Artists: Craig Burgess, Marcia Jane, Taree Mackenzie and Ronen Becker with David Chesworth, Dirk de Bruyn and John Nixon, and curated by Kelly Fliedner.

22 November 2013 - 14 December 2013

History is our audience was intended to interrogate the role of the audience, history and community within experimental artist run initiatives and contemporary art organisations. Craig Burgess, Marcia Jane, and Taree Mackenzie and Ronen Becker were commissioned to produce three new site-specific works, which were accompanied by a small selection of film works by David Chesworth, Dirk de Bruyn and John Nixon, from the 1970s and 80s — works produced in creative spaces not too dissimilar to West Space.

History is our audience marked the 20th anniversary of West Space by recognising a history of experimental practice in Melbourne more broadly. The project attempted to write an alternate history, one that bounces between the present and the past, or one that attempts to merge a sense of history with the contemporary, whilst wishing to refrain from a nostalgic reading of history itself.

Craig, Marcia, Taree and Ronen, who’ve worked at West Space previously, produced new site-specific works that either sat literally in the windows of the Front Space, Gallery 1 and the Back Space, or near them, playing with the light in the space—in particular, how it dramatically changes during the course of the day. At times these works were visible and at times they faded away. The ephemeral nature of these pieces acted as a metaphor for West Space’s current situation—caught somewhere between being a small artist run initiative and a larger contemporary art institution—a kind of liminal zone within its own history.

Giving these new works context was a series of films made by David Chesworth, Dirk de Bruyn and John Nixon from the late 70s and 80s, made in or for experimental Melbourne spaces like the Clifton Hill Community Music Centre, Arts Projects or the George Ewing Gallery. The inclusion of these films is an attempt to recognise the trajectory of West Space, born out of a rich local experimental arts and artist-run-initiative community. A history of an organisation is not merely it’s own, but is a gathering of other histories around it.

Launching toward the end of the exhibition and to wrap up our 20th anniversary was the History is our audience publication. Not intended as a substantive history of West Space, the publication gathered small pieces of writing by a large collection of people—artists, curators, writers, volunteers and audience members—with varying degrees of connection to West Space. These small pieces formed a series of vignettes of particular moments in the history of West Space and the independent contemporary art scene of Melbourne.

Contributing to this publication; Amita Kirpalani, Anusha Kenny, Arlo Mountford, Ben Sheppard, Brett Jones, Camilla Hannan, Cherie Schweitzer, Christina Apostolidis, Craig Burgess, Danny Lacy, Dirk de Bruyn, Drew Pettifer, Helen Johnson, Ian Haig, Ieuan Weinman, Janenne Eaton, Jarrod Rawlins, Jeremy Bakker, Jess Knight, Jon Campbell, Kate Just, Katie Lee, Kelly Fliedner, Kiron Robinson, Lillian O’Neil, Lisa Young, Lyndal Walker, Mary Feary, Max Delany, Meg Hale, Meredith Turnbull, Michael Graeve, Nella Themelios, Patrice Sharkey, Patrick Pound, Peter Tyndall, Phip Murray, Ross Coulter, Rowan McNaught, Sanne Mestrom, Scott Mitchell, Simon Maidment, Suzi Attiwill, Tai Snaith, The Telepathy Project, Tim Alves, Torie Nimmervoll, Zara Stanhope + more.