Harrell Fletcher (b. 1967, lives and works in Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.) is internationally renowned for facilitating exhibitions and events based on participation and collaboration, often with people who are usually not involved in making art. Fletcher spent a week in Melbourne during March of this year to meet potential participants for his project at the National Gallery of Victoria. Over the course of the following two months, Fletcher and the NGV’s Senior Curator, Contemporary Art, Alex Baker had an email exchange regarding the participants they would invite and what the parameters of the project might be. Despite Fletcher’s collaborative generosity, he admits that there is a self-interested aspect to what he does as well: to learn more about a particular place where he will be working, in this instance, Melbourne and the NGV.
The participants – Arts Project Australia, CERES, Crooked Rib Art, Footscray Community Arts Centre, Grainger Museum, Hell Gallery, Herb Patten, RISE and Jeff Sparrow – each reveal an aspect of contemporary and historical Melbourne, whether it is immigration, art and community, identity, urban agriculture and sustainability, urban history and politics, and even music. In addition to reflecting a place’s past and present, the project is ultimately situated in an art gallery and Fletcher saw this as an opportunity to involve participants in selecting works from the NGV Collection.
The sound we make together (Melbourne) combines three basic elements: an installation of NGV art works selected by the participants, juxtaposed with photographs of those involved taken by Fletcher during his August 2010 residency; presentations and performances featuring the participants and guests (videotaped and presented in the gallery context as a document of the weekend of events); a representation of each participant through reading materials and printed ephemera (newsletters, books, posters) as well as objects or art works that affirm something about each. In addition to this very site-specific endeavour the exhibition seeks to provide some insight into the art of Harrell Fletcher, which, when it does venture into the realm of things and images — his work just as often does not — takes on the form of more humble modes of expression: posters and self-published booklets (‘zines), as well as video.
Twentieth – Twenty-First Century Australian Art (Gallery 15), Level 3