Change afoot at the Guild

Change afoot at the Guild

By Rhonda Dredge

Workmen were busy at the Creative Spaces Guild last month converting the prominent co-working space at the front of the Arts Precinct into some form of office for the University of Melbourne.

Hot desks had been advertised at $80 a week at Creative Spaces for more than two years but have not been taken up by the arts community.

Workers at nearby offices said they had never seen anyone in the glass-fronted office on Sturt St.

The City of Melbourne, which administers the co-working space, has announced it is negotiating with a new tenant.

Why haven’t the desks been taken up when other co-working spaces have prospered?

Some see the space as too sterile and too visible. Not every arts entrepreneur wants it known they are paying $80 a week for the chance to have a foot in the door into one of the city’s prime arts precincts.

The terms and prices of the co-working space are embarrassingly plastered across the front window in large letters.

The arts community prefers a messier, more subtle approach. You only need to visit the popular Café Godot to pick up a bit of gossip and mingle with the up-and-coming.

Among those down at the Guild when Southbank Local News visited was Zara Sully, whose self-portraits burst cheekily out of a vitrine for an upcoming exhibition.

“There’s such an arts focus here it de-institutionalises itself,” she said about the precinct, which includes NIDA and the Fringe Festival offices.

Ms Sully is a student at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), across the road, where the problems of getting around as an artist in an institution are dealt with early on in the curriculum.

“Artists don’t want to fit into the world,” she said. “They are taught to be critical instead. You have to be inside a discipline to critique it.”

The self-portraits were made by squeezing her cheek onto a flatbed scanner, a technique pioneered at the VCA for recording parts of the human body.

In one print she has made herself up with a beard to challenge the binary of gender.

Artists prefer messy places, said Anna McDermott, a Masters student, who has taken advantage of the constraints of her vitrine to video herself walking around the outside of it.

“Walking is a process. You’re doing something. Something will come of it,” she said.

Artists hate having to go through gatekeepers to get their work out and about.

They keep their ears to the ground about cheap studio space, often released in places that are down at heel and need some life.

“It’s difficult to write applications,” Ms McDermott said. “By the time you make the work it has changed.”

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