982 to 1988: One Flat, A Room, That Space, The Observatory and John Mills National.

Exhibition curator Peter Anderson said that, while the wrecking balls of development were poised to alter the face of Brisbane’s inner city, a vibrant artist culture was flourishing within. “Cheap spaces in the Brisbane central business district in the 1980s were partly the result of the massive development underway in the lead-up to World EXPO 88,” said Mr Anderson.

“For artists, pending demolition was both an opportunity and a threat. Short-term leases in temporary building spaces were taken up by artists who’d resisted the lure of the southern states and were trying to build a cultural scene in Brisbane worth staying for.

“Institutional support and funding for contemporary art was almost non-existent, so artists took matters into their own hands and a real do-it-yourself culture emerged.”

As the 2013 Siganto Foundation Research Fellow, Anderson studied the artist ephemera and archival materials held in State Library of Queensland’s Australian Library of Art which provided a research basis for the ephemeral traces exhibition.

“It’s the ephemera – the posters, invitations, magazines and photographic documentation – of exhibitions, performances and other events of this period that tells us so much more than individual artworks ever could,” said Mr Anderson.

UQ Art Museum Director Dr Campbell Gray said the exhibition presented a counterpoint to UQ Art Museum’s 2012 exhibition Return to Sender which focused on artists who left Queensland during the Bjelke-Petersen era. “ephemeral traces shares the rich history of key artist-run spaces operating within a dynamic and changeable Brisbane landscape, and often against the odds,” said Dr Gray.

“The exhibition has also provided a vehicle for these artists to re-examine their own work, review their personal archives and revisit an often-overlooked moment in Brisbane’s cultural development.”

ephemeral traces: Brisbane’s artist-run scene in the 1980s
The University of Queensland Art Museum, University Drive, St Lucia (Brisbane)
Exhibition continues to 26 June 2016
Free admission

For more information, visit: www.artmuseum.uq.edu.au for details.

Image: Hollie, Silos presents multi-media stuff (Exhibition poster) 1982 screenprint on cardboard image/sheet (irreg.) 46.4 x 38.5 cm. Collection of The University of Queensland. Gift of Urszula Szulakowska, 1987. Reproduced courtesy of the artist. Photo by Carl Warner