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urban reality

Concrete is dense, vast and ubiquitous. The material has historically been used in many ways and has such a loaded and varied vocabulary that allows it to be transformed in many ways. I’m currently working with concrete breeze blocks to interrogate through structure, form, light and shadow, the commingling of human and non-human narratives that occurs in our post-natural (the intentional and heritable alteration of nature by humans) contemporary urban reality.

Breeze blocks were an architectural feature commonly used in commercial and residential construction in the 1950s and 60s. Contemporary symbols of suburbia, they are a hallmark of the social and cultural expansion of post-war Victoria. Often used as decorative wall detailing, breeze blocks mark the division of spaces in places such as internal and external boundary walls, as patio screens and carports. As a partially solid construction material, breeze blocks have a unique duality that emphasises solidity and permeability as well as division. This duality makes breeze blocks an ideal material to interrogate the commingling of human and non-human narratives.

This week I also saw the announcement of CONCRETE: art design architecture, an exhibition at JamFactory, Adelaide that looks at the material and conceptual poeticism of the material. I’m very much looking forward to seeing this exhibition. More info at the JamFactory website https://www.jamfactory.com.au/.

Durbach Block Jaggers, Tamarama House, 2015. Photo: Tom Ferguson. Via  Art Guide Australia .

Durbach Block Jaggers, Tamarama House, 2015. Photo: Tom Ferguson. Via Art Guide Australia.

what it takes to make a dollar shine

At the start of 2018, renowned photographer Nan Goldin very bravely made her struggles with the highly potent and addictive opioid OxyContin (known as Oxycodone in Australia) public (read Goldin’s essay here). Commonly prescribed by doctors to treat moderate and severe pain, OxyCotin is produced by Purdue Pharmaceuticals, which is owned by the Sackler Family.

This family name is well-known to the art world. The Sackler Family have and continue to donate millions of dollars to the arts and culture in the USA and globally through numerous philanthropic programs. It is not an overstatement to say the arts globally have substantially benefited from Sackler Family philanthropy.

 So you can imagine the collective, abject shock of artists and arts workers worldwide when it was widely reported in January 2018 (including in the Guardian, click here) that since 1999 OxyContin and other opioids have been linked to more than 200,000 overdose deaths in the USA alone. Then came the realisation; profits from OxyContin, a drug that has been linked to overdose deaths across the globe, has and continues to fund a significant portion of US, UK and other international arts institutions, programs and even artworks and cultural programs. A situation that has come to be known as the ‘Sackler dilemma’.

 Nan Goldin has advocated for cultural institutions to stop accepting financial donations from the Sacklers. However, with the continued presence of the Sackler family and Purdue at the highest levels of influence in cultural organisations (i.e. current Purdue Board Member and V&A Trustee Theresa Sackler) it is hard to imagine that such an outcome is likely. One also wonders whether museums and galleries could survive such a fallout in funding.

 So here we are, in the dilemma. The question is, how did we get into this situation in the first place?