ELECTION TIME (?)

As you have probably heard by now:
“Australia appears set for a double-dissolution federal election on July 2 after the government’s bill to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission failed to pass the Senate – again.” – The Conversation 

Late last year I made a gift for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – a Wagga quilt adorned with 121 hand stitched messages for the PM from over 100 Australian citizens who contributed to this project. When I reached out and asked people to contribute their messages for the PM my promise to them was that I would ensure the quilt gets to him. PM-PLZ-Quilt.jpg

Over the past few months I’ve been exploring many different avenues to get this quilt to Turnbull: I’ve tried mailing and emailing his office, reaching out on social media, getting in touch with people who know him, local politicians, his neighbours, friends of friends etc. all to no avail. Mostly, those who know and are in contact with Turnbull are reluctant to bring this project up, reluctant to ask him if he would be willing to receive this gift in case it would be a breach of protocol.
However, on the plus side the quilt is due to go up at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka in July for 7 weeks. The plan was to send him a formal invitation to attend the exhibition from the museum and give the quilt to him at the end of the seven week installation.  However, it is now apparent that will be AFTER the election, meaning there is a chance Turnbull will no longer be PM…
So, once again I am reaching out to you my friends and fellow citizens: I need your help in getting our gift to Turnbull’s. If you know how to get hold of him, if you can ask him whether he would be willing to accept this gift – I will fly anywhere in the country in order to hand this quilt over to him.
Can you help?

Above are a few examples of the 121 messages hand stitched onto this quilt.

 

🙂

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PM Please – Press Release

PM Please

Press Release – 9 November 2015 

Craftivist works with local community to make Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull a unique gift. 

With (another) new Prime Minister in office and a federal election less than 12 months away now seems like as good a time as any to reach out and tell our political leaders what’s important to us. Artist Tal Fitzpatrick has come up with a unique way to get our messages across to the prime minister instead of barraging him with letters, emails and tweets…

As part of HillsceneLIVE pop-up art festival in Monbulk VIC (30/10/2015) textile artist and craftivist (craft/activist) Tal Fitzpatrick, along with the help of 23 festival goers and over 80 online contributors, turned a pile of second-hand ties and suit swatches into a special gift for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – a quilted wall hanging adorned with 121 hand-stitched messages to the prime minister, each beginning with the words PM Please.

“For me this socially engaged art project is not simply an attempt to reach out to the PM in order to have our voices heard or to make demands– it is an expression of hope and reciprocity. People have big ideas about Australia’s future and they want to work with our political leaders in order achieve positive change.” – said Ms.Fitzpatrick

Over the three weeks this project took to complete Tal, with the help of HillsceneLIVE festival goers, hand-stitched every single message she received without making any exceptions, changes or omissions. Then she pieced these messages together with her appliqué quilted portrait of the Malcolm Turnbull to make a quilted hanging (2.08mX1.66m).

“The act of giving a gift made by hand is a sincere gesture of generosity. I hope that upon receiving this quilt Malcolm Turnbull is moved and takes the time to reflect on and consider all the messages stitched onto it.” – said Ms.Fitzpatrick

Now that the quilt is finished Tal is trying to find the best way to give this gift to the prime minister on behalf of everyone who took part in this socially engaged art project. Can you help get this quilt to Malcolm Turnbull by writing or sharing a story about this project?

Contact Tal Fitzpatrick: E: tal.fitzpatrick@gmail.com | Instagram/Twitter: @talfitzpatrick | W: http://www.talfitzpatrick.wordpress.com | http://www.praxialpractice.wordpress.com

   

   

   

About: Tal Fitzpatrick is a Melbourne based artist and a 2nd year PhD candidate at the Victorian College for the Arts, Melbourne University. Tal works in the mediums of textile art and socially engaged art.  

 

“PM Please” – Project Update

With (another) new Prime Minister in office and a federal election less than 12 months away now seems like as good a time as any to reach out and tell our political leaders what’s important to us… and what better way to do that then by hand stitching messages onto a quilted portrait of our Prime Minister!? 

In early October I successfully pritched my “PM Please” project to HillsceneLIVE art festival, which was held on the 31st of October in Monbulk, Victoria. My pitch was this: I want to make Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull a gift – a quilt made out of suit swatches and ties embroided with messages from people which I will collect both at the festival and via social media.

After being accepted I sent a call out via my social media for people to send me their short messages for the prime minister that start with the words ‘PM Please’ for me to stitch and on the day of HillsceneLIVE festival goers had the opportunity to stitch their own messages. Importantly, at the very start of the project I pledged to include all the messages I was given by people in the quilt without any exceptions, alterations or censorship. 

The following documents the progress of this project so far, including: a list of all 121 messages I was sent from people both at HillsceneLIVE and via social media, images from HillsceneLIVE art festival where people were invited to stitch their own messages for the PM by hand, and detailed shots of many of the embroidered messages on the quilt. The first photo below is of the quilt top which is now ready to be quilted and bound. After that is done all that needs to happen is to find a way to get it to Malcolm Turnbull….  

      

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Images from HillsceneLIVE festival, Monbulk VIC.   

 
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Detailed images of the embroidered messages on the quilt: 

  
    
    
  

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The full list of messges I collected via social media and as part of the HillsceneLIVE art festival in Monbulk, Victoria  
1. #PMPLZ put the environment first. 
2. #PMPLZ stop coal mining ruining our future. 
3. #PMPLZ end mandatory offshore detention.  
4. #PMPLZ prioritise preventative healthcare.  
5. #PMPLZ save the Syrian refugees 
6. #PMPLZ legalise same sex marriage.  
7. #PMPLZ decriminalise abortion.  
8. #PMPLZ address the human rights abuses of our country, particularly with regard to asylum seekers.  
9. #PMPLZ improve mental health services in Australia. Particularly in rural areas.   
10. #PMPLZ invest in renewable energy.  
11. #PMPLZ let your actions speak louder than campaign promises  
12. #PMPLZ decriminalise sex work. 
13. #PMPLZ ban live animal exports   
14. #PMPLZ accept my conditional thanks. Now repair Abbott’s actions. 
15. #PMPLZ don’t disappoint us.  
16. #PMPLZ govern for people not corporations.  
17. #PMPLZ ban plastic bags now. 
18. #PMPLZ restore the arts funding  
19. #PMPLZ take care of our refugees and asylum seekers  
20. #PMPLZ don’t deprive refugee children of a normal life 
21. #PMPLZ listen to us 
22. #PMPLZ take global warming seriously  
23. #PLZPLZ keep children out of detention. 
24. #PMPLZ put a price on carbon   
25. #PMPLZ stop so many women being murdered by their partners   
26. #PMPLZ put food before mines  
27. #PMPLZ no nanny state   
28. #PMpPLZ value our indigenous peoples’ ways of knowing.   
29. #PMPLZ legalise medicinal marijuana         
30. #PMPLZ protect sacred sites  
31. #PMPLZ end welfare quarantining  
32. #PMPLZ acknowledge Indigenous sovereignty 
33. #PMPLZ tax the wealthy not the poor  
34. #PMPLZ protect the Great Barrier Reef 
35. #PMPLZ protect our oceans from overfishing  
36. #PMPLZ respect the CSIRO  
37. #PMPLZ support the state education system  
38. #PMPLZ please keep our penalty rates 
39. #PMPLZ keep our privacy private  
40. #PMPLZ end mandatory data retention  
41. #PMPLZ stop taxing our periods  
42. #PMPLZ make us proud 
43. #PMPLZ ensure the national roll out of the disability insurance scheme 
44. #PMPLZ stop modelling Australia after America, or we will end up with the same kind of homelessness 
45. #PMPLZ increase the money we spend on international aid  
46. #PMPLZ set serious targets for reducing carbon emissions 
47. #PMPLZ legislate marriage equality.    
48. #PMPLZ make same-sex marriage legal.  
49. #PMPLZ allow people in love to get married. 
50. #PMPLZ support full adoption rights for same-sex couples.  
51. #PMPLZ don’t waste money on a plebiscite 
52. #PMLZ abandon the unnecessary and damaging changes to arts sector funding.  
53. #PMPLZ restore arts funding. 
54. #PMPLZ understand artists need funding and encouragement 
55. #PMPLZ stop animal factory farming    
56. #PMPLZ end live animal export  
57. #PMPLZ care for our water 
58. #PMPLZ re-instate the carbon tax 
59. #PMPLZ roll out a national container deposit scheme. 
60. #PMPLZ establish the Great Forest National Park  
61. #PMPLZ consider green energies and a blue economy  
62. PMPLZ ban CSG mining  
63. #PMPLZ legislate voluntary euthanasia 
64. #PMPLZ celebrate Australian multiculturalism.  
65. #PMPLZ I want a humanitarian government. 
66. #PMPLZ have a greater consciousness than any before. 
67. #PMPLZ seek justice, love and mercy. 
68. #PMPLZ increase the supply of suitable affordable housing  
69. #PMPLZ end homelessness 
70. #PMPLZ remember that whistleblowers should be protected not prosecuted  
71. #PMPLZ treat refugees as people too  
72. #PMPLZ ensure better planning for infrastructure in remote indigenous communities. 
73. #PMPLZ have zero tolerance for all forms of discrimination  
74. #PMPLZ respect traditional owners land rights, beliefs and values.  
75. #PMPLZ resign 
76. #PMPLZ let love in 
77. #PMPLZ let us have a conversation.  
78. #PMPLZ fight for the workplace rights of our medical professional.  
79. #PMPLZ roll back ‘security’ measures that infringe on our civil rights   
80. #PMPLZ keep your hands off our metadata 
81. #PMPLZ visit Emerald for a cuppa and chat  
82. #PMPLZ adopt an Australian bill of rights  
83. #PMPLZ print more money so we can all be better off  
84. #PMPLZ support our seafarers  
85. #PMPLZ invest in a shipbuilding industry   
86. #PMPLZ help end poverty worldwide  
87. #PMPLZ lift alcohol restrictions in rural communities and allow them to regulate their own consumption  
88. #PMPLZ update the animal welfare act in all states 
89. #PMPLZ let the boats in, everyone is human  
90. #PMPLZ help close the gap  
91. #PMPLZ help preserve aboriginal sacred sites 
92. #PMPLZ put an end to domestic violence  
93. #PMPLZ put people before the economy  
94. #PMPLZ keep university accessible to all  
95. #PMPLZ what tragedy happened to you that you can hear the voice of money but are deaf to to humanity and the cries of mother earth  
96. #PMPLZ don’t be afraid to risk your political career in order to make a difference  
97. #PMPLZ address gender inequality  
98. #PMPLZ care for our environment  
99. #PMPLZ lead the world in compassion 
100. #PMPLZ Stay out of my business 
101. #PMPLZ create an equal society for all  
102. #PMPLZ learn compassion 
103. #PMPLZ don’t be shit  
104. #PMPLZ end animal cruelty  
105. #PMPLZ remember the bees  
106. #PMPLZ tax Gina  
107. #PMPLZ wage peace  
108. #PMPLZ be honest 
109. #PMPLZ speak respectfully of your opposition  
110. #PMPLZ ban cage eggs 
111. #PMPLZ ban horse racing  
112. #PMPLZ treat refugees with respect  
113. #PMPLZ abolish uni fees 
114. #PMPLZ ban factory farming 
115. #PMPLZ empty the tanks  
116. #PMPLZ support the arts  
117. #PMPLZ share your wealth  
118. #PMPLZ tax the wealthy not the poor  
119. #PMPLZ help us are with dignity, increase aged care funding  
120. #PMPLZ respect us, represent us, good luck    
121. #PMPLZ just stop eroding common law  

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More images of the embroidered messages 
      
    
    
    
    
        
   

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Practice + Repetition = Clarity

There are two things that I’m going to continue to write about and revisit over and over again in this blog, they are: 1) Socially Engaged Art/ Participatory Practice and 2) Practice as Research. This entry will be no different.

As an artist, like many of my peers, I am grappling with a set of challenges and ideas that feel as if they are encroaching not only on my autonomy as an artist but on the way I and others understand art and its role in society. Recognising that:

“Art does not stand apart from history by any means, least of all its own; but intrinsic to its identity is the principle of freedom with regard to that history. Any prediction in advance of what it will (or should) do is alien to it, and equally, any attempt to fully account for it, whether through the apparatus of criticism or that of the market is doomed to be incomplete. It is the part of our culture where we allow ourselves to think otherwise.” 1

I fear that perhaps the most significant of these attempts to ‘account for art’ is its commercialisation and commodification, its reduction to a form of mere entertainment. This disturbing shift seems to be rendering even the most shocking, revolutionary or obscene artworks as impotent, harmless or easily contained. As artists we often have grandiose ideas about how our work can challenge hegemony and power or disrupt social, political, economic and even ecological systems. However, at the same time we continue to use the measures of success set by the neo-liberal capitalist regime in which we live: money, fame, prestige and acceptance into mainstream galleries and museums who themselves are bound by conservative funding structures, aggressive business models and upper class patrons. The strange bedfellows, artists and capitalists, have effectively reduced art to a spectacle.

As a way to better understand and explore this challenge of how art can break free from the negative impacts of the market I have gone back several steps in order to explore the question: What roles does art plays in society? Not in an attempt to define or assign art with a set role as I don’t agree that art has some kind of essentialist form or function, rather this focus on the many roles art play in society is an attempt to to understand and articulate what role I would like my artwork to play.

Art is many things to many people, but the kind of art that I’m most interested in making is known as Participatory Practice or Socially Engaged Art (Bishop/Kester). As I understand it socially engaged art (henceforth reffered to as SEA) is the kind of art that plays in the gaps and silences between binaries, destabilising dichotomies and continuing a tradition of pushing the boundaries of what art is as well as what it art does. Arguably SEA has been around in one form or another since very early in the 20th Century and has been happening right around the globe. It is an incredibly diverse practice in its methods, approaches and intent. Generally speaking SEA concerns itself with the tensions between/and the challenges of:
– authorship, audience and participation
– consumerism and the commercialisation of art
– the production of useful art vrs. The fight against its reduction to a utilitarian tool
– Aesthetics and new materialism; the ephemeral and the call for documentation
– the collective/collaborative and the individual
– democracy and dissensus; the gallery and art in public spaces
– addressing current world issues and the historical trajectory of the Avant Guard
– the space between art and life
– the “third term” , the ‘so what?’ 2
So, in other words, seemingly everything. However the common thread and that is people and their relationships, whether they are relationships between people or between people and ideals, or people and the material world.

Alongside my interest in SEA I am also keenly interested in the role of art as a reseach methodology, or what is otherwise known as Practice as Research (which is why I have taken on a practice-led PhD). Practice as Research (henceforth PaR) is the proposition that artistic practice can be viewed as the “production of knowledge or philosophy in action… artistic research demonstrates that knowledge is derived from doing and from the senses.” 3 Or in other words that there is an inherent logic to art (and in my case craft), a methodology that can be applied in the world in order to make significant contributions to knowledge which are generative, unique and extend the frontiers of research. As described by Robin Nelson in his book:

“PaR describes what practitioner-researchers do, [it] captures the nuances and subtleties of their research processes and accurately reflects the process to research funding bodies. Above all it asserts the primacy of practice and insists that because creative practice is both on-going and persistent; practitioner-researchers do not merely ‘think’ their way through or out of a problem, but rather they ‘practice’ to a resolution.” 4

This process of practicing towards a resolution can also be described as an iterative inductive method of research.

This paragraph really resonates with me and helps me to articulate why for me PaR was the logical choice; this notion of the ‘practitioner-researcher’ very accurately describes how I think and feel about my practice. For me making art is a process of being and interacting with the world around me, it is how I process information as well as my inner thoughts. It is a two-way dialogue between my inner thoughts, feelings and ideas and the materiality and autonomy of the material world. An interaction that also extends to the theoretical, philosophical and political forces operating in the world around me. Furthermore, I really resonate with the idea that in the case of a PaR methodology ‘knowledge’ follows after, is secondary to, the practice – or rather emerges out of that practice.

PaR has evolved out of a higher education context, emerging from within the artistic academic community – particularly at a PhD level – and is therefor shaped and bound by the limits of these institution. It is an approach that tries to extend the limits of what can be understood as ‘research’ and as ‘knowledge’ and aims to have artistic research and artistic knowledge valued equally to other disciplines and methodologies PaR “…is an acceptance that knowledge is not fixed and absolute.”5 and really pushes what kinds of ‘knowledges’ are accepted by the institution. While PaR recognises that research in some form is a part of all artistic practices it ultimatly requires “the rigours of sustained academic research [which] are driven by a desire to address a problem, find things out, establish new insights” .6

Whilst PaR is in part an attempt to ensure financial viability and sustainability as well as a recognition for the contribution that art brings to these institutions and to society, it is also a direct challenge to the very fundamentals of what PhD is and what it requires, such as the basic assumption that a PhD should begin with a well defined ‘research question’ and finish with data being used to point to some sort of resolution or answer. Instead PaR typically focusses on a research inquiry which “affords substantial insights rather than coming to such definite conclusions as to constitute ‘answers’.” 7 Personally, I much prefer the idea of a research inquiry to a research question. I feel that the ‘problem-solution’ dichotomy is not an appropriate approach for working in social contexts; that society is infinitely complex and diverse and that any attempt to presume to identify and define a ‘problem/question’ let alone extract some kind of ‘solution’ or find an ‘answer’ – in fact I feel the act of doing so is often more harmful than useful. The adaptive challenges faced by communities do not require technical fixes, they require long term support with the experimentation, co-creation and implementation of alternate ways of doing and being. As such, I didn’t go into a Practice as Research PhD with a focus on Socially Engaged Art in order to ‘fix’ anyone, or any community. I want my work to be accessible and I would like my practice and the outcome of my work to be humble. I do not want to make grandiose claims about the impacts of my work, or the findings of my research. I am not driven by the ideas of progressivism or the agenda’s of social reformers. What I do aspire to achieve is a practice that is revealing about its subject, engaging of its audiences, sensual and seductive in its materiality and subtle in its socio-economic-political positioning. Like a good film, I hope that my practice will be able to capture people’s attention, moves them emotionally and entices them to reflect about their ‘being in the world’ – giving them an invitation to reconsider or reimagine their current realities.

References:
1 Adamson, G. Thinking Through Craft, 2007, p9
2 Ranciere, J. – Emancipated Spectator introduces the “third term” solution, which is echoed in substance in Aesthetics and its Discontents,
3 Barrett, E and Bolt, B. Practice as Research: Approaches to Creative Arts Inquiry, 2010, p1
4 Nelson, R. (ed) Practice as Research in the Arts: Principles, Protocols, Pedagogies, Resistances, 2013, p8
5 Nelson, R. (ed) Practice as Research in the Arts: Principles, Protocols, Pedagogies, Resistances, 2013, p39
6 Nelson, R. (ed) Practice as Research in the Arts: Principles, Protocols, Pedagogies, Resistances, 2013, p3
7 Nelson, R. (ed) Practice as Research in the Arts: Principles, Protocols, Pedagogies, Resistances, 2013, p30