Foreword: Column 6

Reuben Keehan


Nuts. Almonds to be precise. Almonds in a spa
bath. Quoting Andy Kaufman. As you do.

Wilkins Hill have always frustrated potential
interpreters, even angered a few, with
the wilful opacity of their work, its determination
to evade those systems of exegesis
that have become heuristic habit. What do
the almonds/Kaufman say exactly? ‘Whatever
is unknown is magnified.’ The spa bath
picks the reference and concurs with the
epistemological dictum. And why not? After
all, a viewer — let’s say they’re an art critic,
always the first audience, at least insofar as
the generally accepted topography of the art
world is concerned — stands before the object,
attempting to render its unknown operation
known, only to find that the object refuses
to be understood. The garbled, machinetranslated,
speak’n’spell artist statements are
no use; they’re as bad as the work, part of
the work. It’s an obstinacy that presents itself
as unknowability, knowledge that cannot be
internalised, or worse: no knowledge to be
internalised, nothing to know, pure exteriority
of being. It just gets bigger and bigger. Meanwhile
Heidegger looks on from his hut, gazing
through a distorting field of glass bricks,
through whose opacity he recognises the ageold
spinning of the hermeneutic circle, and
thinks about getting back to work.

In this sense — perhaps the only sense that
might be made of it short of sampling an
almond or two — Wilkins Hill’s Windows impersonating
other windows, presented at Artspace
in March and April of 2010, epitomised
the problematics of writing about, around and
through art. Thus the necessary partiality, the
at times fragmentary nature, of the accounts
contained in Column 6. Credit to Andrew
McNamara for attempting to tackle Wilkins
Hill’s installation for us, but their work only
magnifies a condition inherent in every form of creation that exceeds linguistic expression. As with the speech-act, then, perhaps it would
be better to follow the voice, a factor that
forms an uncanny thread in the works and
texts platformed in this issue, which draws
on Artspace’s artistic program of January to
September 2010. Criticism begins with the act
of listening, or, more provocatively, in becoming
the voice itself, or of joining it, in discord
or harmony, as in Bec Dean’s sensitive and
quietly agonistic treatment of Tony Birch and
Tom Nicholson’s extraordinary Camp Pell Lectures.
Perhaps writing, like speech, is itself a
performative act, and necessarily incomplete.

Listening and performing have been crucial
to Artspace’s program in the period covered
by Column 6, and to point out that they have
eluded the issue would be to make a dramatic
understatement. Though Artspace’s galleries,
studios and discursive spaces have played
host to elements of the Biennale of Sydney
since 1996, David Elliott’s 2010 edition of
the event represented the first time that the
organisation had been directly involved in
programming the relevant content. Artspace,
Elliott and the team behind Tokyo’s vibrant
experimental art venue SuperDeluxe, particularly
its curator Mike Kubeck, put together
SuperDeluxe@Artspace, transforming the
galleries into a bar cum nightclub that played
host to a veritable catalogue of live performers
from Australia, Japan, New Zealand and
beyond for the entire run of the biennale. In
lieu of this publication’s capacity to accurately
document the event in all its maverick spirit,
conviviality and sonic radicality, we have
opted to follow Column’s speculative agenda
and commission Sean Lowry’s observations
on music in contemporary art that begin
this issue.

In recognising further the format’s limitations,
the issue also sees greater prioritygiven to artist pageworks as a means of
expanding the possible uses of the publication.
Simon Denny, Sean Rafferty and Justene
Williams have each contributed significant
projects to the pages of Column 6, which
accompany its textual interventions as
reminders of the centrality that artist’s practices
have to the publication’s remit, and as
exemplary propositions in themselves. Thanks
is due to Melanie Oliver for her excellent work
in commissioning these pages, and for collaborating
on editing this issue from its inception
to its realisation. Melanie has worked
as Artspace’s Assistant Curator, joining its
hard working and committed staff during an
intense period for the organisation, to lend a
steadying hand while we have been engaged
in numerous activities both in Australia and
abroad. Her contribution has reinforced the
idea that institutions large or small operate
most effectively when collectivity is embraced
and ideas flow smoothly but rigorously — such
is the necessary structure of a base from
which a polyphony of voices might emerge.


published in Column 6, 2010, Artspace, Sydney, Australia
































© wilkinshill 2014