1994 Residency, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Perth, Western Australia.

A 6 week residency at Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Western Australia, July - August 1994.
The residency resulted in two ground drawings and the PICABOANS group project, both in the Boans warehouse in East Perth.

1. Ground Drawings:

Ground drawings in chalk (chalk drawing) and iron oxide (long square) were a continuation of work in the Architecture Department of Universitas Kristan Duta Wacana in Indonesia in the previous weeks, and in studio drawings made in 1993. Later versions of the chalk drawing was shown in Chimera (1996?) and as Ninety Degrees (1997).

Floor drawings, 1994

Even though it is one plane, the floor is still part of three-dimensional space, partly because floors are part of the concrete world, and partly because the viewer provides one of the planes. The viewer is vertical in relation to the horizontal, and together the viewer and the floor usually form a right-angle. A number of drawings experimented with confusing our normal perception of ourselves as part of this right-angle, suggesting other and more uncertain positions we might have in relation to the floor and vice versa.

In the architecture department of Universitas Kristen Duta Wacana in Yogyakarta, I drew on the ground a chalk shape which from one point looked like a cube. The 'top' of the cube was marked with silver paper and the rest drawn in chalk. (See Figure 18.) As you walked around the drawing, the silver-paper top remained stationary and real, while the rest of the 'cube' swung around it in various box-like shapes. The process of viewing this drawing was more like a performance than in the case of some of the other drawings, although they all have this potential. This drawing acted like a cue to prompt movement, with viewers standing, squatting, walking around and back and forth, using hands to frame the field of vision, etc. ....

In the Boans warehouse in Perth I used right-angles to put together contradictory information about the three dimensional nature of the space. As shown in Figure 19, I used chalk to draw a conventional square, ie. as seen from directly above. From a position outside this square, I then drew a line across each end of each side of the square, eight in all, so that from the set-up point the lines appeared to be equal in length and at right-angles to each of the lines of the original square. This position was symmetrical in relation to the first square. From this set-up point, and only from there, the added lines also appeared symmetrical in relation to the first square, although in reality they were of different lengths. From that same position, there is the illusion of the drawing standing up, especially when framed in some way. Even without the framing, there is an uncertainty about the height and evenness of the ground in the vicinity of the drawing, and hence there is the appearance of the drawing having some independence from the ground or confusing one's interpretation of how flat the floor is.

These drawings were made with chalk. It is a material which is used to demonstrate or work something out with, even though the ground in these drawings is something other than a blackboard because it is also what we are standing on. All the room drawings described in this report are transient, but this quality tended to be emphasised in these floor drawings because of the chalk. Other materials would make them too self-consciously things, whereas chalk makes these drawings what they are - sketches made to work out how we interpret right angles, which, for people living in houses, must be an extremely familiar cue regarding gravity and the nature of space. The chalk de-emphasises the drawings as self-consciously art and gives more weight to art's function in real life.

from: Margaret Roberts
Drawing on Rooms, Project Report for Master of Fine Arts, College of Fine Arts, UNSW, 1996.


A group project I undertook during the residency at Perth Institute for Contemporary Arts.

Introduction from PICABOANS catalogue:

PICABOANS developed out of the question of how to make a group show of site specific work. This is not quite as simple as it sounds because each artist changes the site by making and installing their work, and therefore the site of the exhibition is constantly changing as work is being made. An artist can develop work for a particular site only to find that it has been radically altered by other artists' work. This project was based on the hope that the constant changes in the site can be used positively if participating artists develop their work with an ongoing awareness of others' developing ideas.

An artwork is at least partly determined or known by the process of physically making it, and if the work is site specific installation, then the final work will not be determined until it is put together on the site. Usually, if it is going to incorporate another site, it cannot be made in the studio before hand, and to some extent the gallery or exhibition site must become the studio or a place of experimentation. When a group exhibition of site specific work is being put together, the site becomes something of a group studio, and each artist develops their work with as much understanding as possible of how the other artists are developing theirs.

Given that many artists will not be able to tell you what their finished work will be like until it is finished, it may be difficult for each artist to tell the others exactly how they are going to alter the site until, sometimes, a short time before a show opens. The only way several artists can work together in this way, is if they have some understanding of how each other's minds are working, through conversations and watching developments in each others work. Ideally, this understanding between artists occurs over a number of years, but in practice, for many group shows, it must often be found in a very short time.

This project asked twelve artists, many of whom have met for the first time this year, to structure their time and work over a six week period, so that the other eleven can watch their work develop and discuss what they think they are doing, in order that some sort of osmosis and relationship between the final work, may occur. This is what curators are seeking when they select, or ask people to make work within a given theme or conceptual framework. While there is already common ground between participating artists arising out of the interest each has expressed in the project, the hope is that relationships between the work will develop through the process of working together in a communal studio and that the project will be an experiment in curatorial collaboration by the participating artists.

The site in which the PICABOANS project is based is not normally a gallery. Galleries are of course not the neutral, blank spaces that many were thought to be, they have their own functions like any other institution. However one of these functions seems to be to accommodate ambiguity far more than anywhere else. They are often buildings with an aggressively mutable character - they will usually accept anything and frame it as 'art'. While any site can also become a gallery by having art placed in it, its flexibility tends to be limited by the degree to which its non-art role is still apparent. Art placed in such a site usually acknowledges this non-art character in some way, and in doing so makes an overlap between the more ambiguous space of art and the more literal space where viewers usually assume they stand.

The Boans business was bought out many years ago and its historic landmark building in the centre of Perth was one of the casualties of the recent building boom. The part of the Boans warehouse used for this project was previously a butchery. It was not an abattoir and no slaughtering was committed there to our knowedge. But it was apparently where the carcasses were dressed, made into pies and packaged for sale in the Boans retail store. Along with this particular history, there is also a particular form of architecture. Cement and steel coolrooms are clustered around two central work areas which are crossed with drains and washing stations. It is located within a very different, larger and more general warehouse complex, which itself looks stranded within a rapidly redeveloping East Perth.

Margaret Roberts Artist in Residence, PICA, July/August 1994.